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Yandere Twisted Wonderland x Reader

Chapter Text

It was a close call.

You knew that dating someone as powerful as Malleus was bound to be dangerous, but for a long time, you’d become complacent. He was a sweet boyfriend, always striving to make you happy either by his magic or his endearingly awkward affection. Silver and Sebek had warmed up to you too, and although it wasn’t really necessary, they’d taken it upon themselves to protect you just because you were Malleus’ important person.

Overall, it was a secure and heartwarming relationship.

But dangers always existed, and with him as your lover, the probability just increased significantly.

Because it was nearly impossible for his enemies to harm him directly, they decided to target you instead. And honestly, you couldn’t say that you were shocked by this sudden turn of event.

Malleus was too strong, too influential. While you? You were just an ordinary girl he’d taken a liking to. You had no magic to protect yourself, and as much as you hated to admit it, you relied on him for security.

And what kind of a boyfriend he’d be if he couldn’t even protect his beloved girlfriend?

The wind carried smoke and ashes of your former perpetrators, the gentle whish a stark contrast to their agonized screams that still rang in your ears like a broken record. Malleus stood before you, his sturdy body valiantly shielding you from any attacks. The green flame slowly perished in his hand, the act entirely controlled by his own will and not the breeze.

You knew you should be happy for his intervention, but why did you feel apprehensive now? Why was it so hard for you to leap on him and say thank you like you wanted to – as he wanted you to?

Turning around to face your stunned self, his eyes softened considerably.

“They almost hurt you…” Malleus whispered as he reached out to touch you. Pain and surprise flashed on his irises when you unwittingly recoiled, the horror of his earlier actions still fresh in your mind.

How he callously incinerated those men without a second thought.

How the atmosphere grew heavy and dark with his silent rage.

How you nearly suffocated from the sheer tension alone.

The gloved hand stayed midair for a moment before it clenched – from dismay or irritation, you weren’t sure. His eyes began to harden, and that was the exact moment your apprehension finally erupted into an unadulterated fear.

“… I can’t allow such a thing to happen again.”

A green glow materialized on his palm as he slowly approached you. But even with his deliberate steps, he was still too fast. And in mere seconds, he managed to clasp your wrist before you could clamber away from him.

“Forgive me, my princess,” he said, an oddly solemn tone that contradicted the determined sheen on his eyes. “But I promise that you’ll be safer with me from now on. I’ll make sure of it.

What did he mean by that, you had no idea, because your sight suddenly darkened and you lost all control over your body. Malleus held your limp figure tenderly, almost as if he was afraid to hurt you.

And judging from how he punished those enemies so cruelly, he knew that your fear was justified, as painful as it was to admit it.

The corner of his eyes wrinkled in pity as he caressed your cheek with the tenderness only a lover could possess. “The world is too dangerous for such a fragile human like you. I hope your feelings will remain despite your new situation, and for you to understand my reason.”

Chapter Text

You knew something like this was bound to happen someday, or maybe it’d always happened without you knowing any better. Being a forgetful person, it was easy for you to miss your friends’ birthdays or other events that required giving presents. Sometimes you remembered the dates days before it even started, and sometimes it completely slipped your mind. You always apologized and gifted them afterward, but you supposed some of them were and might still be annoyed by your forgetfulness. After all, those days were deemed precious for many reasons.

You tried to sharpen your memory and had even written down the dates, but this habit seemed to be ingrained in you.

“… I saw Sebek eating chocolates.” Malleus spoke up after a moment of… tensed silence. He hadn’t smiled – or smirked? – to you at all since you greeted him in the Ramshackle yard earlier, and you wondered if he might be irked with something. You didn’t know; it was hard to read his expression sometimes. “And he said it was from you.”

“Hm…?” You blinked owlishly before nodding. “Oh, yes, I did give him one earlier.”

Malleus crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Is that so…?” he murmured, squinting down at you. Why was he looking at you like that? Did you do something wrong with him? So far, you’d been nothing but polite to him. “Who else did you give the chocolates to?”

You put a hand under your chin and stared upwards. “Grim, Ace, Deuce, Jack, Epel, Riddle, Trey, and… Cater.” You frowned, trying to remember who else you’d gifted this morning. “Yeah, that’s all.”

Last night, you’d made Valentine chocolates for your first-year friends and the Heartslabyul seniors as a token of gratitude for welcoming you to this school. Grim and Ace had cheered, Deuce and Epel had shyly accepted their chocolates (though, you could’ve sworn you saw Epel smirked a little), Jack and Riddle were a bit surprised by the gesture, Sebek was stunned, Trey had patted your head, while Cater immediately took pictures of his chocolate after he thanked you enthusiastically.

You were happy to witness their jubilant faces, although some of them did look rather awkward. It made your hard work feel all the more worth it.

Though, Malleus didn’t seem to share the same sentiment. If anything, his frown had deepened when you listed off the names.

“… I see. So you even gifted that fussy third year.” he mumbled.

“Yeah! He doesn’t like sweets, though, so I made it bitter.” you chuckled at the memory of you nearly pouring sugar to his gift. “I don’t know how he’s gonna eat it, but I’m glad that he likes it.”

“Must be nice, huh…?”

“That’s right!” The smile on your lips immediately vanished once you spotted his scowling visage. “Hey, what’s with that scowl? Are you okay? Did someone anger you or something?”

Malleus unconsciously gripped the sleeve of his uniform and glowered at you, much to your surprise. “I wonder…”

You reeled back and blinked repeatedly, trying to pinpoint the reason for his sudden hostility. Malleus might look a bit intimidating, but it never really deterred you until now.

And was it just you, or did the forest look darker?

“I… I don’t understand.” you stammered, glancing around just so you wouldn’t have to face his icy glare any longer. “Why are you being like this? What have I done to you? Haven’t I been nice to you all this time?”

“You have… until you forgot about me.”

You frowned and looked back to him in confusion. “What? What are you–”

Oh.

You finally understood now, why he acted unfriendly to you. He… had been expecting you to give him chocolates, too, and he’d even dropped hints this entire time. But you forgot and missed the indications, like the dummy you were.

You closed your eyes and frowned, mentally berating yourself for forgetting him. Him, out of all people. Would it be too late to apologize now?

“… Sorry.” But it wouldn’t heal his feelings, would it? “I… I’ll try to make one tomorrow.”

“No, you don’t have to.” Oh? “I realize that you’ll repeat this behavior, because that’s the kind of person you are. Which is why…”

Your sight suddenly grew blurry whereas your legs started to weaken. However, you managed to spot him muttering something as he stared at your shocked and mildly betrayed face. Did he… did he enchant you? Him, your nightly stroll companion that you thought you could trust, decided to knock you out in the middle of a forest?

Why…?

“… I resolved to make you remember me forever.”

Ears ringing, you failed to catch the last sentence as you collapsed to the ground. You couldn’t feel anything, not even the gloved hands that slipped themselves under you and carry your limp body to the gloomy building of Diasomnia.

You couldn’t see anything, not even the pleased smirk he gave you as he brought you closer to his chest, trying to savor your warmth against his cold body.

Chapter Text

“What’s wrong, my love?” You sluggishly looked up from the plate before you and on to Malleus’ concerned visage, lazily poking the scrumptious meal with your knife. It seemed to be the only expression he showed to you now, aside from the sickening gentleness and shameless desperation for the love he’d never get from you. “Is the food not to your liking? I will order the chefs to cook different food if you wish.”

You shook your head. “No, it’s fine.”

The food wasn’t wrong. It was your favorite, after all. You just… weren’t in the mood to eat anything, that was all.

But it’d make him even more worried, wouldn’t it? And that’d only bring more problems than it was worth. You swore, he could be such a worrywart sometimes.

“Then, why haven’t you eat it yet?” He asked too much, you sighed. Why couldn’t he just let you be without interrogating you as if he were your father? “Are you ill, perhaps?”

“No, Malleus, I’m fine.” It was hard not to snap at him, but knocking some sense into his head was even harder. For someone so sensitive, he sure was stubborn. 

Malleus slowly squinted. Great, now you offended him. Weren’t you just the best wife ever?

You sighed again, pinching the bridge of your nose. Only Malleus could turn what should be a peaceful dinner into a conflict in mere seconds.

… Or maybe it was just you. After all, none of this would happen if you just obeyed him without any protest, right?

If only it was that easy…

Maybe if he wasn’t so possessive, if he just heard you out for once, then you might be willing to listen to his and grant some of them.

Of course, reality didn’t always go as expected, nor would it change everything he’d done to you.

Malleus’ lips quirked into a small smirk.

“Would you like me to feed you, then?” he asked somewhat teasingly. “Food always taste better when you eat it from the hand of your loved one, am I right?”

Your grip on the cutlery tightened. God, not that one…!

“No, thank you. I can eat by myself.” you retorted, and yet, you still didn’t bother to touch your cold food.

Malleus frowned.

“My love, you need to eat. It’s not good to starve yourself.” As if you didn’t know that already, you mentally rolled your eyes at his scolding. “I can’t allow the future mother of my children to fall ill from starvation.”

You froze. You knew what marriage with Malleus would entail, but to hear him said something about you becoming a mother was… jarring, to say the least.

“… What?”

Malleus cocked his head.

“Why do you look so surprised? I thought you knew that already.” he replied somewhat confusedly as if motherhood was the easiest thing in the world. “Marriage isn’t complete without children, no?”

W-well, at least, he didn’t ask for children now.

… Right?

The fork dropped with a clatter against the pearly white plate as you clutched your stomach. You ignored his concerned questions, too focused on the thought of bearing his children.

His half-fae children.

Your children with him.

Gulping, you hesitantly asked. “I’m… I’m not going to be a mother any time soon, right?” You slowly looked up to his perplexed eyes, silently begging him to say no. “… Right, Malleus?”

His frown deepened, and you knew that your plea went unheard. As always.

“Of course you are.” Your stomach plummeted. No… “We’ve been married for a month already. It’s time for me to have an heir, don’t you think?”

You gripped your dress. For a month now, you’d managed to evade the pregnancy topic and even begged him to give you more time. But it seemed that his patience only went so far, and you’d ran out of excuses to leave this inevitable situation.

“N-no, Malleus, you can’t do that.”

Malleus squinted. “And why not?”

“Because…” Because you didn’t want to, for God’s sake! “… I’m not ready yet.”

He blinked once, twice, before bursting into laughter. In the past, you would’ve marveled at his jubilant expression. It wasn’t every day you saw the Malleus Draconia laugh, after all.

But now, you just felt more dread.

Because that meant he didn’t take you seriously, and that he’d most likely tell you hundreds of ways to ease your pregnancy.

“My love, is that what you’re worrying about?” He chuckled, eyes crinkling bemusedly. “Please, don’t fret. I promise I’ll be gentle with you.”

No, that was the least of your worries…!

“N-no, that’s not it, Malleus. I–”

“My guards will assist you during your pregnancy, and Lilia even offered to babysit our child later.” Malleus smiled, too giddy at the idea of a child to even hear you out for a second. “You have nothing to be concerned about, my love. Everyone here will help you as best as they can.”

… Oh, so that was how it was, huh?

You squeezed the knife, watching him eat his dinner coolly as if ending the conversation. You knew that he was bullheaded, that he could be rather delusional sometimes, but you’d hoped – you’d prayed! – that he’d listen to you just this once.

It wasn’t as if he needed someone to take over the throne, right? He was a fae, and that meant he could live for a very long time. So why couldn’t he just–

A glint that reflected from the blade caught your attention. You glanced at Malleus who was still busy enjoying his meal and slowly brought the knife closer. 

If he didn’t want to listen to you – if he chose to be deaf to your wishes – then there was no reason for you to live any longer, right? If he wanted to be selfish, then you could do that, too. There’d be no happiness in living as a puppet, as the shell of your former self.

Even if it meant killing yourself, then so be it.

Malleus choked on his food when he caught you stabbing your stomach right in front of him. He instantly teleported to your side, knocking the chair in the process, and effortlessly snatched the knife from your trembling hands.

“Don’t worry, my love. I will heal you.” He couldn’t even bring himself to question your motives as he gently lied you on the floor, the blood staining his gloved hands and sleeves. The cries of the servants and the barks of the guards rang in the dining room, but they were all just white noise in his ears.

How could he focus on such insignificant things, when his wife was bleeding on his hands? When his wife had just–

Malleus quickly shook his head. No, he could deal with that later. For now, he needed… he needed to heal you. He needed to bring you back to life because he’d be damned if he let you die just like that.

After all, he wouldn’t allow anything to separate you both, not even death itself.

“You will live, [Name].” he whispered resolutely. “You’ve vowed to be with me forever, and now, I’m taking your words for it. So don’t you dare close your eyes until I say so, [Name].”

Chapter Text

The tower was cold.

Malleus truly had no qualm about placing you in such an unforgiving place. Sure, the tower was quite warm at day due to the direct sunlight from the window, but had he thought about what would happen at night? Had he thought about how close you were freezing to death? It didn’t matter how many blankets he’d given you, it still wouldn’t protect you from the chill.

You just wanted to go home, dammit! What had you done to deserve this treatment? You’d been nothing but polite to him, and had even considered him as a friend at some point. And yet, he dared to kidnap you just because you–

… Right.

You brought this upon yourself, didn’t you? You should’ve known better than rejecting the Malleus Draconia, but what were you supposed to do anyway?! Accepting his sudden confession without reciprocating his feelings? Because you pity him or something?

Now that you thought about this further, you were certain that he wouldn’t mind. In fact, he’d probably assume that you loved him too. He wasn’t the best at reading people’s feelings, after all.

And either way, you’d still be his at the end.

There really wasn’t any way out of this situation, was there? You were basically doomed the moment you started conversing with him.

You clucked irritably, hugging the blankets closer around your shivering form. Was his ‘obsession’ stemmed from being lonely for too long? Or maybe it had something to do with his species instead?

God, you groaned. If only you knew something like this would happen, you would’ve studied about faeries more. But you’d let laziness dominated your free time instead, and now here you were, wondering what to blame for Malleus’ strange behavior.

“You wouldn’t have to suffer here if you say the words.”

You snapped your eyes open, feeling your heart nearly leaped out of its ribcage. Just when you thought about him, he immediately appeared. And how could you didn’t hear his footfall entering the room?!

Oh, wait, you sighed to yourself. You forgot that he could teleport, too.

Malleus emerged from the shadow, his long dark robe trailing behind him. His staff made a low thudding sound on the floor as he approached your bed.

“I know you haven’t sleep yet.” he said when you tried to close your eyes again. Damn it, you scowled, he caught you in the act! He didn’t even need to see your face first.

“Go away, Malleus.” You put a pillow over your head to block his voice. Not that it succeeded, anyway, but anything was better than listening to him speaking. “I’m trying to sleep here.”

Malleus sighed at your childish antics.

“You’re shivering.” he remarked. “How long are you going to keep being stubborn, [Name]?”

Your hand gripped the hem of the pillow. “… For as long as I can.” you mumbled.

Something abruptly snatched the blankets and the pillow away from your body. You instinctively hugged yourself at the onslaught of cold wind and turned to look at him, eyes wide with shock and anger. Malleus stood on the bedside with the most unamused face you’d seen from him, one hand glowing green in the darkness.

“Y-you bastard…!” you hissed through clattering teeth. “Are you trying to kill me here?”

Malleus stared down at your pissed face blankly. Was he tired…?

“… It doesn’t have to be that way.” he drawled. “Just say it, and I’ll give you the warmth you need.”

You scowled. “You wouldn’t…” Because he loved you, right? There was no way he’d hurt his own lover.

… Or would he?

Malleus squinted and the breeze instantly turned colder and faster. You squeaked and curled into a ball, trying to soak the little warmth from the mattress. But even the bed felt like ice now with how hard the wind was blowing. You gritted your teeth, realizing that he wasn’t messing around this time.

Not that he’d ever messed around, anyway.

“O-okay…! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry… for upsetting you. I love you, Malleus! And I–” Would you say it? Could you say it? “I’ll be your wife. Just, please…”

The blast slowly died down until you could only feel the natural draft. You sobbed, burying your head deeper into your stomach.

There, you said it. You’d agreed to his proposal. You’d be the future Draconia from now on. The wife of Malleus Draconia, and the mother of his many children.

You’d given your freedom to him, just because you didn’t want to die from hypothermia.

“There, there. Please, don’t cry.” You felt a large hand stroked your quivering back as Malleus hunched over you. “I promise it won’t be that hard.”

How? How could he be so sure? You didn’t understand why he could easily say those things when you didn’t even know anything about the politics of his kingdom; when you didn’t even want to be a part of it.

Malleus gently took your hand and slipped the silver band on the ring finger. He cocked his head, admiring the way the green diamond glittered in the darkness.

With time, he was certain that your face would glow as bright as the diamond itself. And with time, you could finally smile at him and confess your hidden feelings.

For now, he allowed you to cry your heart out.

Wiping away the tears that streamed down your flushing cheeks, Malleus bent down and kissed your forehead deeply.

“I promise you won’t regret your decision, my dear wife.”

You said nothing when he teleported you to his room. You said nothing when he lit up the fireplace and lied down beside you. And you said nothing even when he cradled you like a lover would, like a husband would.

“I love you.”

You merely closed your eyes, finally slipping into the void you’d been wanting to escape to.

Chapter Text

The tower was… tall, as expected from a tower.

You could see the underwood swaying below you, little animals skittered in the forest, and the moon that seemed to invite you to leave. It’d be quite a fall, and you’d definitely die.

But no, you weren’t planning to die. At least, not yet. You had a more effective plan at hand.

Malleus hadn’t been visiting you these past few days, presumably occupied by his duty as the King. His trusted guards would regularly drop in to deliver meals and take your laundry, instead. Sometimes the more talkative of the three, Lilia, would try to converse with you. Well, more like musing about how lovely you’d be as Malleus’ wife and how he couldn’t wait to babysit a bunch of half-fae children. But it was often one-sided since you disliked acting friendly with his attendants, let alone falling to his provocations, and then the green-haired boy would scold you for ignoring Lilia.

Which was why you needed to use this chance before they came to bring you dinner… fast.

Dragging a rope of intertwined blankets and dresses from under the bed, you tied it around one of the nightstands and pushed the table towards the window. Although you weren’t exactly a fan of wearing heavy dresses, especially at home, you couldn’t deny that they were quite useful in this situation. The length and the sturdy cloths made it easier for you to tie them with each other without fearing that you’d fall.

At least, that was what you hoped.

Although Lilia appeared easygoing as always, you suspected that he knew you were planning something because the first thing he always opened was the closet. He remarked about how your dresses seemed to decrease in each day, and how small your laundry was.

His seemingly offhand comments never failed to make your heart beat faster, especially when he peered at you somewhat accusingly, but you forced yourself to stay stoic. You couldn’t risk blowing your plan just because you couldn’t handle their inspection. It should’ve been something you were already used to, anyway.

Opening the window, you gathered the bottom hem of your nightgown into your safety pants and crawled on to the nightstand. Then, you gripped the rope and gingerly slid down the tower. You were lucky that the window was located on the other side of the tower, otherwise, the guards would’ve caught you trying to escape.

… Not that it’d make the situation seem any less dangerous, though. Lilia had a penchant for scaring people, after all.

For a moment, everything was peaceful. You managed to slip at least half of the tower until you heard the sound of plates shattering against the floor.

“[Name]’s trying to escape…!” Lilia’s shocked voice stunned you temporarily. “Silver, Sebek, pull up the rope now!”

“Oh, hell, no…”

There was no way you’d go back to that wretched room. Not now, not ever. You’d rather suffer in the wilderness, instead. At least, in there, you just had to worry about the animals and not a bunch of faeries.

With a thumping heart, you immediately loosened the grasp on the rope and allowed yourself to slide down. You bit down your tongue, trying to repress the scream from the abrupt fall and risked garnering more attention.

Unfortunately, your landing wasn’t as smooth as you’d expected. You lost hold on the rope due to the guards’ constant tugging and tumbled to the ground. A pained hiss left your lips as you slowly stood up, the pressure of time forcing you to move fast despite your pain. You held your aching back and shuffled towards the forest, desperate to escape their search using the darkness of the trees.

But you weren’t so lucky tonight and the proceeding days.

A root suddenly shot up from the ground and wrapped around your legs, nearly making you trip. Fortunately, something held you before you could fall for the second time.

Or rather, someone.

A pair of gloved hands grasped your arms, forehead inches away from their chest. You froze, noticing their kingly attire. Black dress shirt with matching pants, shoes, and cape.

There was no doubt. He was–

“Malleus…” Lilia halted a few meters away from you, the other two following suit. He looked at your motionless self and squinted slightly. “You found her.”

“Indeed, I am.” Malleus drawled as if trying to show his displeasure. “I came here because I wanted to know whether your report was valid, but it seems that she decided to show me herself.”

So Lilia had told him, huh…? That meant your suspicion was true.

You smirked, hair covering your bowing face. “Well, of course I’d escape. Anyone would do the same if they’re being trapped by a stinky lizard.”

Malleus tightened his grip on your arms; a warning that you purposefully broke because… why not? You didn’t have much to lose, anyway. If he decided to kill you in a fit of rage, then so be it. At least, you’d be free and he’d agonize over his mistake.

Two birds in one stone.

“But you didn’t know that, did you?” You raised your head and bravely looked at his glowering eyes, sneering. “Well, of course you didn’t. Because you’re a spoiled brat, that’s why. You’re used to people following your whims until it caught you off guard when one of them rejected you. So you kidnap them to force them to obey you because your fragile heart can’t handle rejection. Am I right, Draconia?”

Malleus squinted, the moon emphasizing his gleaming irises.

“Is that how you apologize, [Name]? By provoking me?” he inquired. “It seems that I’ve been too lenient with you. Clearly, you don’t know any manner.”

“Who cares about manners when you’re dealing with lizards? Manners are only for humans and, you know, civilized creatures. Not a barbarian like you.”

“You think I’m ‘barbarian’?” he asked, cocking his head. “Very well, if that’s what you want to see me as. Let me show you just how barbaric I am.”

Electric shock suddenly ran through your body, eliciting screams after screams from your lips. And despite your trembling hands clutching his sleeves for dear life, Malleus remained composed. He merely watched the electricity zapped you through lidded eyes, and calmly cradled your limp person once the brief torture had passed. He wiped the sweats that peppered your forehead, admiring your peaceful face on his arms.

If only you showed that expression to him instead of your usual derisive scowl…

Shaking his head, Malleus turned around and spoke to his quiet guards.

“Burn the rope, and order a maid to help her dress during my absence.”

They readily obeyed his demand and kneeled.

“Yes, Malleus-sama.”

Chapter Text

You didn’t know, nor did you understand what was happening. All you knew was that the maids had hurriedly woken you up from your nap – the deepest, most comfortable nap you ever had since Malleus forced you to marry him – and ushered you to the bathroom. Then, they proceeded to scrub your body so hard your skin reddened and removed any excess of bodily hair.

You opened your mouth to question their sudden actions, why they looked so hasty because you didn’t remember any particular event happening today. If there was, someone or Malleus would’ve told you earlier. And yet, the servants didn’t even let you utter a single word and merely dragged you to another room.

There, the other maids sat you down on a stool and began to apply layers of makeup onto your face with great precision. The process truly reminded you of your wedding, but you got the feeling it was for something entirely different this time. The rest of the servants prepared a silky robe and lingerie that surely cost more than your old wardrobe.

… Wait, what–?!

You tried to move your head to double-check what you saw, but the maid before you gripped your chin instead. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the mirror provided you with the sight of the women putting a pair of red lingerie and black robe on the couch. Your stomach plummeted while you began to breathe heavily because what the fuck were you seeing right now?! It wasn’t what you imagined it to be, was it? There was no way…!

“Your Highness, please stay calm. Your makeup will be ruined if you move around too much!” another maid, who was tasked with putting lipstick on you, pleaded.

“Hell, no. I’m not–” You gritted your teeth as you struggled on their grips. Since when did they become so strong? “I’m not gonna… give myself to that bastard of a king!”

You abruptly stood up, nearly knocking the stool off, and bolted out of the room. You ignored their frantic cries and calls and scurried down the countless hallways, dilated eyes glancing back and forth. In a castle as huge as this, there must be someplace where you could hide, right?

… But you should’ve known that someone as prominent as you couldn’t have everything handed in a silver platter, especially freedom.

A hand suddenly gripped your arm, pulling you from an empty room you were planning to stay until the end of the day. You felt someone draped a jacket over your shoulders, covering your towel-clad body.

“How scandalous to see the Thorn Queen running around with such a… provocative appearance.” Lilia mused from behind you as he pushed you towards the direction of the dressing room. “If someone sees you, I can’t guarantee you’d have a good reputation, [Name].”

“What the–?! Let me go, Lilia!” you protested, trying to escape the magical bind he’d so nicely enchanted you with.

Lilia tutted, shaking his head disapprovingly. “Honestly, you remind me of a toddler sometimes; so wild and discourteous. I’d thought that being a queen would make you feel more responsible, but it seems I was gravely mistaken.”

“Then, you should’ve known better than forcing me to marry that–”

A gloved hand abruptly covered your mouth, almost throwing your head back. Lilia leaned forward and peered at you, crimson eyes squinting slightly.

“Please refrain from speaking such boorish things, [Name]. I’d hate to punish you on behalf of Malleus.” Lilia averted his gaze from your furious scowl and hummed airily, noticing the setting sun in the distance. You realized the maids had begun to follow you both from behind while keeping their head low as if ashamed that they’d let you escape. “Today’s a special day, after all, so I hope you be a good wife and behave.”

Simpering, Lilia pushed you into the dressing room and locked the doors. The maids took advantage of your bounded state to do their job silently, eyes downcast and avoidant. It wasn’t until they finished did Lilia finally unlock the doors and allowed them to drag you to Malleus’, or should you say, your room. They didn’t even attempt to comfort you, especially Lilia who merely mouthed a ‘good luck’ to you instead of releasing you.

The bastard…

The sky had darkened when the maids brought you to your room and, much to your horror, Malleus was already there. Wearing a black shirt with a few buttons open to reveal his chiseled chest, he silently dismissed them and smiled at you.

… And the doors clicked shut behind you.

You fidgeted and looked around, keeping your back pressed against the wood. While you wouldn’t deny that Malleus looked exceptionally handsome tonight, it didn’t mean you’d throw yourself at him.

But there wasn’t any other choice, was there? You were basically trapped here, with your husband who was just centimeters away from you.

“You’re bounded.” he remarked as he slowly approached you.

You merely tittered, pressing yourself further against the doors. There was no excuse you could spout now. He must’ve known what you were up to earlier, either from Lilia or–

“Were you trying to escape again?”

And there it was.

But rather than the irritation you’d expected, he sounded amused instead. Almost as if… he’d anticipated it to happen.

“I wonder when will you give up…” he mused before shaking his head. You could smell his faint perfume wafting into your nostrils; intoxicating yet calming.“… But it doesn’t matter now.”

Malleus bent down slightly and toyed with the diamond earring he’d chosen personally as a mating gift, eyes hazy from growing lust. His large hand then ran down your jaw, neck, chest, before it stopped on the belt.

“I’ll make sure you can’t even walk from now on.”

He tugged the belt open.

Chapter Text

“How’s your mother?” Focusing on the papers below him, Malleus asked. “Is she feeling better now?”

[Name] hesitantly nods. “She is. She told me through her letter that she can move about normally now…”

“That’s great. I’m sorry for not being able to visit her.”

“It’s okay. She’s very happy for the treatment, and she said…” [Name] paused and looks away. “Thank you.”

“Is that so?” Malleus looks up, strands of dark hair veiling his face slightly. “How about you, then?”

[Name] blinks owlishly. “Huh…?”

“Are you happy?”

Is she happy? Well, of course, she’s relieved to know that he’s willing to help her ailing mother. But…

She unconsciously grips her dress.

… That’s not what he means, isn’t he?

“I… I’m definitely thankful for your kindness, Your Majesty.”

Malleus props his jaw on his palm, slit eyes examining her timid person. “Just thankful? Not even happy that she’s finally healed?”

“O-of course I’m happy!” she hurriedly corrected herself, fearing that she’s offended him somehow. Malleus might’ve been nice to her – a bit nicer than he is to other people, frankly – but it doesn’t change his explosive trait.

Even now, she can still see the occasional lightning flash in the murky sky during one of his moods. And she’d like to avoid becoming its target, or his victim really.

“And yet, you’re still as shy as usual.”

[Name] looks down and rubs her arm bashfully, shoulders hunching to shield herself from his stare.

“What should I do to make you look at me?”

Frowning, she raises her head slightly to question his ambiguous inquiry and flinches at the sight of his large frame materializing before her. One of his gloved hands reaches forward to cup her jaw and tilts it higher until she fully looks at him.

Like he always wishes.

“Tell me, [Name], what should I do to gain your attention?” he asked, his thumb toying with her lower lip. “More money? High position? Pretty dresses? Just name it, and I’ll give it to you.”

Anything?

“I… I want to go home.”

A brief silence ensues before Malleus closes his eyes and sighs.

“How many times do I have to tell you that this castle is your home now?”

Why does he sound tired? It’s completely natural for her to miss her own family! Surely he understands, right?

[Name] shakes her head. “No, Your Majesty. My home isn’t here and… and I can’t always rely on my siblings to take care of my mother. They need a break, too.”

Malleus peels one eye open.

“Really? Is that what you’re worried about?” Cocking his head, he smiles bemusedly. “Would you like me to send a caretaker to your house, then? That way, your siblings can have the ‘break’ they need.”

[Name] opens her mouth to refuse his offers, but he quickly cuts her off.

“No, that’ll be unnecessary.” he mumbled, seemingly musing about something. “I should just ask Lilia to bring them here instead.”

She regards him fearfully, feeling her heart begins to throb faster. “What–? What are you talking about, Your Majesty?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked, smiling down at her. “I’m planning to move them here, so our families can get to know each other.”

