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Captured Beast

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Long ago, when humans have yet to form civilizations, daemons have roamed the land. The people of the past described such beings as gentle, caring and forgiving, helping humans in every way that they can. They nourished the land for plants to grow, maintained life in the forests and mountains for animals to live in, and cleaned murky waters for the humans to bathe in. They take different forms, including a human’s, and have different abilities, each one of their kind unique from the other. With the daemons around, peace is preserved for a hundred of years. Humans have been blessed with the company of these beings, until one man discovered a power that the daemons fear. The man was intelligent, bold and brave, wishing for nothing but a comfortable life for his family, for he is a mere huntsman. Greed took over his heart, and used the power he found to enslave the daemons. He made them work endlessly, until the hamlet became a village, the village became a town, and the town became a city. A kingdom was then built under the man’s laws, and his family now live with all the riches that they can have, in exchange for the slavery of the daemons. The huntsman, now a king, used to think that after having a pleasant life, he will free the beings. But over the course of time, his heart turned darker, and wanted to have more lands. He terrorized smaller towns and conquered other kingdoms, making them his own using the prowess of the daemons. At the end of his time, the Vers Empire was established, and the throne was passed to his son. Along with it is the power that continued to enslave the daemons, now called as Aldnoah.

The Empire continued to strive for years, following the strict rules that the first Emperor made. Its values revolved around huntsmen and knights, as the empire itself is known for its destructive power and violence. The people under the Empire lived a contented life, but behind that is the morbid slavery to the daemons that have helped them all throughout the history. When the slavery became worse and the daemons have been oppressed too much for too long, their gentle nature was abandoned and turned hostile towards people. They rebelled and fought back, igniting a war between daemons and humans which was unheard of in the past centuries. It was futile, because the descendants of the huntsman, the royal family of Vers, hold the power that can subdue the daemons. No matter how powerful they are compared to humans, they will always find themselves defeated and submissive to the ones with the Alndoah that they fear. The war only took a huge percentage of the daemon race, driving them into extinction if the war persists. The remaining beings fled to forests and mountains, ending the war that was already decided from the beginning.

After the war, the life in the capital drastically changed. For months, no daemon will be found walking on the streets in chains, following their master or mistress. No daemon will be seen carrying a heavy crate of fruits, or working in shops. Instead, because of their declining race and the rarity of seeing one, the daemons that were caught by the huntsmen in the surrounding forests became attractions, or in rare cases, the subjects of sexual slavery. Huntsmen sold them to the aristocrats, and these aristocrats would make them submit using Aldnoah. The cruel fate of these creatures that once assisted the humans to survive continued up to this day, with little to no threat of a war breaking again.

 

 

 

 

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Inaho stared at the book he was reading. It tells about the history of how Vers Empire was founded, and how the daemons had their race on the brink of extinction. He had heard of the same story in the past, learned the same thing over and over again, but it never ceases his curiosity about daemons. To many people, the stories about them have become a folklore, meant to teach children to never disobey the empire and its laws. Fifty years have passed since the last daemon had been seen, and after that one, the huntsmen were unable to capture one again. They always believe that there are still some living deep in the forests and mountains, and Inaho believe so too, not because he is a huntsman himself, but because he had seen it with his own eyes. If the incident eight years ago did not happen to him, he might just be one of those people who thinks they’re extinct.

His finger unconsciously rubbed the worn out image of a daemon in the book. Their forms are different from each other, and this one took a form of a tiger. He always wonders about many questions regarding with them. How do they transform? What kind of abilities do they have? Are their human forms beautiful as some books stated?

The brunette sighed.

His fascination about daemons wasn’t like this when he was a child, until he reached the age of thirteen. Back then, he was budding adolescent taken in as an apprentice of a huntsman named Marito, and during the hunt, he got lost and separated from the group. Dusk was slowly turning into night, and later on, he knew, that if he can’t go back to where the other huntsmen are, wild animals will prey on him.

The moon finally showed itself, casting light upon the forest that helped Inaho to see his way. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t exclusively his, and a beast found Inaho first before he found the others. The beast was incredibly huge, with tusks that seems to glow under the moon’s light, and eyes that are red from rage and hatred. He draw his sword. Marito and his sister, Yuki, taught him the basics of using a sword as a form of self-defence. He isn’t confident, and his hands are trembling. The sword was heavy for his still developing arm. Nonetheless, he has no choice but to fight.

The beast, a wild boar, eyed on him, and walked closer with careful steps. Inaho was slowly backing away, creating as much as distance as he could. All of a sudden, the boar charged at him, running at its top speed. Inaho raised his sword and blocked its huge and sharp tusks. A metallic sound was made, echoing throughout the forest, and the brunette stumbled at the impact. He hurriedly stood up, but the boar charged at him again, hitting his left eye with one of its tusk.

 He screamed. The pain was unbearable to his small body. He dropped down his sword, tripped as he can’t clearly see his path, and clutched at the area of his left eye. It was bleeding, painful, and hollow. He only has a few seconds before he lost consciousness; a few seconds until his death.

Through his blurred vision, he saw the wild boar readying for another tackle. If his body received a blow now, those few seconds will be gone, and it is an instant death. His right eye dropped a tear. He thought it would be better that way, to end his suffering altogether. As his vision starts to blacken, he caught a glimpse of the boar turning away, then disappearing through a thick bush. How cruel of it to left him like that. Inaho continued to cry, his left eye bleeding, while his right eye shed tears of his misery. On his final moment, the last thing he saw was a shadow of another beast, probably there to end the unfinished business of the boar in its stead.

 

 

Inaho heard the laughter of teenagers, and was brought back to reality. Outside of the library, the capital is bustling with life, each one with different task to complete for the day; knights are roaming around for their daily patrol, mercenaries are here and there, selling goods that came from other places, noblemen and noblewomen buying expensive stuffs. He spotted some of his fellow huntsmen too, chatting about the recent news of the town: a few weeks ago, a traveller came with stories about his journey in the mountains not too far away from the capital. He mentioned about meeting a white wolf, larger than the usual size of an adult, after he fell from a high cliff. He thought the beast was there to kill him, but it helped him instead.

“This scar here was a terrible wound from the fall, and the beast healed it!” was his claim.

 Just like Inaho, the other huntsmen concluded that what the traveller met wasn’t an ordinary wolf, but a daemon. Healing was a rare ability among their race, and it fanned the fires of passion of the huntsmen to capture the said beast. Later on, an aristocrat by the name of Trillram formed a group to hunt the white wolf; he even hired the famous huntsmen and huntswomen of the Deucalion crew. The brunette is part of the crew, but he couldn’t join the hunt because of his left eye. He mostly works with the planning and strategies for the hunt, and if the situation permitted him, he would also display his skills as a huntsman. The group set out a week ago, and if they followed Inaho’s advices and strategies, they should be able to get back today with the beast in tow.

‘A white wolf…’ Inaho run his fingers over his eye patch.

He remembered how he survived the incident that almost took his life when he was thirteen. In the middle of the forest, he woke up, alive and warm despite of what happened that night. Judging from the mist and the morning dew from nearby plants, the day is still young and quiet. He was sleeping under a huge tree, an attempt to block the sunrays and rain drops if the weather gets bad. Bedside him was a sleeping mammal, triple of Inaho’s size. It was a white wolf.

Inaho observed the wolf that slept beside him, the one that provided heat for the two. It was strange, to see a white wolf in the middle of a forest when the season is not yet winter. Its fur is white as snow, and when he shifted to touch it, the beast slowly opened its eyes and stared at Inaho. The eyes are of unusual colour, like the shallow waters of the sea: Blue-green. Looking at them feels like Inaho is being pulled by an unknown force, making him stare at it and recognize its beauty. Majestic. It’s the only word he could think of to describe the wolf’s whole being.

The beast nuzzled his left eye, and there he realized that the pain was gone. He was too enamoured by the existence of the wolf that he complete forgot about the accident with his eye. Inaho felt it, and recognized its hollowness, minus the bleeding and pain. He had no idea what exactly happened after he fainted. The beast beside him is the only one he could think of that saved him.

That is when Inaho understood that the beast is a daemon, and that it healed his wound. He was staring at the wolf again, appreciating the kind action of a creature different from his own. There was no need to help a kid like Inaho, especially since he is a huntsman in training that might capture daemons in the future. However, this creature had healed his eye, and accompanied him throughout the night, not minding the difference in their race and the history that lies with it.

“Um… I-“

Inaho heard a voice that shouted his name. The beast heard it too and looked at its direction, and then it stood up, readying to leave. He recognized the voice; it was Marito who was calling him, along with the group. With them being nearby, Inaho is already saved from further danger, and the beast’s protection is not needed anymore. It stretched its body, say its final words to him by nuzzling his hair, and left. At the age of thirteen, Inaho encountered a daemon for the first time in his life, and he regretted how he was unable to say his thanks and gratitude for its kindness.

 

 

Since then, he always wonders about the whereabouts of his saviour, and how is it doing. Even at the age of twenty one, he still cannot forget about the white wolf in the forest. The traveller said he encountered it at the mountains, but there is a possibility that it is the same wolf that he met. He knows that capturing it will anger the beast, but given with his job as a huntsman, he has little power over the aristocrat that wanted it.  Baron Trillram is known for his foul attitude and short temper, and his reason for wanting the beast is to probably impress count Cruhteo to rise in power. It was rumoured that the count’s son will be the next Emperor of Vers, marrying the current princess to continue the bloodline. His influence will surely increase with the count backing him up.

Suddenly, the bell of the highest tower in the capital rang, signalling that the group has returned from the hunt. There was already a commotion outside, so Inaho decided to close the book, and welcome the group. From where he is, the brunette could see the huge cage made of metal that was supposed to keep the beast. He went a little closer, pushing himself to the crowd that gathered there to lay their eyes on the daemon. What he saw is exactly what he remembered: its white fur and beautiful eyes. The white wolf is inside of the cage, lying down and panting. Its mouth is covered with a metal muzzle, and all four limbs are shackled and chained to the cage. Scratches are visible everywhere, and its fur, although it is still white, had some parts that are dirtied from mud and blood. It looked pitiful in its current state, different from its elegant form eight years ago. Inaho’s heart turned heavy as he looked at the creature.

“Inaho!” Inko called out. Calm and Nina followed from the back. All three of them are riding their respective horses, leading it towards Inaho.

“Long time no see, man!” Calm said as he unmounts himself from the horse and swung his arm over Inaho’s shoulder. “Your strategies worked!”

Nina unmounts herself too. “Yeah, it was an easy hunt!”

The brunette scanned the group. Most of them seemed fine, with three to four people having minor injuries despite it was a daemon they were hunting. One person with a bandage around his stomach and his coat over his shoulders caught Inaho’s attention.

“What happened to him?” He asked.

“Oh, Trillram?” Inko unmounts herself. “He broke the formation.”

Nina provided him with more. “We were chasing the beast, and then he suddenly went ahead and tried to capture it for himself.”

“The wolf wounded his stomach for getting too close.” Calm said.

Trillram probably tried to take all the glory of catching the daemon, Inaho thought.

His eye fell on the beast again, and caught it staring at him. Inaho hoped that it recognized him as the kid it saved years ago. He went closer to have a proper look, only to be stopped by her sister.

“Nao! What are you doing here?”

“I just want to have a closer look, Yuki-nee.”

“Oh no, you don’t.” She slightly pushed him away from the cage. “This beast is hostile to people. It’s better if you don’t get too close.”

He caught a glimpse of the wolf, and he knows just by looking at its hazy eyes that it is obviously tired, too exhausted to struggle, and show its disgust towards humans for being displayed like this out in the open.

“The beast needs to learn a lesson.”  He heard Trillram and saw him whispered orders to captain Magbaredge. Her face showed a look of distaste, but commanded an order anyway.

“Restrain it.” She said.

The knights and the Deucalion crew move. The chain that was connect to the muzzle was pulled, making it looked like the wolf is bowing down. The shackles on its limbs were being held by the knights to restrict its movements, and the huntsmen and huntswomen readied their bows and swords in case it got out of hand. Inaho’s heart dropped when he saw the beast struggled, trying to free itself from the chains that bound it to the cage. He didn’t want their meeting to be like this after several years; the line between a huntsman and a daemon obvious, the hunter and the hunted, separating both of them with a clear distinction.

The people around looked amused when the knights opened the cage, and Trillram went inside with Magbaredge. The wolf growled with hatred, and the armoured soldiers pulled the chains even more to restrain it.

“Bring me the collar.” He said.

A knight went to a wagon of their supplies and returned with the collar at his hands. Inaho shivered at the sight. Fifty years passed by without anyone seeing it being used on a daemon, but they definitely know what it is for. It was circular and made of iron, with an opening at the back meant to be locked together. A glowing blue line is seen in the middle: the mechanism that represents the presence of Aldnoah. In the past, only the royal family can make the daemons submit, because the Aldnoah power runs in their blood. Today, devices are made like collars and whips, which are personally ‘blessed’ by the royal family, to be used as an alternative. Even the cage, muzzle, shackles and chains that were used on the beast are powered by Aldnoah, able to detain it whatever form it takes.

“Witness as I make this daemon mine!”

Inaho realized that Trillram is making a public announcement of his power to increase his influence. His hunger for fame and attention knows no limitation, he event went overboard as to claim the beast his. This only angered the daemon in return.

Afraid of the collar to be put on to its neck, the wolf struggle as it could, growling as loud as it could, and throwing hateful glares to the people. Some of them panicked at the sight, and some of them were entertained at the show of its hostility. Inaho heard some of the aristocrats whispering that they want to have their own daemon as a pet too, and were envious of Trillram for his achievement.

“It’s useless to struggle, beast.”

In that moment, Trillram went forward and locked the collar at the wolf’s neck. A small, faint light was released, until the light became brighter and made everyone to cover their eyes for protection. When the blinding light was gone, the beast was also gone, but a human replaced it instead. The daemon had assumed its human form. Unlike its previous form, its human form had a blonde hair, closer to white than yellow, its blue-green eyes remained. Its skin is naturally pale, on par with those noblewomen who use different ointments and salves just for their skin to be fair. It would be better though if all of the dirt and blood are washed, and the scratches and bruises healed. Its back and chest were marred with long, slit-like scars, definitely not from the recent events as it its healed and dry.

“Mama, he’s so pretty!” A kid nearby Inaho said.

The books were right. The human form of a daemon is beautiful. The crowd, the knights, the Deucalion crew, and even Inaho is stunned with its beauty.  The daemon fell to its knees, chest rising and falling from exhaustion. Beads of sweat rolled down to its naked body. Now that it had a human face and could take human expressions, the daemon is flushed with embarrassment from being naked in front of many people; its eyes are still glaring and full of hatred.

Trillram is highly pleased with the attention the crowd is giving him. Now that the collar is on its rightful place, the daemon could no longer transform into its other from and is reduced to no threat at all. The baron sneered and kicked its face.

“That’s for injuring me.” Then he kicked its stomach. “And that is for you to learn your place.”

The daemon wanted to have revenge, but before it could move, the chains were harshly pulled, and it was restricted again.

“Keep it in my mansion. Have someone to look over it.” Trillram said to captain Magbaredge and left, heading to where Cruhteo is to tell the count about the news. A few knights followed him. Magbaredge didn’t answer, and instead, she removed her coat and covered the daemon.

“Use this for now.” She whispered.

“That bastard… Ordering captain like that!” Mizusaki hissed while scrutinizing Trillram.

The public show is done, and the cage is already close. People are also returning to their own tasks and businesses, and the daemon was finally left alone after being harassed.

Captain Magbaredge walked towards Inaho with Mizusaki on her side.

“It’s been a while, Kaizuka junior.” She greeted.

Inaho nodded in affirmation. “Good work during the hunt, captain.”

“All thanks to your strategies.”

Mizusaki approached her and gave her a piece of paper. It contained the direction to Trillram’s mansion.

“I noticed how your eyes linger on the daemon longer than the rest of us.” Her eyes looked back to Inaho. “Were you bewitched?”

“Maybe.”

“I see. Would you like to become its keeper?”

The question echoed in Inaho’s mind. Being the daemon’s keeper means that he would be the closest person to the other creature. It would give him privileges like being able to monitor its activities. And perhaps in the future, they can chat comfortably.