“B-but why…?!”

“We can’t get married if our families don’t have a good relationship with each other.”

[Name] gapes at him, unable to say anything due to the sheer incredulity of the situation. It feels as if her whole world shattered with that simple, yet impactful word.

Marriage…

Of course, he wants marriage. He’s a king, after all. But to think that he wants her to be the bride, out of all people…

Is that why he’s been kind to her lately? Because he wants to marry her?!

Malleus gently grasps her chin and leans forward, his smile widening at her reaction. “That way, we can officially make this castle our home, too.”

Chapter Text

Malleus didn’t get jealous easily.

… Not anymore, at least.

However, it was only natural to feel that way when your fiancée liked someone else, right?

Malleus might not be very sensitive to people’s emotions, but he’d known enough – seen enough – to conclude that you favored Silver more than him.

Yes, his own ward. His trusted retainer and one of his loyal knights.

The human boy in his circle.

Your face always brightened whenever you spotted him in the same room or merely passing by, as if his presence alone was enough to cheer you up. A speck of blush would taint your cheeks whenever you got a chance to speak to him, and you’d wilt slightly whenever he ended the conversation to do his duties. You always gave your entire attention to him, while being rather half-hearted whenever you interacted with Malleus.

He knew that the only reason why you bothered to talk to him was because of the engagement; this political engagement your parents forced you to agree for the sake of strengthening the relationship between his and your kingdom. If not, then you’d definitely scamper off to Silver and trail behind him all day like a lovesick puppy.

And it irked Malleus.

What did Silver have that he didn’t? He wasn’t royalty, let alone a king. He was just a knight, a servant. Someone who he could easily dispose of had he was a cruel man. A human whose strength was inferior compared to his.

And yet, you looked at him like he was your whole world; like he was your future husband.

“Silver.”

Today was just another day where Malleus caught you chatting with Silver again, and another day where his mood instantly soured at the sight of your radiant face.

The said boy flinched slightly and swiveled, bowing. “Your Majesty.”

“Please leave us alone.”

Silver readily complied and left the living room, not even sparing a glance at your slightly outstretched hand. The butler immediately prepared another cup of warm tea for him as Malleus settled down beside you, face sullen.

“You seem to be friendly with him.” he remarked, lifting the cup and its saucer. He sipped the tea, lime green eyes peering at your somewhat flustered expression. “Do you like him, perhaps?”

Of course, he already knew the answer. But he just wanted to see whether you’d be honest with him, with your fiancé.

“I…” you stammered, fidgeting with your gloves. The apples of your cheeks grew warmer the longer you hesitated. “I, well… Of course, I like him. He’s a nice guard.”

He raised a skeptical brow. “Is that it?”

You nodded and pursed your lips, trying to repress the smile that threatened to bloom at the thought of the guard.

“I see…”

Malleus unconsciously gripped the handle of the cup, darkness shrouded his eyes. Of course, you’d try to downplay your crush on Silver. It’d be no good if someone, especially him, realized that you harbored feelings for another man.

Although he already knew, anyway.

Which is why…

“I’ve decided to advance the wedding date.”

You whipped your head towards him, almost gaping at his abrupt declaration. “W-what do you mean?”

“You heard me.” He peered at you darkly, challenging you to oppose him. “I’ve decided to make the wedding occur this Sunday.”

Malleus stared at you as you moved your mouth, trying to form a word. He knew you didn’t agree with his decision, and he knew it was quite unceremonious.

But if he followed the schedule, then it’d just give you more time to develop those pesky feelings for his ward.

“B-but why…?” you finally stammered, still in disbelief.

Malleus slowly squinted. “Because you like Silver, don’t you? As in, romantically.”

Your breath hitched, and he knew he was right, as painful as it was to admit it. However, it also gave him the satisfaction of knowing that he’d caught you red-handed.

“I…”

“It’s useless to lie to me.” Malleus dismissed your apology coldly. “I know everything, so don’t even think about trying again. Unless, of course, you want our families to learn about this…?”

You looked up to his frigid eyes fearfully. “You won’t…”

“Who knows?” he retorted smoothly. “All I know is that it won’t be my fault if people recognize you as a ‘cheater’. And you know how detrimental it’ll be to your family’s reputation.”

You began to tremble on the couch, already imagining the scenario. The look of disappointment from your parents, the disparaging glances from your people, and the revolting stare from his family.

“… Do you want that to happen, Lady [Name]?” Malleus drawled, ensuring that every word was embedded in your mind; the consequences that’d entail if you disobeyed him. When you slowly shook your head, he smiled and lifted your chin. “Then, do as I say, alright?”

“I…”

“I forgive you this time, but I won’t be so kind next time.” He gripped your jaw in his gloved hand, hating yet relishing the terrified look in your eyes. “Do you understand me, my love?”

Chapter Text

You were free.

After months of planning, fake obedience, and reluctant acceptance to Malleus’ affection, you were finally free.

You were free… at last.

Plopping down on the hill you managed to climb through sheer determination alone, you gazed at your dirty palms and smiled wryly. You wouldn’t call yourself a skilled manipulator, but you were proud of yourself for being able to fool him this long.

Him, the infamous Malleus Draconia. King of the Thorn Kingdom. Ruler of the dark creatures. And most of all, your husband.

Wasn’t that quite a  feat ?

You knew it was wrong of you to rejoice over manipulating someone, but how could you bring yourself to care? How could you pity him when he’d been using you too? Granted, it was his delusions that dictated his actions. But it was still considered as manipulation too, right? He didn’t even bother to hear you out for a moment despite wanting to be a ‘good’ husband to you.

So, it was only natural for you to retaliate. It was only natural for you to feel satisfied with your hard work because this freedom didn’t come by itself.

… Right?

A scream grabbed your attention. Looking up, your eyes instantly widened at the sight of a huge dragon looming in the distance. Its skin was as dark as the night itself, green eyes reminded you of a bubbling poison, and a forked tongue slithered through its lips like a snake preparing to attack. Its black wings spread wide, ready to blow anyone with a single flap. Green fire burst out of its nostrils occasionally, and you somehow felt as if a mere exhale was enough to burn someone to crisp.

You’d never seen Malleus’ ‘true form’, but you weren’t stupid enough to not realize that it was, in fact, Malleus himself.

Your husband had turned into a dragon and was attacking the innocents, and it was all your fault.

Because had you didn’t escape, had you didn’t deceive him, none of this would happen.

But if you didn’t, then you’d keep suffering and that… that’d be unfair.

You wanted to be free, too. You wanted to be happy. You wanted to live a life without any expectations, without any responsibilities that exceeded your abilities.

You wanted to leave and never come back.

But it’d be  selfish  of you, wouldn’t it?

Many people were sustaining the impact of your manipulation, and yet, here you were; hiding in the hill like a coward you were.

You truly were a disappointment to your title, weren’t you? No wonder Sebek hated your guts you so much. Had you were in his position, you were certain that you’d despise a fainthearted queen too.

… But it wasn’t as if you wanted any of these things! You never wanted to be a queen, let alone his wife. For God’s sake, you just wanted to live your life in peace! You just wanted to befriend anyone without being pressured into loving them, without being pressured into marrying them.

However, Malleus was stubborn. No matter how many times you begged, no matter how many times you yelled at him, he’d never change his mind.

Just like how you wouldn’t change your mind about escaping.

It was truly a cursed marriage, wasn’t it? You shouldn’t have befriended him in the first place. You should’ve listened to your friends’ warnings about him. You should’ve curbed your curiosity because, in your situation, curiosity really killed the cat.

Curiosity had forced you to do things you didn’t want to do, things you never thought you’d do someday.

… But it was too late to regret everything now, wasn’t it?

So, what were you supposed to do now? Should you go there and save them? Or should you stay here and watch as they perish one by one? Deaths that you could’ve… you should’ve avoided.

Was your freedom truly more  important  than their lives?

You clenched your hands, crushing the dead leaves in the process. You didn’t know; both options only resulted badly. There was no ending where everyone, including you, could live happily ever after.

Because happy endings weren’t real, were they? It was merely a story parents recounted to their children so they’d live optimistically without knowing that sometimes, the world just wasn’t nice.

Sometimes the world was really cruel.

Sometimes the world only brought you anguish, and there was nothing you could do to avoid that.

It just so happened that your anguish came in the form of Malleus, a lonely man you’d encountered a long time ago. Someone who you thought you could trust. Someone who… used to become your dearest friend once upon a time.

… Maybe you should become a martyr, instead. There was no point living in guilt, in the blood of the innocents. Sure, Malleus killed them, but you still had a hand in their predicament.

Whether you wanted it or not, whether you knew it or not, you were still a murderer too. A hidden murderer, because you were a coward like that.

Gritting your teeth at the lack of a better option, you hesitantly stood up and faced forward. This was for the better, you reminded yourself, you could… you could always try again. Or you could try to bear it, instead. The freedom of one person was nothing compared to the lives of many.

Being a queen was hard, and this was probably the hardest choice you’d ever made yet, but it was fine. You just hoped he hadn’t killed anyone yet–

Your eyes widened at the sensation of something cool pressing against your neck. A blade – no, a sword.

Had the guards finally found you…?

“Your Highness.”

… Ah, so it was him.

Well, at least it wasn’t Sebek, or worse, Lilia. You had a feeling that the ancient fae wouldn’t be too pleased to see you after what you’d done to his beloved ward.

“… Silver.” you drawled, raising your head slightly to appear somewhat confident. “You don’t have to be so aggressive. I was just planning to go there.”

The young man frowned slightly. “Many people are injured, Your Highness.”

And it was all  your  fault.

You inhaled deeply, trying not to flinch at his report.

“I know.” you paused. “I know that already, which is why I decided to go there. To fix things before it’s too late.”

You slowly turned around, wary of the blade that still pressed to your neck. “You can lower your sword now, Silver. I’m not going to run away again.”

Because you couldn’t bear the thought of hurting so many people.

“I’m… I’m ready to accept my punishment.”

Were  you …?

Silver didn’t look too convinced by your statement, but after a moment of silence, he finally sheathed his sword.

“If I see you’re trying to escape again, I won’t hesitate to restrain you, Your Highness.”

You looked away, feeling both acceptance yet disappointment with his decision.

Of course, he’d choose Malleus over you any day. What have you done to  deserve  his loyalty other than being his master’s wife?

“… I know.”

In the end, it was the  only  thing you could say, wasn’t it?

Slowly, you followed Silver to his flying broom and let him carry you back to the castle; back to your hellhole. The afternoon wind felt colder against your skin as you watched the unconscious people scattered on the ground like flies, still alive.

Hopefully.

Some buildings were burning, some were scorched, but they were salvageable.

Of course, it depends on how  well  you received his punishment.

You both landed shortly in the town square and stood quietly before Malleus, who you noticed was still in his dragon form. Lilia and Sebek were positioned on his sides, the former was emotionless for once while the latter looked downright furious. You were certain he would’ve sliced your head off had he was the one who picked you up.

“Your Majesty,” Silver murmured, kneeling respectfully. “I’ve brought Her Highness back from the hill where she hid. She was entirely compliant throughout our journey.”

Oh? How nice of him to defend you.

You could sense the slight tremble on the ground as Malleus slowly approached you. He cocked his head as a large and dark hand reached forward to touch your cheek, stroking it affectionately. You involuntarily winced when he dug his claws into your skin slightly, drawing faint trails of blood down your chin.

“It was quite a stunt you’ve pulled there.” he remarked, his voice deeper and louder than anything else you’d ever heard of. “I admit, I was fooled by your trickery. You really are a skilled manipulator, [Name].”

His grip tightened slightly as if wanting to crush your jaw. Maybe, then, you wouldn’t be able to lie to him anymore.

“No more… There’ll be no more deceit. From now on, my guards will look after you too. I’ll make sure there won’t be any escape route, and as a punishment for your crime, you’ll do anything I say without any protest or complaint. Do you understand, [Name]?”

You stared at his massive feet before closing your eyes in resignation. “Yes…”

“Say it.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Chapter Text

When you felt something cool pressing against your neck, you knew that it was the end.

You’d been discovered.

Though, it wasn’t as if you really bothered to hide, anyway. The guilt of seeing the innocents fell victim to Malleus’ wrath was simply too large, too profound for you to consider continuing your endeavor.

After all, what was the use of freedom if it meant sacrificing many people in the process?

You peered at your soon-to-be captor and faintly sighed in relief.

Ah, so it was him. That was great, then. You wouldn’t know what to do if it was Sebek, or worse, Lilia. The former would certainly kill you in a fit of rage and betrayal. Sebek had never been the type to hide his feelings very well, anyway. As for the latter, well, you had a feeling you’d be thoroughly punished.

As if living in that wretched castle wasn’t a punishment enough.

“Silver,” you murmured, unable to turn to face him. Just this once, you’d like to breathe the fresh air before he threw you back to that hellhole; to Malleus. “you found me.”

Congratulations, you added bitterly, you must be so proud of yourself.

The man slowly frowned.

“Your Majesty, he’s rampaging the town.” he reported as if it didn’t make you feel any worse. “Many people are injured.”

“I know.” You scowled, almost snapping at him. He didn’t need to state the obvious; you knew that already. “I can see that very well. His dragon form…”

You paused, hands clenched on your sides. You stared at the raging dragon in the distance, wishing that he’d just stop. Stop with the mindless violence, stop with the unnecessary outburst, and stop with the tears. They weren’t palpable, but his eyes were too shiny; too watery.

Why was he crying, anyway? You didn’t understand. His love had never been healthy in the first place. It was just him hoarding you like you were a part of his riches. Granted, you had the greatest luxury anyone could ever dream of, but could it amount to freedom? You didn’t love him; you’d never were. And yet, he looked as if you’d betrayed him; as if you’d stomped on his heart repeatedly and not otherwise.

It wasn’t fair. None of this was fair, to begin with. Why should you have to sacrifice your freedom for the sake of some unknown people? Why should you give your all to the man who’d taken everything from you? Why couldn’t you be happy for once?

You blinked away the tears that stung your eyes. Damn it, now you wanted to cry too. Since when had you been reduced to a crybaby? “I don’t want to go back, Silver.”

Silver was silent. He was probably thinking about how much of a coward you were; how cruel you were for letting many people got injured, and possibly even dead.

But it was your deepest, most sincere wish. Surely there was nothing wrong in expressing that, right? There was nothing wrong in wanting him to understand your dilemma, right? You weren’t a callous woman, but even you had your own reservations.

“… I know.” You blinked in surprise and immediately turned around. Silver had bowed his head, seemingly uncomfortable with his answer. And honestly, you couldn’t blame him for feeling that way. If this was in the castle, he’d be castigated for sure. “I understand.”

“You do…?” you whispered in awe. You weren’t sure what to feel, but the fact that he could even comprehend your predicament was… relieving, to say the least.

He might not know what it was like to be held captive and forced to marry someone you hated, but it was the thought that counts. You had a hunch that he’d been having these feelings for quite some time now.

How ironic, you mentally scoffed. Your husband couldn’t even sympathize with you, choosing to bury you in piles of riches and elegant dresses in hopes of making you fall for him. And yet, his guard – this quiet, sleepy man – could stop your world with a simple yet impactful sentence.

Humanity truly knew no bound, wasn’t it?

Silver nodded, still unable to bring himself to look at you. Was he ashamed of himself, perhaps? That’d be… touching.

“… I can carry you to the border, but you have to continue by yourself.”

You glanced behind him, noticing the broom that rested against one of the trees.

“Silver…” This… this must be a joke, right? There was no way he, Malleus’ loyal retainer, would want to help you. Doing so would only get him a sentence, or worse, losing his knighthood. “You… You’re not pranking me, right? Because this is not funny.”

The man shook his head. “No, I’m serious.”

“But why…?”

Why did he choose to help you now? Why didn’t he do it from a long time ago? Why did he have to wait until the situation worsened until he willingly assisted you? You knew that you should be grateful that he even bothered to offer, but it didn’t mean you weren’t miffed by his tardiness. Had he aided you back then, maybe none of this would’ve happened.

Maybe… maybe you’d be home by now.

But there was no use for resentment or why’s now. Malleus was wreaking havoc, and very soon, he’d discover you both. You needed to leave the kingdom while also give him time to return and feign innocence about the whole situation. At least, that was what you assumed he’d do.

“… Okay.” You slowly nodded and raised your head, hope bloomed on your chest. “Okay, I’ll go with you.”

Silver regarded you for a moment before nodding, ushering you to the dormant broom. You sat behind him and gripped the handle, preparing yourself for another dangerous escapade. The broom slowly raised from the ground until it reached just above the forest line, legs dangling in the sky.

You clutched his sides when the broom abruptly rushed forward, nearly throwing you back. The wind drowned his soft apology, but you were too busy closing your eyes and praying that nobody saw you both to notice. There were always risks in flying like this, but at least, you’d get to your destination faster.

… It should’ve been that way, had you didn’t hear a deep voice booming from behind.

Silver…!”

You squeaked, unconsciously hugging the said man fearfully. You could feel Silver’s body stiffened, both from the shock of your sudden embrace and the dread of the strange yet familiar voice.

Whipping your head back, your eyes instantly widened at the sight of Malleus soaring from the ground and spread his expansive wings against the cloudy sky. “Silver, hurry! He’s chasing us!”

“I-I’m trying…!”

But it wasn’t enough. Even when the wind blew against your face and sent dust to your eyes, even when your hair flailed wildly from the breakneck speed, it still wasn’t enough. Malleus was rapidly closing the distance, his serpentine face livid yet resolute. Dark wings flapped against his gargantuan body, the sound heavy and forbidding. He took a deep breath and blew a cold gale, easily knocking you both to the earth.

You screamed, hands desperately reaching upwards for a lifeline. Was this how you were going to die? By falling from a broom?! You always thought that Malleus would be the one who killed you later, either accidentally or purposefully, but you never expected it to come true–!

“Oomph!”

You landed on a hard surface, wincing at the impact. Groaning, you squeezed your eyes shut and hissed from the pain. You weren’t dead, that was for sure. However, your back definitely suffered. Your hands patted the space around you, trying to find something to grip on. Your eyes fluttered open, realizing that you weren’t just lying on any ordinary surface.

It was a wide, scaly skin. The color was dark and you noticed that it moved, too.

In other words, you were lying on a dragon’s back.

“You didn’t think you could escape from me that easily, did you, [Name]?”

You slowly raised your head, meeting the steely eyes of your husband’s.

“Ma… lleus…” you whispered wearily. “Where’s… Silver…?”

The dragon scowled and jolted his body, bouncing your limp body. You cried when your back hit the solid scales, tears trickling from the corners of your eyes.

“Stop…! Stop, please, I’m sorry.” you begged weakly, pathetically. “Please, stop. I… I give up.”

“You said that, but I know that you’ll try again when the opportunity arise.” Malleus hissed. “But I never expected Silver to conspire with you, too.”

He growled, a deep sound that trembled your semi-conscious person. “That boy… It seems that he’s grown too soft.”

You drowned out his next words and slowly closed your eyes. That was it; this was the ending. No matter how hard you tried to change your fate, the ending would always be the same, anyway.

You were destined to be his forever. No buts, no what-ifs, and no whys.

Because this was your destiny now, and changing it would be pointless.

With one last tear, you finally slipped to the darkness.

Chapter Text

“Holiday is holiday~” Lilia chirped as he dragged you towards the Diasomnia mirror, ignoring your shocked cries and pleas for him to stop. “So you should spend it by having fun!”

There were many things you didn’t know about Lilia Vanrouge, being one of the most mysterious figures in the college, but you didn’t expect him to be quite a forceful one either. Strangely enough, it reminded you of Floyd, just with less violence and deranged giggles. He’d materialized on the window of your room this morning, hanging upside down as usual. He’d chuckled when Grim squeaked, thus jolting you awake from your deep slumber, and coyly ordered you to pack your things for ‘holiday’. You were too sleepy to comprehend his words, so you decided to dismiss them and proceeded to your morning routine.

It was probably nothing important, right? Besides, Grim was grumbling about his tendency to spook people, so it was safe for you to forget about his demand. As always, Ace and Deuce went home during the holiday, leaving you and Grim alone in the dorm.

Well, not really. You still had the ghosts who sometimes accompanied you when they weren’t busy playing Magift. You hoped there wouldn’t be any Overblot incident again, although it’d been a long time since the last one, or Crowley dumping his work on you. Or, God forbid, you encounter the twins. For once, you just wanted to spend time lounging around without being troubled by anything else.

Indeed, your wishes were granted. For an hour you had all the time for yourself, with Grim sighing blissfully on the floor after eating the hearty breakfast. You almost fell asleep when someone knocked on the door, thus, ruining your peace. And when you opened it, you found Lilia smiling and asking ‘if you were ready’.

And that was how you found yourself stumbling on your feet, with Grim piggybacking you because there was no way he’d let you leave without him. You wore a casual outfit, completely unprepared for the ‘trip’. Your hands were bare, forcing you to seek warmth in Lilia’s gloved one, before you tried to pry his hand away. However, he was surprisingly strong for someone so short. He smirked through his shoulder, silently mocking your futile attempt, and pulled you into the mirror.

“Malleus has been eagerly waiting for your arrival, you know?” he mused once you reached the dorm gloomier than yours.

Looking back, you could see a lane leading up to an archway. Thorny vines crept along the path and slithered up the twin towers that stood beside the archway. You shuddered at the thought of accidentally falling into the misty chasm, and averted your gaze to the imposing building before you. It probably didn’t have any correlation whatsoever, but it was no wonder why Diasomnia students were deemed mysterious and powerful. The dorm itself looked eerie.

“… He really can’t wait to see you.”

“Huh? Oh, uh, yes.” you stammered almost dazedly, forgetting that Lilia was still talking. You tutted at yourself.

Lilia cocked his head and simpered, possibly knowing that you barely listened to him. No, he definitely had. He just didn’t choose to say it, instead, he held the door open for you like a gentleman.

“Are all Diasomnia students weirdos like him?” Grim whispered, finally opening his mouth for the first time since Lilia dragged you out of your dorm. “He keeps smiling like he knows something we don’t. It reminds me of Jade, honestly.”

You sharply shushed him. “Don’t be like that. I’m sure he’s just trying to be nice to us.”

“Oh, come on, [Name]!” he hissed. “Don’t you think it’s weird at all? He doesn’t even tell us where we’re going to go! What if he wants to kidnap us? What if he’s luring us to his trap?!”

“Maybe it’s supposed to be a surprise…?”

Even you weren’t sure of your own assumption. It was true that Lilia didn’t bother to tell you about your ‘destination’, only giving you an enigmatic smile that didn’t soothe your nerves, but you didn’t want to jump to conclusions just yet. Despite his playfulness, Lilia hadn’t done anything strange so far. You could only pray Grim’s wild guesses didn’t come true, otherwise, you’d be in deeper trouble than the Overblot incidents. You were no match against him, especially if Malleus helped him. Not even Ace and Deuce’s assistance would impact that much, if not to rub your pathetic defeat to your face.

“Anyway, he could’ve knocked us out if he wanted to kidnap us. No need to lure us first.”

Grim squeaked and instantly covered your mouth with his paws. “Don’t say that! What if he hear you?! You’d only give him ideas!”

You deadpanned, deciding to follow Lilia for now. If he really wanted to ensnare you, then you needed to memorize the escape route first. You also hoped your stamina wouldn’t disappoint you later. Then again, you doubted Lilia would let you off the hook easily.

Maybe he would… just to rip your freedom right in front of your eyes later.

You hurriedly shook your head. No, what were you thinking? Lilia was your senior, so you shouldn’t assume things. Jeez, Grim’s suspicions consumed you much quicker than you expected.

“[Name].” You abruptly halted, almost crashing into Malleus. You really should stop spacing out, especially in an unfamiliar place. The said man merely smiled and took your hand, kissing your knuckles gently. “I’m glad you could join us today.”

He glanced to the cat hanging lazily on your shoulder, and you could’ve sworn his eyes narrowed slightly. “… And Grim, too.”

You tittered, not knowing how to react to the sudden gesture. It wasn’t as if this was the first time anyone ever kissed your hand; God knows how many times Rook did that to you. You just… didn’t expect Malleus to do the same. But then again, he was a prince so it wasn’t very surprising. Well, shouldn’t be.

Malleus slowly released your hand, lingering on each finger as if it was his last. Then, his glowing eyes glided to your other hand. “I see you didn’t carry any bag.”

“A-ah, sorry! I forgot…”

“Tell him you’re going to get it now.” Grim suddenly whispered. As expected, his wariness increased at Malleus’ presence. He couldn’t possibly forget about Malleus’ overblot no matter how hard he tried, or how many times he claimed otherwise. “And then, we can escape!”

“Right…” You bit your bottom lip and looked up to Malleus’ stoic face. “If you don’t mind, I can go get–”

“No need.” he cut you off without batting an eye. “I can ask the servants to prepare some new clothes for you. We shouldn’t waste anymore time.”

You blinked owlishly. Servants…? New clothes? What were you going to wear, anyway? Dresses? Wait, you shouldn’t trouble him with your forgetfulness!

“W-wait, Malleus, you don’t have to! I–”

“Let us go now.” He outstretched a hand, compelling you to take it with his piercing stare. “Shall we?”

What was with him? He’d never interrupted you before. Regardless, there was nothing you could do but hesitantly put your palm on his despite Grim’s hisses and followed him to the transportation mirror. Silver and Sebek marched behind him, while Lilia floated along with a pleased smile.

Grim was right, Lilia was suspicious. But it was too late to regret everything now, wasn’t it?

Sighing, you prepared yourself to perceive a whole new world beyond the glass. You didn’t know where Malleus took you or how long the vacation was, but wherever it was, you prayed it wasn’t a dangerous place. And hopefully, you could return in one piece too.

***

Many places swirled in your mind, but you didn’t expect the Valley of Thorns to be one of them. But it was to be expected, wasn’t it? The group came from this place, so it wasn’t strange that they’d return during the break. You didn’t know why you thought he’d bring you to a beach. He wasn’t Azul, after all.

Lilia hummed quizzically, cocking his head. “You look rather disappointed, my dear. Were you hoping for something?”

“Ah, no! I didn’t… expect anything.”

Did you really look disappointed? This must be the effect of your inner self wanting to have a nice trip somewhere else instead of going to another sullen place. Had Silver and Sebek ever feel depressed living here? They probably didn’t. The dismal atmosphere and somber sky were normal to them as broken furniture and lingering dust were normal to you.

“As a gratitude for saving me from overblot, I’ve decided to take you to my home.” Oh, no wonder. The incident must’ve left a lasting impact on everyone present. To think that the normally stoic prince would harbor such dark feelings, and exploded in the worst way possible… You definitely didn’t want to go through that again. Malleus looked down at you, eyes softening slightly. “I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

You averted your gaze and smiled politely, trying to fight the blush from appearing at the sight of his gentle mien. “Of course. Thank you for inviting me, too.”

“They better have some tunas here…” Grim grumbled, occasionally swatting your hair away from his face. “It’s only fair.”

And, indeed, they prepared tunas for him. After Lilia ushered you to your room, which was shockingly near Malleus’, and let you rest there for a while, he returned with an invitation to join them for lunch. You’d changed your clothes into a practical dress too, because you felt the meal would certainly be formal. You didn’t want to think about why the armoire was already filled with dresses and underwear of your size, and chose to wonder what kind of foods they’d served.

“Whoa…! They even made caviars too!” Grim exclaimed, marveling at the exquisite roes on one of the platters. “As expected from a prince. They can get anything they want!”

You wished you could share his sentiment. Unfortunately, the sight of your favorite food sitting before you extinguished your appetite before you could even take a bite.

Malleus hummed from his position at the head of the table. “I’m glad you enjoy the dishes already. How about you, [Name]? Is the food to your liking?”

“O-oh, yes. Thank you…”

It must be a coincidence, right? There was no way Malleus would know about your favorite food. You didn’t remember ever telling him, or maybe you had…? Either way, it’d be rude of you to not eat it.

You also decided to ignore his adoring gaze, or the glint of anticipation in those irises.

***

You couldn’t sleep.

Maybe it was because you were staying in someone’s house – a castle, nonetheless – or maybe you had too much on your brain right now. You didn’t know how many times you’d tossed and turned on the queen-sized bed, or the time spent in restlessness. Grim was slumbering deeply beside you, not even aware of your little trouble. He must be exhausted, or full from the foods he’d gobbled earlier.

Sighing, you ripped the blanket away from your legs and trudged towards the door. If you couldn’t sleep, might as well quench your thirst.

However, the door refused to open.

Your eyes widened slightly as you tried again but to no avail. Did you lock it? No, you didn’t see any keys on the hole. You’d didn’t think you’d seen one earlier.

Your stomach dropped at the realization. Did… did that mean someone had locked you, then? But why would they do that?! It wasn’t as if you’d escape or anything! And when did they do that? You didn’t hear anyone locking it, or approaching your room!

You pulled the knob again, desperately wishing it’d open, but the door didn’t even budge. No, no, no! You didn’t want to be trapped here. You wanted to leave!

“Grim!” you hissed as you bolted towards him and shook his petite body. “Grim, wake up! We’re locked from the outside!”

The said cat kept sleeping.

“Grim, wake up! I’m not joking!” You shook him again, this time with more force. You surrendered at the third attempt and approached the windows. Perhaps they could be opened.

They couldn’t.

“… She’s too gullible for her own good.” Your ears perked up at a muffled voice from outside. “I wonder how she could survive so far…”

You slowly tiptoed towards the door and pressed your ear against it.

“I wonder about that too.” Was that… Lilia? “But at least, you have her now. She’s safer under your protection, Malleus.”

A stifled gasp escaped your dry lips. Malleus…?!

“Indeed. Though, I do feel somewhat guilty for tricking them. They looked enthusiastic, too.”

Lilia hummed. “I understand, but it was necessary to ensure her safety. So don’t beat yourself up for it too much, otherwise, she’ll be worried.”

You slowly withdrew and fell to your butt, eyes bulging, and heart racing. They… they tricked you? So, Grim was right all along? About Lilia luring you to his trap? You didn’t want to believe that Malleus cooperated with him, but the truth said otherwise.

They’d used your trust and friendship with him to ensnare you in his castle, away from everyone you knew.

At this rate, not Ace and Deuce could come freely as they’d done in the Scarabia oasis. You figured it’d take a long time and money, and you bet Lilia would prevent them from entering. If not him, then either Silver or Sebek… or even both. They were more loyal to Malleus than to you, after all.

You looked down, discerning two pairs of legs stopped just outside your room through the crack of the door. They couldn’t possibly know that you were awake, could they? They weren’t that perceptive, were they?

“I suggest you to silence the mouse before it can squeak, Malleus.” Lilia said airily.

“Of course,” You gasped at the sudden presence behind you, one hand covering your mouth while the other grasped your trembling shoulder. “I’m planning to.”

Chapter Text

You always thought that Malleus hated you.

Perhaps you were just too dense to decipher his true feelings through that stoic demeanor, but so far, he’d never acknowledged you as anything beyond a partner. A wife, yes, but only on the surface. Of course, you couldn’t expect him to suddenly fall for you despite your few and formal meetings. The marriage was purely political, as it was meant to be.

It didn’t matter if you two barely knew each other. As long as you had a good reputation, you were compatible.

And, well, it wasn’t as if you necessarily disliked the arrangement. Sometimes, you wondered how it’d be like if you married someone who truly loved you. But for the most part, you were thankful that Malleus wasn’t a violent person. If you could ignore his occasional tantrums, that is. Despite his aloof attitude, he’d never once raised a hand on you. He was probably the ‘best’ partner you could have for someone who was forced to marry a stranger for the sake of their kingdom.

Regardless, there were some things that only you – his wife – could do, even if your marriage was entirely loveless. Because despite your toleration for each other, you shared his hardship of leading a kingdom, being a queen yourself.

One of them was supporting him.

Obviously, you didn’t have to marry him just to support him. But Malleus had always been distant even to his trusted retainers, and you doubted he had any friends. Therefore, it was up to you as his closest person to encourage him.

And now was the right time to do it.

If only you knew how…

Perhaps it was ingrained, because even in the confines of his room, there was an impenetrable bubble around him. His posture was regal, as expected of a king, but you could see his face was slightly gloomier than usual. Something must be troubling him for sure… You wondered how long until he threw a fit, if at all. It often startled you, and you’d jokingly thought that maybe you’d die from cardiac arrest like a human later.

“Malleus…?” you called out hesitantly, closing the book you’d been reading. He merely hummed, still engrossed in whatever paperwork he was doing. It was one of those rare times where you managed to be alone with him in your room, and even then, he was still doing his work.

Maybe he did that just so he could avoid you…

You faintly sighed and put the book on the nightstand. While you wouldn’t deny that the awkwardness was killing you, it still wasn’t good to keep working. In just a few hours, the sun would set and another day would commence. What would happen if he suddenly fainted during a meeting? It was highly unlikely, but the chance existed nonetheless.

And, also, you didn’t want to hear another thunder suddenly blaring in the sky.

Rising from the bed, you hesitantly approached his sitting figure and stood behind him. Maybe you could do something to prevent his tantrum, but what? A massage? That… didn’t sound too bad. In theory, that is. Although you’d slept together, sexually or not, doing something so intimate was embarrassing.

No, you quickly shook your head, there was nothing intimate in a harmless massage. You’d done the same thing to your mother before, so it shouldn’t be very different, right? And besides, you were somewhat confident in your massaging skills. If he refused, you’d peacefully back down. And if he accepted, well, that’d be great.

But, first, should you ask for his permission? Or should you go straight to your intention? The former was more polite, but also more nerve-wracking. You rarely initiated things to him, especially out of your own accord. What if he became suspicious of you? But if you did the latter, he might be angry at you instead.

… Well, nothing would happen if you didn’t try, right?

Slowly, you put your hands on his broad shoulders and began to massage them. Malleus stiffened, and you immediately stopped when he turned his head.

“What are you doing?”

“Massaging you.” Ah, it seemed that you were being too brazen. You couldn’t read his face, either. “Unless, you don’t want me to…?”

Malleus stared at you for a moment, most likely judging your sincerity, before averting his gaze back to the papers that scattered on the table. “… Do what you want.”

You smiled and confidently kneaded his shoulders again. Of course, who would reject a free massage? And from your own wife, nonetheless. You could feel him slowly relaxing under your touch, and the kinks smoothened one by one.

“I know things have been hectic lately,” Before you knew it, the words flowed from your mouth. Maybe it was the mood and his tacit permission that grew your confidence. “but I just want you to know that they’ll get better soon, as they always are. You have many people who support you, and of course, me too. So don’t hesitate to rely on us, alright? We don’t want anything to happen with our beloved king.”

You bent down and pecked his temple, missing the way his eyes instantly widened. “And I’d hate to see anything happen to my husband, too. So please, don’t force yourself and take a rest.”

Arranging his dark hair so it cascaded down his back, you smiled at him and returned to the bed. You were the one who massaged him, and yet, you were the one who got sleepy.

… Well, at least, you’d done your best in cheering him up even for a little. Your ears and heart were saved.

A large hand touched his temple as he stared at the wall before him dazedly, the warmth of your lips lingered against the skin. You’d always been neutral to him, so why was it different now? Were you trying to gain his favor? But you should’ve told him instead of going straight to the bed. And what could you possibly want from him when you had all the authority to get it yourself?

What if… what if you were starting to love him?

Malleus clasped a hand over his mouth, cheeks flushing. No, that wasn’t true, was it? It was rare for royalty to love each other, especially in a political marriage. Rare, but not impossible.

And he was the lucky one to be among those people.

Glancing at your sleeping form, he slowly lowered his hand and smiled faintly. Maybe… maybe it wasn’t that bad. Although his feelings for you were muddied now, the fact that someone loved him – romantically even – was nice. He’d long resigned to the fact that he’d never get a soulmate, unless he became a peasant. And even then, people would still fear him.

Malleus stood up and approached the bed, careful not to rouse you. It’d never occurred to him how beautiful you looked, how serene your slumbering face was. He’d met so many gorgeous women – both aristocrats and peasants, fairies and humans – until your face just sort of… blurred into the background. He wondered if this was what the prince felt when he first saw the sleeping princess; awe, pity, and… love.

Love.

You loved him. That was the only conclusion of your actions earlier, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t have done that. And because he was a generous king and gentleman, he’d repay your kindness.

Little by little, he’d learn to love you.

Little by little, he’d open himself to you.

And little by little, he’d fully possess you.

Leaning down, Malleus closed his eyes and kissed your forehead; the first, true affection he’d shown to you.

Not emptily, not coldly, but lovingly. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last time he’d done that.

Because a dragon always lavished his beloved in riches and affection.

And a dragon never shared.

Chapter Text

Lilia said that miracles came from unexpected places, but Malleus didn’t believe it. Since childhood, he’d been shunned and feared by many people from various species. It wasn’t his fault that he was born as a dragon fae, and a grandson of Maleficent, but people didn’t care about it. They only knew him as the infamous Malleus Draconia, and that was what they’d recognize him for many centuries to come.

And he’d accepted it, because what else should he do? No amount of small talk and polite smile could change their minds. He’d always be cursed as the fearsome dragon, one of the top five mages.

Not a teenager, not a person, but someone – no, something – terrifying.

Of course, it wasn’t far fetched to say that you knew about his reputation. But his power and influence as the king of the Valley were vast, so your parents resolved to get through with the arrangement. You were a bit daunted by him, at first. How could you not? You were about to marry the Malleus Draconia, after all. Honestly, it was a feat how you could remain calm before him instead of trembling like an aspen leaf. But that was to be expected from a royalty.

And as expected, your life together was lukewarm at best. You’d occasionally greet each other and consummate your marriage, but it lacked passion. He couldn’t blame you, obviously. If it came down to you, you’d definitely pick someone else to marry. But royalties rarely had a say in many cases, and he could only be grateful that he had you as his partner. At the very least, you weren’t someone who embarrassed her own husband by doing shameful things behind his back.

For months, you treated each other like mere acquaintances, until you approached him one day.

It came as a surprise to him when you suddenly massaged him. The way your smaller hands kneaded his shoulders, trying to smooth the kinks unprompted. He could’ve rejected your attempt, of course, everyone knew he could easily hire a massager to do the job for him. But he didn’t, oddly enough. He just asked your intention before permitting you, not even bothering to quiz you any further. And imagine his shock when you also encouraged him to remain strong, ending it with a peck on the temple.

Malleus wasn’t one to lose hope easily, but at that moment, it felt as though his efforts had paid off.

You returned to the bed in his daze, quickly falling asleep like you hadn’t just startled him twice in a row. You didn’t even notice it when he bent down to kiss your forehead, nor did you notice him silently vowing to himself that he’d repay your kindness.

So, then, why? Why did you still hang out with that Alain brat? Hadn’t he done enough for you all this time? Malleus knew that you were confounded by his abrupt change of treatment, but it still didn’t give you the right to prance around chatting with one guy to another. Of course, Malleus knew that you were only friends with that brat.

… However, dragons never shared.

“[Name].”

You whipped your head towards him, eyes wide. After ditching the ball to spend a long time with another man, you dared to look surprised by his presence? Unbelievable. You should’ve known better than to provoke your own husband, especially when he was deemed as one of the most dangerous men in Twisted Wonderland.

“Malleus…?” you whispered, before gasping as if you suddenly remembered about the event that occurred right behind you.

An event that you needed to attend.

An event that you should’ve supervised in case something bad happened.

An event that he’d been anticipating as a new man, a new husband who finally loved his wife after months of courtesy.

“So, this is where you’ve been going.” Malleus hissed, dripping poison from his forked tongue. “I thought you’ve retired early, but it seems I was mistaken. You were spending time with another man, after all.”

You blinked owlishly, and he knew you were dumbfounded by his accusation. Malleus wasn’t arrogant enough until he couldn’t recognize himself acting all petty, but he couldn’t help it. His own wife had been accompanying a nobleman behind his back. How could you expect him to be calm? Honestly, you should be grateful that he didn’t even electrocute Alain on the spot.

“What… are you talking about?”

Malleus slowly scowled. For someone who led the kingdom alongside him, you sure were dense to his feelings. Or maybe you feigned ignorance? He’d seen how nicely you treated Alain, after all, being one of the few humans in the court. Malleus had never really cared about your social life before, let alone the men you talked to.

But everything changed now.

No longer was he that distant husband, Malleus had grown a lot these days. Even Lilia noticed this, and immediately petted his head like the proud father he was. The servants and the court were whispering behind Malleus’ back like they always did, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to make you happy, to lavish you in riches and pretty dresses, and to protect you from anything harmful.

He just wanted to repent and finally do his duty as a true husband.

And yet, you remained blind to all that. You even dared to look at him incredulously.

How could you toy with his heart like that?

Malleus silently clenched his hands, face darkening. You’d committed a grave mistake, and he couldn’t forgive it. At least, until you truly begged for his pardon.

But first, he peered towards the wary Alain and squinted, he needed to get rid of the obstacle. Otherwise, your attention would always stray.

And he couldn’t have that.

A green glow engulfed his gloved hand as he pointed it towards Alain who immediately blanched like a sheet, body frozen. Malleus remained emotionless when he suddenly spouted blood, ignoring your frantic cries and pleas. All this time, you were skeptical of his kindness, so you shouldn’t be surprised if Malleus started showing you his bad side instead. After all, there was a limit to people’s patience, and he wasn’t a saint willing to wait until you saw things his way.

If you refused to do that, then he just had to force you.

Alain collapsed to the marble floor with a thud, lips coated in crimson. His seafoam eyes were hollow, lacking the sparks of innocence and life he once had. A large hole drilled his stomach and shirt, gushing out blood that pooled under him.

“What… what have you done?!” you shrieked as you crouched and cradled his limp body to your chest, uncaring of the uncomfortable warmth on your lap and gloves. “Alain is my friend! How could you do that to h–!”

Your eyes rolled to your skull as you fell backward, bloodstained hands sliding down to the floor. Sighing, Malleus dropped his hand and approached your unconscious figure. He easily lifted you, marveling at your tainted beauty underneath the moonlight. Truly, you were the most gorgeous woman in the world. The blood that specked your appearance only added to your allure.

“Lilia, get rid of him.”

The ancient fae materialized and bowed, always so obedient despite his unsavory order. “Certainly, my King.”

Lilia said that miracles came from unexpected places, and Malleus believed it now. Because he found it in you, and he refused to let go of it.

Even if it meant being your curse in return.

Chapter Text

“Meleth nin!”

You smiled innocently, raising your head to look at him with eyes that gleamed underneath the moonlight as if you knew the effect it had on him. Or not. Malleus was aware you didn’t know and understand the impact of those words, and he realized that it was his fault. He’d never told you, after all. He always smiled mysteriously and changed the topic whenever you asked. Those words had become a little secret between them, like his identity, that’d surely be exposed later. Like pulling a moldy cloth that concealed a collection of old paintings, and discovered the beautiful pictures inside.

But his secrets weren’t as beautiful and splendid as those paintings. No, they were far more ancient and scarier. He knew you’d leave once you realized just how depressing the meaning of those pictures were, how gloomy the colors that stroked the canvas were, because not everyone was willing and ready to bear some of his pain. Humans always followed their whims like fairies, maybe more than them, and there was no guarantee you’d stay after you discovered his true self.

Him as Malleus Draconia, and not as Tsunotarou.

Of course, not many changes had happened between the two personas; if it could be called that. Malleus wasn’t really the type who liked to change himself for the sake of others. But names were a powerful thing, and with them, someone’s opinion could change drastically. Especially with the two horns on his head; a feature only dragon – and in his case, Draconia – faeries had. Everyone knew who he was, even with a glance at his face, and they were frightened by him. It was a typical, almost tedious, sight. The pain he felt had long become a phantom pain in his chest. He couldn’t change the reality, no matter how hard he tried.

But you didn’t.

You were a stranger, naïve and innocent in the world that was too cruel for you, and he wanted to keep it that way. He wanted you to stay ignorant with himself, beaming as if he was your friend.

He was your friend, right?

There were still many things you didn’t know about this world, and one of them was that nickname.

Meleth nin, which meant ‘my love’.

Malleus’ heart began to beat faster, and he almost thought you did it on purpose. But no, your face didn’t look like someone who was in love. Your expression was soft, like a rose petal, but you stared at him with the look of someone who truly appreciated their friend. And he should be glad, right? Becoming your friend was probably his dream in this school, after spending two years of ennui with predictable lessons and cowardly students.

So, then, why did his chest feel so tight? Why couldn’t he be happy with the friend title you’d bestowed upon him? You trusted him, something that you shouldn’t have done to faeries, and he should’ve been grateful for that. He should’ve smiled back, not frowned as if expecting something more than that.

More than a friend.

But it was impossible, wasn’t it?

He was a fae and you were a human. He could live for centuries and you’d grow old and die. He was strong and you were weak. He had magic and you didn’t.

But he could protect you; he knew he could. It was such an easy thing to do. His guards would guard you too with his order, although Sebek would definitely question him. They wouldn’t disobey him, and you weren’t exactly difficult to watch over.

You needed him, and he knew it.

Which was why, Malleus decided to isolate you. Because the outside world was too wild, and people were too wicked, and you could get hurt even die. And he wouldn’t forgive himself if such a thing happened.

Because you were his friend, and also… his girlfriend.

Yes, you were his girlfriend. You’d been that way ever since you uttered those words, even though you didn’t know what it meant and thought it was just a platonic nickname. Lilia had even supported the decision and agreed that you reciprocated his feelings after months of yearning and awkwardness.

“Why are you doing this?!” you cried, tears dripping onto the sacred nest that only you could live in aside from him. Your eyes were bloodshot, your hair was disheveled, and your voice was hoarse. Your white nightgown creased due to your frantic movements, while a pair of magical shackles bound your hands to the wall behind you. The blithe spirit that he cherished flowed with the tears, giving place to eternal sadness and inevitable emptiness.

Malleus hoped there was something he could do; anything to return the happiness to your eyes. Not tears, but gleams. Not a frown, but a smile. Not a sob, but a laugh.

But everything was too late now, and it was all his fault. Gold, pretty dresses, delicacies, and luxurious living space could never please you.

For the first time in so long, someone had changed their mind about him not because of his name.

“Because you’re my girlfriend.”

Malleus’ voice was too cold, too impassive to pacify you. Your eyes bulged instead, body going stiff under the purple covers.

“… What?”

“Because you’re my girlfriend.” he repeated, softer now.

“You…” you croaked, opening and closing your mouth like a fish. “You never even brought me to a date! How could you think I’m your lover and kidnapped me?! This is unfair!”

“Because you called me ‘meleth nin’ at that time.”

You were stunned.

Malleus sighed.

“Don’t you know? It’s a nickname for your beloved. In other words, it means ‘my love’.” he explained, right after everything had been ruined. “I always called you that, so you can’t blame me for thinking you finally reciprocate my feelings.”

“B-but I didn’t even know it means ‘my love’!” you sputtered, trying to justify your ignorance. Of course, it was fully warranted, but it didn’t mean he wanted to acknowledge it.

“Then, why didn’t you find out by yourself?” he retorted. “The library is always open, and you have a phone. You should’ve used them properly.”

You didn’t utter a single word. You merely gaped at him, the tears leaving two dry lines on your hot cheeks.

“It was just your excuse to be lazy. You always want instant things, like other humans. You never want to work hard to gain something.”

“That’s… that’s not true!”

“Really? If it was, you might have found a way back to your world instead of relying on Crowley.” he hissed, glowering down at you with his head lifted slightly. “You know he’s unreliable, and yet, you still trust him anyway. Who’s the one at fault now?”

The room felt colder now. The green candles dimmed, highlighting his glowing eyes. The dragon statue in front of the bed seemed to glare at you too. The atmosphere was suffocating, and the closed windows didn’t help. You took a deep breath through your mouth, but didn’t retort.

You’d given up. For now.

Malleus spun.

“Think about it carefully.” he intoned through his shoulder, before he vanished as usual.

And he’d return, as usual.

Chapter Text

Malleus loved a human.

But it wasn’t the kind of love where he willingly sacrificed everything for his lover.

No, he was too selfish for that. This love was different; more intense and more dangerous. Ciara could see it from the way he gazed at [Name]; piercing and burning the bones, hardening and spreading ice to the whole body. A dragon’s stare towards its hoard, or mate. It was confounding how [Name] still looked ignorant to it all, to the demon that followed her like a persistent cloud. Instead, she rambled about trivial things. Truly, humans were too oblivious to the danger that loomed over them. Although the crows had tried to warn her with their croaks, she still dismissed them as if it was a passing breeze.

If the time when humans became extinct came, Ciara wouldn’t be surprised. They always liked to challenge fate, as if they were blessed with nine lives. They’d brag about themselves for a moment, before screaming and crying when the reaper visited them. They’d implore for a second chance, pride gone by the wind. But by then, everything would be too late. The rice had become porridge*, the milk had spilled, and the time had stopped.

However, [Name] was different. She wouldn’t meet the reaper, because she’d faced her own doom a long time ago. Her arrival in Twisted Wonderland was one of the many tortures she’d experience in this hell, and so far, she’d encountered the main part. A man who would be her tormentor along with fate, served by the little devils – his servants – who would dutifully hand him the torture instrument. While [Name] would sit on the iron chair, blindfolded, trying to predict the next act of cruelty as if it could lessen the agony. Because how would she fight one of the strongest wizards in Twisted Wonderland if she didn’t even have a drop of magic inside her?

How pathetic it was, to become the object of Malleus’ interest. Her world would be destroyed, like a house card being knocked down by the wind. Rainbow and sun would pale on the horizon, replaced by impenetrable mist and gloomy clouds. She’d only know gilded cage, magic, new order, and dark creatures, because Ciara knew that he’d definitely bring her to the Valley. And those creatures would be her people, her servants, who although served her, would always be loyal to Malleus. Of course, who would like a weakling? Who would accept an unfamiliar and awkward leader? A girl whom Malleus picked up out of nowhere, an alien in the school famous for its wizards, and a doll meant to satisfy his urges. Could something like that be called ‘love’? Could a frigid man like him, secluded from the minds of his friends and life, could love someone? Could a dragon appreciate someone as more than just a piece of its hoard?

Ciara almost pitied her. It was obvious that [Name] didn’t really know Malleus, whether she knew his name or not. For sure Malleus had known her name, either from his retainers or rumors that floated in the school, and it granted him a huge advantage over [Name]. Names were a powerful thing. Anyone, even a mere stranger, could know someone’s kindness and crimes from their name. Like a public secret, hidden under a string of pretty yet meaningful words. And names could change someone to a lowly servant, or a doormat, lived to be stepped on and obey every word from their master.

But why did Ciara have to care? [Name]’s relationship with Malleus was none of her business. Instead, it’d be amusing to see her struggle in his clutch. Ciara hated humans, and [Name] wasn’t an exception, whether she came from another world or not. But it’d be worse to let her lead the Valley. Malleus didn’t seem like someone loved flings, and he’d definitely raise [Name] to be the queen alongside him. And wouldn’t it be even more entertaining if Ciara severed the red thread that connected them? School life had proven to be far more tiresome than she’d expected, and she would’ve left had Ciel didn’t beg so much. Truly, that child was too ethical for his own good. He’d known that all humans were evil, and yet, he still asked Ciara to stop killing them.

Then again, she had to admit that his idea was clever.

Ciara perched on a branch, peeking through the chinks of twigs and leaves. Her heart raced, and she clawed the bark with her gloved hand. Her toes curled within her boots. Her eyes were wide and fixated on the unlikely couple, like a pair of gleaming rubies. Was this what Rook experienced whenever he stalked his victims? The thrill? Curiosity? Sadism? Of course, everything was better if anyone were to suffer it. But little by little, Ciara was beginning to feel Rook’s feelings. And it was exhilarating.

As always, Malleus’ presence brought many fireflies to the yard. They hovered atop [Name]’s head, like a halo. Perhaps it was the actualization of his impression towards her. [Name] had become an angel in his life; blessing him with new knowledge and view, dispelling the loneliness that shrouded him, and brightening his dreary days. How mushy of him. So far, Malleus hadn’t tried to give her some of his riches, but Ciara knew it was only a matter of time until he truly courted [Name]. If she understood his intention, that is.

Regardless, Malleus didn’t seem as if he was planning to give up anytime soon.

“What a charming girl you are.” Ciara remarked, filling Malleus’ spot earlier. He’d left in a puff of glitters, leaving cold wind and fireflies that still glided around like [Name]’s guards. Was it a sign that Malleus had known that she’d been stalking them? Probably not. She didn’t sense any presence besides [Name]’s. “Not only you’ve attracted the attention of many boys, but you’ve also gained Malleus’ heart too. Really, how greedy can you be?”

[Name] frowned, taking a step back. It was funny how she could think that escaping into her dorm would protect her from Ciara. It was one of the human stupidities that never failed to amuse her.

“Who are you?” she inquired, inspecting Ciara from head to toe. “And what do you mean by that? Malleus and I are just normal friends.”

Ciara chuckled, floating behind [Name]. She could hear it; the sound of [Name]’s blood flowing like a river and her heartbeat. Ciara wondered what her blood would taste like. Would it be sweet? Bitter? Sour? Obviously, all blood tasted the same. But their expressions before death, especially the innocent ones, sweetened it.

She put her hands on [Name]’s shoulders and leaned her head forward, staring at the shadows that covered the yard.

“Unfortunately, that’s not what Malleus’ feels, Little Girl.”

One of her hands crawled towards the crook of [Name]’s neck, trying to sense her pulse even further. It’d be fun if she could stop it and watch her body collapse like a broken puppet. Maybe Ciara could snap her neck, or suck her blood. But Crowley would be angry, wouldn’t he? Clearly, [Name] was still useful to him. And Malleus, too. Although Ciara despised humans, she wasn’t suicidal. She cherished her life, and she couldn’t possibly leave Ciel alone. How would he react? How would he survive? And who would protect him from those vile humans? Ciara didn’t trust anyone at all.

“You know, I’ve been observing him since a long time ago, so I know how he feels. He’s fallen in love– no, not love, but obsessed with you.”

Ciara let the word imprinted itself on to [Name]’s brain, and it didn’t take long for her to immediately defend Malleus as if he was her best friend.

“That’s impossible! Malleus is…” [Name] trailed off, confusion and hesitation swirled in her eyes like a whirlpool. Her lack of knowledge about Malleus had become clear now. Her cheeks reddened, mortified by her own ignorance.

“Are you sure~?” Ciara taunted. “Malleus might be hard to be read sometimes, but his feelings are actually easy to predict. He’s like a kid, you know? Always sulking and throwing tantrums. Our dorm, Diasomnia, often storms due to his rage.”

[Name] clenched her fists loosely, the angel and devil on her shoulders argued about Malleus’ innocence like a pair of overzealous lawyers. “Is that so…?”

“Of course! He’s very dangerous, so your life could be in danger if you interacted with him for too long.”

“You want me to stop meeting him.” [Name] concluded. “I don’t even know who you are, and it’s possible that you’re lying to me.”

“I’m just trying to warn you, as your oh-so-kind senior.” Ciara retorted, rolling her eyes.

Stupid girl. Obviously, fairies couldn’t lie. At least, not completely. No wonder Malleus – and other boys, really – liked her; she was gullible. Such a person wouldn’t last long in his clutch, especially if they became a leader in a country where the majority were fairies and dark creatures.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about how scary Malleus is. What do you think would happen if a person like him, who can’t even control their own emotions, become obsessed with you?” Ciara paused. [Name] fell quiet, daunting images of her future dancing in her eyes. “That’s right. You’d be kidnapped and locked in a gilded cage. You wouldn’t be able to meet your weird friends anymore. You couldn’t even escape, because the people there are mostly loyal to Malleus. They’d wait for an opportunity to fling you back into the prison, where you’d be tortured if you rebelled. Surely, you don’t want that to happen, right?”

Ciara cocked her head and blinked innocently.

“It’ll be better if you stop meeting him before it’s too late. There’s a reason why so many people avoid him. He’s simply too unstable, especially for a feeble human like you. You could get hurt, or worse, died.”

When [Name] looked to her side, Ciara already disappeared. Her voice resounded in her head like a broken record.

In the distance, a bat perched on a twig.

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Ciara skipped into the Diasomnia dorm, humming some cheery tune. The first step of her plan had succeeded, so now, she just had to wait and see the result. She hoped, truly hoped, that they’d be separated. Malleus’ love for [Name] was too scandalous. It was unbecoming for a fae prince to be obsessed with a magicless human, when there were so many fae noblewomen waiting to be courted by him. Wasn’t Ciara a kind girl, helping him avoid his court and people’s censure? She didn’t do nice things to just about anyone, so he should be grateful for her.

“What a beautiful voice you have there.”

Ciara spun to scold the person who interrupted her joy. She didn’t care that it was praise. He’d disturbed her, and he should know his place!

A gloved hand shot out and gripped her neck, lifting her from the stone floor. Ciara coughed and peeked through her lashes to discern a pair of red eyes, almost dissimilar with hers but similar in sadism, greeted her from below.

“Did you enjoy your time with [Name] earlier?” Lilia asked, simpering. “Your conversation sounded so fun. I was afraid of interrupting it, honestly.”

Ciara grimaced and clawed his hand. She tried to kick his stomach, his chest, with whatever left of her energy, but he remained unfazed.

Lilia cocked his head.

“What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” he cooed. “Go ahead. Tell me everything you said to her; about Malleus’ obsession to her, her future, the rumors, and, of course, your wise suggestion. Come on, I want to hear your beautiful voice once again.”

He strangled Ciara for a moment before dropping her unceremoniously. She collapsed to his feet, touching her flaming neck. She coughed.

“How nice of you to warn [Name], really. I thought your heart has been frozen ever since your parents’ deaths.”

Ciara glared, but not brave enough to retaliate. She knew that she’d face the worst punishment than a strangle, and besides, Diasomnia was his territory. So she needed to pick her battles wisely, despite her fists longing for bloodshed.

“But you only did it for yourself, didn’t you?” Lilia sneered. “You just don’t want to see her become the queen and lead you, although it means that your actions have opposed the prince.”

“Nobody wants to be led by a weakling!” Ciara barked.

“You’re right, but [Name] is infinitely better than some pesky mosquito. At least, she never acts like a brat and mocks Malleus from behind like a coward she is.”

His eyes glinted under the chandelier when she growled. Then, as quick as it appeared, his smile disappeared. Lilia gripped her antennae, threatening to pluck them like he almost did centuries ago. Ciara hissed.

“But I’m serious this time, Ciara. If you dare to ruin their relationship again, I’ll kill you. Surely, you don’t want anyone to hurt your precious little brother, right?”

Ciara shuddered at the ice that dripped from his tongue and froze her limbs.

Lilia sneered and shoved her away.

“Silver, bring your classmate to her room.”

A boy with silver hair, almost whitish, entered the room. He closed his eyes and sighed, as if weary of her antics. Carefully, he slung one of her arms around his shoulder and helped her upstairs.

“Why are you always causing ruckus?” he asked once they reached a quiet hallway. Doors lined against the wall, closed shut like hidden rooms in an abandoned castle. Of course, nobody would dare to help her from Lilia, especially from Malleus. They were all cowards, frightened by a lizard’s wrath, despite having a powerful magic.

“Shut up, Silver.” Ciara snatched her hand back, almost pushing him. She rubbed her neck again. “You think you want to see your childish master marries that magicless girl? Of course not!”