He answered with a question. “Why choose one of us when you can assign Trillram’s men? Aren’t our contract with him done the moment the beast is captured?”

“Our contract isn’t done yet. Trillram wants us to be on his side until the daemon is presented to count Cruhteo. He is taking safety measures. As for the keeper,” She glanced at the knights working under Trillram who are lazing around without their master. “I don’t trust them. His men are weak.” Mizusaki nodded at her statement.

“So, will you take it, or not?”

“I gladly accept it.”

 

 

The crew and Trillram’s knights started to move towards their destination. The mansion is located just outside of the capital, occupying a huge area fitting for a baron. Throughout their travel, Inaho kept on glancing at the daemon that curled up like a ball, seeking comfort in Magbaredge’s coat. Its eyes are dead, and it doesn’t move that much during their journey. The daemon must be really exhausted. Being travelled during the day without any clothes on must be hard on it too, not to mention the weather is getting colder as it reaches the autumn season. Later, Inaho noted, that he will prepare a warm bath for it.

When they arrived at the mansion, the gates were opened to let them enter and the servants are there to greet them. They immediately did their task of returning back the supplies that are not use during the hunt for later. Meanwhile, the crew is figuring out how they would transfer the daemon into one of the rooms. The head butler mentioned that Trillram commanded to place it in a proper room, and they thanked him for that regardless of their obvious distaste towards the man. Though the daemon will be chained, it is better than to be placed in the underground prison or in the storage room. At least he will be treated like a person now and not just a beast.

“But how do we transfer him? I’m pretty sure if one of us gets close, he’ll become violent.” Calm said.

Inko nodded. “I agree. We are his captors after all.”

“Then, how about using a tranquilizer?” Marito nonchalantly suggested.

“It will only agitate him more in the future.” Inaho interrupted. “I’ll go talk to it.”

“Are you serious, Nao?! It’s too dangerous!” Yuki voiced out her disagreement. “Let’s just use the cuffs, and force if it comes down to it.”

“That won’t work either, Yuki-nee.” He took a glimpse of the daemon, still not moving from its position. “We need to establish a friendly atmosphere with him if we are to guard him for a long time. Violence and force will only agitate him more, as I said.”

“I agree with Kaizuka junior.” Magbaredge said and made an eye contact with Inaho. “However, we will use the handcuffs if you fail to calm him down.”

The brunette agreed and started walking towards the cage. The daemon noticed his presence and made a scowled face. If he was in his wolf form, he probably growled at Inaho. The knights also started moving and tugged the chains slightly, a warning that if he moved all of a sudden, he will be restrained again. One knight opened the cage and Inaho entered immediately without hesitation. He didn’t brought his sword with him and is totally vulnerable in front of the daemon. He knelt down to meet his blue-green eyes.

“I apologize for the harsh treatment earlier. We did it to make the people feel safe.” Inaho said with his calm voice. The daemon didn’t react and continued to glare at him.

“Do you understand me?” he asked.

‘I’m pretty sure daemons understand any language, as the books stated.’

Again, the daemon didn’t react. The servants and the knights started to fidget because of the too quiet atmosphere.

“I’m sure you’re uncomfortable with that muzzle on. Want me to remove it?”

The daemon didn’t answer, but he is obviously surprised with what Inaho said, eyes turning wide and round. The brunette interpreted it as a ‘yes’ and move closer to the other. He flinched at their close proximity. Nevertheless, he let Inaho to unbuckle the leather belt holding the metal muzzle in place.

When the muzzle was removed, the daemon stared at Inaho.  And instead of staring back at them, burgundy eye fell on the ankles and wrists of the daemon which are becoming red because of the shackles.

“If you promise you won’t be violent, I’ll remove the shackles too.” He said.

He continued to stare at Inaho, as if he is looking for answers in his face. When he broke the eye contact and looked somewhere else, Inaho is sure that the daemon is letting him do what he wants.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

The brunette moved towards the shackles and signalled a knight to bring the keys. When the keys were passed to him, he started to unlock it from one and to the other. After a while, the daemon is now complete free, except for the collar at its neck that prevents it from transforming into a beast.

Inaho stood up and offered his hand to him. “I’ll assist you to your room.”

The daemon looked unsure of what to do. He stared at Inaho’s hand first, and then he clutched Magbaredge’s coat that hang from his shoulders to prevent it from falling, one hand taking the brunette’s.

Everyone was shocked of what the daemon did. Well, the servants and knights were shocked, but those in the Deucalion crew know of Inaho’s peculiarity, and are used to it by now.  They started to walk together out of the cage, hands still linked. Inaho briefly stopped to ask a maid to lead the way while they follow behind. When the maid nodded in agreement and was starting to walk towards the mansion’s door, the daemon suddenly tugged Inaho’s hand and pushed him to the ground. He mounted him and strangled his neck.

“Kh…!”

“Nao!” Yuki shouted from afar and was running towards them. The others were also alerted and drew their weapons, bows ready and swords unsheathe.

“Don’t come near me! Or he will pay with his life!” The daemon said. It was the first time for everyone to hear his voice.

Inaho took the momentary loose of his grip and pushed the daemon to the side. He pinned him to the ground, making sure that his full weight is on the daemon, and restrained his arms with his hands. He struggled a few more before he completely gave up, panting from the exhaustion. Inaho’s years of training to become a huntsman had showed its results.

“Put the cuffs on him.” Captain Magbaredge ordered and Yuki handcuffed the daemon’s wrists and ankles with shackles that are shorter than those in the cage.

“Are you okay, Nao?” She asked.

He replied while dusting himself. “I’m fine.”

Two of the knights assisted the daemon to stand up and pushed him around.

“We’ll take over here. You’re methods are too gentle for a daemon.” One of the knights said.

The knights took the daemon away and the servants continued their tasks with a few murmuring here and there. Some of the knights that were left looked at Inaho as if he made the most idiotic decision. Inaho admits, he didn’t expect the daemon to act like that because of their shared past. Somewhere deep in his mind, he hoped that the daemon would remembered him as the child it saved several years ago, and that it would not get violent with him. What happened today proved that the daemon had forgotten him; a hazy memory of the past.  

“That was dangerous, Inaho!” Inko scolded him.

“Yeah, man. I thought he was gonna eat you alive.”  

“I guess we mustn’t be fooled by his looks. He is beautiful, though.” Nina said as her eyes followed the daemon.

These three are the ones that drew their weapons first, along with Yuki, upon seeing the daemon pinning Inaho down. It shows that they are worried about him, despite of their sometimes rude and nonchalant words, just like now. Inaho is grateful for their hidden concern, and he hoped that someday, they will understand that the daemon is no threat, because Inaho knows by heart that he is kind and gentle, like the white wolf eight years ago.

“I’ll approach him again tonight.” Inaho declared. The trio looked at him with curious eyes.

“Do you wanna get killed?” Calm commented first, not expecting his friend to have a death wish.

Inko, on the other hand, face-palmed. “Just what are you thinking?”

“Oh!” Nina clasped her hands together, gaining their attention. “Are you perhaps captivated by his beauty that you can’t help but want to save him?!” She said with her voice higher than usual and eyes that seemed to sparkle under the sun.

 Calm laughed. “What kind of romantic plot is that?!”

“Surely, that can’t be the reason. Right, Inaho?” Inko asked while fidgeting.

The brunette didn’t reply immediately and seemed to consider the question.

“Wha… Seriously, man?”

“I haven’t said anything yet.”

Nina squealed while Inko slumped to the ground. Calm suddenly grabbed his shoulder.

“Inaho, why don’t we go pick up some girls in the capital and forget about that daemon?”

The brunette casually rejected him, saying that he has more important things to do than pick up girls. Taking care of the daemon is the only thing that mattered now, and any distraction will not be entertained. Inaho took his leave and left his friends hanging.

 

 

The afternoon became hectic, with all the unpacking and assigning of task that they have to do. It was decided that some of the Deucalion members will temporarily live inside the mansion, while the rest have to go back to the headquarters and their respective homes. Deucalion is quite well known in the capital, and with their latest accomplishment, requests are bound to increase. Inaho, Inko, Nina and Calm were chosen to stay, which Yuki couldn’t accept to be separated from her brother. She mentioned about visiting everyday if she could. Higher officers like captain Magbaredge and Mizusaki have to go back to manage other members. As for Trillram’s men, they were put on standby in the mansion too for reinforcement in case the daemon escape. Trillram himself doesn’t live in the mansion, as it is his second one, and he prefers to live in the one inside of the capital. They were relieved to know, since they don’t have to deal with his foul mood every day.

Unlike the busy afternoon, the evening was pleasant and peaceful. Both the crew and the knights were served with food of generous amount. It was a feast, celebrating their achievement of catching a daemon after fifty years. Everyone is having fun and enjoying the food, but Inaho is not in the mood to celebrate. Even if he wants to enjoy his time, he always finds himself thinking about the daemon. It was useless for him to resist, so he left the dining hall and went to the kitchen.

“What brings you here, Inaho-sama?” One maid said to him while the others are still busy cooking.

“I’m here to deliver the food for the daemon.”

“Please wait for a moment.” The maid disappeared in the kitchen and returned with a tray of food. It was of ample amount, and quite nutritious too. Like Inaho, the maids don’t know what food the daemon likes, so they cooked different dishes that they think it would suit his taste.

Inaho grabbed an apple, just in case it doesn’t eat food that looks foreign to him. “I’ll bring this with me.”

He went upstairs and walked towards to the daemon’s room. Two knights stood outside, guarding it like it was a prisoner’s cell. Inaho instructed them that they should leave and have fun with the others downstairs, but they were hesitant to do what he said.

“I may look like this, but I am still a capable huntsman.” And with that, the knights left and Inaho entered the room after a knock.

The room is spacious, but gave off a different feel than the rest. Inaho and Calm’s shared room is decorated with ornaments and fancy designs, and girls’ room is also the same. This one, however, doesn’t have anything like that. It look liked the decorations were removed, leaving the essential ones like the wardrobe, tables, sofas and the bed. The room had its own bathroom, and Inaho assumed that the decorations there are probably removed as well. The knights must’ve done this to prevent the daemon from using any of the items as a mean to escape. He was lying on the bed with his back facing the door, still naked and unmoving even as Inaho walked in. Magbaredge’s coat was left on the floor, and his shackles are visible, one end locked at his ankle while the other end is locked on the foot of the heavy looking furniture. The chains are long enough for him to reach the bathroom on his own.  

Inaho placed the tray on the table beside the bed. “I brought your food.” Then he walked towards the wardrobe and scanned its contents. “But before that, you should at least have something on.”

The brunette took one oversized shirt that is laced at the front, similar to the nightgowns that aristocrats wear. This will have to do for now.

“Are you able to do it yourself, or would you like me to assist?” He asked.

Just like earlier in the morning, the daemon didn’t respond to his question. He clearly understands them and was able to fluently speak their language. Inaho wondered why.

He sat beside the lifeless daemon and tried to start a conversation. “I wouldn’t really know what you want if you don’t speak up.”

A few seconds of silence passed. Inaho was contemplating on whether he should pursue or to just leave the daemon alone, because even without voicing it out, he knows that the other doesn’t need a companion. But if he does leave him alone, he is sure that the daemon won’t eat, much less wear the garment he offers.

‘I have to make him take a bath too…’

While he was swimming in his own thoughts, the daemon rose and stood up, head hung low. His eyes are covered behind his long bangs. Inaho was becoming wary of the daemon’s actions so as not to repeat the incident that morning.

“Assist…”

‘Oh.’

Inaho took his chance to dress the daemon. He unlaced the front, gaining easy access to the shirt to slip it in without having too much trouble. He guided the daemon’s arms to the sleeves of the shirt, and once he is done, he proceeded to lace the front again.

“There’s nothing but nightgowns in the wardrobe.” Inaho said while lacing. “Although they are comfortable, you won’t survive with them during the winter. Tomorrow, I’ll look for some proper clothes.”

After he is done with the lacing, Inaho observed the scratches that littered on the daemon’s skin. He abandoned the thought of giving him a warm bath and instead, he went to the bathroom and soaked a towel. “You’re kind of dirty, so I’ll just wipe down the dried blood and dirt. You can have your bath later on when the scratches are properly healed.”

He wrung the towel and went out of the bathroom, moving closer to the daemon. “Excuse me for a while.”

The daemon jerked when the cold towel met his skin, but allowed Inaho to wipe down the dirt and blood. There are a lot of cuts and bruises, yet there is no bigger wound that needs stitching.

He continued to wipe away the dirt in the daemon’s arm. “I couldn’t introduce myself earlier. My name is Kaizuka Inaho. I’ll be your keeper.” Then he moved to the other arm. “Do you have a name?”

“…”

“I guess you’re not telling me.”

Inaho became silent as he focused on his task. He noticed how smooth and fair the daemon’s skin is regardless of the bigger scars that are slowly fading with time on his chest and back. He is a little taller than the brunette, and Inaho hid his irked face under the poker one. His ashen blonde hair looks fluffy too, despite of some strands sticking out from being dishevelled after their little fight earlier. Inaho thought it would be nice to stare at his blue-green orbs again and be drawn to it, if not for his bangs covering his eyes.

“It’s done.” Inaho said and returned the towel to the bathroom.

“I left your food at the table. My room is just beside yours, and if there’s anything you need, just tell me.”

Gaining another silent response, Inaho picked up the captain’s coat and left the daemon’s room. He decided to go back to the others. To be honest, Inaho wanted to tell the daemon many things, like how he is grateful for saving his life and how he wanted to help him in return. He wanted to ask too if he doesn’t really remember him. In the end, they all went down to the drain because of the daemon’s unresponsiveness and unwillingness to talk. The brunette thought that it’s too early to give up, and if he gave the other some time, maybe he will slowly open up to Inaho and be on friendly terms with him. For the mean time, he should be patient.

As soon as he entered the dining hall, the smell of booze penetrated his nose. He observed that some of the knights started to drink, laughing foolishly as they slowly became drunk. Marito, Yagarai and other older members of the Deucalion crew were also drinking.  He spotted Magbaredge and Mizusaki at the far end of the hall, talking to the head butler and head maid. When they were done talking, he approached the captain and handed her coat.

“Thank you, Kaizuka junior. How is the daemon?”

“Not quite good, but not bad either. I left him with food.” It was his brief answer.

“I see. You’re properly doing your job in spite of not listening to my orders sometimes.” Mizusaki tried to stifle her laugh. “I guess you really are bewitched.”

The captain and her assistant left, joining the others in their merriment. Inaho disregarded what she said and went to where his friends are.

“Inaho! Where have you been?” Calm asked.

“The daemon’s room.”

The looks on their face tells they weren’t surprise, but vary from each other.

Nina’s face is beaming. “Ohh! What did you do?! Did you have-”

“N-Nina!” Inko covered her mouth while her face is flushed.

“Good job for making it out alive!” Calm looked a little flushed too, but probably because of drinking. He poured Inaho some drink, and even though the brunette is already twenty one and a fine adult, he doesn’t really like liquors and would only drink out of respect.

“Thank you.” He took a small sip and remained his poker face in spite of his dislike of the drink. “By the way, I have something to ask to the three of you.”

The trio turned their heads to Inaho. “What is it?”

 

 

The next morning, all four of them went to the head butler and head maid to ask what they need. Inko, Nina and Calm were surprised with what Inaho said that night, and the same reaction is evident to the two.

“Spare clothes?” The head maid repeated his question.

“Is it for the daemon, Inaho-sama?” The head butler asked.

“Yes. The nightgowns in his room is alright, but I figured out he won’t last long with those now that the season is getting colder.”

“You have a point there…” The two looked at each other and sighed.

“We’re sorry, Inaho-sama, but the only spare clothes that we have are the uniforms for the servants. I’m sure Trillram-sama left some of his clothes in the master’s bedroom but…” She explained.

“He wouldn’t like it if he knew the daemon is being treated so kindly as to let him wore his clothes without permission. We will be punished.” The butler continued her sentence.

“I see…”

“But if you’d like, we can ask some of the servants to lend their personal clothes or their spare ones if they have.” The maid said.

Inaho didn’t thought that the two heads of the servants would extend their help as far as suggesting an idea that he thinks was impossible to do. They serve Trillram after all, and helping the daemon in any way they can seems absurd.  He would’ve understand if they directly refused him, but luckily, their master’s arrogance and foul attitude didn’t reflect at them at all. They are kind people, unlike Trillram who only thinks of himself and the fame that he wanted.

“Then, I accept your offer. Thank you.”

“No problem, Inaho-sama. Just tell us if you need anything else.” said the head maid.

Because their talk is done, the two head returned to their daily task. It was Nina who mentioned their kindness first.

“They’re so nice!”

Inko agreed. “Yeah. Good thing they didn’t adapt Trillram’s behaviour.”

“Does that mean you don’t need our spare clothes anymore?” Calm asked.

“No. I still need them. A variety of clothes would be better than selected ones.”

“Okay~”

They ride out to the capital and went to their homes to rummage for some clothes. Inaho wanted to give the clothes as soon as possible, so that the daemon doesn’t have to feel cold. They decided that their rendezvous place would be the library at noon. His three friends live in the same building but different rooms, located near the main road, so there would be no problem of them being late to their meeting point. Inaho, on the other hand, lives with his sister in a small house located in the residential area at the border of the capital. He needs to move faster if he doesn’t want his friends to wait.

When he arrived at their house, it was expected for Yuki not to be around. The Deucalion crew is busy with hunting requests, so it will take a while for his sister to be home and visit him at the mansion. He didn’t waste his time and immediately went to his room. He opened his cabinet and looked for the right clothes. If his memory served him right, he had some clothes that he didn’t use, simply because he doesn’t have the time to try them on. They were Yuki’s gift to him, but he is sure that she won’t mind if he lends it to the daemon. A few minutes after that, he finally found what he was looking for. The clothes were a white long sleeve tunic with its belt, a crimson sleeveless coat that is laced at the front, and a black pants. It was dusty from not being used and smells weird. Inaho figured out he should wash the clothes before giving them to the daemon. Beside those is a short cloak made from wool and a light blue long sleeve tunic, similar from the first one. It wouldn’t hurt to give more than needed, so he grabbed those too along with the spare clothes and left.

Inaho made sure to lock the house. He mounted his horse, bringing with him the clothes for the daemon. His horse ran as fast as it could to the direction of the library so as not to miss the rendezvous. When he arrived, his friends are already at the front, each of them have clothes in their hands.

“You’re late, Inaho!” Inko said.

“Sorry.”

It didn’t took them long to get outside of the capital and headed straight to the mansion. On the road, they talked about the things they grabbed from their own cabinets.

“I found some cloaks I didn’t even know that I own!” Nina said with Inko giggling next to her. “That’s probably because you don’t clean your closet at all.”

“Yup! They look comfortable enough, and look liked the indoor type, so I bought them with me.” She continued.

Inko nodded. “I found a few simple short sleeve tunics in mine. It’s unisex, of course.”

“I have tunics too, and a pants.” Calm said. “What about you, man?”

Inaho replied. “A cloak, a long and short sleeve tunic with a belt, a coat and a black pants.”

Their faces showed some amusement. Calm commented on how dedicated Inaho is while stifling his laugh. “Pfft- Wow. Your passion for the daemon is a little too much.”

By the time they arrived at the mansion, the servants are already preparing for lunch. Inaho was greeted by the head maid.

“Inaho-sama. The clothes that will be given to the daemon are now being washed. Would you like to include your stuffs?”

Inaho was thinking of washing them on his own, but it is probably best to leave it to them since he still have to attend to the daemon.

“Yes, please. And thank you.” Inaho said as he handed the clothes to the maid beside her. The trio also did the same.

“Lunch will be ready soon. Please wait for a while.”

He told the head maid that he will deliver the daemon’s food first, and then she followed her to the kitchen while the three waited at the dining hall. Even before Inaho and his friends went to the capital, he did his morning task of delivering the daemon’s breakfast. The brunette noticed that the food from last night was left untouched, and only the apple that he grabbed by impulse was eaten with two or three bites. Inaho informed the maids about that, and his breakfast was served with fruits. His lunch is also the same, but he hasn’t check yet if the daemon is eating. He was sleeping earlier when he made the delivery. This will be his second time of the day to visit him.

He greeted the knights outside of the room and entered. The daemon was awake, sitting on the bed with his knees to his chest and is hugging it. His eye immediately landed on the tray of food, and it was the same as how he remembered that morning, though a few items are missing. The milk was half empty, and the bowl of fruits was empty as well. Other than that remained the same. It’s a good thing that the daemon tried to eat even a little, but if it continued, he will not get enough nutrients for his body.

“I brought your lunch.” Inaho said as he swapped the tray of food with the one that the brought. “It’s good that you’re eating, but that won’t be enough. The dish may look foreign, but I assure you that they are not poisonous.”

The daemon eyed him and the food, showing distrust to both.

“Have you taken a bath?” He casually asked. There was no response. He is still wearing the same cloth from last night, so he figured out the daemon haven’t done it yet.  Realizing that the daemon might not know how the tub and shower works, he started to give oral instructions. “The tub is the huge container that can fit a person. Fill it with water from the faucet and soak your body in it. Just think of the tub as a smaller version of a lake. Although the water needs to be replaced from time to time, it works the same. You can also shower, if you like. Turn the faucet with a tube connected to it and the water flows through the showerhead, much like a rain. Don’t forget to use products like soap and shampoo.”

The daemon is listening to him, or more like staring at him. Inaho doesn’t exactly know if he understands a word that he said. “Of course, if you need help, I can assist you in your bath.”

The ashen blonde hesitated, but slowly opened his mouth. He was about to say something when someone suddenly knocked. His attention shifted to the door with eyes full of alertness and hostility.

“I-na-ho!” It was Inko on the other side of the door. “We’re about to have lunch! If you don’t hurry up, Calm will eat your share!”

Inaho forgot the time when he was with the daemon and heard his stomach made a sound. “I have to go. I’ll be back in the evening to bring your dinner.”

The brunette spared a final glance at the daemon before he closed the door. He was looking at the direction of the bathroom, probably thinking of taking a bath later. He didn’t object the idea, because most of the scratches are closing up and are healing. A bath would make the daemon feel refreshed.

 

 

“So, did he eat his lunch?” Inko asked as they both went downstairs.

“He doesn’t eat with me around.”

“Oh. Maybe he’s shy around people.”

When they arrived at the dining hall, a maid took the tray of the daemon’s breakfast from Inaho’s hands.

“He didn’t eat anything aside from fruits again…” She sighed. “Maybe we should cook a simpler dish with recognizable ingredients?”

“I think that would help. Thank you.”

Inaho sat where his friends are and enjoyed his food. He thought of another way to make the daemon eat everything in the tray. How about telling him how they are made? Or what the ingredients are? Maybe he can ask if he preferred other food than the ones that are served. He wouldn’t know if it’s effective or not, but he has to give it a shot.

That evening, when Inaho was walking in the corridors towards the daemon’s room, he suddenly heard a loud thud coming from the inside. The knights guarding outside were surprised and panicked, so they rushed in along with the brunette. They were alarmed when the daemon was nowhere to be seen, and Inaho’s heart made rapid thumps from nervousness and worry. One knight was about to tell the others to start searching when Inaho stopped him. He recognized the sound of running water from the bathroom and remembered how the daemon was looking at the it earlier.

“The daemon…” He tried to make his voice calmer. “Is just taking a bath.”

When their eyes followed the trail of chains leading to the bathroom and the door slightly open, not to mention the sound of water, the knights showed a relieve face and left the room. They were probably horrified about the thought of Trillram punishing them if the daemon escaped before he could even present it to count Cruhteo. Inaho walked towards the bathroom and slightly pushed the door open. There he saw the daemon, sitting on the floor with his wet nightgown. The showerhead was mysteriously on and the water on the tub was over flowing too. He was rubbing the back of his head and noticed Inaho by the door.

“What happened here?” He asked. The daemon didn’t respond, and Inaho was expecting that.

He sighed and turned the faucet off.  Then he grabbed a towel folded near the mirror.

“The water…” The daemon started talking and the brunette whirled his head to him a little faster than usual. “I was surprised when it came from the top… I slipped on the floor.” This is the second time that Inaho heard his voice clearly. The first one was when he was strangling him, and it didn’t really left a good memory. He was glad that the daemon responded to him.

“I see. Be careful next time.” He covered his head with the towel. “I’ll prepare your bath. You can observe me and do it yourself later on.”

The daemon got up and stepped aside, letting Inaho to have more access to the bathroom. The tub was already filled with water, so he opened a bottle of bubble bath and poured a decent amount. Inaho have to move his arms like crazy in the water to create the bubbles, and yet it was still not enough. He told the daemon that he will teach him next time the proper way to create more bubbles than now. After setting up the tub, he signalled him to come in. The brunette help him to remove the nightgown, and then he took the showerhead from its holder. The daemon’s reaction gave him away that he obviously didn’t know that it could be remove from its high place. He also took the short stool placed under the bathroom’s countertop.

Inaho turned the faucet on and the showerhead released the water. “Before you soak in the tub, you have to wash your body first. You are taller than me, so please sit down.”

The daemon followed his instruction and sat down. Inaho washed his hair, his arms, his back, his chest and his legs. He felt the scars on his upper body and wondered how he got them. Throughout the process, it is unavoidable to see what is down there, but it look liked the daemon doesn’t mind as long it’s not in the public. Inaho doesn’t mind too, since he already saw everything when he was still on the cage and Trillram made a little show. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have desires though. He is feeling something, but he decided to ignore it because it is inappropriate based on their situation. He is aware that he’s been neglecting the needs of his lower half, and now that a naked body is next to him, his libido seems to have forgotten about genders and proper manners.

Inaho blanked his mind as it was going on to the wrong direction and focused on the current task. After he washed the daemon, he grabbed the soap and demonstrated how it is used. He can’t possibly touch the other’s skin now that he is aware of various things.

“I can’t reach my back.” The daemon said.

After the battle with his thoughts while he soaped the daemon’s back, he told him that he need to rinse off the suds and foams. Inaho did it with efficiency and noticed that the other is slowly relaxing in his presence. Perhaps bathing him helped to lower his guard around his keeper.

“You can soak in the tub now.”

The daemon nodded and stood up. He carefully went in to the tub to avoid slipping again. When he found his comfortable position, he took a deep breath and exhaled it in one go.

“I feel so relaxed… Humans are so lucky to experience such wonderful thing every day.” He commented. This might be a chance to start a real and proper conversation, so Inaho chose his words correctly.

“You don’t take baths in lakes or rivers?” He asked.

“I do. But it’s not as pleasant as this.”

“I see.” Inaho grabbed the bottle of shampoo. “We’re not done yet, by the way.”

“There’s more?” The tone in his voice sounds excited.

“Yes. Your hair needs to be shampooed.”

“Shampooed?”

Inaho got closer and poured the product in his hands. “Here, lean your head towards me.”

The daemon did so and felt the brunette’s hands on his head. He made a circular motion, like a massage, and the later on, foams were formed mixed with his hair.

“It has a nice scent.” He said.

“All bathroom products do.” Inaho grabbed the showerhead again and rinsed the fluffy hair. “You can actually do this after the soaping one, but since I’m here, I gave you with a special service.”

The other hummed. “Really? Then, thank you.”

His heart throbbed a little. “You’re welcome.”

Silence settled between the two as Inaho was done with his services. He was itching to ask about the past but stopped himself from doing so. H commented on something else instead. “It would feel even nicer if the water is warm.”

“Hmm. Let’s do that next time.”

Next time, he said. Does that mean Inaho is welcome to bath him again? He pushed the thought away and took one of the folded bathrobes, placing it near the daemon.

“Don’t stay for too long, or you’ll catch a cold.”

He went out of the bathroom and prepared the daemon’s nightgown. The tray of food that he unconsciously put down in the moment of panic earlier was disarranged, so he took his time to fix it.

“Kaizuka.” He suddenly called from the bathroom. Inaho was surprised that the daemon called him by his name. “What should I do with the water?” He asked.

“Pull the plug. The water will be drained there.”

He heard the sound of water leaving the tub, and then after a few seconds, the ashen blond came out with the bathrobe hanged over his shoulders. A towel was on his head too. Inaho was about to tell him that he wore it the wrong way, but since he would still have to remove it to make way for the nightgown, he just left as it is. The brunette came closer and rubbed the towel against the daemon’s hair.

“Dry yourself proper after every bath.” After that, he helped him put his nightgown on.

“Slaine Troyard.” Inaho met his eyes, as if asking him about what he said. The daemon seemed to understand. “My name. You asked for it yesterday.”

He nodded in affirmation. “I’ll call you that from now on.”

Inaho is done with his tasks of bathing and clothing Slaine. It was tiresome, but he enjoyed his time with the daemon. He felt unbelievably light-hearted after helping him. Before he left the room to give Slaine some privacy, he reminded him that he should eat everything in the tray, or else Inaho would feed him the next time he eats. He heard a murmur of his response.

“I don’t like eating by myself… And I don’t know if it’s safe too…”

The brunette remembers his long list of ways to make the other eat his food, and all of that was abandoned when he heard the daemon. He told himself that when he meets with his friends, he have to inform them that he will be eating with Slaine from now on.

‘They’ll surely be angry at me for this.’

 

 

 

 

-----

Slaine woke up from the sound of clattering plates. The birds are chirping outside and the sunlight entered the room through the locked windows. The curtains are neatly kept, and a person’s figure entered his peripheral vision.

“Kaizuka?” He said as he sat up, hair still unkempt from last night’s sleep. The name sounds foreign to him, but he has grown accustomed to the presence of brunette who claims to be his keeper.

The brunette noticed that he was already awake. “Good morning, Slaine.”

Him calling his name made his eye twitched, obviously not used to it. He cleared his throat before talking. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Preparing our breakfast.”

Last night, the two of them have exchanged a few words and casual talks. Slaine doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t know if he likes it either. He lived in the mountains and forests for as long as he can remember with the animals and occasionally meeting a daemon there, but he never talked with a human before. He did heal some of them from injuries that they got when they venture into his territory, but it always happens when he is in his daemon form. There was no need to talk to them. However, now that he was forced to take his human form because of the collar, others wouldn’t really know what he wants unless he talks.

“I wouldn’t really know what you want if you don’t speak up.” Is what his keeper said on the first day they met.

Slaine unconsciously clutched his garment near his chest; near his scars. If it were up to him, he doesn’t want to get involve with human beings. He doesn’t want to talk to them. Daemons like himself suffered so much because of the them, and now he might suffer from the same events too. Humans are selfish, ungrateful and greedy. They take advantage of whatever opportunity is given to them and doesn’t mind of the other party. Daemons are forgiving by nature, that’s why they endured, but it only got worse. What happened before and after the war is something that they couldn’t forget, and something that they should not forgive the humans for doing so. Despite of that, Slaine can’t help but save the human child from years ago and the traveller he recently met. He doesn’t understand why when they’ve done nothing but bad things to them, and he blamed his gentle side for that.  Maybe he hoped that the humans realize their wrong doings. Maybe he hoped that they will change some day. He let himself believe that there are exceptions, that there are kind humans as well. And look what happened to him: captured by the humans that he thinks will show him kindness, made him submit himself to them by force and made a fool out of him. This was all a nightmare, until his blue-green eyes met the burgundy one.

“I apologize for the harsh treatment earlier. We did it to make the people feel safe.”

“I’m sure you’re uncomfortable with that muzzle on. Want me to remove it?”

“If you promise you won’t be violent, I’ll remove the shackles too.”

“I’ll assist you to your room.”

His keeper, Kaizuka Inaho, is a huntsman, trained to hunt animals and capture his kind, yet he showed characteristics unusual to the ones that he knows. He is not selfish and greedy. He didn’t even hurt Slaine. He only showed his willingness to help and his care for him. The exception that Slaine was talking about, it might be him.

“And also,” The brunette said. “You can just call me Inaho.”

Slaine stared at him before he responded. “If you say so.”