Silver frowned. “Master Malleus only considers her as an ordinary frie–”

Ciara gripped his collar and pulled him towards her until their faces were centimeters apart.

“Let me tell you something, my precious friend. He’s obsessed with that weakling!” she snarled. “What the hell do you know about him, huh?! You’re always sleeping. You always miss everything. You know nothing!”

Then, Ciara shoved him back.

“I don’t care about that girl, but I definitely don’t want to be led by her.” she hissed through her shoulder, opening the door to her room. “Why don’t you ask yourself? Do you care more about her or your lovesick master? Until death, I’ll never obey her!”

The sound of a door slamming echoed in the hallway. Silver stared at the wood that separated him from his classmate. Was it true? Did he really know nothing about Malleus, especially about his obsession with [Name]? What did he have to do now? He certainly couldn’t order Malleus what to do and not do, but… there had to be something, right?

Silver sighed and spun to descend the stairs. Perhaps Ciara was exaggerating things. Everyone knew that she was a mischievous and dramatic girl, with a great hatred for humanity like most fairies were. Maybe he was overthinking her deception. If Malleus truly loved, or obsessed with [Name], Lilia would’ve told him, right?

He definitely needed to ask his father now.

Chapter Text

The standing mirror in the empty guest room had always been covered ever since you moved in. For what reason? You didn’t know. The seller had no idea either, and you didn’t care enough to press. It was just an old mirror, you reasoned, no need to be so curious. It was probably something that the last owner left behind. There were plenty of mirrors in the house, after all, still useful.

You never poked the mirror, or touched it. You merely cleaned and fixed the room, almost dismissing it entirely. It was the most wrecked room in the house, strangely enough. And true enough, the mirror had completely slipped your mind.

Until one night, the mirror wasn’t so ordinary, nor could you curb your curiosity anymore.

It wasn’t the first time you woke up at midnight. The urge to pee overpowered the sleepiness, so after many groans and grumbles, you reluctantly left the comfort of your bed and relieved yourself. The bathroom was located down the hallway, near the guest room. The hallway was dark, but after you left the bathroom, your bleary eyes noticed a mysterious green light seeped from underneath the door.

The door to the guest room.

Obviously, you were curious, and a bit irritated. Although you could’ve sworn that you’d turned off all the lights, you really didn’t want to lose your sleepiness. And yet, you couldn’t afford to increase your electricity bills, either. So, after another long groan, you turned the knob and roughly pushed the door, channeling your exasperation to the piece of wood.

The mirror glowed.

You froze in the doorway, not knowing what to do. How long had this been happening? Was it the first time? Did someone break into your house somehow? You checked the window and saw that it was still locked, and it didn’t seem like there was anything suspicious aside from the glowing mirror. The bed was still neatly made, the curtains were still covering the window, and the floor was still clean, free from footprints or traces of dirt. Of course, you could always leave and check again tomorrow, or in the morning. But what if the mirror was… dangerous?

Then again, what could a mirror do?

You stood in front of the mirror, contemplating whether you should rip the white cloth open or not. What kind of surprise was waiting for you, you wondered. Should you grab a weapon just in case? But, well, you could always push the mirror and break it if… something were to come out of it. Though, you doubted it would. What kind of thing lived inside a mirror, anyway?

Hesitantly, you grasped the hem of the moldy cloth and pulled it down. The mold clung uncomfortably to your palm, but it was soon forgotten once you laid your eyes on the anomaly behind the glass.

Or, rather, through the glass.

“Who are you?”

You didn’t know who said it first, him or you. You were surprised, blinking owlishly to the solemn man before you, while he merely frowned, as if suspicious. Then again, you thought you had more of a right to feel that way considering that he appeared in your mirror, and not otherwise. Or maybe you appeared in his mirror too? Who knows.

“Who are you?” This time, it was you who asked. Or repeated. “What are you doing in my mirror?”

His frown deepened. “I should be the one who asked that. After all, there used to be another woman here.”

“Oh, yes. She… moved out, I think.” You scratched your head, trying to recall the seller’s words. The haze of exhaustion in your mind had yet to fully disappear. “This house is mine now. I bought it.”

“You bought it?” he inquired, raising a skeptical brow. Why did he sound incredulous you had no idea. Absolutely anything could happen to an empty house; being sold was just another possibility. A good ending, in fact, rather than being abandoned to ruin and dust. Or worse, a haunted house.

“Why, yes. I need some place to live, you know.” You didn’t say that you needed a break from the hubbub of the city, and while the woods that surrounded the house was scary at night, the environment was perfect for you.

“And why exactly did she move out?” The man crossed his arms, now appearing to interrogate you. God, you had no time for this. You needed to go to work in the morning. “She didn’t say anything to me.”

“Wait, she knows you? Does that mean the seller know you too?”

“Who’s the seller?”

“Never mind.” you sighed, shaking your head. Clearly, this man had some kind of a relationship with the previous owner. What kind of relationship? You had no idea. You only wished you weren’t trapped in some complicated affair with them. You just wanted some peace, not handling a broken heart or two!

“Tell me about yourself.”

You raised an eyebrow. “I’m the one who asked you first, you know?”

The man huffed, and yet, it sounded amused more than anything else. “I am Malleus Draconia, one of the strongest wizards in Twisted Wonderland.”

You nodded dumbly. “Oh, okay.”

Wait.

“What?!”

The man, or Malleus, blinked in surprise at your abrupt response. You ignored the way his body recoiled slightly as you massaged your temples, trying to process his haughty introduction. Wizard? Wizard, he said? Did that mean the previous owner was a wizard too? And what the hell was Twisted Wonderland?! Was that some kind of a fantasy land or something? Did you even want to know?

“… Okay, okay.” You raised your hands as if he was planning on attacking you. Could he do that through the glass? Then again, he was a wizard – a powerful one at that– so anything could happen. The thought didn’t help you in the slightest, but at least, you could vaguely determine the extent of his strength. “So, you’re saying that you’re a wizard, right?”

He nodded.

“Then, what’s your relationship with the previous owner?”

“She’s, was, my companion.”

You decided to ignore the faint accusation in his voice for now. “Why would she… you know, befriend a wizard?”

Malleus slowly scowled. “Are you saying that I don’t deserve a friend?”

“No, no, no!” You frantically shook your hands and your head. “I mean, how did you… uh, meet each other? Did you… show up like this to her or something?”

He crossed his arms, looking away. And was that… a pout? Was he pouting at you now? “I suppose you could say that.”

You blinked owlishly, still overwhelmed by the sudden influx of information. Now, what were you supposed to do? Console him? Tell him that it wasn’t your fault that she left? Or just… go back to your room? Oh, God. What if he got angry instead? You didn’t want to think about what he could do to your poor house and self. You didn’t have a neighbor who could help you, for God’s sake! You weren’t even sure that they’d be willing to help you against a wizard. For all you knew, he could easily kill you both with a flick of his hand.

“… Oh, okay, then.” You nodded, pretending to understand his implication. You didn’t. Not really. Averting your gaze, you coughed into your fist awkwardly. “Well, I, uh, gotta go now. I need to work soon, you know?”

That, and you couldn’t wait to wash your hand. Mold and sweat weren’t exactly a pleasant combination.

Malleus frowned, and that expression was enough to freeze you on the spot. “You haven’t introduced yourself yet.”

“O-oh, right!” you tittered, sitting down again. “I’m [Name]… [Name] [Last Name]. Nice to meet you, uh, Draconia.”

The man nodded, and you noticed his aloof demeanor softened slightly. “Likewise.”

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You didn’t talk much with Malleus last night, preferring to excuse yourself as quickly as possible. He didn’t seem to be offended by your hasty departure, at least, you were still able to wake up safely this morning. You also noticed that the mirror didn’t glow during the day, nor did you see him. You ultimately concluded that he probably slept in the morning or something.

Which is good because you didn’t want to be late just because you had to entertain him first.

You’d spent much of your time on the road praying for the safety of your house. Malleus might not seem dangerous, but first impressions could fool you. He could be planning on destroying your humble abode right now, for all you knew.

At work, you’d completely forgotten about him, too engrossed with your tasks, before he reappeared like a tiny itch you couldn’t quite scratch when you returned. Well, you could always get rid of the mirror, that was for sure. But what if he went on a rampage? What if he cursed you for eternity? What if you couldn’t throw away the mirror because it turned out to be enchanted?

Sighing, you plopped down on the couch and massaged your temples. You didn’t bother to take a bath yet, wanting to soothe your internal conflict first. As much as you wanted to pretend that Malleus didn’t exist, that whatever happened last night was just a product of your overactive imagination and exhaustion, you couldn’t.

Because the mirror glowed again once you’d eaten your dinner.

And that, that was strange. You thought he only appeared during midnight, but you supposed you were wrong. It seemed that he generally appeared during nighttime, not necessarily around midnight. Then again, you only met him once, so you shouldn’t be so quick to conclude anything.

Heading to the guest room, you made sure to peek inside first. You were being unnecessarily paranoid, but could you blame yourself? Nobody trusted, and shouldn’t trust, a stranger at first sight, especially if they were from another world. You wondered if it was a big world like yours.

“You’re back.” you blurted out the first thing that appeared in your mind, unsure of whether you should greet him first or get straight to the point. When he rose an eyebrow, you quickly rectified. “I-I mean, good evening…? Is it already night in your world?”

Malleus nodded. “Yes, that’s why I’m able to contact you now.”

“Oh…” So, he really was more active at night. At least, you weren’t completely in the wrong. “So, you’re nocturnal, huh?”

“I suppose you could say so. My energy depletes quickly during daytime.”

Well, you definitely understood that. Many times you felt yourself growing tired after an hour of doing your work.

“So, uh…” You scratched your head. “How long have you been in this… house?”

“Not long,” he paused. “at least, for me. I used to ‘stay’ with an old lady before Cassidy bought the mirror and moved it here.”

“Bought?”

“The old lady said she sold antique things, and Cassidy bought the mirror from her.”

Well, this was new. And quite unexpected, too.

“Did she know that you… you know, live here? Inside the mirror?”

Malleus shook his head. “I don’t think the old lady told her, either. Wouldn’t want her to get scared, I suppose…”

You blinked owlishly at his somber expression. Ah, was he lonely? Judging by his face, he seemed to have only a few friends. The old lady was probably his very first one from your world, and now, his second friend had moved out, most likely without his knowledge.

“Do you…” you trailed off, unsure if you should proceed. What if it was a sensitive subject? You were merely a stranger to him; an acquaintance, at best. What if he got offended by your harmless curiosity and thought you were being inquisitive instead? And yet, the way he cocked his head spurred you to ask. “Do you know why Cassidy left…?”

“I don’t know.” Was what he said, but his dejected eyes told otherwise. God, you just opened an old wound, didn’t you? You knew you should’ve listened to your heart instead.

“S-sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

Malleus shook his head, his dark hair that shone green at certain angles shook slightly. “No, no, it’s fine. I know that humans don’t like to stay for too long in one place. If not due to pressing matters, or their whims, then due to their short lives. Humans are whimsical and ephemeral creatures, after all.”

You blinked again, this time, out of confusion. Another unexpected thing that left his mouth, bordering on bizarre if not… impersonal. As if he wasn’t a human, or something. Then again, he never really looked like one, wasn’t he? His eyes were too piercing, too glowing, his ears too pointy, and his fangs too sharp. Not to mention, there were horns on his head, unless it was common for humans to have horns in his world, or the wizards. But, for some reason, you felt as if he was a special case. Maybe because his human resemblance was… superficial?

Regardless, you nodded, just like what you’d done last night. Pretending to understand so you could move on to another subject. Of course, if you thought about it deeper, Malleus had never been a human, nor did he ever state that he was one, to begin with. But your desire to retain some semblance of normality in your abnormal interaction overpowered the need to fully process your experience and the oddities that came from it.

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Ever since that fateful night, you’d grown closer to Malleus. He wasn’t a bad guy, but somewhat easy to irritate and haughty at times. You didn’t really mind it, mostly because you knew that he wasn’t just spouting nonsense. He bragged because he knew he could prove it, and you respected that, even if it unnerved you sometimes. How easy it was to fall into a routine, to consider him as a normal man and not a powerful wizard from another world who could smoothly turn your life upside down through the mirror. He didn’t know about your feelings, of course, and he’d told you once that he wasn’t good at guessing what others were thinking. So, at least, your little secret was safe.

For now.

It was grocery day. You weren’t in the mood to go out, but the grocery wouldn’t buy itself. Malleus had said something about moving you to his house so you wouldn’t have to buy groceries anymore. You’d chuckled, assuming it was one of his deadpan jokes, and politely denied his offer. He’d tried again, this time, inviting you to dinner. But you’d refused again, not wanting to trouble him. While you were curious about what his house looked like, you really didn’t want to risk not being able to return to your world. So, you had to curb your curiosity lest he took it as an acceptance to his persistent invitations.

“You’re the new owner, aren’t you?”

You’d just finished buying the necessities and were sitting outside a restaurant for lunch when someone spoke. Looking up, you saw a short woman with platinum blond hair and icy blue eyes standing in front of you. There was a couple near you, but she didn’t look like she was talking to them. Instead, she kept her gaze pierced at your bewildered one.

“Oh, um, yeah. And you are…?” You had an inkling of who she was, but you wanted to confirm it first.

“Cassidy, the previous owner of your house.” She wasted no time standing around and immediately took a seat before you. “You met him, didn’t you?”

You blinked owlishly. “Who?”

“Don’t pretend to be dumb. You know exactly who I’m talking about.” she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

Well, it wasn’t as if you wanted to lie, per se. It was just her question caught you off guard.

“Listen here,” Cassidy dragged her chair closer. “don’t ever accept his invitations, or better yet, don’t talk to him again.”

“What- why? He’s just a lonely guy! And he missed you, you know?!”

“You know damn well he’s more than just a lonely, old guy.” she huffed. “He’s a wizard, I’m sure you know that already. And I don’t care if he missed me or not.”

“Old?”

“He’s a fae. Of course, he’s old. We’re literally just toddlers to him.”

You sputtered.

“W-what? But I thought he was–” you paused at her judgmental stare. “I thought all wizards in his world were… you know, like that.”

“Duh, of course not. He’s a fae; a dragon fae, to be exact. And you know all those stereotypes about dragons; possessive, rich, blows fire from its mouth and nose. He can do all of that. Maybe more.”

You raised a hand in her face, attempting to understand yet another influx of information. Briefly, you recalled Malleus’ strange remark about human nature. “So, not only is he a fairy, but he’s also a dragon? How is it possible?”

Cassidy rolled her eyes. “Everything’s possible in there, girl. That’s why it’s called ‘Twisted Wonderland’.”

“You visited his world?!”

She quickly shushed you, hissing all the while. “Not so loud!”

You clamped a hand over your mouth, the apology sounded muffled against your palm. Cassidy slowly leaned back on her chair once she ascertained your regretful expression, and sighed.

“And, yeah, I did visit his world. Once. It was so hard to get out of there, I swear to God.”

“Why?”

“Malleus wouldn’t let me, said he wanted me to stay there.” She sighed again, and at that moment, she looked thousand years older. “I mean, his house is nice. Of course, it’s a castle, after all. Dark, gloomy. Kinda depressing, to be honest. He’s a sheltered prince, so he doesn’t have many friends, if at all. So when he met me, he kinda latched on me. It was endearing, at first. How he looked so much like a little kid, not wanting to be separated from his friend. But over time, it was getting annoying. He was being clingy, and I don’t like it. I asked, and even forced, him to let me go home, but he refused. Said some bullshit about how it’s better if I just stay there, how he’ll take good care of me.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love him. Platonically, of course, but I feel like he’s too… intense. Too forceful. Too explosive. I’m sure you know that, right? How easy it is to irritate him. And you know what the worst thing is?” Cassidy leaned forward, face darkening slightly. “Twenty years has passed in this world, when I just stayed in there for two days.”

You gaped.

“It took me a long time to fix everything. My parents died, my siblings have grown up and have their own families, while I still look young as ever when I should be forty right now. It was a mess through and through.”

“How… how’s that possible? I mean, you just spent two days in there. How can it be twenty years in here?”

“The time flows differently in there, girl. I’m just lucky it was twenty years instead of two hundred years or two thousand years. How would I explain everything to my descendants later?”

“So, then,” you stammered as your brain tried to fathom the absurdity of the situation. “how did you leave his world?”

“Oh, you know, I appealed to his emotions. Said I’ll visit him again when I have the time or whatever mushy shit like that. He agreed pretty quickly I regretted not doing that sooner.” Cassidy pulled out a cigarette from her jacket pocket and lit it, taking a long drag as if it’d lessen her stress. “After that, I quickly covered the mirror with whatever cloth I found and got the hell out of that house. Luckily, that old house seller is still alive.”

“I see…”

You didn’t understand. It was so sudden and unexpected you had a hard time catching up. Malleus was a nice man, and your only friend in your desolated house. But he was lonely, you knew that much, and loneliness could drive people to do drastic things. Not to mention, the world was vastly different in there. He probably didn’t consider the time differences.

“Malleus said you bought the mirror from an antique seller.”

Cassidy nodded, and it dawned on you how large and dark the bags under her eyes were. She must not have much sleep ever since that trip to Twisted Wonderland. And if you looked closer, you’d see faint wrinkles on the corner of her eyes. “I did.”

“Does that mean she knew about him too?”

“Who knows?” She shrugged nonchalantly. “She did look a bit shady, though, so it’s possible that she did.”

Well, considering Malleus thought about the lady as his friend, she definitely knew him. You didn’t really need to ask, but you just wanted to confirm it.

“How… did you know about me, anyway?”

“I asked the seller, of course. Gotta warn some poor soul before they do something they might regret, you know? Knowing Malleus, he probably had a mini rampage over my abrupt disappearance.”

“Well,” you looked away. “the guest room did look more wrecked than the other rooms…”

Did that mean he wrecked it, though?

“Told ya, he’s dangerous. You should never mess with fairies, or believe them.” Cassidy stood up and stomped the blunt with her boot. “So, stop talking with him before you regret it. Trust me, being younger than your real age isn’t that nice. You’ve lost a good portion of your life that should’ve been filled with memories or life experiences instead.”

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Cassidy’s warnings kept echoing in your head as you drove back to your house. There were so many things you needed to comprehend, from the revelation of his true identity as a dragon fae prince, the fact that he could do things dragons could, and, most of all, how Cassidy was much older than she looked. Twenty years older, to be exact. How she could survive in this world without losing her mind, or worse, her sanity was beyond your knowledge. Then again, you had to applaud her for that. Not many people could continue with their lives after such a… life-changing incident.

The guest room was glowing again once you finished putting away the groceries, but this time, you felt the familiar apprehension as when you’d first saw the mirror glowing that night. You contemplated entering, to pretend everything was fine and you hadn’t met his old friend, but you decided to ignore it. Surely, Malleus would be okay to not talk to you for one night, right?

“[Name], are you there?”

You heard his voice from inside. Could he hear you moving around? Were fairy senses sharp enough to detect your presence?

“[Name], I know you’re in there.”

… Never mind. Well, at least, you could try talking to him again for the last time. Maybe even slip in a goodbye too, so it wouldn’t feel as if you’d ghost him later.

Taking a deep breath, you turned the knob and slithered inside despite knowing that he heard the creak of the door. You sat down on the floor, legs tucked underneath your nightgown. The revelation of his identity made you more aware of how piercing his stare was, especially when he was observing you like this. Regardless, you kept your composure and smiled at him.

“Hey, you’re early tonight.”

Malleus nodded. “Yes, I’d like to talk to you more. I find your company refreshing to be around.”

Oh? Well, that was quite blunt. On one hand, you were happy that he was comfortable with you until he could confess such a thing, but on the other hand, you were reminded of Cassidy’s warnings again.

“How was your shopping? Did anyone bother you?”

Aside from Cassidy’s sudden appearance, nope. You shook your head.

“It went well.”

He nodded again, satisfied with your response. “Good. Let me know if someone bothers you, I’ll protect you to the best of my ability.”

You wondered if he could ‘deal with’ your annoying coworkers. You shook your head again, this time, to dispel the thought. Whatever he planned to do, you doubted it’d be kind.

The conversation between you flowed easily, as usual. And the lull was peaceful, to say the least. It almost made you feel guilty that you had to cut this friendship when it’d just bloomed, but Cassidy’s firsthand account about his behavior couldn’t possibly be ignored.

“… My chefs are learning how to make your favorite food. Once they succeed, would you like to visit my house for dinner? I’d like to know your opinion on it.”

“A-about that, Malleus,” He immediately stopped speaking as soon as you raised a hand. “I don’t think I can visit your house, or your world.”

“Why not?”

You bit your lower lip. Should you tell him the truth? What would his reaction when he found out that you encountered his old friend? “Well, I, uh, I’m scared that the time difference would be too big. I mean, it is a different world, after all.”

“Of course not. You don’t change, if that’s what you’re worrying about.”

Any other time, you would’ve been confused about his enigmatic answer. But once again, Cassidy saved you.

“I don’t want to be ten or twenty years younger than my real age, Malleus.”

The fae stilled. Slowly, his eyes squinted. “Sorry?”

“Well, I–” Perhaps, you shouldn’t be so specific. After all, nothing from him was ever specific. “I mean, it’s possible that many years have passed if I went to your world, right? We’ll never know.”

Malleus said nothing for a moment, merely gazing at you with those glowing green eyes.

“[Name],” he drawled, but it wasn’t the kind of drawl where he was testing your name on his tongue like you sometimes caught him doing. “you met Cassidy, didn’t you?”

You froze. How did he know? Were you being too obvious?

“W-what? No, of course not! I–”

“Don’t lie to me.” he growled, and you felt the air penetrated your bones. “You met her, right? Where was she? How was she doing?”

“She’s…” Well, there was no use in lying now. “She’s fine, I think. She’s… older than she looks.”

“And? What else did she tell you? Why did she leave me?”

“She doesn’t feel comfortable with you, Malleus.”

“What do you mean?” he hissed, scowling. “I gave her everything she wanted. I even gave her the gift of youth so she could stay young forever. It’s only fair for me to ask for something in return.”

What…?

“The gift of… youth?”

“Of course.” he huffed. “She’s another old woman that I befriended, but she’s obsessed with youth, so she asked me to give her that as a birthday gift. I asked her to live with me in the Valley because my magic could easily maintain her appearance if she was near me, but she refused. So the moment I turned my back on her, she slipped away and left through this mirror. She’s a clever one, I have to admit.”

“So, she didn’t–” you stammered. “So, the world didn’t pass by for twenty years if you spent two days in yours?”

“Time difference is bound to happen, but it’s not that big.”

You put a hand on your head, frowning deeply. There was so much information, so much to process. Which one was correct? Which was one was incorrect? Cassidy or Malleus? He didn’t seem to be lying, and you knew a gift of youth was too big for it to not be repaid by something of equal value. Even you wouldn’t freely make your friends young without a repayment.

“[Name].”

You startled and looked up. “Y-yes…?”

“You won’t leave me like she did, will you?”

You stared at him, at his stare that bore to yours unflinchingly, at his eyes that followed your every movement. “I… I don’t know.”

“[Name].” he called again. A warning, you realized.

“I don’t know! I–” you paused, fearing the way his face darkened. “Just leave me alone!”

“[Name]!”

You scrambled to the door just in time for the lightbulb to pop by itself. The ground shook, but you held yourself to the wall as if it was your lifeline. Every light in the house exploded, every electric machine turned on automatically, and the electricity crackled in the air. The hallways were dark, and distantly, you heard a wolf howled. The temperature dropped, eliciting chills that crawled on your back like spiders. You would’ve worn thicker clothes, but how would you know something like this would happen?

How would you know that you’d get a taste of his power very soon?

You tripped on a floorboard that suddenly broke free from the nail and bent before you, wincing upon impact. You gritted your teeth, willing yourself to move forward, but something restrained your legs. The faint sting on your skin told you what it was, so you stayed quiet, hoping that Malleus would stop rampaging your house if he didn’t hear your frantic movement.

Unfortunately, life was never that kind to you.

A pair of dark boots appeared in your view. You craned your neck to look at the newcomer, but regretted it as soon as you saw those lime green eyes.

Malleus stooped and closed your eyes with his gloved hand, and you felt yourself plunging into the darkness.

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You fluttered your eyes open, discerning a black canopy through your blurry gaze. It took a rather long time for you to realize that your bed wasn’t canopied, and you soon jolted up.

“You’re awake.”

You whipped your head to the side, spotting Malleus sitting on a purple cushioned chair whilst reading a book. He wore a thin sleeveless black shirt that displayed his abs, complemented with matching pants and dark purple boots. His dark hair flowed down his shoulders, tickling his biceps. You would’ve been flustered at the sight – so casual yet regal, befitting a prince of a gloomy castle – had you didn’t remember your current situation.

“Where am I?! What have you done to me?!”

“Relax, I was just moving you here.”

“And where is ‘here’?”

“Home.”

“Malleus, don’t be so vag–” You paused when you saw the bleak sky through the windows. Suddenly, you recalled Cassidy’s description of his castle. “You… you took me to your… house?”

Our house.” he corrected calmly, finally looking up from the yellowish page. “I was hoping I could offer you in a… better situation, but you made everything harder. Or, rather, Cassidy has made everything more complicated than it should be.” He looked away and mumbled. “I knew I should’ve gotten rid of her the second she refused.”

Luckily, you missed the last sentence. “No, Malleus, I don’t want to be here! Please, take me back to my world!”

“Why? So she can poison your mind even further?”

“No! I… I promise that I won’t tell her, or anyone else for that matter. I’ll still be your friend, I promise. Just please, let me go home…!”

“That’s what she said, too.” he murmured. “She promised that she’ll still be my friend, that she’ll visit me again, but she lied!”

You startled when he suddenly snapped, baring his teeth to you. Under the dim light, his fangs gleamed.

“She lied! She broke her promise to me, the king of all dark creatures, after everything I’ve given to her! She betrayed me!”

King…? So, he wasn’t a prince? Did Cassidy lie to you… again?

“I-I don’t understand!” you whined, feeling tears pricked your eyes. “She said you wouldn’t let her leave!”

“I wanted her eternal company, indeed. Like I said, my magic would work better if she stayed, but she didn’t.” And then, a shocking thing happened. Malleus smirked. “But that’s alright, because everyone she knows is either dead or moving on without her. Very soon, she’ll go back to the way she used to be, and I’ll be there to take her soul.”

“What… what are you talking about?”

“Twenty years have passed in your world, remember?”

You gaped.

“Told ya, he’s dangerous. You should never mess with fairies, or believe them.”

“So, you… you lied to me? And Cassidy too?”

His face soured at her name. “What kind of things did she tell you? And don’t lie.”

“J-just the fact that you wouldn’t let her leave, your true identity, and your castle. That’s all.”

“And I assume she didn’t tell you why she left, right?”

You nodded shakily.

“Well, what I said was pretty much the truth. She wanted youth, and I gave her, but she broke her promise. So, I’ll make it fair for the both of us by letting her go back to her old self and kill her myself.”

You gasped. “You can’t do that!”

“And why not?” he asked darkly, leaning forward until your noses were nearly touching. “Do you care about her? Do you care more about that traitor than your own friend?”

Malleus glowered at your agitated face for a moment.

“The only one you should care about is me, because you’re in my territory now. And, of course, because you’re going to be my wife soon, in exchange for luxury. Everything that you want and need, I’ll give you.”

Your eyes widened.

“W-what…?” you croaked.

Malleus’s face softened imperceptibly as he toyed with a lock of your hair.

“So, don’t think about anyone else but me. Otherwise,” he gripped your hair and tugged it painfully. “I’ll get everyone you love too.”

He finally released you after glaring at your soul for another minute and stood up from the bed.

“B-but you lied to me too!” you cried, stopping him from taking another step towards the double doors. “You said the time difference wouldn’t be too big!”

“Yes, of course. For me, that is.” Malleus simpered through his shoulder. “So, you can’t say that I lied, when ten years is but a day to me.”

Chapter Text

How long has it been since he visited this place? The sight of perennial flowers and crawling vines never failed to please Lilia, especially once his slit eyes landed on the lone coffin sitting in the center of the hall. Even after years had passed by, it remained sturdy as ever.

Lilia glided towards the coffin, the lid opened to reveal the most beautiful woman he loved sleeping inside. Your eyes were close, and your lashes didn’t flutter like the small part of him had hoped, but the image of those radiant irises never truly left his memory. Your skin stayed clear, free of blemishes and wrinkles. Your hair was still soft, flowing through his fingers like water.

“Hello, [Name],” he whispered, stroking your pasty cheek. “It’s been a long time. Did you miss me? I certainly did. I hope you had a good sleep without me.”

Lilia chuckled at his own teasing.

“You’re still the same as always, [Name]. Stubborn to a fault. But that’s your charm point, no?” Sighing, he plopped down beside the coffin and rested his chin against the wood. “Truly, humans are such amusing creatures. They hold onto a belief despite the evidence that proves otherwise and refuses to consider the alternative. Is it any wonder that I happen to be attracted to one?”

Clicking his tongue, he carelessly twirled strands of your hair. “Regardless, I quite enjoy your current self, even if it’s not as expressive as it used to be. At least now, you didn’t try to escape again. Of course, your failed attempts are always entertaining. But even I want you to be compliant once in a while, you know?”

“… It’s a shame that you have to  die  first for you to obey me.”

Silence blanketed the hall as Lilia examined your breathless profile. He’d never seen you look so serene before; his antics and tendency to materialize always ruined the already scarce peace you had. Lilia knew he should’ve felt guilty, especially after he witnessed your breakdown over the lack of privacy, but he couldn’t help the sadism inside him.

He just wanted to see your reaction. You were, after all, his favorite human. So, was it any wonder that he wanted to play with you like any other lover? Was it any wonder that he wanted to cherish everything you gave him, even if it meant enduring your pent-up rage?

It wasn’t as if he planned you to rough you up too much, anyway. But there was only so much you could receive from him, so much stress you could handle without any time and place to process everything.

Well, at least, you finally got your much-deserved happiness. Even if it meant losing your life in your own hands, everything was fine.

You both were happy with the outcome, and that was what mattered the most.

And although he hadn’t been pleased to see your lifeless body on the floor, or the blood that pooled under your wrist, everything was fine.

Being a carefree guy he was, Lilia was certainly able to accept anything without many complaints. Not even your death could separate you from him, or perish the love that still burned brightly in his chest despite all these years.

Kissing your knuckles, Lilia peered at you through his lashes and smiled. “Happy fiftieth anniversary, my dear.”

Chapter Text

“Mama, how did you meet Papa?”

You almost choked on your spit when your daughter asked that. It was innocent enough, and definitely not to embarrass you, but that wasn’t what you expected to hear first thing in the morning… or what you wanted to hear. For the longest time, your relationship with Lilia had been rocky at best and downright damaging at worst.

But you couldn’t tell her that, could you? She was still a child, despite being a hundred years old. A child who still hadn’t have many experiences with the world outside, and a child who thought that her parents were loving towards each other.

A child who only knew that the bad guys were literal monsters and the good guys were fairies and humans. A child who… didn’t know that her father was the real monster in her little family.

Because had he didn’t  force  you to marry him, you wouldn’t have her.

Mustering a bland smile, you reached out to caress her hair. Your hair. “We… met each other in our school.” you paused, silently begging her to drop the subject. But of course, she didn’t know your reluctance nor could she hear your mental plea. Instead, she leaned forward in your lap, crimson eyes blinking owlishly. His eyes.

“Oh…! And then? And then?” she quizzed. “Did you two kiss?”

You chuckled bitterly, although it sounded amused in her ears. She’d be none the wiser, anyway. Lilia made sure of it. “No, of course not.” In fact, you would’ve – you should’ve – avoided him had you knew what kind of person he was underneath, let alone kissing him. “Well, at least, not at first.”

“What was he like? Was he nice?”

As nice as a manipulator could be… “Yes, he was. He helped me get used to the school environment, and liked to tell me stories. I… really enjoyed his company.” 

You truly did. Despite his mischief, you couldn’t deny that his advice was valuable. You used to look up to him, always eager to hear more wise words and stories from the bygone days. And he always chuckled, cooing about how precious you looked with your eyes glittering in anticipation and excitement. You could tell that he held back a lot, either to maintain his ‘lively yet mysterious’ image or he just didn’t feel like recounting much, and that was what hooked you initially.

And that kind of mystery was the reason why you were here in the first place. Why it was so easy to fool you due to your insatiable curiosity.

“Didn’t anyone tell you that curiosity killed the cat?”

“Whoa…!” She clapped her hands, eyes wide in amazement. Such an impressionable child, your eyes softened as you caressed her head, it reminded you of your past self.

Your young self who was understandably confused and lost in an entirely new world. Your young self who used to absorb every piece of information, regardless of how ridiculous it sounded, without you knowing any better.

Because this world was ridiculous, and your only lifeline was those who were, or acted, kind to you.

Was it any wonder that you clung to them? Could anyone blame you for being so desperate for a slight familiarity?

You blinked repeatedly, confused at the sudden inquiry. “W-what… do you mean?”

Of course, you’d heard about that adage.  Everyone  had.

However, Lilia didn’t seem willing to quench your bewilderment tonight.

“Was it love at first sight?”

He smiled enigmatically.

You gave her a strained smile.

“Didn’t the headmaster tell you that this is a school for villains?”

“… No, it wasn’t.”

“… That means, you can and should  never  fully trust them.”

Kōmori pouted, slightly displeased that your love story didn’t proceed the way she’d expected. If only she knew the truth “B-but you love him, right?” she asked, almost whining as she gripped your hands.

Suddenly, the atmosphere grew colder and darker. And suddenly, you grew increasingly  aware  that you two were the  only  people in the forest. Away from anyone that could – that you  hoped  would – help you.

“I…”

“I do.”

Kōmori’s face brightened as she cheered. Well, who doesn’t want to know that their parents love each other, even if it’s just a lie created to protect their feelings?

“I should go now. It’s getting late and… chilly.” you tittered, hoping that he’d fall for that lame excuse somehow. Your guts were screaming at you to escape; to run and  never  looked back. But you  couldn’t .

You couldn’t… because his piercing stare ordered you to  stay  put.

You couldn’t… because the thorny vines refused to unwind themselves from your legs. Instead, they slithered higher and higher until they completely embraced your rigid body.

“Which one who confessed first?” she asked enthusiastically. “Was it you? Or him?”

Lilia cocked his head in feigned concern. “Oh…? Well, then, allow me to warm you.” he simpered. “You  trust  me, don’t you? After all, aren’t I one of your  favorite  seniors?”

You frowned, gripping your skirt. He was mocking at you, mocking your naivety for believing that anyone friendly at you was a ‘good’ person, mocking you… for trusting him  too  easily.

“… He was,” you replied after a long moment of silence.

“Wah…! Papa is so brave!” she gushed, cheeks blushing softly at the image of his self-assured face and your bashful one. “After that, you got married, right?”

“Such an innocent soul… being thrown into the pack of wolves…” he mused as he slowly advanced towards you. You winced at the thorns that pricked your skin when you tried to withdraw. “I’m fearful of what would happen if you stick around for too long.”

A gloved hand lifted your chin as Lilia smirked. “So, I’ve decided to preserve it instead. You’ll come with me,  won’t  you?”

You scowled, both at his self-assured face and the thorns that threatened to puncture your neck. You really had  no  choice, didn’t you? Then again, when had you even have a choice in  everything ? You suddenly woke up in Twisted Wonderland, stayed in Ramshackle dorm, and juggled the responsibilities of handling the antics your friends caused and the overblotted students plus your school life. You didn’t even know if you could return to your world, or whether Crowley permitted it.

And now, you were trapped in the middle of the forest with your  evil  senior.

You really were  doomed , weren’t you? Gritting your teeth for being so helpless and hapless, you slowly opened your mouth.

Yes,” you simpered. “we got married. And then, we have you.”

Kōmori beamed, and the sight warmed your chest just as much as it burned it. She looked too much like her father… Giving you one last grin, she scampered off to play somewhere else.

The living room was silent before a deep voice shattered the temporary peace you had.

“Such a touching confession.” he mused. “You should’ve told her how much you love me, too.”

You slowly looked up and stared into his gleaming eyes as he hung upside down like he usually did – like you used to love.

He was  pleased , probably thinking that he’d finally  succeeded  in molding you now.

But you still had a little dignity left.

“… I don’t want to lie to her more than I have to.”

His smile widened while his eyes narrowed slightly. “That’s quite a bold statement for someone who willingly married me.” he remarked.

You squinted coldly in return.

“But that’s alright…” he replied airily as he landed effortlessly before you and plopped down beside you. “It’s not as if you can leave me now. Kōmori wouldn’t want to see her parents part ways, and you wouldn’t want to see her sad. Am I right, little one?”

Looking down, you gripped your dress to suppress the frustration that bubbled within you. You always hated it whenever he phrased the questions as if you wanted or didn’t want the consequences to happen. It made you feel weaker and even more… hopeless.

He didn’t need thorny vines to  bind  you anymore, because he had Kōmori now.

“Right…” you whispered, frowning sullenly at your predicament. “… Of course.”

Chapter Text

It was entertaining to see just how naïve you were sometimes, almost like Sebek. The way you immediately trusted everything he said, the way your head drooped shamefully whenever he ‘scolded’ you for hanging out with those good-for-nothing first years, and the way your eyes widened every time he showed you some magic tricks. You looked so precious, so young in the face of an ancient being who wouldn’t hesitate to devour you. A being who wasn’t always reliable just because he was ancient and had more experiences.

But you didn’t need to know that, of course, because Lilia had cemented his place as your closest friend. Or should he say… your only friend? You never seemed to notice that he’d gradually isolated you from your friends and coaxed you to befriend his little family instead. You never seemed to notice the amused glint in his eyes as he fed you with lies upon lies about how dangerous Twisted Wonderland was and how he was the only one who could protect you. You never seemed to notice the triumphant smirk that darkened his pale features as he stroke your sleeping face on his bed. Or should he say… your shared bed?

You were so easy to persuade, so easy to fool it was almost concerning. Of course, Lilia pitied you… sometimes. How could he not? You’d chosen to trust one of the most enigmatic figures in Night Raven. And you’d chosen to ignore the voice of reason, which was your good-for-nothing friends.

Honestly, how much more naïve could you get?

However, it was the very same attitude that attracted him in the first place. And although there was a tickling desire to ruin your innocence deep within him, Lilia wasn’t that cruel. Oh, no. Destroying your misguided trust in him would be the same as destroying a baby’s, and he’d never do that. Speaking of age, you were obviously one in his eyes.

And weren’t faeries known to snatch babies?

It was hard not to treat you like a baby sometimes, but it wasn’t his intention – not really. He wanted to make you his wife, his partner, his everything. And while he was certain that you’d accept his offer if he worded it correctly, there was still one more obstacle. One big difference between you and him aside from the obvious features.

Your lifespan.

Regardless, Lilia had lived long enough to gather the necessary knowledge about species transformation. It wasn’t easy, and the process would definitely be painful, but it was a risk he was willing to take.

You already lived with him anyway and were even considered as an unofficial Diasomnia member. What was the harm in taking a step further? What was the harm in establishing your pseudo-relationship?

Well, he certainly saw no harm in it. Because everything he did was for your own benefits, too.

Everything he did was to protect you from the danger that lurked in every corner, although the real danger had been standing before you all this time.

Of course, you didn’t need to know that.

“Sunshine, can you do me a favor?”

He watched you looked up from the pages and blinked owlishly, the book laid forgotten on your lap. As expected, he found you in your room like he’d ordered you to go after you went home from school. You were docile enough for him to put his worries at rest and dismissed the idea of confining you.

Not that you’d be able to escape, anyway. Even if he wasn’t there to guard you, he had Malleus and his other retainers to keep an eye on you. And besides, why would you leave the people who had accepted you into their little circle when others did otherwise?

“What is it?”

“I’d like to drink from you, if you may.”

Your eyes widened, and you promptly shifted a little at the bedside. Honestly, he wouldn’t blame you for reacting that way. After all, this was the first time he requested such a thing from you.

However, this also served as a test for you. A test to see how far your loyalty to him lied; to see how far you were willing to obey him.

“I…” you stuttered. “I don’t know if I can do that…”

Aw, you were scared. How cute.

His eyes gleamed under the dimly lit room as he sat beside you, careful to not spook you any further. He gently grasped your chin and turned your head towards him, smiling reassuringly.

“I promise I’ll be gentle to you.”

You were reluctant, he knew that much. If anything, you seemed to be contemplating running away judging from your shifty eyes. However, the trust you had in him was apparently bigger than your fear. It wasn’t long before you hesitantly scooted closer to him, chest hammering and body trembling.

Good. This should be easy, then.

Triumph bled into his ever-expanding smirk as he gently unbuttoned the upper buttons of your uniform and pulled the sleeve down. But before he could bite your skin, you quickly grabbed his wrist.

“Please don’t be too rough.” you whispered meekly, eyes squeezed shut.

Lilia smiled, his mouth parted slightly to reveal a pair of glinting fangs. “Of course. You can trust me, Sunshine.”

He glanced at you, admiring your humanly profile for the last time before he bowed his head to puncture the once smooth skin. You winced and instinctively pushed him, but he merely held you closer against his chest.

Slowly, he laid you on the bed until he basically straddled you. You weren’t aware of the position nor the book that had unknowingly fallen to the floor, too absorbed in enduring the pain of having your blood sucked. But you did feel something sticky entered your puncture wounds, and that was when you struggled.

“Lilia… get… get off…!” you whimpered, actively trying to push him this time. However, despite his petite body, he proved to be stronger and heavier than you as he effortlessly pinned your wrists against the mattress.

The fae didn’t stop despite your pleas and cries until he successfully administered all of the liquids into your body. And by the time he was finished, you’d become limp and sweaty. Lilia stroked your flushing cheeks and smirked, relishing the way you futilely attempted to remain conscious beneath him.

You looked so hurt, so betrayed in the face of your senior. The senior who you thought you could trust. And, frankly, it made you look even more precious in his eyes. How could he not? This was the moment where you finally realized your mistake.

Grinning, he cooed. “I’ll see you very soon, Moonlight~”

Chapter Text

“Let’s play a game.”

Your stomach plummeted at Lilia’s suggestion as you stood near the entrance of some abandoned building.

And it wasn’t just any normal building, either.

It was an asylum.

You could see splinters of wood, dirty syringes, and old papers scattered on the floor. The lights were broken, flickering on and off as though emphasizing the eerie atmosphere of the asylum. You could’ve sworn you saw the wheelchair at the end of the hallway moved slightly, but you wouldn’t be very surprised if it did. You were freezing, wearing only a plain shirt and pants with no shoes to cover your feet.

It’d all begun when he suddenly asked if you wanted to leave from his – no, your – home. You were astounded, of course, and suspicious. What’s with the abrupt offer? Since when did he become this… generous?

Not that Lilia was ever stingy if you excluded the fact that he’d enchanted the whole house so you wouldn’t be able to escape no matter how hard you tried. He was actually a benevolent lover underneath his sadism and mischief, but it’d taken a long time to reach that state due to your rebellion and stubbornness.

However, even you knew that he wasn’t one to offer something as farfetched as freedom without a catch. He simply wasn’t that benevolent.

And your suspicion came true when he teleported you to this building at midnight without giving you any time to prepare yourself, let alone change your clothes.

Lilia floated behind you, hands clasping around your shivering body. His body temperature didn’t do much in warming you up, either. In fact, you’d say that he wanted to provoke more goosebumps to appear. “If you can leave the hospital in ten minutes, I’ll let you go.”

“T-ten minutes? Are you crazy?!” you hissed through your clattering teeth. “There’s no way I can leave in ten minutes!”

“Oh, being pessimistic, are we?” he cooed, lithe finger stroking the recent bite mark that marred your pretty neck. “It’s alright if you want to give up now. I can see that you look rather… cold. Stay here for too long and you’d become an ice block in no time.” He cocked his head to lick the crook of your neck. “The warmth of our home is better than this wretched building, don’t you think? I’ll even cuddle you to sleep, if you want. We all know how clingy you are when you’re sleeping.”

It wasn’t as if you wanted to act that way, either. The house became colder at night, and the fireplace just wasn’t enough to warm you up. The blankets would disappear mysteriously, even when you remembered that you’d placed them near you. But you didn’t need to investigate any further because a coy smile on his lips was enough to tell you everything.

Lilia didn’t allow you to sleep in other rooms, too. With calculated words and sultry gaze, he coaxed you to join him on the bed. And if you refused, he easily pulled you into his arms with his magic. It would’ve felt rather pleasant, had he didn’t ruin the mood by mocking your newfound ‘obedience’. And, as much as you hated to admit it, you slept faster in his arms.

“N-no way…!” You ripped his arms from your neck and shakily stepped forward, still hugging your upper body. “I can… I can do this. I will win your challenge, Lilia.”

“Ah, the stubbornness of youth. I like it.” Lilia licked his lips, crimson eyes gleaming in the darkness. “It seems that you haven’t changed a bit, Little One. Let’s see if you can keep the fire in your eyes a little longer.”

He snapped his fingers, and a small clock materialized beside you.

“If you manage to escape before the clock hits one am, that means you win.” At the thought of your crushing defeat, his eyes glowed sadistically. “… But if you don’t, there’ll be no more chances like this. So you better give all of your efforts, Little One.”

Lilia clasped his hands behind his back and smiled coyly. “Good luck. I’ll be waiting at the exit.”

You watched him disappeared in a puff of glitters and slowly faced forward. Ten minutes, huh…? Could you escape in such a short time? He didn’t even bother to give you a flashlight.

Frowning resolutely, you clenched your hands. Yes, of course, you could do it. All of your escape attempts had led you to this day, and you were determined to use the opportunity to the fullest.

You would get that freedom, one way or another.

Slowly, you began to advance, using the flickering lights in front of you as guidance. You squinted, trying to read the broken sign that hung above the double doors. Was that… the exit? Huh… it was closer than you’d thought.

Maybe… maybe Lilia was really that kind.

Fueled at the freedom that lied just outside your grasp, you slowly picked up your pace until you ran down the hallway.

Just several steps again, and you could–!

“Oof!”

Something abruptly crashed you from the right side, nearly pushing you against the wall. You collapsed on the floor, your knees scraping against the splinters. Wincing at the blooming pain, you gently touched your hip and looked towards the source of your fall. Your eyes instantly widened at the object.

stretcher…? Where the hell did that come from?! And how could you didn’t hear its sound?! Its creaking should be loud and clear!

… No, you shook your head, it didn’t matter. You needed… you needed to get up now. You couldn’t afford to waste any more time.

There were only five minutes left, after all.

A shriek left your lips when a hand grabbed your ankle from behind. Luckily, your hands instinctively planted themselves against the floor to prevent another fall. You painted, both from exhaustion and shock and whipped your head to the back.

A skinny man with dark skin snarled, long nails digging into your skin. Strands of white hair protruded from his balding head, a few teeth he had were black, and his eyes were hollow. He wore a loose white robe that revealed his wrinkly chest, and you noticed with horror that he had no feet.

You screamed, trying to pry your leg out of his grasp. He was surprisingly strong for an old man, and a ghost, but you succeeded in freeing yourself after a few tugs. Heaving, you gripped your throbbing hip and skittered towards the exit.

As if on cue, various hands shot through the bars from the doors. You squealed under the onslaught, desperately ducking out of their flailing hands. Some of them managed to snatch a few strands of your hair, but you bore it all with ground teeth. You didn’t know how and why they were here, considering that the building was supposed to be empty, but you didn’t care.

You wanted to get out. Now!

You burst through the double doors just before the needle struck one am, but rather than the field you’d expected to see, you landed on a familiar place instead. You collapsed near the bedside, the throbbing pain and exhaustion slowly replaced the numbing adrenaline. Your dilated eyes frantically looked around, noticing that this was, in fact, your room.

Your room with  Lilia .

“What… what am I doing here?” you heaved. “The clock… I left before the clock hit one am, so why am I here?!”

“Ah, well, I never said that you’d return to your house.” You heard Lilia’s nonchalant reply from the bed.

“B-but you said you’d set me free!” you yelled. “You promised me, Lilia. You promised that if I won, I’d be free. And I won! I won!

Lilia tutted, shaking his head.

“Nope, I never said that. I simply told you that I’d let you go, and your legs brought you here.” He peered towards you, smiling innocently. “So you do love me deep down, huh, Little One…? Who would’ve thought that it only needed a little challenge for you to reveal that?”

You gaped at him, shock and betrayal swirled within your tired eyes. Not because he’d mocked you for your nonexistent feelings yet again, but because-

“You… you tricked me.” you whispered slowly, painfully. “You set a portal outside the building so you’d win regardless of the outcomes. I never had a chance to win, in the first place. This was just… this was just a game to you.”

“Well, aren’t you quite the sharp one?” he retorted, smirking. “If only you’d realized that long before you accepted my offer, then you wouldn’t have to suffer in there. But, well…” He looked away and hummed. “… You’ve always been the desperate one, anyway.”

Turning his body so he’d lie on his stomach whilst staring down at your defeated expression, Lilia simpered.

“But you heard yourself, no? I won, and that means,” A pale hand lifted your chin as he leaned down, cold breath caressed your trembling lips. “there won’t be any chance like that again.”

Chapter Text

“Here; a gift for my beloved.”

[Name] frowns and hesitantly takes the dangling necklace from his hand. It’s a beautiful pendant with a golden link and a matching plate that frames a… mirror? Her frown deepens as she brings it closer and sees one of her eyes staring back at her. Tiny garnets surround the plate, glittering under the light.

Slowly, her eyes peer towards Lilia’s large ones. She gazes at them long and hard before her grip on the link tightens.

Is he insulting her…? [Name] knows that Lilia can be cheeky, but she never expects that he’d stoop this low.

Offended by his low blow, [Name] scowls and proceeds to throw the necklace out of the window. Lilia’s eyes widen at her brazen action, but she quickly shoots him a glower before he can open his mouth.

“I don’t need a gift from you.” she hisses as she crosses past him and slams the door shut.

Inside the room, Lilia blinks owlishly for another second before a smirk darkens his features.

“My, she’s sharper than I thought.” he muses, floating towards the opened window and peers down at the fallen gift. “I wonder if it’s because of me…?”

He chuckles and effortlessly lifts the pendant from the necklace with his magic. Then, he gently wipes the specks of dirt from the mirror. When it reflects his lower face, his smirk widens.

“As expected of my wife.” he remarks. “If only she knows just how proud I am with her growth.”

Chapter Text

t was always interesting how smitten you were to Silver. The way you always sat or stood a bit too close to him, the way your eyes glittered whenever you stared at him, the way your pitch rose slightly whenever you spoke to or about him as if you couldn’t contain your enthusiasm, and the way you always wanted to accompany him wherever he went. It reminded Lilia of a love-struck puppy whenever you did the latter, especially when you never really bothered to hide your giddy beam.

But just because it was amusing to watch, didn’t mean Lilia liked it.

As far as he was concerned, Silver wasn’t interested in you. At least, not romantically. To him, you were simply a cheerful junior who loved to hang out with him for unknown reasons. Lilia knew because Silver had confessed his confusion to him before; about why you seemed to approach him a lot these days.

Of course, Lilia just smiled knowingly and told him that you merely looked up to him as a reliable senior. It was a lie that Silver stomached it well and easily judging by his thoughtful nod, and it was also a lie that Lilia intended to maintain.

… Maybe a half-lie was more appropriate. After all, the reason why you liked him in the first place stemmed from your admiration for him. Therefore, it wasn’t a complete lie to say that you adored his son as an upperclassman.

But, oh, it seemed that his deception impacted you more than he realized. Because you soon approached him in the Botanical Garden with downcast eyes and tight lips; an expression that he both adored yet despised on you. Adored because he knew the purpose of your arrival, and despised because he knew that he’d treat you better than his callow son could ever do.

“Vanrouge-senpai…?”

Oh, how lovely it was to hear his name fell from your lips. It tickled his sharp ears to hear the low, almost tentative sound, and he decided that he liked it better than hearing you said ‘Silver-senpai’. Of course, it lacked the warmth and affection you had for the boy, but it was okay.

There was no need to rush. Patience was necessary if he wanted you to fall for him the way you fell for his son, perhaps even more. And once it happened, his surname would replace yours and you’d be known as Mrs. Vanrouge.

… Ah, imagining it almost made him shiver giddily.

“Yes, [Name]-chan?” he smiled, cocking his head amiably. “Do you need something?”

“I, uh…” you stammered nervously, not knowing how to start. How cute. If only you knew how long he’d been noticing your infatuation for Silver… “If… it doesn’t bother you too much, may I know what Silver thinks about me?”

Lilia’s smile widened, a glint of mischief darkened his irises. This was just too easy…

“Why do you want to know, [Name]-chan?”

You startled, clearly caught off guard by his question. “It’s… it’s because I…”

He nodded patiently, urging you to continue with his ‘nice senior’ persona.

“I… happen to like him.”

How naïve

Lilia almost pitied you for being so honest, so… gullible.

“Oh, is that so?” he hummed, closing his eyes in mock thoughtfulness. “I see. That’s too bad, then.”

You looked up, trying to hide the dread from your wide eyes.

“Silver only considers you as a kind junior.” Lilia frowned sympathetically, observing the way you wilted during the pause. “I’m sorry, [Name]-chan, but he simply doesn’t like you that way.”

“I… I see…” you murmured pitifully, head slowly dropping. “I understand. Thank you for your answer, Vanrouge-senpai. Now, please excuse me.”

“Wait, [Name]-chan.”

You halted on your tracks, but couldn’t bear to turn around.

That was fine; you didn’t need to see his triumphant smirk, anyway.

Lilia floated towards you and gently pushed you to his chest, much to your shock.

“Forgive me for being so blunt.” he muttered. “It wasn’t my intention to hurt your feelings.”

Your shoulders slowly drooped as you shook your head, allowing the warmth of his hug to consume you.

“No, no, it’s… it’s fine. Really, I…” Your breath hitched, and you squeezed the back of his blazer. “I appreciate your honesty. After all, you… you’re always so close to him. So, it’s only natural that you… know about him more than me.”

Indeed, he was.

“But please don’t fret, [Name]-chan.” he cooed, pushing your head deeper to his chest. As expected, your body fit in his arms perfectly.

Another proof that you were meant to be his, not Silver’s.

“You have many wonderful people who love you for who you are, including me. So if you ever find yourself sadden again, know that I’ll always be here to wipe your tears.”

You smiled, touched by his sincerity but unable to comprehend its depth.

Not yet, at least.

“Thank you so much, Vanrouge-senpai. I really appreciate your kindness.”

Lilia simpered as he stroked your hair, crimson eyes gleamed wickedly. “Of course, my dear.

Chapter Text

You were upset.

People could sense it, the gloomy cloud that loomed on your head. Occasionally thundering, and occasionally raining. You walked with your head bowed, leaving a trail of wilted flowers in your wake. The stares from the students burdened your shoulders, so you hid, further away, into the cloak of your hair. Silver would be blind if he didn’t see your sadness, the dark and heavy aura – heavier than Malleus’ – that surrounded you like a persistent shadow.

How could he ignore it all, when he was the only witness to the tragic incident between you and your boyfriend – or, should he say, ex?

Something had happened to him. Silver could perceive the terror in his eyes, as if you were the monster that lived under his bed. He’d refused to answer your questions and shook his head repeatedly, beads of sweat dotted his forehead. He’d fled without a word, without a goodbye, leaving you in the hallway with forgotten memories. Silver’s hands twitched, wanting to hug and caress your back. But you’d spun and left before he could call you, a few drops of tears trickled down and gleamed under the sunlight.

Silver followed you, another shadow, deep into the forest.

There, you collapsed and leaned against a tree. You hugged your knees and wept, a heartbreaking sound that pierced the silence. Two hummingbirds – one of his loyal companions whenever he accidentally slept in the forest – swooped down and perched on each side of Silver’s shoulders, cocking their tiny heads. They saw him hiding behind a bark, wanting to accompany you yet didn’t want to disturb you, longing yet unwilling.

Seconds passed like forever for them. Silver still stood among the trees, watching you sorrowfully. They flapped their wings and dug their puny claws onto Silver’s uniform. They began to pull him, determined to drag him out of his hiding spot. Their strength was minuscule, and Silver could’ve easily ignored them, but he let them did as they wished. Of course, he tried to protest, albeit listlessly. Without their help, perhaps he’d hide there forever. His belief that everyone should have their own privacy and the desire to comfort you jostled in his chest, and the birds had decided it for him.

How nice of them.

Silver tripped over a twig, but he managed to control himself before he could topple on you. You looked up due to the disturbance and gaped, shocked at the sight of your sleepy senior approaching you. The trails of tears on your cheeks slowly dried up and hardened with each passing moment spent staring at each other.

“Silver-senpai?” you whispered, still nonplussed. “What… what are you doing here?”

“I…” This was the first time Silver stammered. Usually, he was a calm and quiet kid, almost forgettable had it weren’t for his status as Malleus’ bodyguard. Now, under your stare, he became flustered. He glanced here and there, searching for an answer from dead leaves and fallen twigs. “I’ve fallen asleep nearby, and I heard someone’s crying, so I came to check.”

He paused, gauging your reaction.

“I’m sorry. I’ll leave if I bother you.”

“Wait!”

Silver stopped, one foot pointing at the school. The birds who had protested and flapped their wings noisily near his ears were now chirping triumphantly, happy with your interruption. You bowed, blood collecting in your cheeks. The hand you’d lifted slowly fell.

“Can you… can you please stay here? With me?”

Silver was stunned, not expecting the birds’ impulsive plan to work. He’d given up already, thinking that you wanted to be alone, because that was what he would’ve done had he was in your position. His heart soared, and hope lit up his droopy eyes.

He faced you again and hesitantly walked to your side, to his rightful spot. The birds had flown and perched on the branch, admiring their hard work. Silver sat down, almost stiffly. You didn’t seem to notice his awkwardness and instead rested your head on his shoulder. You sighed and closed your head, looking more peaceful now. Was his presence truly comforted you? Would you stop crying over your ex if he kept accompanying you?

Would you forget about that boy and remember him instead?

Hesitantly, Silver slung an arm around your shoulders and brought you closer to him. He could feel it, the warmth of your body like fire in the hearth during winter. How long had he been dreaming for this moment again? He didn’t know why, and how long, he’d been liking you. Perhaps it was due to your mental fortitude, your patience, or your kindness. You were pretty, of course. He’d seen many fae women who were more beautiful than you in the Valley. You were smart, of course. It took more than just skills to survive in this school, as the only magicless student. And you were tolerant, of course. You needed people to help you, and they wouldn’t do it if you rejected their customs.

The reason why Silver fell for you was still a mystery, but the few people close to him had already known about his little secret. Lilia was the first person to discover it, as expected. He always teased him, pointing out how he always looked everywhere as if searching for someone. The cafeteria was the place where Silver was most anxious, especially if you failed to come.

At first, Silver didn’t really believe his father. Maybe he did that because he was worried about your safety. You were the only girl in here, after all, so it was only natural if he felt that way.

But, little by little, his feelings started to culminate.

During those moments where he didn’t sleep, Silver tended to zone out. Sebek often berated him, calling him a terrible guard for failing to do his duty properly. As always, Silver ignored him. But when Sebek mentioned your name, how much of a bad influence you were to him, Silver realized. Even Sebek, the person most focused on Malleus, had begun to learn about his crush. Did Malleus know about it too? Was he disappointed in him now?