He got up and walked towards Inaho with his chains clinking. The other was busy setting up the table while he his eyes observed him. He saw a bowl of fruits, a glass of milk and a cup of coffee, a pitcher of water, plates, and other utensils. Just like the previous days, the plates have food in it that he doesn’t recognize. Inaho must’ve woken up early to prepare all of this.

“Have a sit.” The ashen blonde sat on the sofa opposite of the brunette. “You have friends, right? Are you sure this is okay?”

“No problem. They got angry when I told them, but they understand.” Then he started eating. He first ate the ones that Slaine knows as ‘eggs’ based on its yellow color and fluffy texture. Inaho saw Slaine staring at him and not eating.

“You’re not eating?”

Slaine shifted his eyes from Inaho to the food in front of him. There’s too much things added in it that he doesn’t know.

“Earlier, I found some crumbs on the bathroom countertop.” The daemon stiffens at his statement. “You threw the food last night in the sink, didn’t you?”

Slaine looked somewhere else and avoided eye contact.  Last night, the brunette threatened him on doing a spoon feeding if he doesn’t eat everything in the plate, so he carefully drained the contents in the sink after he left. He didn’t thought that he would be so diligent as to look for evidences of food being thrown away.

Inaho took a sipped of his coffee. “That’s fine though. I have no problems with feeding you every meal time.”

The daemon blushed. “I’m not a kid, you know…” Then he stared at the food again. Inaho is fine after taking several of it in his mouth, so maybe the food isn’t drugged or poisoned in the first place.

“Weren’t you the one who said it’s lonely to eat alone? So here I am.” Inaho said and he blushed even harder.

“You heard me after all…” he murmured and took a spoonful of the food in the bowl. It was white and thick, with sliced chicken and chives on top. When he brought it to his mouth and swallowed the contents, it exploded in flavours that Slaine couldn’t described, but his face tells Inaho that it was delicious.

“It’s chicken porridge.” He said and continued to eat his own. There was a sandwich beside it too, but he decided to tell Slaine later when he is curious on what it is.

Their breakfast was pleasant, with Inaho giving him information on the food he is eating. The ashen blonde is amazed at the food that humans could make by combining different ingredients, and they taste different from each other too. He can see why many like to eat until they are full. If he had known that they are so flavourful like this one, he should’ve eaten the ones that were served to him. Now he thinks that the ones he drained on the sink went to waste.

He drank the last drop of his milk and rubbed his stomach. “It’s been a while since I’ve been this full.”

“I’m glad then.” Inaho said as he cleaned the table. “There are also clothes in the wardrobe. Though they are spare clothes from the servants, my friends and mine, they will do for the winter. As for the undergarments, I bought them from a store and are new.”

“Thank you. And tell them my thanks too.”

The brunette stood up, taking the tray with plates and utensils with him. “I will. You can take a shower now. I’ll give you your privacy.”

Slaine blinked his eyes in confusion. “Shower? Didn’t I already took one last night?”

He replied. “Yes, but humans usually do it every day.”

“I’m not a human.”

Inaho ignored it and continued. “Some even do it twice: one in the morning and another one in the evening, just before they go to sleep. I suggest you doing that too.”

Slaine frowned his face. “Humans have so many rules. Don’t you get tired of it?”

“Not at all. We’re used to it.” He walked towards the door and stopped at the doorway. “I’ll be back by lunch.” Then he closed the door.

The room became silent with no one around but Slaine. And because he has nothing else to do, he followed what Inaho said and took a shower. While feeling the drops of water in his skin, he remembered the rains and drizzles in the forests and mountains. He remembered the smaller animals greeting him. He remembered the scent of nature penetrating his nose. Slaine slumped his shoulders. He misses his home. Although he is provided with the company of a human and is slowly becoming comfortable, the momentary distraction it provided will be gone once he is alone, like now.

‘Idiot. You could’ve stayed and chatted for a while.’

He brushed the thought aside and started to apply soap in his body, just like how Inaho taught him. He himself needs to find something to do for times like this when he is left alone. He reminded himself to ask Inaho later of what would be good to do.

 

 

 

 

-----

Inaho entered the kitchen to return the tray with plates. It was hard going downstairs with so many things in both of his hands.

The head maid took it from his hands and was quite shock to see that there was no food left. “Oh my! Did he like the food, Inaho-sama?”

He remembered the indescribable face Slaine made out of surprise from eating the food. His heart fluttered at it. “Yes, he did.”

She looked happy knowing that the daemon started eating and told him to ask about his preference in food. Inaho agreed and delivered his message of thanks for the clothes.  He proceeded to his and Calm’s shared room and found the blonde on his own bed, reading a book.

“Oh! Inaho!” Calm stopped reading and asked him. “How did it go?”

“It was fine.” His answer was brief, but the other could feel his good mood radiating. His friend is now suspicious that something happened, aside from them eating.

“Uwahh~~~ Really, what happened? You have your usual face on but you’re releasing a happy vibe.” Calm made a joke. “It’s kinda gross, man!”

‘Is it that obvious?’

The brunette made an excuse closer to the truth, but not exactly it. “I’m just glad that he ate everything. That’s all.”

“Hmmm…” His eyes went back to the book he is reading. “Inko was still pissed off, you know. Saying things like,” He changed his voice a few notes higher. “‘How can he abandon his friends like that!’ or something.”

“You’re bad at impersonating.”

“Like you can do any better!” Calm chuckled at the silly conversation they have. “Anyway, good thing Nina was there to calm her down.”

Inaho heard his attempt to joke again, but didn’t react. “Where are they?” He asked.

“They went shopping in the capital square.”

“Oh. And why didn’t you go with them?”

Calm focused his nervous eyes on Inaho. “Dude, they’ll make me bring all of their stuff! Do you know how hard that can be?! Girls are scary when they’re shopping!”

The blonde is right. Inaho experienced the same thing when he went out with his sister once. It wasn’t really a fond memory.

Just like Calm, there’s nothing else to do than to read. So he grabbed his book about daemons and pretended to read them when in fact, his mind is wandering back at the daemon. He would’ve stayed and talked for a while, but he doesn’t want to take Slaine’s privacy away. He left the room with a heavy heart, and now he finds himself remembering the moments that they share. He is happy whenever they spend their time together.

It came as an unexpected event for Slaine to express more than one face when he ate the food for the first time. He seems to be curious, but at the same time, enjoying the new flavours that settled in his mouth. Looking at someone eat so lively never made Inaho’s heart this unstable before.  One moment, his heart would tighten, and the next, it would become excited with rapid thumps. He isn’t used to this kind of feeling. How is it even possible for him to act like this when they only met days ago?

‘No, that’s not quite right.’

Inaho had felt like this before probably around the time when the daemon saved him, and they spent the morning together even for a short time. He thought of it as a natural thing to occur, because he is undergoing puberty at that time. But now, he can’t find the right reason; the right excuse, for him to feel the way he is feeling. He can’t conclude just yet. He has to observe the situation more.

 

 

Noon came faster than he expected, and he is on his way to Slaine’s room again. This time, he had a maid with him to help him carry the tray of food, since now there are two of them eating together. The problem with Inko was also solved with him promising them to go out tomorrow.

The brunette knocked the door before he entered. “Slaine, the food is here.”

He was surprised by what his eye saw. It’s not because Slaine had escaped, or that he is naked, but rather, he wore the clothes that Inaho got for him. The tunic was properly placed under the coat, and the coat was laced at the front with the belt holding both in place. Its crimson color stood out in the daemon’s pale complexion. He looked good on it, but something was missing though. He didn’t wear the black pants that came along with it. He probably didn’t mind because the coat was long enough that it reached his knees, and it doesn’t look out of place.

The maid settled the food on the table. Inaho tried to focus and told himself not to be too stunned with Slaine’s looks.

“I’m surprised you know how to put that on.” He commented as he set up the table. The maid already left, and there is only the two of them inside of the room.

“It took me a while, actually.”

“And the pants?”

“I couldn’t wear it with the shackle on me.”

Inaho completely forgot about the shackles that chained him to this room. “I see.”

Slaine looked at himself. “Does it look weird? Without the pants on.”

The brunette immediately answered with a “No.” Inaho was subtly shocked, because it is so not him to deny a question with the full intention of doing so. The daemon looked indifferent, not noticing what was wrong.

“I mean,” He started to correct himself. “If I have to say anything, it suits you. The color suits you. And it doesn’t even look out of place. It’s good. You’re good. No. You look good.”

‘What am I even saying?’

Slaine’s eyes were wide, and then he chuckled. “Geez. Why are you getting flustered?” He laughed some more. “I get it. Thank you.”

Something snapped within Inaho. Everything blurred out except for Slaine’s existence.

The ashen blonde sat down on the sofa. “Shall we eat? I’m getting hungry.”

“…Sure.”

They talked as they eat, with Inaho spacing out a few more times than he normally would. He caught himself staring at Slaine whenever he eats happily and tried a new food.

“This one’s delicious too. What is this called?” He asked Inaho who snapped out of his delusions.

“That? It’s a tomato bisque soup.”

They went back on eating, and the brunette remembered what the head maid told him.

“I have something to ask.” Both of the talked at the same time and his voice overlapped with the other.

Slaine was the first one to react. “Oh. What is it?”

“No, you go first.”

The ashen blonde played with his food for a while, hesitating on whether to tell Inaho or not. A few seconds passed before he finally made up his mind and met Inaho’s burgundy eye.

“There’s something I want to have.”

All of the brunette’s attention is now on Slaine, a little curious on what the other might need. “And that is?”

He shuffled from his sit. “You see, whenever you leave, it gets quiet, and boring… And I thought maybe I can do something to distract myself. Like read a book or play a game…”

Inaho understood what he means. Because if it was him on the daemon’s place, chained in this room with nothing and nowhere to go, not to mention he is all by himself, he would surely feel restless due to boredom.

“I understand. I’ll bring you with something tomorrow. Is there anything else?”

He hesitated again, but this time, he decided to keep it from Inaho and told him that there’s nothing else that he need for now.

“What about you? Didn’t you have something to say too?” He asked.

“Yes, but it’s not from me. The head maid asked me if you have any preference with your food.”

“Hmm...” Slaine thought of something that he’d like to have. There are too many stuff that he wants to eat, but he doesn’t know what they are called, so he settled with “Nothing in particular.”

Inaho couldn’t accept it, so he started giving options. “How about some desserts? You haven’t tried them, right?”

“Desserts? Are we still talking about food?” Slaine obliviously asked.

“Yes. It’s a type of food eaten at the end of a meal.”

The daemon raised his eyebrow. “Why would you still want to eat after all of this?” He said as he gestured to all of the plates that are now empty. “I’m full already, and if I eat this ‘desserts’ that you say, I might puke everything.”

The brunette tried to explain that desserts aren’t that heavy for the stomach, and it is served in little amount. It can also be eaten as a snack, or just anytime whenever he feels hungry.

“I feel like they’re berries found in the forest. Anyone can munch on them anytime.”

They talked for a while, and then Inaho noticed that Slaine yawned. The afternoon has a good weather to it, a perfect time to take a nap. Inaho told one of the knights guarding outside to call a maid to help him pick up the dishes, so that he can leave soon and give Slaine his privacy. It didn’t took long enough for a maid to enter the room and cleaned up the table.

“You’re leaving already?” He asked while rubbing his eyes. He looked like a kid in his drowsy state.

“Yes. I know you’re sleepy, so you can take your afternoon nap in peace.”

The daemon didn’t responded and followed Inaho’s figure with his eyes as he went to the door.

“I’ll see you later.”

 

 

Their dinner was pleasant in each other’s enjoyable company. Inaho bought with him the dessert that he was talking about that afternoon. Slaine unexpectedly liked it, even though he was asking of its purpose if it is eaten after every meal earlier. They talked about various and random things; from the different food that he has yet to taste, up to the clothes that humans wear. Slaine mentioned that although the clothes look nice and all, especially the ones that the aristocrats have, it is too stiff for him, and that he preferred clothes that are comfortable like the nightgowns. Inaho’s spare clothes weren’t that bad too, but he liked it more without the coat on, just the soft and fine tunic.

The following day, Inaho presented Slaine with different books of different genres and a board game. Since he promised his friends to go out to make up with them, he took the chance to borrow some books at the library and grabbed his chessboard back at his home. The ashen blonde was delighted with the new entertainment, and the brunette was kind enough to teach him how to play chess. Slaine easily understood the rules, which gave him no problem on his first game. He lost to Inaho of course, but he can’t deny that the daemon is intelligent, almost beating him because he underestimated him. He reminded himself that the next time they play, he wouldn’t go easy with him.

The next game didn’t really have a long interval after the last one. Slaine couldn’t move on after his defeat, so he convinced Inaho to play with him since then. Their daily activities went on just like that; after a meal, they would play one round of chess together. There are also times that they don’t feel like playing, and both of them would read books instead. Inaho would steal some glances at the unaware Slaine, too focused on the book he is reading. He liked how the other’s face would make a frown, or a smile, or even laugh, all because of the unique stories that he read. He liked how the atmosphere between them is gentle, and Inaho can’t help but remember the day when he woke up with the white wolf beside him quietly sleeping. It was the same ambience as back then. The days went on with fulfilment.

One day, when they were playing chess, Slaine suddenly said something, breaking both of their concentration. “This is getting boring.”

Inaho felt it too and made a suggestion of changing the game. He went out for a bit, and when he returned to the room, Inko, Nina and Calm were with him.

“Yo…” Calm awkwardly said.

Slaine was confused to Inaho’s action, thus the brunette started explaining his brilliant idea. He noticed that the time he spent with his friends decreased and the time he spend with Slaine increased. There were no problems with it as they understand Inaho’s job as a keeper, but he can’t shake off the feeling that he is subtly ignoring and abandoning his friends since childhood. Slaine said it himself that playing chess is getting boring, so changing the game into one where many players can participate will liven up the mood. It’s a win-win situation to all, because the trio are getting bored around the mansion too.

“I’m Calm, by the way.” The blonde said.

“And I’m Inko. Nice too meet you.”

“I’m Nina!”

The daemon is obviously not used to them yet, and he shyly introduced himself. “I’m Slaine Troyard… Nice to meet you too.”

 The shyness towards each other and the awkward atmosphere dissipated when the game started. Calm keep a set of cards with him, and they played the game Old Maid. They were surprise to see Inaho being defeated in such an easy game.

“Playing cards is not my forte.” He said.

Since then, the five of them would play together if they feel like it. Slaine is still given with his privacy in some of the days, because there are times that he would prefer to take a nap than to play or to read. Inaho and Slaine weren’t alone that often, and as a result, the brunette’s heart calmed down for the mean time. Seeing the daemon have fun even though he is kept in the mansion is enough for him. He hoped that days like these would continue, not minding about the dangers stored for them in the future.

 

 

“Inaho, let’s take a bath together.” Slaine said as he removed his tunic.

Inaho’s brain malfunctioned.

It’s late at night, and the others already left. Inaho is tired, Slaine is tired, and everyone is tired due to the new games that they played today. He never thought that board games would bring out the competitive spirits in them, and they went all out. It was rowdy earlier, but now, the silence is deafening. It is unlikely of the ashen blonde to make a request such as this, and it throws his heart into frenzy.

He has to refuse, or else he might do something unexpected. “No. I’m going now.”

“But you’re tired, aren’t you? I’ll service you, like how you did the last time.” Slaine said as he start pouring the bubble bath with the faucet on; the movement of the water creating more bubbles. Inaho had taught him the technique a few days ago.

Service. The word echoed in his mind. He knows Slaine doesn’t mean anything aside from helping him bath, which is why he needs to reject it before he gets the wrong idea.

“No, thanks. I’m leaving.”

The daemon chuckled. “Are you shy?”

Inaho didn’t like the way he is teased, but he can’t give in too. What is the best course of action?

“Are you a virgin? Afraid to get naked in front of the others?”

“That’s not it.” The brunette started to remove the pieces of clothes in his body.

Slaine chuckled again. “Is that so?”

His blue-green eyes observed Inaho, until he removed the eye patch. Slaine is watching intently, but he refused to let him see the hollowness of his left eye. He kept it close the entire time.

They went on and washed their own body. Inaho kept his mind as occupied as possible as he could to distract himself, and to avoid stealing glances at Slaine’s body. He recalled the techniques in hunting Marito taught him, he recited the theorems in mathematics and the laws of physics in his mind, he even made strategies and plans that he doesn’t know where it would be use. He did anything that he could, and it all went to a pause when the daemon talked.