Silver was agitated. Kalim’s advice went unheard like a passing breeze. Sometimes, he forgot that he and Silver were different. It was impossible for him to suddenly prepare a party or a feast and invite you. Of course, he could always hold a tea party like he often did with Sebek and Lilia. But Silver wasn’t sure if it’d work, or if you like parties at all. There were too many things he didn’t know about you, and it made him sleepier than usual. The differences in your classes and schedules also widened the gap between you both. How could he meet you, if he was too busy with his duty and slumbering?

Until one day, Lilia confronted him.

“I don’t know what happened.” you whispered suddenly. Maybe his silence had compelled you to speak up. Silver had never been grateful for his personality more than now. “My boyfriend suddenly broke up with me. He refused to tell me the reason, if I was the cause of it. He looked scared. I’m really worried about him, but he didn’t give me a chance to comfort him. He just left, as if I was a monster or something.”

You sighed, a heavy sound that squeezed his heart.

“I don’t understand. Have I done something wrong to him? Have I accidentally hurt him with my words or actions?” You sniffled, your eyes felt cool after crying. “I’m hoping he’d talk to me, but I’m sure he’d reject me again. Maybe he’s beginning to avoid me now.”

You hid your glum face to your knees again, withdrawing from the world. A triumphant smile tickled his lips like a feather, but Silver repressed it and patted your back. It was unbecoming to be happy over someone else’s pain, especially yours, even though he was the one who started it all.

“You look distressed, son.” remarked Lilia, strolling towards the young knight. “Is everything alright?”

“Father.” greeted Silver solemnly. Hearing his father’s question, he bowed. “I just feel… anxious lately.”

Lilia hummed. “Yes, I can see it. Your feelings for [Name] have overflown, and you don’t know what to do about it.”

As expected, he always knew what people were thinking. Or maybe Silver was really that transparent.

“I just… I just want to–”

“Be with her?” interjected Lilia, connecting the painful truth that Silver refused to admit. “Of course, that’s normal. Everyone wants to be with the person they love.”

He peeked through his lashes, watching Silver clenched his fists frustratedly.

“But you can’t, can you?”

Silver looked away.

“Oh, don’t be sad, my child.” purred Lilia, floating towards him. He patted his cheeks, feeling the slight baby fat in there. It reminded him of when he first stumbled upon Silver. How nostalgic. “You’re not alone. I’m still here, beside you. Just say what you want, and I shall do my very best to grant it.”

Silver lifted his head slightly, a ray of hope illuminating his gloomy face. But his morality struggled in his chest, reminding him that whatever Lilia planned, would be horrible. Silver wasn’t stupid, despite being blunt in some aspects. The fairies would interpret ambiguity as they wished, and it rarely turned out good.

“I… I can’t.”

Lilia cocked his head. “Why?”

“I don’t want to hurt [Name].”

A bemused smile tugged the fae’s lips.

“Oh, Silver. Life will always be painful, and behind every pain, there’s a lesson.” He plopped down beside Silver, peering into the silver cloak of his hair. “Do you understand? Sooner or later, [Name] will break up with her boyfriend, because he’s not her soulmate. Nature won’t let an unlikely couple stay together for too long. Every meeting will always ends in parting. Such is how the world works.”

Silver glanced at him sadly.

“So, what’s the harm in speeding up the process? I’m just helping nature that way, and, of course,” Lilia took his gloved hands and brought them to his small chest. “because I care about you. I don’t want to see you wallow in sadness for too long. It doesn’t suit you. You’re still too young to give up.”

“So what should I do?” asked Silver, almost whining. “I can’t just steal [Name] and pretend nothing happened. She’ll be very disappointed in me, and will probably never want to see me again.”

“You don’t need to think about such complicated things.” Lilia waved his hand flippantly. “Don’t you know? Sad people are easier to connect with those who comfort them, because that moment is where they’re at their lowest.”

Silver gaped at him, still shocked at his implication despite already expecting it. “Father…”

Lilia smiled airily.

“Just be yourself, and entrust everything to me. I won’t disappoint you, I promise.”

And indeed, he didn’t disappoint him. Everything went smoothly, with unexpected help from the birds. Morbidly, Silver felt relieved. He could breathe easily now, the air filling every inch of his chest. He was happy to have a reliable father, although the price came in the form of your pain.

But Silver was certain it’d pass, like his agitation. Nothing was eternal in this world, but he was determined to make this relationship work.

It had to.

“It’s okay.” he whispered, caressing your trembling back. “I’m here now, and I won’t leave you. Ever.”

The leaves rustled in the distance. Silver looked up and smiled faintly, mouthing his gratitude.

Lilia smirked and nodded smugly, already thinking about his son’s future and the grandchildren he’d take care of later. Oh, he certainly couldn’t wait for that!

Chapter Text

It was dark.

It was so freaking dark here.

You didn’t know how Silver could survive here, in the middle of nowhere that looked more like an abyss than a forest. Daytime wasn’t any better, the thick foliage pretty much covered the meager sunlight. Many times you’d tripped over fallen branches, and sometimes twigs too, if it weren’t for Silver holding you back. And, well, you would’ve been grateful for the extra hands.

If he didn’t keep you here.

And that damned fae for helping him.

You didn’t even see it coming. In your eyes, Silver was merely that odd guy who liked to sleep in random places. Sure, he was handsome, and gentlemanly, and quite rich if you looked past his humble cabin, but you didn’t like him that way. To you, he was your quirky friend, maybe even a little brother due to how vulnerable he looked sometimes.

But he didn’t seem to think as you did.

And because he probably didn’t know how to confess his feelings properly, he decided to kidnap you instead.

Just because a burglar had the misfortune of breaking into your house when Silver was in there.

Obviously, he’d defended you, showcasing his ability for the first time since you’d befriended him. He’d never bragged about it, either, so it was easy to think he was just a dainty, sleepy man. But he wasn’t, and you’d been so stunned when the burglar suddenly dropped to the ground. You didn’t even see him move, his kick was a blur to your shocked eyes. Regardless, you were thankful for him, even offering to make him dinner as gratitude. Silver, of course, politely yet stoically denied it, saying that your safety was important and that he was glad to have been able to protect you.

Unbeknownst to you, he kept thinking about the incident, even going so far as to have nightmares about it.

At least, that was what Lilia had told you. Either he wanted you to pity Silver and, thus, accept his overwhelming protection, or he was exaggerating. You didn’t know, fairies were hard to read. You didn’t even want to be acquainted with him, but, alas, he and Silver came in a package.

One sticky package that you just couldn’t seem to get rid of anytime soon.

A pair of sturdy hands wrapped around your stomach. Silver rested his chin on your shoulder, staring at the darkness that swallowed the trees through the window.

“What are you thinking about?” His question came out in a drawl due to his constant sleepiness.

“Nothing.”

He merely hummed. He was always so easy to fool, unlike his more cautious yet easygoing father. It was almost pitiful… had Lilia didn’t exist with his infinite ‘wisdom’. Every time he visited, which tended to be sudden, he always simpered at you as if he knew what you were planning, whatever it was.

But, surely, he wasn’t that omniscient, right? There was no way he could’ve known what went inside your head. Fairies weren’t that powerful, were they? If that was the case, then you wouldn’t have anything to protect yourself, wouldn’t have anything to be called yours. Silver wasn’t an inquisitive person, but he was still possessive and suffocating to be around. And between you and Lilia, he’d certainly believe the latter.

Because you were just that unreliable, apparently. How would you protect yourself without him, anyway? How could he trust you for simple self-defense? He didn’t, that was why he trusted Lilia over you. Lilia was always in the right, after all. It didn’t matter if he was wrong, he was still right.

Because he was his father, simple as that. And fathers knew everything, had seen everything, had experienced everything. They were a more reliable source than a weak, helpless girl.

That didn’t mean you’d be discouraged, though.

“I’m sleepy. Let’s go to sleep.”

In a more menial matter, you’d definitely hold the rein over him. You could order him to do anything – except releasing you, obviously – and he’d do it in a heartbeat. It didn’t matter how far the trip was, or how embarrassing the task was, he’d do it. Honestly, you doubted he had any inkling of shame in him, except for his perceived failure at protecting you.

He was willing to do anything for you, as long as Lilia was there to replace his spot as your babysitter, of course.

The days of your indignation and betrayal of your abrupt kidnapping were over, replaced by forced indifference and, sometimes, exasperation. Silver’s presence remained quiet and unassuming as usual, but Lilia still managed to annoy you even with his mere grin. He always knew which button to press, which wound to pour salt in, which insecurity to scratch. Occasionally, you wondered which one knew you better; Silver or Lilia?

It didn’t matter, anyway. Because tonight, you were going to leave this hellhole.

Sure, the forest was dark, terrifyingly so, but fleeing in broad daylight was equal to suicide.

And you couldn’t die without trying. You’d be damned to.

Silver’s biceps were pleasant to look at, but unpleasant to move, especially when he was hugging you like this. He cradled you so tight, so often, you wondered if he thought you were his teddy bear or stress ball. You wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He always seemed somewhat antsy whenever he wasn’t touching you in some way.

Silver growled when you tried to lift his arm, and merely tightened his grip around you. Your heart thumped wildly within its cage, but you couldn’t resist the urge to suck in a miffed breath. Of course, he was strong. Lilia had trained him all his life, after all. It’d be weird if he was weak, although he was a bit too vulnerable.

But that was fine. You liked it that way. If he was more alert, this opportunity wouldn’t have come, and then, you’d be trapped for the rest of your life.

“Silver,” you whispered, patting his cheek. The memory of you slapping that exact spot flashed in your mind. “I want to drink.”

Your ‘protector’ grumbled and cracked his eyes open sleepily. “… Ugh, what?”

“I want to drink.”

He sighed deeply as if you’d just asked him to buy some bread in the neighboring town at midnight and reluctantly released you from his bodily cage.

“Okay,” he croaked. “don’t take too long.”

“I won’t.”

You would.

You threw your legs over the bedside and stood up. Goodness, your muscles felt stiff from being in one position for too long. You wouldn’t have cared so much if he slept like a log – you’d be happy, even – had he didn’t drag you into it too.

… Okay, this one was your fault, but your point still stood.

You slunk out of the room and carefully closed the door behind you. Silver had gone back to sleep, but you had no doubt he was still waiting for you. His [Name] radar was still active, after all, so you needed to be quick.

Slithering into the living room, you gingerly turned the keys and opened the door. Frigid air blew past you, and you momentarily regretted not wearing thicker clothes. Oh, whatever. You could find something else to warm you along the way.

If you found one, that is.

The air seeped through as you closed the door. This was easy, too easy. You wondered why you didn’t do this sooner. It wasn’t as if Lilia visited every day, and Silver spent the majority of his time either sleeping or training. You’d missed so many chances before you, but none of them were as good as this.

You could feel it, somehow.

The village was located just outside the forest, and if you went to the center, you’d find your house. Your true house, before Silver declared his cabin as yours. But you wouldn’t do that, no. It’d just give him and Lilia the opportunity to capture you faster. Instead, you’d report your kidnapping to the village chief or the authorities and let them handle it. Though, you weren’t sure if they could really do it. Lilia was strong, despite his jolly old man persona. He wouldn’t let himself, or Silver, be caught easily.

Or maybe he would, and then, he’d pull some sick tricks on them. You knew he wasn’t above such a thing.

But the neighboring town was too far, and you didn’t have too much time left. Soon, Silver would realize you’d gone and be on his merry way. Probably report it to Lilia too along the way. You didn’t know how he’d do that, but you didn’t want to know, either.

You just wanted to go to your true home and forget all of this ever happened.

As always, you tripped over stray twigs and branches, floundering towards what you hoped was the general direction of your village, but you persisted. With ground teeth, you ignored the searing pain that shot up to your knees and trudged forward. Some cuts and scratches weren’t worth the isolation Silver had given you. You’d trade a battered body over a broken spirit any day.

You slowly ceased your sprint to a jog. But… would Silver punish you if he saw you like this? No, not Silver. But Lilia. Yes, of course, he was more intimidating. He had questionable knowledge, power, and experiences under his belt. He could break you, smoothly and sadistically.

Then again, Silver would still be displeased, and his protectiveness would intensify for sure.

You shook your head as you increased your pace. No, all those things wouldn’t happen if you were being fast and smart. You also needed to wipe the little blood on your legs if you wanted to throw Lilia off your track. You didn’t want to mess with fairies’ keen senses.

And, then, you heard it.

A growl.

It sounded somewhat distant, but you heard it loud and clear in your hypersensitive ears. The sound echoed in the deathly quiet forest, unnatural yet natural. Like it belonged there, just not in your brain. Putting a hand against a tree, you tried to silence your gasps and pants as you listened to the growling. Your eyes, so wide and fearful, peered around the nebulous surroundings. Why was it so dark here? You hated it. You couldn’t see anything, and it was slowly killing you. The trepidation wasn’t good for your poor heart, and your legs itched to rest, to fall.

You were exhausted, yet at the same time, you were energized, fueled by the creature that lurked in the shadows. Or was it creatures?

You didn’t know. God, you wished you were home by now. Why was the village so far? Why couldn’t you be truly safe for once?

Hesitantly, you continued jogging. You couldn’t run too fast now, in fear the creature would hear your footfall against the dead leaves. This situation required extreme delicacy, and one wrong step could risk your life.

And you weren’t ready to die, underneath your bravado.

A huge wolf, with stygian fur that melted perfectly to the shadows and lurid crimson eyes, emerged from the trees. Blood coated its teeth and dripped onto the ground below, leaving tiny puddles behind as it advanced towards you.

It’d just eaten, and it was still hungry.

And now, you were its next prey.

You let out a shriek, legs automatically gaining speed as you run for your dear life. The wolf, sensing your frantic desire to escape, growled again and chased after you. It jumped from one tree to another with surprising agility, trying to pounce on you. You barely managed to avoid its attack, the teeth grazing your shoulders and tearing the sleeves until you finally toppled over when the wind knocked you down.

You winced upon impact, rocks of various sizes digging into the side of your head. The wolf wasted no time standing around and immediately bit your leg, eliciting the loudest scream you’d ever released in your entire life. You were certain Silver must’ve heard it, but you didn’t care. You screeched and shrieked as you thrashed about, trying to get the wolf off of your wounded leg. You kicked its face with your other leg, putting what was left of your energy onto the sole, and successfully threw it away.

Hurriedly, you scrambled to your feet and stumbled forward, dragging your injured leg with you. The wolf grunted and snarled, but you ignored it in favor of the tiny light that seeped past the trees.

There, it was. The exit, you were sure of it. You could already see a cabin from this distance, encouraging you to move with all your might. If you weren’t wrong, there was a family of farmers living in there. If you could just ask for their help, they’d report the village chief too and all of this would be done.

… That is, until someone kicked your injured leg.

You yelped and toppled to the side, once again feeling the pebbles stabbing your cheek. You grimaced, and through your slightly blurry vision, you could discern a familiar figure standing in front of you.

A short figure, with eyes redder than blood and a smile crueler than a tormentor.

“My, my. And what do we have here? A damsel in distress.”

“Lilia…” you croaked. Once the name truly sunk into your brain, your eyes widened and you quickly dragged yourself away from him.

“Ah, ah, ah. Not so fast.” Lilia stomped the back of your knees, and you could’ve sworn you heard the bone cracked. “You still need to tell me where you’re going first. I’m your father-in-law, after all.”

Father in– did he just seriously call himself that?! As if you wanted to marry his brainsick son. Even if he was the last man in Twisted Wonderland, you’d still refuse to marry him!

“Oh, still trying to run away, huh?” Lilia dug his heel onto your injury, relishing in your sharp cry. He giggled as if your misery was the biggest entertainment of the century. “I thought it was just a fleeting thought, but it seems I was wrong, eh? My, I’ve grown old now, for sure. For a second there, you almost slipped my fingers. Silver would surely be upset.” He clucked and shook his head. “My lovely little son, only wanting one woman in his life. And yet, she knows no gratitude for the protection he so readily bestowed upon. What do I have to do with you, hm?”

“You can start by going to hell.” you hissed through your shoulder.

Lilia guffawed, and it dawned on you that you’d never seen him truly laughed until now. Well, weren’t you a joker?

“Oh, dear. There’s no such thing as heaven and hell for us fairies. Emptiness is what there is.” he mused. “And even if there is heaven and hell for us, I’ll just have to make sure we all enter one of them together, no?”

He smiled down at you, eyes gleaming with the assurance of an ancient man. You heard the familiar growl, and you sucked in a fearful breath when the wolf appeared from the trees. Lilia, though, remained composed.

Because it only had its eyes on you.

“Come on, now, honey.” He nudged you with the tip of his boot. “Beg for your life, and I might save you from the big bad wolf~”

You merely trembled, watching the animal crept closer. You tried to push yourself, but Lilia’s shoe forbade you from doing so. You were scared. Why was this happening to you?! You just wanted to be free! Was that too much to ask for?

“One,” Lilia slowly counted, raising one gloved finger. “Two,” The wolf crouched slightly, preparing to pounce on you again. To bite you again until you had no functional legs. “Three!”

You screamed and hid your face behind your arms when it jumped to the air, its drool splattering everywhere. But the attack never came, instead, you heard the sound of something being sliced. Gingerly, you peeked through the gap of your arms to see Silver standing with a sword in his hands, breathing heavily. The wolf fell with a thud, blood gushing from its severed head and neck. Almost reflectively, your eyes rolled to the back of your skull at the sight as you slumped to the ground, fatigue and the loss of blood mingled into one nasty defeat at the hands of father and son.

Silver dropped his sword and rushed to your side, examining your injury in case it was anything fatal.

“Relax, Silver.” Lilia drawled airily, taking his usual spot in the air. “It’s nothing too terrible. The least she has is a broken leg now.”

Ah, so it was fatal. Just not in the way he’d expected.

“Should we go see a doctor?”

Lilia simpered. “Why bother, when you can use this to your advantage?”

Silver blinked owlishly.

“What… what do you mean?” he asked, almost breathlessly.

“A broken leg equals to obedience, because there’s nobody she can rely on but you.” The fae explained, with the kind of patience only a parent had towards their naïve child. And, truly, Silver had a lot to learn. “And besides, she can never escape from you again. Unless she wants to break another leg. There are so many creatures here, after all. Creatures that are more vicious and ravenous than that wolf.”

Lilia stroked the corpse, now cold under his touch. It was a pity, honestly. He would’ve loved to see it injure your other leg. It’d certainly deter you from trying to flee once and for all.

But, of course, it’d make Silver sad, and Lilia hated seeing him sad.

He peered to his musing son.

“So, what will you decide?”

Silver pursed his lips, eyes going from your pale face to the crimson leaves below. After much contemplation, he finally lifted you bridal style and turned to the direction of their house. Your house.

“Father, let’s go home.”

Lilia grinned, slowly and smugly. His eyes glinted in the darkness. “That’s my boy~”

Chapter Text

Never in your wildest dreams did you expect yourself to wake up in a magical world, let alone handling a rampaging mage. Sure, you’d daydreamed about transporting into another realm and experience a whole new life, but the reality was often different than expectations. Learning magic wasn’t as cool as it was in movies, nor being a courageous protagonist was as easy as it was in your head. 

And now that you were here, standing in the middle of the stadium with another overblot student just a few meters away from you, you’d never felt more disappointed in life. And it wasn’t just an ordinary student; it was Leona. The guy who turned out to be the mastermind behind the recent accidents and the guy who could turn everything into the sand.

Who would’ve thought that the lazy guy was actually sneaky and depressed all along? You really needed to take this ‘Twisted Wonderland’ world more seriously now, because even a simple mistake could literally cost you your life.

“Why do we always have to face something scary? I’m not fit for this, you know?!” You heard Cater whined, and you resisted the urge to huff. At least, he had magic to protect himself. While you? You always relied on the trio for anything magical. You couldn’t even chase Grim without fearing for his fire.

It felt like you were one of those helpless heroines, and it sucked. Damn it! Why did you have to land here, out of all dimensions?! And what the hell were you supposed to do now? Should you stand aside again and let the guys did their job? Should you ask for help? But that short guy – Lilia, wasn’t it? – was already on his way.

Should you run…?

You bit your bottom lip. It was a tempting idea, alright. Nobody would notice or even blame you if you did it. Well, maybe Ace and Grim would. You had a feeling that Leona was more dangerous than Riddle somehow, despite them being just as powerful. However, it was also a cowardly alternative.

If you could handle being near overblot Riddle, then you could definitely handle being near Leona, right? You just… you just had to wait for the teachers to arrive and diffuse the situation.

You just had to be pati–

A gust of sandy wind abruptly hit your face, nearly knocking you off of your feet. You winced at the sensation of sand prickling your eyes and instantly kneeled, hands shielding your face. Grains of sand clung to your hair and uniform uncomfortably, poking at your skin every time you shifted.

What was that wind just now? You were too busy mulling over your options until you missed the battle.

Well, whatever that was, you hoped the others were okay. And, better yet, won.

Coughing violently, you held your thumping chest to recompose and rubbed your eyes. Thank God, you didn’t wear any makeup today. You wouldn’t want to see the mess which was your face later.

Speaking of mess, why was it so quiet now…? Where were the cheers, or relieved sighs? Where were Ace’s protests? They didn’t– no. They won, right? So, why…?

A pair of feet with long, black nails stood before you. Despite the scorching sun that shone above you, it felt as though icy chains had bounded your body instead. There was only one person who currently possessed that kind of legs, but you didn’t… You couldn’t…

“Heh, what’s with that look? Are you scared?” Leona sneered. “Aw… the princess is cowering. How pathetic. Where’s the brave girl who stepped on my tail at that time?”

You shook your head and slowly withdrew from him, from his oppressive aura and stare. You needed… you needed to get away from here. This wasn’t a battle you could fight.

You needed to escape… now!

You quickly scrambled to your feet and dashed towards the mirror. Where was Lilia?! Why did he take so long?! At this rate, you could die before you even reached the school!

Blinking away the tears that stung your pupils, you shook your head and frowned. No, this wasn’t the time to be pessimistic. You had to believe in yourself, believe in him that he’d arrive quickly. It didn’t matter which person he brought. It could be freaking Crowley, for all you cared about.

You just wanted to go home, dammit! Was that too much to ask?

… Apparently, yes, because Fate liked to play with its victims. It just so happened that you were its favorite now because a sturdy hand immediately seized your wrist before your fingers could even graze the edge of the mirror.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Leona asked gruffly, staring down at your frantic person. “You came to my territory, and now you want to leave?” His lips quirked into a menacing smirk. “Not so fast.”

“Let me go, Leona!” You struggled against his grip, and once you realized its futility, proceeded to bite his hand. Leona threw his head back and laughed at your sorry attempts, the mocking sound booming in the now quiet stadium.

“Why, you look at that! A kitten trying to bite the hand of a lion!” he gibed. “How cute… I could watch this all day, you know?”

Suddenly, the smirk melted from his smug face.

“But the fun’s over now, princess. It’s time for me to claim my prize.”

You had no time to protest or inquire about his cryptic words before you blacked out, body going limp against his arm.

Leona simpered and stroked your sleeping face, eyes softened slightly. As much as he liked to see the fear that contorted your visage, nothing could beat the serenity of slumber.

Huffing, he smirked. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun together, Princess.”

Chapter Text

You were scared, but it wasn’t the kind of fear you’d felt when you woke up in a coffin. No, this was new and it mixed with something else entirely.

Paranoia.

This was the kind of fear a stalked victim would feel.

As much as you hated to admit it, you knew you were famous in this school. How could you not? You were the only magic-less student, came from another world, and was also the sole female in an all-boys institution. Attention was bound to happen whether you wanted it or not, but you never expected someone to actually stalk you.

You just wanted to live your life peacefully, for God’s sake! Not constantly looking over your shoulder in fear of someone following you.

But, of course, there was none. The coast was clear, and yet, the stare never ceased.

You used to think you were being paranoid like most people would’ve assumed. You’d experienced lingering glances at school, but none of them were as persistent as this one.

Whoever they were, they must be very skilled in hiding.

You contemplated reporting to the headmaster about this matter, but you had no proof to back it up. It was just a suspicion, and you doubted he’d take action. If he always pushed some of his responsibilities to you, what made you think he’d be willing to aid you in exposing your elusive stalker? It wasn’t as if he’d helped you more than necessary ever since your arrival, and it was meager anyway.

Hoping for a sliver of assistance, you’d told Grim about the eyes that always followed you everywhere. And, as expected, he brushed it off like it was nothing. He chalked it up to your exhaustion because the bags under your eyes had indeed grown darker lately.

But it wasn’t your fault that you lost sleep over this. You were already fatigued in handling your chaotic group, overblot students, and school. And now, you had to deal with a stalker.

What was their motive, anyway? Why were they so keen on pursuing you? Aside from the obvious lack of magic, you didn’t think you were that interesting.

However, your stalker seemed to think otherwise.

A beacon of hope came to you in the form of sleeping Leona, and no, you didn’t accidentally step on his tail again. Desperate to avoid that piercing gaze, you decided to flee to the botanical garden. It wasn’t exactly the wisest choice, especially when you just escaped all alone. But at least, the serenity of otherworldly plants managed to soothe your nerves somewhat.

“Tch, it’s you.” A gruff voice remarked, shattering the feeble peace you had. You snapped your head towards the speaker, and the breath promptly hitched on your throat.

“L-Leona-san…” you murmured fearfully. It wasn’t as though he’d hurt you, honestly. He merely clucked and warned you to be more careful during your first encounter. But your mind wasn’t really in the best state, nor were you able to repress the tears that glazed your eyes from leaking.

Noticing the sudden change of expression, Leona’s green eyes widened. Body tensed and ears erected, he cautiously sat up and frowned.

“Oi, why are you crying?”

You sniffled and shook your head. “It’s… it’s nothing.”

Leona clucked. “It’s clearly not nothing if you’re sniveling like that.” he grumbled.

Maybe it was the begrudging concern that he hid behind an annoyed façade, or maybe it was his nonchalant aura until you willingly spilled all of your troubles to him. Throughout your half-coherent confession, he merely nodded and occasionally hummed with his eyes closed in seeming concentration.

“Well, what’re you gonna do now?” he inquired once you finished venting.

You closed your eyes in resignation, slumping against the bench.

“I don’t know anymore…” you murmured, hands clutching your head. “Nobody wouldn’t believe me if I told them. They might even tell me I’m being paranoid, instead. I mean, they’re not wrong but…”

You sighed deeply.

“Do you know who the stalker is, Leona-san?”

Leona rolled his eyes. “Probably Hunt. That guy is always sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.” he mumbled, squinting slightly as if mentioning his name brought him great displeasure. “Just stick with me if you want him to go away.”

You blinked repeatedly, half surprised and half hopeful. “R-really…? I can do that?”

“Don’t make me repeat myself, herbivore.” He proceeded to lie on his side, all tension left his body.

You smiled and nodded happily. Finally, after weeks of relentless observation, someone was willing to help you. Although it came as a surprise, you gladly received any assistance thrown in your way.

It was all for the sake of your survival, even if you didn’t know their  ulterior  motives.

True to his words, the eyes that followed you vanished ever since you stuck close to him. Leona remained the aloof and lazy man he was, but you managed to discern a softer treatment towards you. He always shared his favorite menchi katsu sandwich with you, dragged you to sleep together when he noticed your exhaustion or demanded Ruggie to buy your lunches while you kept him company. If you didn’t go to him, then Leona would either visit you himself or had Ruggie ‘pick you up’.

The majority of your time was spent on his side, gradually isolating you from your friends. You noticed the subtle change; how Leona seemed more possessive and affectionate to you. Never once did he treat you roughly, but it didn’t erase the fact that he was trying to monopolize you.

And you didn’t want it. You wanted to leave. You wanted out.

“Leona-san, thank you so much for protecting me all this time. But I think it’s time for us to part ways.”

Ears perked up at your soft request, Leona slowly raised his head. “What? What did you just say?” he inquired, his tail beginning to swish back and forth.

You smiled nervously. “I think the stalker has gone now, so there’s no need for you to protect me anymore.” You quickly added so he wouldn’t feel more offended. “I-it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, though. I’ll still talk to you sometimes, but I’ll return to my old life.”

He squinted coldly. “My protection is the reason why you’re still alive. And now, you want to leave your protector?” he sneered. “Don’t be stupid.”

You frowned, the polite yet tentative smile slowly melted from your features. “I-I don’t understand. Haven’t I been bothering you all this time? Why do you want to keep me so much?”

“Tch, are all herbivores this dense…?” he muttered, shaking his head wearily. Then, he scowled up to you. “Listen here, herbivore, I won’t protect you if you’re bothering me. I’m not that nice. So either you stay with me, or return to your stalker.”

“Is that… is that a threat?” you whispered, unable to believe that your protector had the heart to blatantly manipulate you into behaving.

“Depends on how you take it.” he retorted smoothly. “But you know that I’m right. Who’s to say that he won’t use the chance of you leaving me to stalk you again?”

“I…”

“Just accept your fate already, herbivore. You need me.” He slowly stood up, green eyes pierced into your hesitant ones while his tail wrapped around your waist. “Because nobody cares about your life more than me. And even if you reject me…”

Lifting your chin with his gloved fingers, Leona leaned forward and squinted.

“… I’ll make sure you run away to me  again .”

Chapter Text

Meeting a horned man in the alleyway at night wasn’t a part of your plan. You didn’t even know such a person existed. You just wanted to throw out the trash, and yet, here you were, standing face to face with the one and only horned man.

… Should you call the cops? He did look shady, but certainly not as shady as a drug dealer.

No, you shook your head, that wasn’t the word you were looking for. He seemed confused, guarded, yet regal in a way most people weren’t. And his eyes, they glowed in the dark so–

“And who might you be, Child of Man?”

Eerily.