“Let me wash your back.” Then he went closer.

‘It’s useless.’

Slaine scrubbed his back with a sponge and soap. He wondered what the other is feeling, if he is as nervous as Inaho now because of their situation. Inaho thought this isn’t normal. Because before, he had his clothes on and was teaching Slaine how to take a proper bath. Now, both of them are naked and clearly know how to take a bath on their own, so why are they taking one together? He imagined the same scenario but with Calm on Slaine’s position, and Inaho just can’t. Although they’ve been friends for years, he doesn’t wish to see the blonde’s body. It sounds rude, but it is the truth. Does this mean he is fine with Slaine’s body?

“Sir, is there any part that you want me to scrub?” Slaine asked him as if he is a servant. Well, even servants don’t do this to their masters unless they are ordered to. This must be a part of what Slaine called as service.

“None.” Then he faced Slaine and grabbed the sponge. “Your turn.”

“No. I told you it’s my service for you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re tired too, so let’s service each other.”

They switched places; the daemon sat on the short stool and Inaho scrubbed his back. They were silent for a while, until the brunette directly touched Slaine’s scars.

He flinched at the contact. “What?”

“Does it hurt?”

“The scars? No. I got them long ago, and it’s mostly healed now.”

He hesitated on whether to continue, or to change the topic. It feels like the subject is too sensitive, and he wants to respect Slaine’s privacy regardless of his curiosity.

“Are you curious?” The daemon asked.

“Yes. I’m sorry. You can choose not to tell me.” Inaho told him and went back to scrubbing.

“It’s fine. It’s not like I’m hiding it, and you’ve seen it many times too.”

From there, Slaine told Inaho of his past, starting from the human-daemon war. Slaine’s mother is one of the many daemons who died under the Vers Empire’s slavery, and his father couldn’t accept her death. When the war between the two races begins, his father offered help by researching on Aldnoah and looking for ways on how to reject it. Slaine would assist his father in his work, and as soon as they were close to the truth, both of them were captured by the huntsmen of the empire. His father was killed, and all of his writings were burned and turned into ashes. The young Slaine knew little pieces of knowledge, and so, he was interrogated by the aristocrats to spill what he knew. The interrogation wasn’t a pleasant one, because rather than using words, the whip did the talking for them. Even after he told them everything that he understood from his father’s work, he was sentenced to death, just like all the other daemons that rebelled and were captured. He thought he was done for, but a group of humans helped them escape. They were against the continued slavery of the daemons, and were naturally against the empire too. Slaine and the others successfully escaped, but the humans who helped them were killed in return. The wounds from the whip took days to recover even with his healing abilities, and although it healed complete now, it left the ugly scars on his chest and back. Since then, Slaine lived in the shadows of the forests and mountains, hiding from the humans’ eyes. He doesn’t wish to mingle with them despite of the urge to pay back the humans who helped him. They are dead, and he knows it. But at least he wants to help a human or two in return for saving his life.

Now it made sense to Inaho as to why the daemon saved him when he was thirteen. The same thing goes for the traveller that he healed. Slaine was saved by the humans, and he wanted to thank them for that. Helping the same kind as the ones that helped him would make sense, and the debt he thinks that he owe would be lifted. The question has always bothered him since he was young, and now it was answered.

“Can we soak in now?” Slained asked, cutting off Inaho’s thoughts. He nodded and both of them went into the tub, opposite from each other.

They both sighed from relief. The water is warm, coming from the faucet that expelled hot water which was boiled from a tank. The scent of the bubble bath is nice, and above all, the feeling of their skin touching underwater is great. At first, Inaho was against them taking a bath together. Now, he is grateful that he accepted Slaine’s suggestion.

“How is it? Taking a bath with me.” He asked as if reading the brunette’s thoughts.

“It’s nice. Enjoyable, even.”

Slaine smiled. “I think so too. Let’s do this more often.”

Inaho’s gaze softened the moment he saw the smile. He agreed with the other’s statement and unconsciously smiled too. “Let’s do that.”

The daemon’s eyes were wide open with surprise, which Inaho doesn’t understand why. Then he started giggling.

“So you can smile too.” He giggled some more. “I thought you’re only capable of a poker face.”

He intentionally bumped Slaine’s feet underwater. “I’m not a robot. I can smile and laugh too.”

Slaine burst in laughter. He must’ve thought it was a joke. “I can’t imagine you laughing!”

They bickered for a while, feet bumping and kicking at each other. Two adults were playing in the tub in the middle of the night, and Inaho can’t help but feel glad about the progress of their relationship. Days like this is when he realized that his patience paid off, and that he wished for their relationship to progress more.

 

 

If there are days that Inaho would feel pure happiness and bliss, there are also days that are stressful and hectic. The work at the headquarters piled up, and the Deucalion crew keeps on getting more and more hunting requests. Because the four of them were on standby in the mansion, the burden of their works was passed on to the others. It would’ve been fine, if not for the continued hunting requests. Everyone gets send out to hunt, and only a few would be left to deal with the documents. To solve the case, captain Magbaredge assigned the four to deal with it until things returned to normal. While staying in the mansion, they would sort out the data, read the reports of their fellow hunters, and do basically anything that the office should’ve done. Inaho, being the strategist of the crew, is given with a special task to plan out the hunt for every hunting request. He doesn’t mind, because it feels like a challenged to him.

Inaho, Inko, Nina and Calm were provided with a room to do their tasks, and they started as soon as they can. The room was filled with books and records that they might need, along with pens and papers to write down the plans Inaho would make. Slaine was also informed beforehand of their work, and he understands their situation. It was going fine at first, until it keeps on piling up because of new requests every day. They can’t imagine how the crew dealt with it while they were away, and even though they helped now, the work doesn’t look liked its reduced. The trio were exhausted every time they finish, and Inaho felt like his body is deteriorating. Because among the four of them, he is the last one to finish. Planning a hunt without seeing the setting and being cooped up in a room is taking a toll on his brain, not to mention the ridiculous amount of requests he has to deal with. It isn’t easy too, because he can’t afford to make a plan without considering the growing influence of the Deucalion. One mistake, and everything that they worked hard up until now would crumble.

Inaho took a rest for a bit. His left eye socket is throbbing with pain due to over work.

“Are you okay, man? I think you should rest for the day.” Calm said with concern, even though he is tired himself.

“I’m fine.”

“It’s hurting these days, right?” Inko asked. Like Calm, she too has an incredible eye bags under her violet eyes. “You really shouldn’t over work yourself.”

Nina nodded.  “She’s right, Inaho. What would we do if our strategist collapsed?”

“But the documents…”

“It’s okay, man. We can handle it.”

“Yeah! And while you’re at it, you should visit Slaine. He must be lonely.”

That’s when he realized that it’s been days since the last time he saw him. They still continued to play with him even with the work that needs to be done, but they can’t afford to stay for too long. He wondered if how is Slaine doing, and if he really is lonely. His heart tightens just by imagining the daemon’s sad face. He doesn’t want it to happen.

“Right. I’ll visit him.” Then he stood up. He felt a little dizzy, but pushed forward. “I’ll leave it to you guys.”

He left and went directly to Slaine’s room. The throbbing worsened as he walked, but paid it with no attention. He’ll take his medications later. For now, seeing Slaine is more important to him than other matters.

The knights were outside of the room as usual, and he knocked the door as usual. He wondered if Slaine is awake or not, since it is pretty late in the evening. As soon as he went inside, his eye fell on the figure sitting on the bed with his back on the headboard. The daemon was reading a book. He hasn’t notice Inaho yet.

The brunette stared at him for a while before he let the other know of his presence. “Slaine.”

Surprise by Inaho’s sudden visit, his blue-green eyes became round and wide and his face hinted a mix of confusion and delight. “Inaho?” He closed his book and got up, then walked towards the other. “What are you doing here?”

“They told me to rest. So I decided to visit.” After a few steps, he suddenly staggered due to the intense pain in his eye. Slaine was there to support him, and he can’t help but clutch the left area of his face.

“What’s wrong? You look really pale.” Slaine told him as he guided the brunette to his bed. He made him lie down, while he sat at the edge of the bed.

“The injury hurts. I need to take my medicine.” He wanted to get up, but the ashen blonde pushed him back to bed.

“No. Let me heal you.” Then he carefully removed the eye patch.

Slaine cupped Inaho’s cheeks and leaned in, closing the gap between their heads. For a moment, Inaho thought that the other would kiss him, but instead, their foreheads bumped with each other in a slow motion, and a warm feeling overwhelmed Inaho as a faint light appeared. From there, he closed his eye and felt the warm sensation coursing through his body. It was gentle, and relaxing. The pain that he felt a while ago disappeared; only leaving the heartfelt intention of Slaine to heal him. When the light dissipated, Inaho slowly opened his eye, only to meet the blue-green ones. Both of them stared at each other, adoring the features that are clearly visible with their face close to each other. Slaine was the one who move away first.

“How do you feel?” He asked.

“The pain is gone. Thank you.”

During their time together, Inaho unconsciously forgot about Slaine’s ability. Although his daemon form is suppressed by the collar around his neck, his healing ability is still there, and by the looks of it, it is still effective even when he is in his human form.

Inaho got up. This time, Slaine didn’t stop him and let him sat beside. Their bodies are close to each other, side by side.

“You’re not going to ask where I got it?”

It took a while for the other to respond. When he did, he looked at Inaho directly to his eye.

“I know.”

The words echoed in the brunette’s mind. What does he mean by he knows? Does he remember? Inaho’s heart started to race for unknown reason. He wants to jump at Slaine and ask him multiple questions, but he restrained himself from doing so. He yearned for the day where they talk about the past to come, and he prepared himself for it so many times. Now that it is happening, all of his preparations seemed useless. Because no matter how controlled he wants himself to be, he just can’t now that they’ve come to a point like this.

“Do you remember me?” It was his simple question that he wanted to ask the first time they met after several years, when Slaine was still on the cage.

“Yes.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“Did you… Think of me after that day?”

“…Yes.”

Inaho’s body moved. He hugged Slaine, feeling his fluffy hair against his cheeks. The daemon’s uneven breathe tickled his neck. All of his doubt, worry and fear of the daemon not remembering him had vanished the moment their bodies collided. They shared their body heat, just like the morning in the forest where they slept beside each other. They shared the same feeling; the feeling of relieve now that their identities are cleared. Inaho is no longer just a huntsman, and Slaine is longer just a daemon. Inaho is the kid that was saved in the forest, and Slaine is the white wolf who saved him. They share the same past, and now, the kid and the white wolf met again after eight years. The words that they wanted to convey to one another were silenced by the strong urge to stay like that, hugging each other, feeling safe in each other’s arms. The moment feels like it could last forever, if not for Inaho wanting to take things further.

“Me too. I think of you every day. I always wonder what you were doing, or if you still remember me.”

“Mm.”

“Slaine, are you the same as me? Do you feel the same?”

The ashen blonde hugged him back, giving Inaho more assurance. “I do. I’ve always wanted us to meet again. I returned to the tree numerous times, but you weren’t there.” His hug tightened. “And now you’re here, with me.”

Inaho felt guilty for making Slaine wait. He wanted to visit the tree again in hopes of meeting the white wolf, but Yuki wouldn’t allow him to go on his own.

“I’m sorry. I’ll-”

Slaine shifted from their hug to put his finger on top of Inaho’s lips. “Shh. It’s fine. We’re together now.”

Burgundy eye met the blue-green ones, and now he understood why these eyes draw him in so much. It was love at first sight. And the same is applied to Slaine too. When they met eight years ago, on that fateful morning after a terrible night, both of them felt something that they couldn’t describe. Inaho was a kid, and Slaine is experiencing it for the first time. They were staring to each other with confused feelings. Now that time has passed, Inaho has matured, and that they both understood what they are feeling towards each other. Seeking out their presence, thinking about them every day, being happy when they’re together; these feelings finally had a name, and it is Love.

The brunette remembered how their simple and casual talks would make him feel great, how Slaine’s smiles and laughter would make him feel like he wanted to see more. Those times that his heart would become unstable because of the ashen blonde’s action, and times that he want to be with the other much longer; all of those happened to him because he is falling love. Who knew that an unemotional person like him, only capable of making one expression, would experience a wonderful feeling such as love?

“Slaine.” He called out his love’s name and held his hands. He rubbed it a few times before he gently kissed it. “I want to show you that I love you. Can I?”

The daemon blushed. “Ehh, you’re so embarrassing…” Then Inaho heard him murmured something. “You don’t have to ask me that kind of thing…”

He faced the brunette, still blushing from embarrassment, and whispered sweet words to his ear. “Show me.”

With Slaine’s permission, Inaho moved closer and placed one hand on the other’s cheek, and the other hand for support. He leaned in, tilted his head, closed his eye, and kissed him. It was a passionate kiss. They separated for a while, silently staring into each other’s eyes. Then Inaho gave him another kiss, and another one, until he showered him with soft and gentle kisses. Slaine would respond with slightly parted lips and returned the same amount of pleasure he feel. Both of them are now exchanging kisses, and the brunette unconsciously ran his thumb on his cheekbone. Then he slid his fingers through Slaine’s fluffy hair, and finally found its way to his slender and smooth nape. Most of his nape is covered with the cold iron collar, nevertheless, it didn’t stop him to feel Slaine’s skin directly. Slaine, on the other hand, wrapped his arms around Inaho’s neck and deepened the kiss. He did a lip lock, and then he nibbled Inaho’s lower lip, encouraging him to take the kiss further. Inaho took his chance and slipped his tongue inside. Slaine moaned from the pleasure. The feeling of their tongues dancing together is too stimulating, too intoxicating. Inaho is afraid he might get addicted to this foreign but wonderful feeling. They continued to kiss, exploring each other’s mouth while enjoying the sensation it gives. When it became too much for Slaine to handle, he cut of the kiss to breathe. He was slightly panting, with his face flushed and his mind hazy from pleasure. Inaho is hungry for more, so he nibbled his earlobe, along with a few kisses and licking. Slaine liked it and released another moan.

“W-wait…Inaho…” Inaho didn’t stop and continued to kiss his earlobe until he moved lower. He kissed the place at the lower part of his ear, he kissed his jaw, he kissed his neck uncovered by the collar, and then he kissed his collarbone. Slaine shivered whenever he delivers a kiss, and although he wanted to do more, his partner is becoming too quiet that it concerned him.

“Slaine, what’s wrong?” He asked him.

Both of their faces are flushed, hot from the previous activity. Slaine won’t look at him in the eye, probably out of being embarrassed.

“I thought you’re a virgin? You’re too good at this…” He answered.

“I am. This is my first time doing this.”

The look on the daemon’s face is that of disbelieve. “…What?”

“I just studied so that I won’t be ignorant when the time comes. My fantasies are there to help me too. And I did it all in my head with you.”

“Wha…” Slaine’s face flushed even more. “You really say some embarrassing stuff.”

Inaho smiled and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “I think we should stop here. I’m going to get some rest.” Then he stood up.  “You should rest too.”

Before he can even take a step, the ashen blonde tugged the hem of his tunic. “Why don’t you sleep here?” There was a hint of hesitation, but he continued. “I want to be with you a little longer.”

“You say some embarrassing stuff too.” Then he leaned in and kissed Slaine on the lips. “Okay.”

Slaine let him took a bath and borrowed one of his tunics. When he was done, both of them lied down, covered under the blankets of the bed. They were hugging, legs tangled together and body close with each other.

“It’s warm.” Slaine said as he indulged himself further from the hug. Inaho was stroking his hair, amazed from how smooth and fluffy it is. He wanted to do this before, but he wasn’t given with the chance to. It might be uncomfortable to Slaine too. Though now, it seems fine.

It didn’t take long for Slaine to doze off, and eventually fall asleep. Inaho was the opposite, even though a while ago, he was dead tired from all the work that he did. Now, he just wants to look at Slaine’s sleeping face. He looked so serene, with no wrinkle found on his face. Inaho liked moments like this, and so he hugged him even tighter. His feet accidentally brushed against the cold shackle at the daemon’s ankle, and terrible thoughts immediately invaded his mind. He remembered that Slaine is not completely his, and that their joyful days like this one would end the moment Trillram shows up. Their situation right now is temporary, like a mere fragile glass that would break at the slightest touch. Their relationship might have progressed during their time here in the mansion, but the situation didn’t change. Once Trillram presents Slaine to count Cruhteo, he will be taken away; away from Inaho’s reach, never to be able to see him again. Just like that, and their blissful days would come to an end. Inaho doesn’t want that. He loathed the idea of it. He doesn’t want anyone touching Slaine as they like. But what can he do? He is just a huntsman working under Trillram because of their contract. He doesn’t have the power to take Slaine away from him. Inaho despaired at the thought. He is now desperate to do anything just to set Slaine free, he’s even willing to throw away his reputation as a huntsman. He would surely be branded as a traitor and would lose face in whatever plan he does to help Slaine, and he doesn’t mind all of it. Yes, he will be jailed; Taken away from his family and friends as an effect of letting a daemon escape, but if that is the priced he must pay for Slaine to be free again, he is willing to accept it.

Setting Slaine free would also mean separation, and again, he doesn’t mind. Though his heart would be in pain every day for yearning him, he will have to endure it and wait, all for Slaine’s sake. Inaho decided that he will let him to go back to the forests and mountains, because that is ten times better than to be on the count’s grasp. If he really is prisoned for helping the daemon escape, he will wait for the day that he is forgiven for his sin, and look for Slaine again. After all, he waited eight years for them to reunite again. Waiting for a few more is no big deal.

‘Anything… For Slaine.’

With a goal established in his mind, he slowly drifted off to sleep, still thinking of his love even in his unconscious state.

 

 

 

 

-----

Slaine woke up with Inaho at his side. The brunette is still hugging him, and his head is comfortably rested on Inaho’s arm, his face towards the other’s chest. It was a sleep without interruption, and Slaine could see that his complexion was better than last night. Although Inaho hadn’t told him anything, he can conclude that he is pushing himself to the limit to finish the said work that piled up. If Inaho is like this, then the others would probably the same. Slaine is now worried about their condition.

His worries aside, the ashen blonde looked up and observed the brunette’s face. He doesn’t want to be separated from this man, not one bit. He thought of how Inaho has given him everything to help, and that pulled a smile on his face. He was patient and gentle, letting Slaine to adjust to him with time. He didn’t used force or violence, which made him different from the rest. It is like telling him that he is precious, an important existence that he treasured so much, he doesn’t even want to see him hurt. Slaine has never encountered a man as selfless as him, and he is glad that they met again after eight years. He is glad that the kid he saved that night and spent the morning with is not like the others; selfish and greedy, only giving him hardships and trouble. Instead, the kid grew up into a proper adult, with no ill intentions and one that doesn’t discriminate the daemons. Sometimes Slaine wondered why he saved the kid in the first place, when he doesn’t want to associate himself with the humans. The empire killed both of his parents, and then he was tortured for no valid reason. Their race was driven on the brink of extinction because of them, so why would he save someone different from himself? The answer was simple. He remembered the faces of the ones who helped him escaped when he was young. They were humans too, but they showed him something that no other humans had before, and that is sympathy. Those humans were willing to aid him and the other daemons escape, even though they knew the consequences of betraying the empire. He was shown with the kindness of man, and it must’ve been that occurrence in his life that Slaine came to believe that there are good humans as well; that not all of them are greedy, like how most daemons perceived them to be. 

He brushed Inaho’s hair and stared at him some more. Slaine is getting too comfortable with their situation in the mansion, and he knows that it isn’t good. He reminded himself that Inaho is a hired huntsman, and once the contract is over, they will be separated from each other. Although their feelings have grown stronger with every passing time that they are together, there’s nothing that can be done if Trillram showed up with count Cruhteo. Not even their feelings can save them from the baron’s plan. Inaho has little power over them, and Slaine cannot reject them with the collar on his neck. He needs to escape if he wants his life back, and if he truly wants to be with Inaho without worrying about other things. He can’t give himself wholly to Inaho like this, not when he is bounded by the chains Trillram is holding. Knowing the brunette’s attitude, he would give his full support and assist Slaine to escape if he asked, but that doesn’t come without a price.  If he did let the daemon escaped and even helped him in the process, Inaho would not only be jailed, but most likely be killed. He knows this much, because he had seen it with his own eyes. How the humans that helped them escaped were skewered to death while the daemons were running for dear life. He needs to do this alone, without Inaho’s assistance. If he successfully escaped on his own, he will only be reprimanded, or be branded as a traitor and be jailed for a while. That is the most favourable outcome, because after waiting for years, they would still meet again. As long as Inaho is alive and so is he, there will always be a chance for them to be reunited again and be genuinely happy without having to worry about being a daemon or a huntsman.

His thoughts were interrupted when someone loudly knocked on the door. Then it was opened, revealing the head maid and head butler with panicked expression.

“Inaho-sama! Slaine-sama!” She was panting from all the running that they did. “Trillram-sama  is…!”

 

 

 

 

-----

Inaho didn’t imagine that he needs to work on his plan, fast.

He woke up due to the loud noise outside; the door being loudly knocked. Just as he opened his eye, the head maid and head butler entered the room with nervous faces. Did something happened?

“Inaho-sama! Slaine-sama!” She was panting, and yet she still delivered the words she wanted to say. “Trillram-sama is… He is visiting the mansion!”

Inaho shot up when he heard the news. Slaine had a horrified face on. He was slightly trembling, clutching the blankets. He didn’t like how the day started, just after they had confirmed their feelings last night. The strength of their love is immediately put to test.

“A messenger informed us a while ago, saying in advance that Trillram-sama is on his way. He might arrive soon.” The head butler told him as calm as he could. Both of them were obviously distressed by the sudden notification.

“Thank you for telling me. Please inform the others too.” He holds Slaine’s hand to comfort him.  “I’ll have to talk to Slaine in private first.”

They understood what he meant, and then they rushed out of the room to tell everyone about the news and to prepare. Inaho and Slaine were left alone in the room.

“Slaine.” He called out, but it seems like the daemon didn’t heard him. His breathing starts to uneven and his hands were becoming cold because of the pressure from too much clutching.

“Slaine, look at me.” He called once more and lifted up his face, placing both hands at his cheeks. He was on the verge of crying, tears flooding his eyes and lips trembling. His complexion is paler than he already is.

“I’m here. I will protect you. It won’t be like last time.” Then he hugged Slaine. “I’m here. For you.” He continued to whisper sweet and gentle words, until the ashen blonde returned to his self.

He hugged Inaho back. “Inaho, I’m scared…” Then he started sobbing. “I’m scared…”

The brunette felt his hot tears falling on to his shoulder. His heart ached at the action, and wanted to erase Slaine’s worry so much he doesn’t know where to start. “Don’t be. This isn’t just your fight anymore. I’m here to help you.”

“No, no, no.” Slaine separated himself from the hug. “If you help me, you’ll be punished. You will be killed. I don’t want that! I-”

Inaho kissed him. He kissed him as gently as he can to calm him down. Their lips moved together in an unhurried motion, feeling the emotions that they wanted to convey to each other in this panicked situation. They felt the softness of each other’s lips, the hotness from their breath, and the heat that came from both of their bodies. Everything seemed right when they were doing it, but outside of their protected world, the danger is closing in.

When Inaho felt that Slaine has calmed down, he gave him a final kiss and bumped their foreheads together. He wiped off the streak of tears from the daemon’s face. “Slaine, I don’t care what happens to me. You’re more important, and you have to escape no matter what. I’ll help you with it.”

Slaine disapproved his statement. “No. You might not care about yourself, but I do. I don’t want you to be killed.” Then he started crying again. “I want you to live...”

Inaho talked in the calmest voice he can muster. “Hey, no one said about me being killed. And if it does comes to that,” He tenderly smiled at him. “Can I trust you to heal me before I die?”

Slaine sniffed, and his eyes became clear. He must’ve thought that it might actually work. His healing ability can now be put into good use. He nodded to Inaho and wiped his tears.

Inaho ran his thumb to his cheekbone. “Good.”

He felt guilty, for giving Slaine false hopes. The success rate of the initial plan that he had in his mind isn’t that low, but anything could happened during the conduct of it, including getting killed in action, or worse, being sentenced to death for helping the daemon escape after Slaine had actually left the capital. If it is the former, Slaine could really save him using his ability, but if it’s the latter… It might be too late even if Slaine formed a small group to come to his aid and save him. It didn’t cross his mind about being killed because of helping a daemon. Yes, it is a crime because the action itself is offending to the empire, but he thought that the punishment would only go as far as being jailed. He never heard of anyone getting killed. He understood Slaine’s concern the moment he remembered the story that the other told him. During the war, Slaine and the other daemons successfully escaped from being captured because a group of humans helped, but they were killed immediately. Looking at the situation now, it is possible that it could happen. He needs to revise his escape plan for Slaine.

Ahem…

The two recognized the voice and looked at the entrance of the room. Inko, Nina and Calm were standing by the door way, with the girls covering their faces from embarrassment and Calm with his arms crossed. He had a slight blush on his face, but Inko and Nina’s are on a different level. They looked tired and exhausted judging from their body language, but they manage to run here without any of them collapsing.

“S-sorry to interrupt your moment.” Calm said as cool as he can, but he obviously want to run and forget about what he saw.

“We didn’t mean to peek!” Nina said with her voice higher than usual. She seems excited about the turn of the events.

“I… I can’t believe you, Inaho… You actually swing that way…And I… I…” Inko said as she leaned to the door, losing the strength of her legs.

Inaho had no problem revealing their relationship, but Slaine is a little different. He was blushing from the embarrassment too.

“Since when did you got here?” He asked.

Calm was reluctant to answer. “Uhh, from the time when you were kissing…”

The girls and Slaine blushed even more. “I-I’m sorry!” Slaine said to no one in particular.

“No, uhm, it was our fault.” He started explaining. “We were worried because of the news and wanted to check on you guys. We just had the wrong timing…”

Nina gathered herself, still blushing. “Yup! It’s fine Slaine, you don’t have to worry!”

“T-thank you…”

The blonde cleared his throat. “Anyway, what are we going to do now, Mister Strategist?”

Their concentration returned. They have more important matters to do and to focus on.

“We have to stop Trillram and let Slaine escape. I’ll tell you the details later.” Inaho stood up and boldly kissed the ashen blonde on the forehead even when the others are around. “Slaine, I want you to act natural. When the time comes, we will open up a path for you; your escape route. For the meantime, prepare yourself.”

He nodded at his instructions. When they were about to leave, Nina stopped and turned around.

“Oh! I forgot to tell him something!” Then she ran inside and clasped Slaine’s hands. The daemon apparently didn’t expect it. “Don’t worry Slaine, we won’t let Inaho die. We’ll be there for you and him, because both of you are our precious friends!” She gave him the brightest smile she could give, and Slaine smiled back, thanking her for it. At times like this, Nina’s enthusiasm really helps.

 

 

Everyone was busy with the preparations needed for the arrival of their master. It was a short notice, but they manage to make everything perfectly cleaned. Inaho and his friends were busy too, but with other things rather than cleaning. Captain Magbaredge and Mizusaki arrived earlier than Trillram, followed by other members like Marito, Yuki and Yagarai. They were also informed of Trillram’s decision and stopped all activities for the day, only focusing on their unfinished contract than making new ones. Inaho and his friends were ready to abandon what they have in order for Slaine to escape, and although he doesn’t want to include the whole Deucalion crew for the trouble he is about to make, he needs to at least inform the captain of his actions in the future.

“Captain, I need to talk to you.” He said.

She was surprised, but accepted his request. ”Very well then, Kaizuka junior.”

He informed her of their plan. Inaho was direct with his words and is determined to continue even if Magbaredge tried to stop him. The woman sighed. “Let me ask you, Kaizuka junior. Why are you going to such lengths for the daemon?”

Inaho didn’t hesitate to answer. “Because he is someone important to me. If I don’t do it, I’ll regret later on.” He stopped for a while, thinking of his next statement. “I don’t want to get the whole Deucalion involved, which is why I’m telling you in advance. But if you would like to lend us a hand, I would appreciate it.”

Magbaredge pulled an amused smile on her face. “You’re telling me that, but you are expecting me to ‘lend a hand’, aren’t you? Alright. What do we need to do?”

It was the right choice to tell the captain, because she doesn’t discriminate the daemons as well. Her ancestors were allies of the daemons and not the empire, because they think it was too ungrateful of them to become enemies with the ones that helped them survived in the past. He suspected that at least one or two of the humans who saved Slaine had blood relations to her. Inaho also heard that her older brother protected a daemon and died during the hunt, killed by a knight who thought he was a traitor. The events in her life explained why she made a look of distaste to Trillram whenever he told her to do something to the daemon, and why she offered her coat to him when he was naked in the public. She also chose someone she trusts to be Slaine’s keeper, so Inaho knew that she care for the daemon even a little.

What he asked for wasn’t too much, but it isn’t easy either. The act is not suspicious enough to drag the Deucalion into trouble, but if someone failed and made it too obvious, they would surely be suspected.

Since Magbaredge agreed, he trusts her that she can find a way, and moved on to the next task. He doesn’t have the time to relax. Inaho checked the other’s progress, and there seemed to be no problem. Calm however, had difficulties navigating the place Inaho told him to check on, but he succeeded regardless of the short time that he had. The brunette also asked some information from the head butler and head maid, and they were cooperative enough to answer. He could see the worry in their eyes, and he made sure to tell them that they won’t be involved in whatever he plans to do.

When he was doing his own preparations in his room, Calm suddenly barged in and informed him that Trillram have arrived.

 

 

“Bring me to the daemon.” Trillram said as soon as he got out of his extravagant carriage. The servants were there to greet him, along with the knights and the Deucalion crew.

The head maid nodded and led the way, with captain Magbaredge and Inaho tailing him. Trillram noticed the brunette.

“Who are you?” He asked with an arrogant tone.

Magbaredge replied instead of Inaho. “He’s the strategist of the Deucalion and the person I assigned as the daemon’s keeper, Kaizuka Inaho.”

“Ohh?” The aristocrat eyed him from head to toe. “You’re lucky to be chosen. How does it feel to make it submit to you? Did it beg for mercy when you hurt it?”

The brunette directly answered. “Don’t be mistaken. Sir.” Inaho paused before he said the word ‘sir’, completely forgetting that it was an aristocrat he was dealing with. “I’m not like you. I don’t find it enjoying when I torture others.”

Trillram is obviously offended, but didn’t say anything in return.  He probably thought he doesn’t have the time argue with a mere huntsman such as him.

When they arrived in front of the room, the knights outside saluted him and opened the door. Slaine was there, wearing the tunic that Inaho gave him. He didn’t look at Inaho, pretending he doesn’t know him, and made a scowled face at Trillram.

He seems to be entertained with the daemon’s hostility. “I see that your keeper didn’t tamed you. But that’s fine. I’ll give the count the honour of doing it.”

Inaho’s eyebrow twitched, but hides his anger under the poker face he has. Slaine looked nervous, but he didn’t let it affect him. He provoked Trillram by talking. “Get lost.”

 Those two words that he has spoken were filled with venom, irritating the aristocrat to the point of losing all of his patience.

“Hold him.”

The knights rushed to Slaine, holding him in both of his arms. He struggled, shouting at them to let him go while Trillram stride forward. He raised his hand and was about to punch Slaine when Inaho intervened and stopped him.

“What?! You dared to stop me?!”

The brunette couldn’t find the correct words to say, because his mind is fuzzy with the intent to kill. He just stared at him, and tightened the grip at the baron’s wrist.

Magbaredge sensed the danger of the situation and talked. “My subordinate doesn’t like violence, baron Trillram. Aren’t you supposed to present the daemon to count Cruhteo? If so, I’d recommend to not put any bruise on his body. The count will surely dislike it.”

Trillram came to his senses. Although he hated her for pointing it out, he agreed with the statement. “Fine.” He said. “And while we’re at the topic, tell everyone to prepare for a feast tonight. The count himself will visit and take a look at the daemon.”