Yes, everything about him seemed eerie. From his posture, face, clothes… and manner of speaking. Who called people ‘Child of Man’, anyway? Even the most eccentric person wouldn’t call you that.

“U-uh,” you mumbled intelligently. “I’m–”

Maybe you shouldn’t give him your name. At least, not yet.

“I live nearby.”

Yes, that sounded about right. It solidified your position as the occupant of this area, and he was the intruder here. Although provoking him wasn’t exactly your motive, but he should know.

Regardless, the man squinted before sighing.

“I see. Could you tell me where I am now? It appears that I’m lost.”

Lost. He said he was lost. From where? The woods?

“We’re in [City’s name].”

“Huh…” he murmured, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard about it.”

… What?

“Could it be a new civilization that hasn’t been recorded in history books before? Humans are adaptable, after all.”

Whoa, humans? And who did this person think he was, a ghost?!

“Uh, Sir…?”

“Could you tell me the direction to the Valley of Thorns, please?”

You blinked owlishly. The Valley of what?

“Um, I don’t think I’ve heard that name before, Sir…”

What kind of sane person would live in the Valley of Thorns, anyway? Just hearing the name alone conjured up the image of dark and deep valleys filled with thorns slithered along the ground like spiky snakes.

“Is that so?” he muttered, shoulders slumping. He looked dejected. Oh, no. You felt horrible now. Just a little, though. “That’s too bad.”

“Well, I could try to look it up on the internet first…?” you asked hesitantly. “Unless, you have your own phone that we could use?”

The man blinked, and fished out a device from his pocket. And by God, you’d never seen a more charred phone in your entire life.

“Ah, it seems I’ve accidentally electrocuted it again. Forgive me.”

You gaped. Electrocuted? Again? How could he survive then?! How many times had he done this?! What did he do?! And forget its charred look, that phone was old! You couldn’t even hope to have a single internet connection in there.

Sighing, you unlocked your own phone and started searching for the so-called Valley of Thorns. You doubted it existed, even if the internet claimed to be all-knowing, and you were right!

Nothing came up.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but there’s no Valley of Thorns here.” You showed him the lack of results to emphasize your statement. “Does it have another name? Maybe we could find it that way.”

Though, you were certain it was still nonexistent, anyway. Maybe it was some secret country nobody knew, but how the fuck did he appear here, anyway? This guy looked even more clueless now, like a lost kid. Your pity for him just increased.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

Poor him. He really was lost, wasn’t he?

“Well, I guess the only thing you could do now is to rent a room somewhere.”

“Rent a room? Ah, yes.” He raised a silver pendant that encircled his long, elegant neck and twirled it. “I don’t bring any money with me, but will this suffice?”

You blinked, staring at the necklace that glimmered under the scarce moonlight. “… I don’t know, but I think it will. It looks expensive.”

“Indeed. It’s a gift from a distant noble, but I have plenty of this in my treasure room. So, selling one isn’t a problem for me.”

Whoa, what did you just hear? Treasure room? Noble? Gift? You knew that he exuded a regal aura, but you didn’t expect him to be an actual noble. Or maybe royalty. Oh, God, you didn’t know how to interact with royalty! And besides, wouldn’t it be too late to curtsy to him now?

You tittered. “Well, good luck, then. I hope you find your way back soon.”

He nodded gratefully.

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You met that man again a few nights later, doing the same thing, right in the same alleyway. And just like when you first encountered him, you gaped at him.

“You…? I thought you–”

“The hotels around here don’t accept my pendant as a payment.” he sighed. “They suggest me selling it first.”

Well, that was understandable, given that very few people accepted bartering nowadays. Still, to see him again was a bit… jarring. You could never get used to how tall he was, how bright his eyes were in the darkness, or how… dark his aura was. You knew he was dangerous, if his constant ‘electrocution’ was enough proof, and yet, you didn’t sense any malice from him.

Maybe it was just you being suicidal.

“So, you’ve been sleeping on the streets all this time?”

“I didn’t sleep.”

“Huh…?”

Well, this guy was certainly strong for being able to stay awake for a few days. Had he been drinking coffee too? His eyes still looked clear as ever, devoid of the black bags one would expect from a sleep-deprived person.

He must’ve seen you accidentally staring at his necklace because he soon offered it to you.

“If possible, would you accept this pendant in exchange for accommodation?”

“E-eh?! I–!” you sputtered, glancing from his face to the pendant. It was beautiful, indeed, and seemed gender-neutral enough to be worn by you. But to have a strange man walking around in your home in exchange for a necklace was… “I don’t know. My apartment is pretty small.”

He nodded. “It’s alright, I can sleep on the couch.”

Yeah, well, there was no way the couch would fit someone of his stature. Either he slept in your room, or on the floor.

“Is it alright if you sleep on the… floor later? Because the couch might be too small for you, and I only have one room.” And you feared it might crash under his weight, although you doubted that possibility.

The man was quiet for a moment, seemingly pondering on your question. Then, he nodded again.

“It’s fine, as long as you provide me a carpet to sleep on.”

Yeah, you weren’t rich enough to have a fancy-ass carpet in your home, but you might have something nice. Something that wouldn’t embarrass you even further than having a noble in your tiny apartment.

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It was official; you were suicidal, and broke, because you were actually considering selling his necklace later.

Still, to see him bumping into your furniture was pretty funny. Not that you’d say it aloud in fear of his electrocution, but you suspected he already knew about your amusement, anyway. There was only so much you could hold your snorts in. Though, you quickly recomposed as soon as he sent you a scathing glare through his peripheral vision.

“I’m sorry, my apartment is a mess.”

He shook his head. “It’s fine, I’ve seen worse.”

You wondered what he’d seen to make that comparison. Not that you necessarily wanted to know. It could be something as horrible as, who knows, murder? Had he ever murdered someone? You wouldn’t be surprised if he had. He looked eerie, and dangerous, and you were the lunatic who brought him into your own home. Just because of what? A single necklace? Pity? Sympathy for the homeless? For the lost?

“Please, sit down.”

You poured him a cup of hot tea. He seemed too big in your comparably smaller couch (see?), yet still emitting a graceful aura that made you look awkward instead. He sat down with the elegance of someone who had been taught manners his whole life, and lifted the cup with such delicacy as if it was expensive china. The scene reminded you of a posh British noble on the TV, with his pinky in the air and eyes fluttering close. Except, it happened in real life. Right in front of your very eyes, too.

“Since we’re going to be, um, roommates, I think we should start by introducing ourselves first.” You scooted forward in your seat and outstretched a hand. “My name’s [Name] [Last Name], and I work as a barista in the nearby café.”

“Barista?” he inquired, as if it was the first time he’d heard that word.

“Well, you know, someone who makes coffees? That’s my job.”

He finally nodded.

“Ah, yes. I understand now.” He enveloped your hand in his gloved one. “I’m Malleus Draconia, the prince of the Valley of Thorns.”

You nearly choked on your own spit. Prince? So, all this time, you’d been dealing with a prince?!

“A-ah, yes. Nice to meet you, um, Your Highness…?”

A glint of amusement appeared on those green eyes, his lips curled slightly. Was this the payment for snorting at him earlier? If so, then this was definitely cruel, because at least he was messing with a peasant’s house, not a prince’s.

Then again, a prince’s house was nowhere near as small as this.

“Likewise, [Last Name].”

You chose to ignore the shivers that slithered down your spine and ripped your hand out of his. It was a rude thing to do, but you felt as if your hand might burn if he kept holding it.

“S-so, uh, what are you? Are those–” You gestured to his horns that stood proudly. “real?”

“Why, of course.” he drawled, still amusedly. “You don’t think I’d parade fake horns around, do you?”

Well, who knows? Some people were simply weird like that. You tittered.

“No, of course not.”

“And to answer your first question,” He put down the cup with a faint clink. “I’m a fae.”

You blinked owlishly. Fae? As in… fairy? Creatures that could fly? Did they truly exist? Why did you never see them until now? And why – you tried to look behind him – didn’t he have wings? Did he hide them because it’d attract more attention, because they were too glittery?

Noticing your confused glance, Malleus chuckled. “There are many kinds of fairies. Some have wings, and some don’t. I do have one, but not the kind of wings you might be expecting.”

Well, now you were curious.

“Can I… can I see them?”

There it was, that entertained look. It brightened his already glowing irises and pinned you to your current spot. Any more of that, and you might as well melt under his stare.

“I could, but I fear I might knock off your belongings instead.”

Just how big his wings were?!

“Ah…” You nodded as if you understood his implication, which you did. And you weren’t sure if you wanted to go through with your wish now. You weren’t in the mood to clean up right now. “So, how did you get, you know, lost?”

“I don’t know. I went to sleep and I woke up in that alleyway.”

Huh, that was quite weird. Nobody just teleported to a random place during slumber, and yet, he didn’t seem to be lying. At least, that was what you hoped.

After that, you unfurled a slightly dusty carpet on the living room floor because you only had one room. Malleus had sneezed, which you thought was cute, but you’d hidden your reaction in fear of his scathing glare again. You ensured to give him the fluffiest pillow you had for the sake of his horns and a blanket. He smiled at the sight, looking both entertained and touched by the gesture.

“This should be enough. Thank you, [Last Name].”

You nodded. “If anything happens or if you need anything, feel free to call me.”

“Will do.”

With that, you withdrew to your room, where you spent almost the majority of the night questioning if you just accepted a freaking fairy into your apartment.

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You didn’t know if it was a fairy thing or not, but you noticed Malleus hardly ever touched your electronics despite your permission. He only seemed to marvel at them, as if this was the first time he’d seen them. But that was impossible, right? Someone as rich as him should be capable of buying a TV, and probably the latest one at that. He should be able to buy your entire apartment plus the furniture inside.

Then again, you didn’t know much about his life aside from the general. He might be a relatively poor prince, or his kingdom was just… not modern, somehow.

Other than that, he loved to read in his free time, which was almost all the time, to be honest. You’d never seen him going outside, probably sick of the attention his horns brought. The first time you asked him to go out with you so you could buy him some clothes (the necklace really sold a lot), he’d been rather hesitant. So, ever since then, you merely asked for his size and bought his clothes yourself. Malleus never complained about your choices, although you did note that he preferred black despite his fascination with other colors.

Aside from his favorite color, Malleus was quite a fast reader too, so he’d pretty much devoured your entire books in a few weeks. He seemed to like fairy tales, strangely enough, particularly those with the prince and princess and ending up happily ever after. You wouldn’t know it from his face, but his passionate opinions whenever you both sat down and talked about the books he read exposed his romantic side.

It was quite… adorable, honestly. Who would’ve thought he could be rather childish? Not that you weren’t, though. Even you felt a little jealous of those characters sometimes.

One day, you asked him about his hometown.

“There are many fairies in there. Some of them are quite… antagonistic towards humans, but not all. My caretaker, for one, really wants to have a peace among all creatures, and is tolerant of your kind.” he mused, tapping his finger against the armchair. You noticed all of his fingers were black, now that he’d taken off his gloves. Nail polish, perhaps? “Though, that’s not to say that we fairies don’t feel a certain kind of… curiosity about you humans.”

You blinked. “What kind of curiosity?”

“The same as you have towards my species.”

Well, you couldn’t argue with that.

“But there are many humans who live there, right?”

Malleus nodded. “Just not as many as the fairies. We also rely heavily on magic, so almost everything is magical-based.”

“So…” you drawled, peering around the calm living room. “does that mean there’s no electronics in there?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

Ah, no wonder. Well, at least he still knew his place and didn’t break your things in his wonder.

For a moment, you both basked in the rare serenity amid the noisy city life.

“Would you like to visit later?”

You whipped your head towards him, finding him already staring at you. As much as you were flustered by his amused expression, you were even more disconcerted with his emotionless one. In this state, you couldn’t read him at all.

Of course, just because he was your roommate, didn’t mean you fully trusted him. He was a fae, after all. Who knows what he might have in mind.

Still, it was a harmless question, so there was no need to be so suspicious.

“… Um, I don’t know. I’ve never traveled far before.” There was also a problem of not knowing where the fuck was this Valley of Thorns. What if it was located in some shady forest? What if your image of that place was true? Malleus had never really clarified about its scenery, or location. He probably thought the name was enough explanation already.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be safe with me. I’m the prince, remember?” he smiled amiably, lifting the cup that had been sitting on his lap. It’d probably gone cold now. “I was thinking of repaying your kindness. We fairies treat exchanges seriously, after all. And besides,” He peeked through the rim of the glass. “you look like you need a vacation.”

You sputtered, cheeks warming at the blunt remark. Unconsciously, you touched your face in case there was something that might reveal your exhaustion. “A-ah…!”

Malleus chuckled, and you felt like burying yourself in a hole somewhere.

“So, what do you say?”

“Um, well,” you murmured, trying to avoid his expectant gaze. Why did he want you to come to his hometown so much? He could’ve paid you with something else. And besides, the necklace was enough.

But the prospect of a free vacation was indeed alluring…

“Sure, I guess.”

Malleus slowly smiled, and had you looked up, you would’ve noticed faint darkness in there. “Good.”

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The mirror in your living room glowed one night.

You’d woken up to grab a drink when you saw it lit up, and in your shock, you accidentally dropped the glass. Malleus, who was sleeping on the floor (was he really sleeping, though?), snapped his eyes open.

“[Name], are you alright?!” he asked, almost frantically.

“A-ah, yes. I’m fine. I–”

He must’ve sensed that your gaze wasn’t on him, and peered at the mirror. A look of understanding soon crossed his face. “Oh, I see…”

“Malleus, what’s that?” you inquired, slinking into the living room tentatively. You decided you could handle the broken glass later. This was more important. “Did you… did you do something to the mirror?”

“Not really.” And yet, he didn’t seem as stunned as you were. He’d probably expected this to happen. “I was just tinkering with it. I didn’t think it’d work. Forgive me for disturbing you.”

“Tinkering… for what?”

You knew that Malleus had magic, but you didn’t think he’d be using that to one of your belongings. And without your knowledge, too. What else had he enchanted?

“To go home, of course. It’s obvious that this world isn’t mine, and I can’t leave my kingdom unattended for too long.”

“W-well, I do understand that but…” You glanced at him and the mirror, trying to process everything with your muddled brain. This was happening far too late in the night, and you were far too sleepy to comprehend any magic. You just wanted to return to your room and forget all of this ever happened. Maybe if you got a full night’s sleep, you’d realize that this was just a dream. “Since when?”

“Why? Since you bought the mirror, of course.”

So, it’d been happening for quite some time. Why weren’t you surprised?

Malleus stood up and strode towards the window, lithe fingers opening the curtains slightly.

“Ah, yes. The moon is perfectly full tonight. No wonder…” Did that mean the magic wouldn’t work if the moon wasn’t full? Should you be concerned? He turned to you. “Well, would you like to go now?”

You reeled back.

“W-what? But, Malleus, I’m still in my pajamas!”

He chuckled. “I have plenty of dresses you can choose, and you can rest in the guest room in the meantime. I promise, it’ll be far more comfortable than yours. More than anything you can dream of.”

You stood silently for a moment, contemplating your choices. Tomorrow, or today, was your day off, so it should be okay if you took a short trip, right? Just until Monday, and then, you’d return. You looked at him.

“I can still go back, right?”

Malleus’s eyes narrowed faintly. “When I see it fits.

What the hell did that mean? Oh, whatever. You could think about that later. For now, you just had to grab your purse and phone and you were ready to go.

“Ready?”

You nodded somewhat tiredly. Malleus smiled fondly at you.

“Then, to the Valley we go.”

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Malleus wasn’t lying; it truly was the nicest sleep you ever had. The bed was comfy, and the pillows were fluffy, and the blanket was warm. You could stay here forever, basking in the pleasure of a castle room.

If only your purse and phone weren’t gone, that is.

“Um, excuse me.” you called out to the maid who was tasked with waking you up. “Do you see where my purse and phone are? I swear I put them on the nightstand last night…”

The maid stared at the empty surface and promptly shook her head. “No, I don’t.”

“Huh…?”

Now, you were bummed. There was no way you could survive without your phone! It was like your life support or something, considering how much it helped you all this time. And your purse! All of your money and identity card were in there! How could you go back without an identity card now?! Lots of things relied on it. You almost wished it wasn’t so important.

“His Highness orders you to meet him in the dining room once you’re ready.”

Ah, this must be your cue to leave your room, then. Although you were still upset with the whole situation, you did your routine with her assistance. You didn’t recognize any brand here, but you figured everything must be expensive. And, as Malleus had promised – well, said – last night, you were dressed in the most beautiful dress you’d ever seen. It was black, matching his preference, but the little bows brought some color against the murky backdrop. The fabric shimmered under the green chandeliers, and the silver jewelry complemented your look. In no time, you’d transformed into a nearly unrecognizable woman.

“Wow…” you breathed out, marveling at your appearance. Was this what it felt like to be a noble? Being dressed up and sleeping in a vast and beautiful room every day? Must be nice.

“Please follow me, Miss.”

You followed the maid down the dizzying maze of hallways until you both reached the dining room. Malleus was already waiting, sitting on the head of the table, and his face broke into a pleasant grin at the sight of your bashful self.

“[Name], you’re finally here.” Gently, he grabbed your hand and kissed your knuckle. Green eyes peeked through his lashes, examining every twitch of your face. “And you look splendid today.”

“Y-yes, it’s all thanks to that–” you paused, glancing around the quiet room. Where did the maid go? Had she disappeared somewhere else already? You cleared your throat in an attempt to lessen your embarrassment. “Anyway, my purse and phone are gone. Do you know where they are? They’re very important to me.”

Malleus pursed his lips. “No, I didn’t sleep in your room, remember?”

You wilted, sighing heavily. “Well, I thought you would’ve known, considering you’re the prince here…”

“I’ll try to look for them later. For now,” He ushered you to one of the many empty chairs beside him. “let’s feast, shall we?”

You honestly weren’t in the mood to eat anything, but you did it out of respect for him. You wouldn’t lie the food tasted and looked amazing, though. After that, Malleus gave you a short tour around the castle before transporting you to random places. The first time he’d done that, you’d shrieked and clung to him in fear of dropping, but he merely chuckled and reassured that you’d be safe with him. Malleus showed you various sceneries and bought various trinkets, partly in hopes of distracting you from your belongings that still hadn’t been found.

But even he couldn’t divert you forever, nor could he keep you here. Good things must end someday.

“Malleus, I think it’s time for me to go home.”

He blinked owlishly. You both were strolling in his rose garden when you called out to him. “What do you mean? You haven’t even found your belongings yet.”

“Well, that’s true, but…” You wrung your fingers. “I can’t stay here forever, you know? I can…” you sighed at the thought of the papers you had to deal with later. “I can get another identity card. For now, I just need to rest first.”

“Then, go rest in your room. I’ve prepared it specifically for you, after all.”

“No, Malleus! I want to rest in my real room, in my real home.”

“You mean, your tiny and cramped apartment?”

You flinched. What was with him? It was so unlike him to mock you. Did something annoy him? Were you annoying him? But your request was natural, expected even. Why was he acting like this?

“I gave you the room you need, and you still want to go back to your ugly home?” he sneered. “Humans sure are strange sometimes; clutching onto something that should’ve been gone a long time ago…”

“Well, that ugly home is still my home, you know?!” you snapped. No way you’d lose to him. “And I rent it with my own money, so I don’t appreciate you mocking it, especially when you’ve also been living in there for a while!”

“Yes, and now that you have something better, you want to throw it away for something bad?”

You stared at him for a moment, trying to guess what circulated in that head of his.

“Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you? This isn’t my world, you know it yourself. You didn’t even want to stay in mine for too long. What makes you think I want to stay in here too?”

His eyes flashed dangerously at your curse word, and for a split second, you regretted opening your mouth.

“Curb your tongue, [Last Name]. You’re in my territory, and I don’t tolerate any swearing or mockery towards me.”

Oh, so he could insult you without experiencing the same thing, huh? Well, wasn’t he such a fair prince?

“And I told you, didn’t I? You’ll go home when I see it fits, and I decided this castle fits you.”

You sputtered. “W-what? No, you can’t do that! That’s not fair!”

“On the contrary, it is fair. You gave me clothes and company despite our agreement that you only provided me accommodation in exchange for my pendant, so it’s only fair if I repay it in the same amount. Though,” he looked away, and he seemed somewhat sad. Not that you could bring yourself to be sympathetic at the sight, after everything he’d done to you. Had he been planning this and you just found out about it now? “I regret to inform that I might not always be present. But worry not, my caretaker will do his best to entertain you. I can even bring in some jesters, if you want.”

Malleus stared down at your incredulous expression and sighed.

“At least,” He opened his palm, and the things you’d been looking for materialized. “do it for them.”

Your eyes widened. “My belongings…! I thought you said you didn’t go to my room!”

“You’re wrong, didn’t sleep in your room. I never said anything about not going in there.” he corrected. “But since you’ll live here, I don’t think you need these anymore.”

You outstretched a hand, touching the ash that was once your purse. Tears clogged your throat and pricked your eyes.

“You…” you whispered, half shocked and half indignant. “You bastard. How dare you?”

“Do you know why I like fairy tales so much, [Name]?” What the fuck was he talking about? He’d just burned your things, and now, he was rambling about fairy tales?! “It’s because most of them end up happily ever after, and I want that. I always want that, since childhood.” He turned to you, and under the moonlight, his eyes shone brighter. Just like that mirror.

If you didn’t buy him that, would it change everything? If you rejected his offer, would he still force you? If you didn’t bring him into your home, would everything be better?

“So, [Name], let’s create our own happy ending, shall we?”

Chapter Text

Meeting a horned man in the alleyway at night wasn’t a part of your plan. You didn’t even know such a person existed. You just wanted to throw out the trash, and yet, here you were, standing face to face with the one and only horned man.

… Should you call the cops? He did look shady, but certainly not as shady as a drug dealer.

No, you shook your head, that wasn’t the word you were looking for. He seemed confused, guarded, yet regal in a way most people weren’t. And his eyes, they glowed in the dark so–

“And who might you be, Child of Man?”

Eerily.

Yes, everything about him seemed eerie. From his posture, face, clothes… and manner of speaking. Who called people ‘Child of Man’, anyway? Even the most eccentric person wouldn’t call you that.

“U-uh,” you mumbled intelligently. “I’m–”

Maybe you shouldn’t give him your name. At least, not yet.

“I live nearby.”

Yes, that sounded about right. It solidified your position as the occupant of this area, and he was the intruder here. Although provoking him wasn’t exactly your motive, but he should know.

Regardless, the man squinted before sighing.

“I see. Could you tell me where I am now? It appears that I’m lost.”

Lost. He said he was lost. From where? The woods?

“We’re in [City’s name].”

“Huh…” he murmured, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard about it.”

… What?

“Could it be a new civilization that hasn’t been recorded in history books before? Humans are adaptable, after all.”

Whoa, humans? And who did this person think he was, a ghost?!

“Uh, Sir…?”

“Could you tell me the direction to the Valley of Thorns, please?”

You blinked owlishly. The Valley of what?

“Um, I don’t think I’ve heard that name before, Sir…”

What kind of sane person would live in the Valley of Thorns, anyway? Just hearing the name alone conjured up the image of dark and deep valleys filled with thorns slithered along the ground like spiky snakes.

“Is that so?” he muttered, shoulders slumping. He looked dejected. Oh, no. You felt horrible now. Just a little, though. “That’s too bad.”

“Well, I could try to look it up on the internet first…?” you asked hesitantly. “Unless, you have your own phone that we could use?”

The man blinked, and fished out a device from his pocket. And by God, you’d never seen a more charred phone in your entire life.

“Ah, it seems I’ve accidentally electrocuted it again. Forgive me.”

You gaped. Electrocuted? Again? How could he survive then?! How many times had he done this?! What did he do?! And forget its charred look, that phone was old! You couldn’t even hope to have a single internet connection in there.

Sighing, you unlocked your own phone and started searching for the so-called Valley of Thorns. You doubted it existed, even if the internet claimed to be all-knowing, and you were right!

Nothing came up.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but there’s no Valley of Thorns here.” You showed him the lack of results to emphasize your statement. “Does it have another name? Maybe we could find it that way.”

Though, you were certain it was still nonexistent, anyway. Maybe it was some secret country nobody knew, but how the fuck did he appear here, anyway? This guy looked even more clueless now, like a lost kid. Your pity for him just increased.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

Poor him. He really was lost, wasn’t he?

“Well, I guess the only thing you could do now is to rent a room somewhere.”

“Rent a room? Ah, yes.” He raised a silver pendant that encircled his long, elegant neck and twirled it. “I don’t bring any money with me, but will this suffice?”

You blinked, staring at the necklace that glimmered under the scarce moonlight. “… I don’t know, but I think it will. It looks expensive.”

“Indeed. It’s a gift from a distant noble, but I have plenty of this in my treasure room. So, selling one isn’t a problem for me.”

Whoa, what did you just hear? Treasure room? Noble? Gift? You knew that he exuded a regal aura, but you didn’t expect him to be an actual noble. Or maybe royalty. Oh, God, you didn’t know how to interact with royalty! And besides, wouldn’t it be too late to curtsy to him now?

You tittered. “Well, good luck, then. I hope you find your way back soon.”

He nodded gratefully.

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You met that man again a few nights later, doing the same thing, right in the same alleyway. And just like when you first encountered him, you gaped at him.

“You…? I thought you–”

“The hotels around here don’t accept my pendant as a payment.” he sighed. “They suggest me selling it first.”

Well, that was understandable, given that very few people accepted bartering nowadays. Still, to see him again was a bit… jarring. You could never get used to how tall he was, how bright his eyes were in the darkness, or how… dark his aura was. You knew he was dangerous, if his constant ‘electrocution’ was enough proof, and yet, you didn’t sense any malice from him.

Maybe it was just you being suicidal.

“So, you’ve been sleeping on the streets all this time?”

“I didn’t sleep.”

“Huh…?”

Well, this guy was certainly strong for being able to stay awake for a few days. Had he been drinking coffee too? His eyes still looked clear as ever, devoid of the black bags one would expect from a sleep-deprived person.

He must’ve seen you accidentally staring at his necklace because he soon offered it to you.

“If possible, would you accept this pendant in exchange for accommodation?”

“E-eh?! I–!” you sputtered, glancing from his face to the pendant. It was beautiful, indeed, and seemed gender-neutral enough to be worn by you. But to have a strange man walking around in your home in exchange for a necklace was… “I don’t know. My apartment is pretty small.”

He nodded. “It’s alright, I can sleep on the couch.”

Yeah, well, there was no way the couch would fit someone of his stature. Either he slept in your room, or on the floor.

“Is it alright if you sleep on the… floor later? Because the couch might be too small for you, and I only have one room.” And you feared it might crash under his weight, although you doubted that possibility.

The man was quiet for a moment, seemingly pondering on your question. Then, he nodded again.

“It’s fine, as long as you provide me a carpet to sleep on.”

Yeah, you weren’t rich enough to have a fancy-ass carpet in your home, but you might have something nice. Something that wouldn’t embarrass you even further than having a noble in your tiny apartment.

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It was official; you were suicidal, and broke, because you were actually considering selling his necklace later.

Still, to see him bumping into your furniture was pretty funny. Not that you’d say it aloud in fear of his electrocution, but you suspected he already knew about your amusement, anyway. There was only so much you could hold your snorts in. Though, you quickly recomposed as soon as he sent you a scathing glare through his peripheral vision.

“I’m sorry, my apartment is a mess.”

He shook his head. “It’s fine, I’ve seen worse.”

You wondered what he’d seen to make that comparison. Not that you necessarily wanted to know. It could be something as horrible as, who knows, murder? Had he ever murdered someone? You wouldn’t be surprised if he had. He looked eerie, and dangerous, and you were the lunatic who brought him into your own home. Just because of what? A single necklace? Pity? Sympathy for the homeless? For the lost?

“Please, sit down.”

You poured him a cup of hot tea. He seemed too big in your comparably smaller couch (see?), yet still emitting a graceful aura that made you look awkward instead. He sat down with the elegance of someone who had been taught manners his whole life, and lifted the cup with such delicacy as if it was expensive china. The scene reminded you of a posh British noble on the TV, with his pinky in the air and eyes fluttering close. Except, it happened in real life. Right in front of your very eyes, too.

“Since we’re going to be, um, roommates, I think we should start by introducing ourselves first.” You scooted forward in your seat and outstretched a hand. “My name’s [Name] [Last Name], and I work as a barista in the nearby café.”

“Barista?” he inquired, as if it was the first time he’d heard that word.

“Well, you know, someone who makes coffees? That’s my job.”

He finally nodded.

“Ah, yes. I understand now.” He enveloped your hand in his gloved one. “I’m Malleus Draconia, the prince of the Valley of Thorns.”

You nearly choked on your own spit. Prince? So, all this time, you’d been dealing with a prince?!

“A-ah, yes. Nice to meet you, um, Your Highness…?”

A glint of amusement appeared on those green eyes, his lips curled slightly. Was this the payment for snorting at him earlier? If so, then this was definitely cruel, because at least he was messing with a peasant’s house, not a prince’s.

Then again, a prince’s house was nowhere near as small as this.

“Likewise, [Last Name].”

You chose to ignore the shivers that slithered down your spine and ripped your hand out of his. It was a rude thing to do, but you felt as if your hand might burn if he kept holding it.

“S-so, uh, what are you? Are those–” You gestured to his horns that stood proudly. “real?”

“Why, of course.” he drawled, still amusedly. “You don’t think I’d parade fake horns around, do you?”

Well, who knows? Some people were simply weird like that. You tittered.

“No, of course not.”

“And to answer your first question,” He put down the cup with a faint clink. “I’m a fae.”

You blinked owlishly. Fae? As in… fairy? Creatures that could fly? Did they truly exist? Why did you never see them until now? And why – you tried to look behind him – didn’t he have wings? Did he hide them because it’d attract more attention, because they were too glittery?