Slaine turned paler and Inaho knitted his eyebrows. The situation is already bad as it is because of Trillram, and now, even count Cruhteo will come. Things are getting harder and harder for Inaho to proceed with his plan.

The knights responded. “Yes, sir.” And then went outside of the room to tell the head maid and head butler of their new task. The baron also left with Magbaredge at his side. She glanced at Inaho, as if telling him to help the daemon first before he proceeds. When she closed the door, he immediately went to Slaine’s side. The ashen blonde’s knees were trembling, and he doesn’t have enough strength to support his body. He let himself to calm down first, before Inaho offered his hand, which he accepted, and pulled himself up.

“Thank you.” Slaine said.

His voice was quieter than usual, and that weighted heavily on the brunette’s mind. It looked like Slaine had lost all of his hopes, but Inaho won’t give up when everything just started. He reassured Slaine in any way that he can, but the effect of his and Nina’s ways are too different. In the end, although the other felt better, he knows that he hasn’t erased his worry completely yet. The only thing that he can do now is to continue his preparations for the escape plan, and so, Inaho said his last words and left the room.

 

 

The evening came, and the dining hall is packed with food and people. The staffs in the kitchen worked non-stop to bring more into the hall. It is a joyful night, but not for Inaho and the Deucalion crew. Captain Magbaredge had already told them what to do, and they perfectly blend in with the knights eating and drinking at the dining hall. Magbaredge kept an eye on everyone, observing their behaviours and how they interact with the knights throughout the evening. Yuki had a frown on her face. She still cannot accept the dangerous decision her brother made.

After a few minutes, baron Trillram and count Cruhteo entered the hall. They wore clothes that stood out from the sea of people, reminding them of their status as aristocrats of Vers Empire. Their tunics looks normal, but the coats were a different matter. It reached their knees, made from the finest cloth within the empire, and decorated with intricate designs. The knights cheered for them, happy that their lords are here, and welcomed the two. Someone handed them a cup of wine, and made a toast. As the prominent persons inside of the mansion, they took the end position of the long table where everyone could see them. They eat, they drink, and at some instances, they would talk together, engaging in social conversation. Trillram is most likely boasting his success for capturing a daemon after the last one had been seen fifty years ago, although the ones that did the hard work were the Deucalion crew.

Magbaredge ate her food, and then leaned a little closer to Mizusaki to whisper. “Did you give them what I told you to?”

The other woman nodded. “Yes. By now, they should be wearing it.”

“And the other one?” she asked again.

“That too. Marito-san and Yagarai-san should have it in their hands.”

And just on cue, the two men stood up from their table, along with other huntsmen, and joined the two aristocrats. They were all smiles and nice words, especially Yagarai to cover up Marito. The older guy had a bottle of wine at his hand and a few of the huntsmen.

“Good evening gentlemen. Can we join the fun?” Yagarai said and flashed a smile.

Count Cruhteo looked at them suspiciously, but he doesn’t seem to mind. The baron, on the other hand, is different. He raised one of his brows and asked. “Who the heck are you?”

The doctor smiled some more. “We’re from the Deucalion. I’m Soma Yagarai, the doctor, and this is my friend, Koichiro Marito, a high ranking huntsman that contributed during the hunt for the daemon.”

“Yes. I do remember him.”

Yagarai introduced the men behind him too. “These are all the huntsmen that participated in the hunt. We brought a little gift to offer you.”

It was Marito’s turn to talk and present the bottle of wine. “We got a lot of these as a rewards for the hunts that we do. Apparently, it came from the neighbouring empire.”

Trillram now looks interested. “Ohh? I haven’t tried that wine.”

The knights made some spaces for them to sit, and the bottle of wine was opened. They started drinking together, engaging in trivial conversations.

“It taste different. But I do like it.” Cruhteo commented after finishing his first cup.

“I’m glad that you like it.” Then Yagarai poured his cup full.

The night grew old, and the noise in the dining hall became louder. There are conversations here and there, and sometimes, boisterous laughter from the drunken knights. While they were slowly getting drunk, the huntsmen and huntswomen seems fine. It’s not that they are tolerant to alcohol, but because they kept it to a minimum. They even used an expensive wine that contains a lot of alcohol to fasten the process. Still, there are some that continued to drink even after a few bottles. This was the first part of Inaho’s plan; to get them drunk. And of course, that includes baron Trillram and count Cruhteo. The men were doing a good job in making them drink, and it looked like the baron is getting dizzy. But the count… He still looked prim and proper.

Magbaredge’s brows furrowed. “We need to distract them more.”

At her signal, a group of young people entered the hall, bringing with them their musical instruments. They were hired in the last minute by the Deucalion crew to provide entertainment during the feast. Trillram didn’t know this and was slightly confused. That’s when Magbaredge stood up and caught everyone’s attention. They were quite during her talk.

“To celebrate the capture of the daemon after fifty years, we, the Deucalion, have hired a musician group to entertain us for the night. It is a little late to do this but, I congratulate everyone who did their best in the hunt.” She looked at the two aristocrats. “Baron Trillram and count Cruhteo, this is for the both of you.”

And then, the dining hall resounded with lively music. It awakened their bodies and mind and started to get rowdy again. More food was brought in, and more wines were drink. No one seems like they want to stop from indulging in this delightful night. Song after song was played for them, and although it was fun listening to it, the count looked like he is getting bored of the entertainment.  He wants the real deal; the daemon.

He sternly talked to the baron. “Trillram, I’m happy that I am treated well as the guest I am, but this isn’t what I came here for. Where is the daemon?”

In that moment, Trillram understood that he got distracted for too long. He asked a maid about the daemon, and when he got his answer, it was his turn to stand up and grab everyone’s attention.

“We have enjoyed the food and the drink, entertained ourselves with the pleasant music, and now, it is time for the main event! The daemon of exquisite beauty!”

The daemon came out from the entrance of the dining hall. Every eye was on him, because he looked different from what they’ve seen. The last time the knights had seen him, it was when he was in the cage. His hair back then was dishevelled, his skin was dirty with mud and blood, and his body have cuts and bruises everywhere. The scars on his back looked ugly. However now, they couldn’t distinguish if it was the same daemon or not, because he definitely looked different. His hair is neatly arranged, with a crown of beads and jewels that hanged downwards to his forehead. His fair skin is exposed, only wearing a white cloth that draped from his hips to his thighs. If he was a woman, a top garment would be included too, but in his case, his chest is out in the open, available for the eyes of those that started lusting over him. The lights in the dining hall reflected his skin’s fairness and smoothness, making one itching to touch it. He looked perfectly clean from head to toe. And his face, those noblewomen were nothing compared to him. He wore a very light make up, just to enhance his already beautiful face. His blue-green eyes are attracting the crowd’s attention. Every part of him screamed erotic, even the whip scars that curved gracefully at his chest and back. The shackles at his wrists and the collar at his neck looked like ornaments in his current state. The maids made him this way, because he will be taken in by count Cruhteo as a bed slave. The books have mentioned it before, that after the war and the daemon race declined, the daemons captured by huntsmen will become attractions, and sometimes, will be sold off to aristocrats and make them subjects of sexual slavery.

The brunette was there with him as his keeper, a few steps behind the daemon. Two knights assisted them too. His face darkened when he saw the faces of men that looked at Slaine with hidden intentions. Slaine is really attractive right now, and he doesn’t like how he is dressed for other people. His subdued his anger and focused on the task. His eyes fell on Yagarai and Marito, who were sitting beside the baron and the count. This only means that they are already doing what they were told to do.

When Trillram signalled to the knights, one of them pushed the daemon forward. Inaho was going to follow, but the other one stopped him, indicating that he should watch from afar how Slaine will be touched by the count.

The ashen blonde is definitely nervous about what was going to happen. He walked towards the aristocrats while the men that he passed through had their eyes on him. Inaho had told him to act natural, but now that he is put in this situation, he doesn’t even know what to do anymore.

“An exquisite beauty indeed.” The count said when he was in front of him. “Come closer.”

Slaine’s heart is thumping so hard out of anxiety. He didn’t like the ambience of the man with dead eyes and blonde hair. Instead of taking a step forward, he stepped backward and glared at him. The knight noticed his action and pushed him again, the count grabbing his wrist in the process.

“I like the face you’re making.”

The daemon shivered from disgust. His face scowled at the skin contact, and he abruptly removed his arm from the count’s grip. “Don’t touch me!” He shouted.

Everyone was shocked with the outcome of events. Trillram made a face that he wants to hit the daemon for the disgrace it did in front of the count. The knight didn’t need to be told on what to do and restrained Slaine with force.

“He is untamed.” Cruhteo pulled an eerie smile on his face and stood up. “Bring him to my room. I will teach him a lesson or two.”

When Slaine heard this, he started shouting and struggling. The knight holding him couldn’t handle it anymore, so another knight came over to help him. The count looked impressed at the display of hostility, and left the dining hall with Trillram assisting him to his room. Even after the two aristocrats left, Slaine continued to lash out. He doesn’t want others to touch him; he doesn’t want to make himself become submissive to a man he doesn’t know. Inaho’s heart pained at the sight and went to rush over him, but Magbaredge stopped him midway.

“We’ll handle this. You have more important things to do.” She said and made her way to the daemon.

Inaho spared Slaine one more glance before he left the dining hall. It is time to proceed for the second phase of the plan.

 

 

After the tantrum that he made, Slaine finally calmed down when Magbaredge came. The woman has shown him kindness before, and he sure that she won’t hurt him. She stared directly at his blue-green eyes, as if telling him a message, then ordered the knights to take him to the count’s room. He felt nervous again. His eyes searched for Inaho in the hall, but he couldn’t spot where he is. He didn’t know how the plan goes because no one told him, adding more to the anxiety he is feeling.

The knights were there when he walked towards the count’s room, each one of them holding both of his arms with a tight grip. He passed through his own room, and then Inaho’s. Nothing is happening, and the hallway is awfully quiet. The second floor of the mansion is dedicated for quests’ and master’s room, the end ones being the most extravagant. There is still a few meters before they arrive to their destination, and Slaine used every method that he can to loosen their grip. His energy was only wasted.

When they got closer to the rooms of the two aristocrats, several bodies lied down on the floor.  The knights were alarmed, and when they took a closer look, they were actually the ones that were guarding the rooms.

“Call the others!” One knight said.

He was perplexed when the other one didn’t respond and ordered him again, but he still didn’t move. Instead, his grip on Slaine’s arm relaxed and fell to the floor, as if his consciousness left his body.

“What the-” Something hit the other knight’s neck, and his eyes turned all white.  He staggered a few steps before he fell to the ground.

Slaine was horrified and was afraid that he would be the next, so he took a step backward. When he was about to turn his body to the opposite direction to run, he bumped into someone who immediately covered his mouth. With his muffled voice, he couldn’t call for help.

His eyesight turned blurry with his tears when the person whispered. “Hey, calm down…! It’s me!”

The voice sounds familiar, and the person finally left his mouth alone. When he looked at him, he saw the man wearing a black cloak and had a huge smile on his face. “Were you afraid?”

Slaine was relieved to see that it really was him. “Calm!”

“Shh! Not so loud. The baron and count might notice.” He took a cloth from the sling bag hidden under his cloak and hand it over to Slaine. It was the same cloak that he was wearing. “Wear this. Come on, let’s hurry!”

They made careful steps as they ran in the hallway. Near the stairs, another cloaked figure was keeping an eye on the others. It was Nina with her bow ready.

Calm signalled to her and joined them in their run. Instead of going downstairs, they turned right and further into the mansion. Slaine has never explored this part of the huge house, and he is surprised that there are no knights are guarding the area. With how packed the dining hall is, he assumed that everyone was there to have fun.

“What did you do to them?” He quietly asked, remembering how the knights were unconscious on the floor.

“Tranquilizers.” Calm directly answered.

Slaine questioned again. “Where are we going?”

This time, he didn’t answer. He wore a very serious face under the hood of the cloak. Nina was also wearing the same expression. He saw it before, when they were in the mountains hunting for him. He could feel their concentration, taking their task very seriously.

They took another turn to the right and saw a staircase leading down. When they arrived at the lower floor, Slaine realized that they just avoided the dining hall. They continued to run, taking a few left and right turns, until they were in front of an old door. Calm opened it carefully to avoid it creaking and catching the attentions of staffs that could be nearby. Inside of the small room, there were sacks and baskets of items that Slaine understood were fruits and vegetables. It was the mansion’s stockroom.

“Slaine, here.” Nina called. She was kneeling on the ground, with a trap door beside her. Calm was already down below.

The ashen blonde went in, followed by Nina who closed it. There were stairs leading down too, and when both of them arrived at the bottom, they saw Calm staring at a large piece of paper. It looks like a map of some sort.

“You still haven’t memorized it? We’re going to get lost at this rate!” Nina complained.

“I’m just taking a final look, okay! Geez, I ain’t Inaho. I can’t memorize this in a day.” He said while folding the map and returned it back to his sling bag. “Let’s go.”

Who knew that there was a hidden passage underground of the mansion. Nina explained that these underground passages were usually built to escape if there is an attack, or a hiding place. They stopped making this kind of structure for the new houses when the war was over, but if the house is old enough, it would surely have the hidden passages. Although no one used this anymore, Inaho noticed it when he was walking around the kitchen. The steps he made would sound hollow, and he only need to find the trap door leading to the passages to have an access of it. It is a bit complicated, especially if there is no map telling where you would surface.

“This way.” Calms said and ushered the two to follow him. When he turned into a corner, his eyes on a landed on the group of knights and immediately hid himself behind the wall. “Tch! They’re already here!”

Earlier, when they were on their way to the stockroom, a drunken knight went upstairs at the same time. He was horrified when he saw the bodies of this comrade lying on the floor and screamed for help. The baron and the count were alarmed by this, and Trillram, as the owner of the mansion, got an idea on what was happening.

“The daemon escaped!”

The merriment in the dining hall was abruptly stopped and every knight went to search for the daemon. The Deucalion pretended to help too. The baron isn’t dumb, and if there is a way to escape the mansion without using doors or windows, it would be the underground passages.

Leading to the reason why the knights are here. Nina drew her bow while Slaine was on the verge of panicking. Calm had his sword ready too.

“We’re taking the other way!” Then he rushed off to the other direction. This is exactly why Inaho had told him to memorize the whole map, so that there would be no problem even if there are people following them. They could make the others to get lost, or get lost themselves.

A knight noticed their presences. “Over there!” And it turned into a chase.

Calm was leading the way, with Slaine in the middle and Nina at the last. She is a skilled archer, and she attacked them with her sharp arrows. It isn’t easy to reload an arrow for the next fire while running, but Nina managed her way and continue to shoot them with ease. She avoided any vital parts of their body, because the poison at the tips of her arrows is enough to make them unmoving. One by one, they went down, and the distance between them are getting longer and longer. Calm took a final turn and went upstairs, opening another trap door. The three of them emerged from it; the blonde immediately placed huge furniture to block it. Slaine recognized that it was a storage room.  

They had no time to rest, even though they were panting so loudly. Everyone must’ve known the situation now that there were knights on their tail, so it didn’t matter anymore if they made noise. He walked towards a dusty window and took a peek outside. “We’re supposed to meet with them here.”

The storage room was outside of the mansion located at the back, just at the edge of its premises. It looked like an old shack in the middle of the forest, with the surrounding trees and tall grasses that hid it in their shadows.

A few minutes passed, and the atmosphere is getting heavier. Slaine and Nina are getting nervous, while Calm is losing his patience.

“Why are they taking so long?! We’re gonna get captured like this!” From the tone of his voice, he is getting nervous too.

“Maybe something happened to them?” Nina said with her agitated face.

“We can’t stay here. We need to run.” When Calm was about to opened the door, he heard the running horses outside, accompanied with wooden wheels. Their horse carriage has arrived.

Inko opened the of the storage room. She was panting, and her face had beads of sweat. “Hurry! We’re being chased!”

All three of them went inside. Inko sat on the driver’s seat, alongside with another cloaked figure. It was Inaho.

Slaine didn’t understand the situation, but the carriage is heading towards the capital. Inko said they were being chased, but he hadn’t heard anything aside from the noises of the carriage and the horses. He also observed that the carriage itself is too luxurious looking for them to afford. It was Calm who pointed out that it was Trillram’s carriage.

He explained the plan to him. “We’re taking the route in the capital and try to blend in with the people. Using the baron’s carriage, we won’t be suspicious to the knights outside of the mansion.”

Nina also talked. “This works so that we don’t stir up too much trouble. However, if we are being chased, it would be a different ma-”

She didn’t even finish her sentence due to the carriage suddenly speeding up. Inko shouted from the outside. “They’re here!”

A few meters in their back, the knights were following them, riding their horses. It must’ve taken them for a while to mount on, because when Slaine, Calm and Nina were in the underground passages, Inaho and Inko, on the other hand, had sneaked in to the stable and released the horses. It was a small distraction to buy them time.

A horse with only a rider on its back runs faster than a horse that has a carriage attached to it, and so the knights are closing in. They already entered the capital a while ago, and the people were distressed with all the horses running around. No other knights aside from the ones that are on their tail bothered them, and their plan pretty much worked. Not until Nina saw that one knight separates itself from the group. It’s going to tell the others!

“Inko! Inaho!” She shouted. The brunette understood their situation and made the two horses run faster. Inko readied her bow and shoot.

Just like Nina’s arrows, her arrows are also made with poisoned tips. She aimed at the horses rather than the rider, and it took a few more shots before one horse went down. The other knights skilfully avoided it and continued their pursuit.

It would’ve been fine if things were like that, but the other side also started shooting. The reinforcements that arrived were skilled archers. One arrow whooshed by Inko’s ear.

“I don’t think I can handle this!”

Seeing her friend in trouble, Nina loaded her arrows, poked her head out of the window and started to shoot. With archers on both sides, it was a battle of arrows.

Slaine couldn’t handle doing nothing while his friends risked their lives. He looked around for anything that can be thrown, and then he saw a rectangular box under the seat. He hurriedly opened it and was shocked to see its contents. Swords of different sized and length were kept inside of the box. He didn’t know for what reason it is there.

“Calm!” He called.

The blonde immediately turned to his direction, and his face beamed the moment he saw the box. “That’s Trillram’s collection of swords!”

During their hunt for Slaine, Trillram had bought it with him and strictly told everyone not to touch it. Many were curious of its contents because the baron bothered himself to bring it along, but now he knows what were inside.

“Slaine helped me!” And then Calm grabbed one of the swords. “Follow my lead.” He opened the side door of the carriage, used it as a shield and threw the sword at the knights as if it was a spear. His aim was off, and the knight on the side dodged it. “This is harder than I thought!”

Only a few members in the Deucalion could use a spear during hunting, and Calm is not one of those people. Although it is convenient during a hunt, it requires a lot of physical strength to swing the heavy and long spear. He isn’t exactly the type of person to exert himself from exercise, so he never tried throwing one.

Slaine did what he did and picked a sword, hold it in its hilt, and aimed at the rider. He threw it like a spear, and it pierced through the knight’s right shoulder. He went down, and without a rider, the horse parted from the group. All of the other knights who saw it were horrified. Slaine is still a daemon inside. Even if he assumed his human form, the strength of the beast never left his body. He was surprised by what he did too, because he never intends to hurt a human. But if this will give him his freedom and save his friends, he will do it, regardless of whose blood will he shed.

He picked a sword, threw it one after another, hitting the targets without a miss. They were all in disbelief because of what he’s doing, because Slaine never showed them this side of him. The remaining knights were now confused on what to do, so they stopped following the carriage and made a turn. Just when they thought everything is clear, the bell of the highest tower rang in a very hurried way, like a madman was hitting it. Everyone in the capital now knew of the situation, and every knight that was on patrol is now making their way to stop the group. Nina did mention that the plan works if they are not being chased. However, Inaho knew from the beginning that Trillram’s men would follow them, and yet he still continued with the capital’s route.

‘What is he planning?!’

“Inaho! What do we do?!” Inko asked with her panicked face. Enemies came from every direction, and with her arrows low in number, they wouldn’t hold for much longer.

“We’re heading for the west gate.” He calmly said.

“What?! We’re still going there?!”

The three inside continued to listen to their conversation. It is obvious that Inko didn’t expect for this to happen, or any of the three, yet Inaho is still calm in front of the danger. Their identities are still hidden under the hood of the cloak, but if they are captured, it would be over. Slaine will be handed to count Cruhteo, and the four would be punished for being traitors.

“Yes.” He looked at Inko. “Let’s switch.”

Inko protested, but the brunette had already given her the reins. He grabbed her bow and arrows, and instructed Nina to follow him. Slaine continued with his sword throwing, while Calm gathered the arrows that were stuck on the carriage and dipped it in the salve of poison in his sling bag.

One shot is enough for a man to fall, and three if it is a horse. But a poison is still a poison, so Inaho only shot the horse one time. He moved on to the next, and to next one. What Nina and Inko were doing earlier is a waste of arrows, but the effectiveness is fast. His method, however, only requires one arrow and a long time for the horse to feel the poison. Both him and Nina only had a few shots left, so they did the latter. The knights noticed what they were doing, and seemed to be laughing at their idiocy, not knowing that the tips were filled with arrows. It was a game of waiting, whether the group will be caught first, or the horses fell first. Three minutes had passed, and the poison is starting to take effect. One horse staggered to the side, and eventually fell. One by one, as if they are flowers being plucked from a field, they stopped running and fell.

“We should’ve done this earlier!” Nina said and she continues to shoot.

The ones that were following them now were the knights patrolling the area, and not Trillram’s men. As patrollers, they are usually skilled and have a commander among them. If that person happens to be with the group…

“Close the west gate! Close the west gate!” The knight in the middle said.

‘I knew it.’

“Inko, faster.” He said while aiming at another horse.

“Okay! Okay!”

The carriage is now at its top speed, and a few of the knights climbed up the wall to close the gate. It can only be closed by pulling a lever at the top of the wall, as the gate is a portcullis, or a vertically closing one. One knight is already at the top, but he can’t pull the lever himself. More knights arrived and they all worked together.

“We won’t make it!” Inko screamed. Her violet eyes are becoming teary.

“We’ll make it.” Inaho reloaded the bow, and shoot at one of the knights near the lever. He fell from the high wall, but it didn’t matter to the others and continued to pull. As the number of knights increased to help, the faster the gate would fall down, trapping the carriage inside. A few more meters till they got outside of the capital, and a few more seconds for the gates to complete close. The events happened quickly. Inaho shot one more knight, an attempt to delay the action. The gate dropped down fast, and the horses cut in by mere seconds. There was a loud bang at the back of the carriage, where half of it was left inside of the capital. It looked like a monster took a bite out of it. Luckily, the three passengers were safe and alive.

“Man, that was close!” Calm said after bracing himself for dear life.

They got out of the capital, and the knights were the ones trapped inside. The lever is harder to lift up than to release and let the gate down, so it would take a while before they continue to chase them. There is plenty of time to safely return Slaine to the forest.

“Inaho! Did you plan this?!” Inko asked.

“Maybe.”

Her face became red from anger. “What kind of answer is that?!”

With no one chasing them, the horses finally slowed down. Inaho took control of the reins again while the others looked out for possible danger. Slaine had mixed feelings towards his successful escape. He feels excited, because he can now return to his home. He feels nervous, because he didn’t know if things would be smooth after all the chasing. He feels troubled, because he is worried of his friends when the task is finish. Most of all, he feels dejected, because Inaho and him will be separated in a few moments. His heart became heavy at the thought.

“We’re here.” Inaho said as he pulled the reins, stopping the horses from moving.

They were at the edge of the forest. There is a narrow path leading deeper to it, but the carriage wouldn’t be able to handle the mud and bushes around. It would have difficulties because of its size too. The three passengers went out, and Slaine had a gloomy face on him. They understand why this is. He looked at the trees above him, and then at the narrow path in front of him. Hesitation is evident in his face.

“Slaine.” The brunette walked towards him when an arrow passed his shoulders. All of them stiffened and became alert. A voice they are familiar with talked behind.

“Don’t touch the daemon, or I will order to shoot.” It was Trillram.

The good thing is they all had their back on him, and that their identities weren’t revealed yet. The bad thing is that the baron wasn’t alone, and brought a bunch of knights with him, outnumbering them.

“You dared to help the my daemon escaped?! Surrender and show yourself!”

They couldn’t do anything in this situation; cornered like sewer rats. They slowly held their hands up, as a sign of them surrendering. However, Calm didn’t do it and just stood there.

“Raise your hands! Surrender!” Trillram shouted at the top of his voice. He is clearly pissed about their actions.

The blonde murmured. “As if I’d let this end here…!”

He quickly fished an item from his sling bag and threw it to the ground. There was a loud bang at the impact and smoke scattered around. It was a prototype of the smoke bomb he is currently working on. The opposite side were perplexed by the sudden change of events. Nina grabbed Slaine’s arm and went deeper into the forest, with Calm following them. Inaho and Inko were left behind, their swords ready.

They were running away from the two. The daemon didn’t understand what just happened, and looked back at the brunette’s location. Their eyes met, and Inaho made a smile. Not the kind of rare smiles that he would make when they both express their love to each other, but the kind of sad smile.

“Can I trust you to heal me before I die?”

His heart tightened, eyes blurry from tears. Inaho was an idiot, he thought.

‘You don’t intend to let me do that at all!’

Seeing as how Inaho chose to fight than to run to buy them some time, Slaine unconsciously swatted Nina’s hand and ran back to where Inaho is, only to be stopped by Calm. His tears won’t stop falling.

“What are you doing?! You have to escape!” Calm said and dragged him farther to the opposite direction.

“No, no, no. No! Calm! Inaho is…!”

The blonde didn’t listen to him. He only hardened his face and continued to drag Slaine. The ashen blonde tried to break himself free, but the other wouldn’t budge. He looked back at him, but his vision is already blocked by leaves and branches.

“Calm, please! Inaho needs me!”

His tears continued to streak down. He remembered their days in the mansion together; their casual talks and little quarrels, the time they spent playing chess or reading books, the moment when they were in each other’s arms… Those memories that he had were all too vivid that it pains his heart. And now, all of it will come to a stop if he doesn’t save Inaho.

“I don’t want this! I need to get back to him!” His crying worsened. “Calm!” Slaine doesn’t have the strength to continue and kneeled to the ground, his heart getting heavier every passing second.

“I need to save Inaho…”

With everything that happened to them tonight, Nina is also getting affected by Slaine’s cry. She maintained her composure the whole time, but knowing that they left their friends behind to get killed, she couldn’t take it anymore.

Calm face scrunched up and he suddenly shouted “You idiots!” He knelt in from of the daemon and lifted his face in a harsh way. “I’m worried about them too! I’ve been itching to get back to them and help! But what can we do?! We’re outnumbered! We wouldn’t achieve anything if we didn’t split up! Do you want Inaho’s hard work to go to waste?!” He stopped himself from crying even if he wanted to. “Right now, what’s most important is for you escape. We were prepared for the worst when we agreed to this. All we can do now is to trust them! To trust in Inaho!”

Slaine looked like he got slapped on his face. All that he’s been thinking about is to save Inaho, and didn’t consider trusting him. He unconsciously treated him like the kid he was eight years ago, when in fact, the kid already grew up and became a capable man. Calm is right. He needs to trust Inaho.

The three of them heard voices from afar. Calm grimaced and Nina readied her sword. The blonde didn’t waste his time and fished two keys from his sling bag. He hurriedly unlocked the shackles on Slaine’s wrists, and then the collar at his neck.

“You’re free now.” A twig snapped nearby. “Go!” Calm also draw his sword and covered Slaine. The knights were approaching them.

“Slaine! You must go! Hurry!” Nina shouted as she fought one of the knights.

He didn’t have the time to hesitate. Although he is exhausted, he transformed into his daemon form and ran, ran deeper into the woods, not even looking back at them.

That night, the daemon escaped, and was never seen again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

----

Three years went by like it was nothing, and many things changed within the empire in a short span of time. The trouble they caused caught the attention of the princess, and made a decision to stop hunting daemons. Up until now, she didn’t make a decision on her own and always listened to her elder advisors, but after listening to Inaho’s story, she is convinced that it should be stop altogether.

Inaho had almost died at that night, barely escaping death. They were surrounded by Trillram’s men and had no way to escape, so they fight.  He was badly wounded because of Trillram, but before he could completely lose, he made a strike that took the baron’s life. The Deucalion crew unexpectedly came to their aid, with Yuki crying as he was being transported to the nearest hospital house. The problem didn’t stopped there, because he was trialled for his traitorous action. He made sure that the Deucalion crew and his friends wouldn’t be involved by saying that he was the mastermind of the trouble. In that trial, he stood for himself and for the daemons. He told them of how unfair it is to treat them as nothing but slaves when they help the humans survive in the past. Princess Asseylum understood his side, and with further arguments and several trials, she decided to make it stop, both the hunting of daemons and subjecting them to any kind of slavery. She told him that when the time comes for her to ascend to the throne, it will be her first law to change the empire. Times have changed, and the empire needs to change too to keep up with it. This doesn’t mean that he was off the hook though. He violated other laws with what he did, and the penalty was to serve the empire for a three years. It wasn’t really heavy, but his heart would be in pain every day whenever he remembers Slaine. The daemon is out there somewhere, waiting for him. He promised himself that when the three years of penalty ends, he will look for Slaine and be with him again.

 

 

Inaho is currently in the middle of the forest. It is already late in the morning, and he has been waiting for hours under the huge tree from his past. He didn’t know any place where Slaine would show up, and so he waited there without a hundred percent assurance that he would come. It was his first day today to be released from his penalty and rushed here. If the daemon would not show up, he decided to visit here every day.

He waited and waited, until the sun is slowly setting. There was still no sign of the daemon that he loves. He would’ve continued to wait until night time, but Yuki would worry herself to death if he doesn’t return. He stood up and stared at the huge tree. It is exactly as how he remembered it to be, only without the presence of the white wolf he slept with.

“Look who finally showed up.” A voice said behind him. He was staring at the tree for too long that he didn’t noticed the other’s presence.

His heart started to race. His body shivered at the excitement. This sweet, sweet voice; he is familiar with it, and he longed to hear it once more.

“I should be the one saying that.”

When he turned around, Slaine was there, different from the last time he saw him. His hair is longer, and he wore proper clothes, a white tunic and a black pants, than the cloth that only covered his lower body. He isn’t chained nor had shackles on his wrists. His blue-green eyes that Inaho loves the most were very clear, resembling the shallow waters of the sea.  His whole being is full of life, his existence brimming with energy. Inaho remembered the white wolf from that night, and the Slaine now is as beautiful as his past self. Majectic; it’s the same word, and the only word that came to the brunette’s mind when his eye laid on him.

Slaine chuckled as he walked towards Inaho. “Did you miss me?” He asked.

“Of course. And you?”

The ashen blonde didn’t answer immediately and stared at him. He wondered what was wrong, when all of a sudden he hugged him. Inaho hugged him back and nuzzled his hair, then he heard Slaine sobbed.

“I miss you too, idiot…” The brunette could feel his warm tears falling to his shoulders. “I miss you so much…” He sobbed some more. “I thought you were dead… What took you so long…?! Do you know how worried I was?!”

Inaho smiled at the sudden shift of Slaine’s emotions and tightened his hug. “It’s okay, I’m here now. We’ll be together from now on.”

The information finally sunk into the daemon’s mind. This is no delusion, and that the real Inaho is in his arms. He started to cry again.

“Slaine.” Inaho called his name after so long. He said the words that he wanted to tell him for a long time. “I love you.”

Slaine shifted from their hug. He cupped Inaho’s cheeks and kissed him. “I love you too.”

Inaho smiled, Slaine also smiled. They stayed like that for a while, hugging each other and giving light pecks to one another.

“Slaine, I have something to tell you.”

“Hm?”

Burgundy eye meet the blue-green ones, and he started to talk. “I, um…” He cleared his throat and mustered his courage. “Yuki-nee and I moved to a new house outside of the capital. And I was… making space for you.”

Slaine was listening intently, surprised by what Inaho is telling him. Even if he doesn’t ask, he already knows the answer.

 

“Would you like to live with me?”

-----END-----