Noticing your confused glance, Malleus chuckled. “There are many kinds of fairies. Some have wings, and some don’t. I do have one, but not the kind of wings you might be expecting.”

Well, now you were curious.

“Can I… can I see them?”

There it was, that entertained look. It brightened his already glowing irises and pinned you to your current spot. Any more of that, and you might as well melt under his stare.

“I could, but I fear I might knock off your belongings instead.”

Just how big his wings were?!

“Ah…” You nodded as if you understood his implication, which you did. And you weren’t sure if you wanted to go through with your wish now. You weren’t in the mood to clean up right now. “So, how did you get, you know, lost?”

“I don’t know. I went to sleep and I woke up in that alleyway.”

Huh, that was quite weird. Nobody just teleported to a random place during slumber, and yet, he didn’t seem to be lying. At least, that was what you hoped.

After that, you unfurled a slightly dusty carpet on the living room floor because you only had one room. Malleus had sneezed, which you thought was cute, but you’d hidden your reaction in fear of his scathing glare again. You ensured to give him the fluffiest pillow you had for the sake of his horns and a blanket. He smiled at the sight, looking both entertained and touched by the gesture.

“This should be enough. Thank you, [Last Name].”

You nodded. “If anything happens or if you need anything, feel free to call me.”

“Will do.”

With that, you withdrew to your room, where you spent almost the majority of the night questioning if you just accepted a freaking fairy into your apartment.

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You didn’t know if it was a fairy thing or not, but you noticed Malleus hardly ever touched your electronics despite your permission. He only seemed to marvel at them, as if this was the first time he’d seen them. But that was impossible, right? Someone as rich as him should be capable of buying a TV, and probably the latest one at that. He should be able to buy your entire apartment plus the furniture inside.

Then again, you didn’t know much about his life aside from the general. He might be a relatively poor prince, or his kingdom was just… not modern, somehow.

Other than that, he loved to read in his free time, which was almost all the time, to be honest. You’d never seen him going outside, probably sick of the attention his horns brought. The first time you asked him to go out with you so you could buy him some clothes (the necklace really sold a lot), he’d been rather hesitant. So, ever since then, you merely asked for his size and bought his clothes yourself. Malleus never complained about your choices, although you did note that he preferred black despite his fascination with other colors.

Aside from his favorite color, Malleus was quite a fast reader too, so he’d pretty much devoured your entire books in a few weeks. He seemed to like fairy tales, strangely enough, particularly those with the prince and princess and ending up happily ever after. You wouldn’t know it from his face, but his passionate opinions whenever you both sat down and talked about the books he read exposed his romantic side.

It was quite… adorable, honestly. Who would’ve thought he could be rather childish? Not that you weren’t, though. Even you felt a little jealous of those characters sometimes.

One day, you asked him about his hometown.

“There are many fairies in there. Some of them are quite… antagonistic towards humans, but not all. My caretaker, for one, really wants to have a peace among all creatures, and is tolerant of your kind.” he mused, tapping his finger against the armchair. You noticed all of his fingers were black, now that he’d taken off his gloves. Nail polish, perhaps? “Though, that’s not to say that we fairies don’t feel a certain kind of… curiosity about you humans.”

You blinked. “What kind of curiosity?”

“The same as you have towards my species.”

Well, you couldn’t argue with that.

“But there are many humans who live there, right?”

Malleus nodded. “Just not as many as the fairies. We also rely heavily on magic, so almost everything is magical-based.”

“So…” you drawled, peering around the calm living room. “does that mean there’s no electronics in there?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

Ah, no wonder. Well, at least he still knew his place and didn’t break your things in his wonder.

For a moment, you both basked in the rare serenity amid the noisy city life.

“Would you like to visit later?”

You whipped your head towards him, finding him already staring at you. As much as you were flustered by his amused expression, you were even more disconcerted with his emotionless one. In this state, you couldn’t read him at all.

Of course, just because he was your roommate, didn’t mean you fully trusted him. He was a fae, after all. Who knows what he might have in mind.

Still, it was a harmless question, so there was no need to be so suspicious.

“… Um, I don’t know. I’ve never traveled far before.” There was also a problem of not knowing where the fuck was this Valley of Thorns. What if it was located in some shady forest? What if your image of that place was true? Malleus had never really clarified about its scenery, or location. He probably thought the name was enough explanation already.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be safe with me. I’m the prince, remember?” he smiled amiably, lifting the cup that had been sitting on his lap. It’d probably gone cold now. “I was thinking of repaying your kindness. We fairies treat exchanges seriously, after all. And besides,” He peeked through the rim of the glass. “you look like you need a vacation.”

You sputtered, cheeks warming at the blunt remark. Unconsciously, you touched your face in case there was something that might reveal your exhaustion. “A-ah…!”

Malleus chuckled, and you felt like burying yourself in a hole somewhere.

“So, what do you say?”

“Um, well,” you murmured, trying to avoid his expectant gaze. Why did he want you to come to his hometown so much? He could’ve paid you with something else. And besides, the necklace was enough.

But the prospect of a free vacation was indeed alluring…

“Sure, I guess.”

Malleus slowly smiled, and had you looked up, you would’ve noticed faint darkness in there. “Good.”

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The mirror in your living room glowed one night.

You’d woken up to grab a drink when you saw it lit up, and in your shock, you accidentally dropped the glass. Malleus, who was sleeping on the floor (was he really sleeping, though?), snapped his eyes open.

“[Name], are you alright?!” he asked, almost frantically.

“A-ah, yes. I’m fine. I–”

He must’ve sensed that your gaze wasn’t on him, and peered at the mirror. A look of understanding soon crossed his face. “Oh, I see…”

“Malleus, what’s that?” you inquired, slinking into the living room tentatively. You decided you could handle the broken glass later. This was more important. “Did you… did you do something to the mirror?”

“Not really.” And yet, he didn’t seem as stunned as you were. He’d probably expected this to happen. “I was just tinkering with it. I didn’t think it’d work. Forgive me for disturbing you.”

“Tinkering… for what?”

You knew that Malleus had magic, but you didn’t think he’d be using that to one of your belongings. And without your knowledge, too. What else had he enchanted?

“To go home, of course. It’s obvious that this world isn’t mine, and I can’t leave my kingdom unattended for too long.”

“W-well, I do understand that but…” You glanced at him and the mirror, trying to process everything with your muddled brain. This was happening far too late in the night, and you were far too sleepy to comprehend any magic. You just wanted to return to your room and forget all of this ever happened. Maybe if you got a full night’s sleep, you’d realize that this was just a dream. “Since when?”

“Why? Since you bought the mirror, of course.”

So, it’d been happening for quite some time. Why weren’t you surprised?

Malleus stood up and strode towards the window, lithe fingers opening the curtains slightly.

“Ah, yes. The moon is perfectly full tonight. No wonder…” Did that mean the magic wouldn’t work if the moon wasn’t full? Should you be concerned? He turned to you. “Well, would you like to go now?”

You reeled back.

“W-what? But, Malleus, I’m still in my pajamas!”

He chuckled. “I have plenty of dresses you can choose, and you can rest in the guest room in the meantime. I promise, it’ll be far more comfortable than yours. More than anything you can dream of.”

You stood silently for a moment, contemplating your choices. Tomorrow, or today, was your day off, so it should be okay if you took a short trip, right? Just until Monday, and then, you’d return. You looked at him.

“I can still go back, right?”

Malleus’s eyes narrowed faintly. “When I see it fits.

What the hell did that mean? Oh, whatever. You could think about that later. For now, you just had to grab your purse and phone and you were ready to go.

“Ready?”

You nodded somewhat tiredly. Malleus smiled fondly at you.

“Then, to the Valley we go.”

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Malleus wasn’t lying; it truly was the nicest sleep you ever had. The bed was comfy, and the pillows were fluffy, and the blanket was warm. You could stay here forever, basking in the pleasure of a castle room.

If only your purse and phone weren’t gone, that is.

“Um, excuse me.” you called out to the maid who was tasked with waking you up. “Do you see where my purse and phone are? I swear I put them on the nightstand last night…”

The maid stared at the empty surface and promptly shook her head. “No, I don’t.”

“Huh…?”

Now, you were bummed. There was no way you could survive without your phone! It was like your life support or something, considering how much it helped you all this time. And your purse! All of your money and identity card were in there! How could you go back without an identity card now?! Lots of things relied on it. You almost wished it wasn’t so important.

“His Highness orders you to meet him in the dining room once you’re ready.”

Ah, this must be your cue to leave your room, then. Although you were still upset with the whole situation, you did your routine with her assistance. You didn’t recognize any brand here, but you figured everything must be expensive. And, as Malleus had promised – well, said – last night, you were dressed in the most beautiful dress you’d ever seen. It was black, matching his preference, but the little bows brought some color against the murky backdrop. The fabric shimmered under the green chandeliers, and the silver jewelry complemented your look. In no time, you’d transformed into a nearly unrecognizable woman.

“Wow…” you breathed out, marveling at your appearance. Was this what it felt like to be a noble? Being dressed up and sleeping in a vast and beautiful room every day? Must be nice.

“Please follow me, Miss.”

You followed the maid down the dizzying maze of hallways until you both reached the dining room. Malleus was already waiting, sitting on the head of the table, and his face broke into a pleasant grin at the sight of your bashful self.

“[Name], you’re finally here.” Gently, he grabbed your hand and kissed your knuckle. Green eyes peeked through his lashes, examining every twitch of your face. “And you look splendid today.”

“Y-yes, it’s all thanks to that–” you paused, glancing around the quiet room. Where did the maid go? Had she disappeared somewhere else already? You cleared your throat in an attempt to lessen your embarrassment. “Anyway, my purse and phone are gone. Do you know where they are? They’re very important to me.”

Malleus pursed his lips. “No, I didn’t sleep in your room, remember?”

You wilted, sighing heavily. “Well, I thought you would’ve known, considering you’re the prince here…”

“I’ll try to look for them later. For now,” He ushered you to one of the many empty chairs beside him. “let’s feast, shall we?”

You honestly weren’t in the mood to eat anything, but you did it out of respect for him. You wouldn’t lie the food tasted and looked amazing, though. After that, Malleus gave you a short tour around the castle before transporting you to random places. The first time he’d done that, you’d shrieked and clung to him in fear of dropping, but he merely chuckled and reassured that you’d be safe with him. Malleus showed you various sceneries and bought various trinkets, partly in hopes of distracting you from your belongings that still hadn’t been found.

But even he couldn’t divert you forever, nor could he keep you here. Good things must end someday.

“Malleus, I think it’s time for me to go home.”

He blinked owlishly. You both were strolling in his rose garden when you called out to him. “What do you mean? You haven’t even found your belongings yet.”

“Well, that’s true, but…” You wrung your fingers. “I can’t stay here forever, you know? I can…” you sighed at the thought of the papers you had to deal with later. “I can get another identity card. For now, I just need to rest first.”

“Then, go rest in your room. I’ve prepared it specifically for you, after all.”

“No, Malleus! I want to rest in my real room, in my real home.”

“You mean, your tiny and cramped apartment?”

You flinched. What was with him? It was so unlike him to mock you. Did something annoy him? Were you annoying him? But your request was natural, expected even. Why was he acting like this?

“I gave you the room you need, and you still want to go back to your ugly home?” he sneered. “Humans sure are strange sometimes; clutching onto something that should’ve been gone a long time ago…”

“Well, that ugly home is still my home, you know?!” you snapped. No way you’d lose to him. “And I rent it with my own money, so I don’t appreciate you mocking it, especially when you’ve also been living in there for a while!”

“Yes, and now that you have something better, you want to throw it away for something bad?”

You stared at him for a moment, trying to guess what circulated in that head of his.

“Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you? This isn’t my world, you know it yourself. You didn’t even want to stay in mine for too long. What makes you think I want to stay in here too?”

His eyes flashed dangerously at your curse word, and for a split second, you regretted opening your mouth.

“Curb your tongue, [Last Name]. You’re in my territory, and I don’t tolerate any swearing or mockery towards me.”

Oh, so he could insult you without experiencing the same thing, huh? Well, wasn’t he such a fair prince?

“And I told you, didn’t I? You’ll go home when I see it fits, and I decided this castle fits you.”

You sputtered. “W-what? No, you can’t do that! That’s not fair!”

“On the contrary, it is fair. You gave me clothes and company despite our agreement that you only provided me accommodation in exchange for my pendant, so it’s only fair if I repay it in the same amount. Though,” he looked away, and he seemed somewhat sad. Not that you could bring yourself to be sympathetic at the sight, after everything he’d done to you. Had he been planning this and you just found out about it now? “I regret to inform that I might not always be present. But worry not, my caretaker will do his best to entertain you. I can even bring in some jesters, if you want.”

Malleus stared down at your incredulous expression and sighed.

“At least,” He opened his palm, and the things you’d been looking for materialized. “do it for them.”

Your eyes widened. “My belongings…! I thought you said you didn’t go to my room!”

“You’re wrong, didn’t sleep in your room. I never said anything about not going in there.” he corrected. “But since you’ll live here, I don’t think you need these anymore.”

You outstretched a hand, touching the ash that was once your purse. Tears clogged your throat and pricked your eyes.

“You…” you whispered, half shocked and half indignant. “You bastard. How dare you?”

“Do you know why I like fairy tales so much, [Name]?” What the fuck was he talking about? He’d just burned your things, and now, he was rambling about fairy tales?! “It’s because most of them end up happily ever after, and I want that. I always want that, since childhood.” He turned to you, and under the moonlight, his eyes shone brighter. Just like that mirror.

If you didn’t buy him that, would it change everything? If you rejected his offer, would he still force you? If you didn’t bring him into your home, would everything be better?

“So, [Name], let’s create our own happy ending, shall we?”

Chapter Text

Objectively speaking, Malleus had done his best to court you.

From showering you in literal gold and jewelry, asking you to touch his horns, and even showing you his dragon form! And yet, you remained painfully oblivious. Sebek was on the verge of blowing up each time it happened, torn between rejecting you and supporting him. Of course, Malleus always shushed or scolded him when he did that, but even Malleus couldn’t deny that he was slowly running out of ideas.

“Maybe you should confess your feelings instead?” Lilia suggested one day. “Subtlety is important in courting, but nothing is more charming than honesty too.”

Malleus hummed thoughtfully, staring down at his murky reflection on the tea. It’d be a lie if he said that he hadn’t thought about it before, yet he still felt like the timing wasn’t right somehow.

“I suppose I could try to give her a gift for one more time.” he mused, and he pretended not to hear Lilia sigh from beside him. “After that, I’ll surely confess to her.”

“Well,” Lilia calmly put down his cup on the table and laced his fingers. “good luck, then.”

Malleus frowned and crossed his arms over his chest.

“What? Do you think it’ll fail horribly, Lilia? You sound awfully pessimistic.”

Lilia closed his eyes, summoning yet another heap of patience on top of his preexisting one. Malleus was agitated, he understood. He’d done everything he could to court you, but the result remained unsatisfactory. In cases like this, it was best to be as gentle as possible to avoid another storm. His rage was simply unlike many others, thanks to his immense power.

“Of course not. I merely wished you good luck, Malleus.” Lilia intoned. “However, you need to know that some humans are simply dense. Straightforward approach is always best to handle such people.”

“It’s not the time yet, Lilia.” Malleus insisted, rising from the couch. “If I gift her something of a greater value, she shall know the depth of my feelings and, hopefully, accept it.”

Not that he’d take no, after all his efforts.

Walking down the endless, gloomy hallway, Malleus pushed the double doors open and marched inside the treasure chamber. Mountains of gold coins and rare gems covered every inch of the floor, some creeping up the stone walls. Fine china, precious artifacts, and jewelry dotted the golden sea like material stars. Exquisite statuses and skeletons stood around the room like silent guardians. They glittered in the dim light, almost illuminating the whole room with their shine only. Malleus strolled across the tiny path that went barely uncovered by the coins, peering around to search for the perfect present for you. What kind of item would make you instantly realize his love for you?

A certain spark halted him in his tracks. Bending down, Malleus grabbed a necklace and dangled it in front of his eyes. Not bad. If it could grab his attention, then it was definitely worthier than everything else in this room. And you deserved all the good things in the world.

Malleus clenched the necklace resolutely and slipped it into his pocket. Tonight, he’d give you another piece of his heart through this present before he revealed the truth to you.

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“Hello again, Tsunotarou!” you chirped, somehow still so full of energy despite the time. Malleus had never once met someone as excited to meet him like you, and for that, he appreciated it. “We’re going on a walk as usual, yes?”

He nodded, trying to repress the giddy smile that tickled his lips like a feather.

“Indeed. But before that,” He fished out the necklace from his pocket and opened his palm. “I wish to give you this present.”

You fell silent, and the childish excitement he felt slowly melted from his face. Malleus frowned. What happened? You were so talkative just now. Did he do something wrong?

“What? Do you not like it?” Malleus asked gruffly.

“N-no, it’s pretty but I don’t like necklaces, so you can keep it.”

You didn’t like necklaces? How could he not know that?

“Is that so?” he murmured. “Pray tell me the reason, Child of Man.”

“I just don’t like it, and besides,” Your face unexpectedly grew warm, and his eyes widened faintly. “I already have someone special.”

His hand twitched, before slowly curling itself. Oh, so you already had someone special, huh? Well, that was quite a surprise. He’d thought he’d gotten rid of all competitors, but it seemed there was still someone who managed to slip past his keen attention. He had to commend this person for their brazenness.

“Who is it?”

You hesitated, merely looking away bashfully, so he pressed.

“I asked you a question, Child of Man.”

“It’s Rook.”

The coldness of the night finally settled on his bones and congealed his flesh. Rook? As in, Rook Hunt? That eccentric hunter who knew no bounds?

“Why?”

“Why? Well, because he’s special to me, of course.”

Of course, that was so freaking obvious, he didn’t even need to ask. Malleus squinted, clearly displeased by your answer.

“Do not try to joke around.”

“I’m really not trying to joke around! He’s really special to me. He helps me with school stuff and when I’m going through a rough patch. He also protects me from other students a lot.”

Tension hung in the air like an upcoming storm. Malleus stayed quiet, mulling over your vexing answer. He admitted that he’d somewhat forgotten you were still a student, and that he’d gotten a bit carried over with his dream future. But could you blame him? You were the first person to ever saw and accepted him for who he was. Malleus just wanted to repay your kindness with promises of eternal love and devotion. And yet, and yet…

That damned hunter had once again disturbed him and his peace of mind.

Malleus unconsciously clenched his fists. He knew he should’ve electrocuted the bastard during sport at that time. Who cared what people would say, anyway? He was bothering him, therefore, he deserved whatever punishment that befell him. And if people had a problem with it, Malleus wouldn’t mind punishing them too.

“Um, Tsunotarou? Are you okay? Do you feel sick or something?”

Sick, huh? Malleus huffed an incredulous laugh. The only thing he was sick of was that hunter. Therefore, he needed to eliminate him too, just like all the people before him.

“I see…” Malleus closed his eyes and straightened, displaying a calm façade that belied his turbulent mind. “We shall see if you still consider him as your ‘special someone’.”

You blinked owlishly, the implication breezing past you like the night wind. “Huh…?”

But Malleus immediately vanished in a burst of sparkles and fireflies, not even deigning to answer you.

If gifts weren’t enough to prove his love to you, then maybe getting rid of Rook would suffice.

It had to.

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“Hunt.”

Rook nearly jolted in surprise, but Malleus’ abrupt presence scared the rabbit away. Slowly, the hunter turned around and beamed.

“Oh, my. What a surprise to see you here, Roi du Dragon!” he chirped. “I admitted I almost lost my composure for a little there. I never knew you have a talent for sneaking up on people like that! I always thought you were the type to approach people directly instead of spooking them. Then again, you’re very close with Lilia, so perhaps he’s influenced you–”

“I demand you to stop seeing [Name].”

Rook instantly fell silent, and distantly, they could hear the birds twittering merrily.

“May I know why? Wait, no.” he paused, before grinning slowly. For a split second, Malleus was reminded of Lilia whenever he thought about mischief. “Ah, I see now. I never thought I would experience such a shock twice in a row. Roi du Dragon liking Mademoiselle Trickster? That is very interesting, indeed! Am I finally seeing your possessive side, or is it just your instinct as a dragon to hoard–?”

“If you think that’s interesting, then do as I say. Otherwise,” Malleus raised a hand, and, as if on cue, the once clear blue sky darkened and grumbled. The birds immediately stopped chirping, and the woods seemed to hold their breath. “will electrocute you.

“O-oh…” Rook gaped, marveling at the way the clouds gathered and lightning flashed intermittently with glittering eyes. “Merci, I have never seen something as spectacular as that.”

Scowling at his unexpected yet expected response, Malleus dropped his hand and struck him with a thunderbolt. But Rook was quicker and swiftly jumped out of the way, rolling in the ground. The bolt hit the tree behind him and snapped the trunk into half. The fallen tree toppled and shook the earth upon impact, emitting smoke that stung their noses.

Rook had no time to admire it before Malleus relentlessly threw him bolts after bolts, destroying more trees in the process. Darting away like the rabbit earlier, Rook nocked his bow and released it towards Malleus. A wall of dirt emerged from below and protected Malleus from the deadly arrow, and in return, a large hand shot out from the wall and snatched Rook like a toy. It squeezed his body until some of his bones cracked, before it loosened its hold enough for him to hang limply. A thin stray of blood trickled down his lips and dripped against the dirt skin.

Rook laughed pathetically at his own definitive loss.

“As expected, you are… very strong, Roi du Dragon, and quite… merciless.” he wheezed. “The battle was… a bit sudden, but it was… very satisfying. To think that I… had the honor of fighting… you.”

The hand squeezed him again, spurting more blood from his mouth.

“Promise me that you will stay away from [Name], if you wish to keep your puny life, Hunt.”

Rook chuckled again, but with more wheezes this time.

“Oh, Roi du Dragon. It is truly… magnificent… to see this side of you.” he panted. “Oui, if that’s… what you wish. I… only want you… to treat her… well.”

Malleus clucked.

“Even without you telling me that, I would still treat her like the queen she is.”

The hand dropped the weakened hunter and crumbled to dust. Malleus spared him one last look, seeing him hanging by a thread of mercy, and left with a swish of his cape. The woods finally released their breath and returned to life, with small animals moving about in the bushes. Malleus ignored them and strode out of the trees, giddily imagining your reaction later. Would you be sad? Disappointed? Betrayed?

Well, no matter. He simpered faintly, eyes glowing giddily. As long as he had you in the end, it didn’t matter what your response was.

After all, he wouldn’t take no as an answer.

Chapter Text

Being magicless in a magical world was bad enough, but being poor was even worse. Not to mention, you were a student too! And an alien one, at that. Obviously, you didn’t have green or gray skin with large, bottomless eyes, but you might as well have one considering how much some people jeered at you.

You sighed, rubbing your aching arm. You knew you shouldn’t let their reactions got to you – it was what they wanted, after all – but it was hard. You were hungry, lonely, and sad. Did Crowley really expect you to endure everything all alone? He didn’t even bother to check up on you unless he wanted your help! Of course, you still had Grim, Ace, and Deuce as your solid companions, but they didn’t understand your feelings.

Nobody did, honestly.

There was also a problem of Grim being a glutton, which compelled you to work for Azul. The payment was adequate at best, and that was only when you forced yourself to eat two, or even one time a day. You couldn’t indulge yourself in the snacks, too.

Why did life have to be so hard for you?

What had you done to deserve this?

You sighed again, hiding your face on your knees. Tonight was another night where you couldn’t sleep, so you decided to go out for fresh air. You knew you’d end up going sleep-deprived tomorrow, but at least, it wasn’t an exam season right now. You absolutely couldn’t afford to sacrifice what little of your rest time, then.

But the twins would definitely tease your dark bags again…

“Ugh…!” you grumbled, pulling your hair in frustration. To what? To your predicament? Or to the twins for being themselves, and thus, being so damn annoying to be around? You didn’t know. You were simply irritated at everything, even the tiny thing like a particularly nippy breeze that blew you just the wrong way. You whipped your head towards a random direction and hissed. “Damn wind–!”

A certain third-year simpered from his spot in the air.

“That’s quite an expression you have right there.”

Your eyes widened. Oh, hell no. Out of everyone you could’ve met tonight, it had to be Lilia freaking Vanrouge?! Not that you had anything against him, but it was shocking to see him here. He absolutely had no business with you, aside from that brief assistance in dealing with overblot Leona. What did he want from you?

He must’ve noticed your wariness because he soon raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, and slowly floated towards you as if approaching a cornered animal. You had many spots to hide – or you could, you know, run inside – but his eyes certainly made you feel that way.

“I was passing by when I saw a lonely maiden sitting all alone.” He pulled the black and neon green blazer that always hung on his shoulders and draped it over yours. “At least, please wear thicker clothes next time. Wouldn’t want you to get sick now, would we?”

You weren’t cold, by any means. And the night wasn’t really chilly, anyway. It was more on the brisk side. And yet, he made it sounded as if you’d die from a little cold.

Or maybe that was just you being oversensitive to everything.

Oh, God. What if this was a sign of your period approaching?

You discreetly touched your butt. Still dry. Good, that meant you still had time to buy some pads. And you weren’t embarrassing yourself in front of your own senior.

Lilia closed his eyes and smiled, still hovering over you like a persistent shadow that wouldn’t quite go away. “So, won’t you tell me what’s troubling you tonight?”

You drew the blazer closer to you, soaking what little warmth it provided. It embarrassed you to admit it, and there was no way you’d say it aloud, but it smelled… nice. Like faint fragrance and… licorice? You patted the pockets and felt a bump on one of them. Fishing it out, you stared down at the licorice candy on your palm.

“Go ahead. I have plenty more~” Lilia chirped.

You gazed at the candy for another moment, skeptical of its flavor, and slowly returned it to the pocket.

“Ouch, now you hurt my feelings. And here I thought I could share my favorite candy with my favorite lady.”

Wow, he must’ve really wanted you to take it, huh? A shame that it wasn’t quite up to your taste. And what did he mean by ‘favorite lady’, anyway?

“Now,”

He leaned closer to you, trying to prevent you from committing any distraction with his smothering gaze. From this proximity, you were even more aware of how cold his breath was against your cheek and how… piercing his eyes were.

Then again, he always had unique eyes among people you’d met in this school. They were large and red, penetrating in a different sense than Rook’s more inquisitive ones. They were subtly prodding, always hungry for people’s reactions not for the sake of observation, but out of mischief. If he were the former, then he wouldn’t hung upside down and prank people so much.

There was also a fact that he often seemed… knowing, but it could be saved for another day. What mattered was getting him off of your back, because despite his gentlemanly act, you had a feeling he wouldn’t let you go that easily.

“Just thinking about life.”

Yes, that sounded about right. Anyone who heard it would chalk it up to you having an existential crisis at eleven pm and leave you be. Because if there was one thing everyone disliked, was to be disturbed during concentration. Or, in your case, mental complaints.

But Lilia didn’t know that, at least, that was what you hoped.

Slowly, he smiled.

“Indeed. Life can be unfairly cruel to some people.”

You glanced at him. Oh, no. Was he seriously going to take you down the existential lane here? That wasn’t what you wanted at all!

“They’ve never done anything horrible, and yet, life subjects them with so much pain, anyway.” he mused, already making himself at home right beside you. “In which case, it’s advisable for them to ask for help as soon as possible. Because there’s nothing worse than trying to solve everything alone.”

Why… did this sound as if he was talking about you?

Lilia turned his head towards you, still displaying that furtive grin.

“Don’t you think so, [Name]?”

Ah, so you were right. He was talking about you… and he remembered your name. You didn’t think you’d given him that before, but you supposed your reputation as an alien from another world was simply unforgettable.

“Right,” you mumbled, whipping your head away from him. “I guess.”

However, Lilia wasn’t deterred.

And, well, had you know about his past, cracking a girl’s defense was probably the easiest thing to do out of everything he’d done.

“It’s alright, you can tell me.” His whisper caressed your ears, and you nearly shivered. “I won’t tell a single soul.”

He smiled reassuringly.

“Your secret is safe with me.”

Again, that wasn’t what you wanted, but– argh! Whatever. He was the one who asked you to dump your problems to him, so problems he’d hear.

“I wanna have lots of money, that’s all.” Yeah, that was what everyone wished for in life. You didn’t even need to tell him. “There are so many things that need to be fixed and bought, and I just–” you paused, sensing your voice cracked slightly. Oh, no. Were you really going to cry? Just because someone finally offered to hear you out after months of holding it inside? “I just don’t have enough fund for that. I have to manage my meager finance seriously, and I even have to stop buying snacks anymore because Grim eats too much. But it’s…”

You wiped a stray tear that managed to slip without your knowledge. Oh, hell. You really were going to cry. And right in front of your senior, too. It wouldn’t be that bad if it was Riddle, or Trey because he seemed more brotherly, but Lilia was just… an acquaintance. The same way Leona was, and other dorm and vice dorm leaders, honestly. Except, maybe Kalim.

But it was too late for that, wasn’t it?

“It gets tiring after a while.” you sighed, trying to keep the cracks at bay. It was embarrassing enough to be caught crying. “I just want to rest, and not have to deal with money and all that, you know?”

Lilia nodded, his eyes softened sympathetically. Or pitifully. You didn’t care which. You were just glad to get it out of your system.

“So, all you need is money, right?”

Well, not really. You only wanted to go home, back to your real world, where everything was fine and dandy. Where everything was normal and completely non-magical. But at this rate, it felt like a pointless longing.

So, you nodded.

“It’s the first step to all my problems, yeah.” Then, you sneered at yourself. “But I know it’s not gonna happen anytime soon, so… I guess I just gotta work even harder. Who knows, maybe Azul or Crowley gets zapped by something and gives me more money than usual.”

Lilia hummed thoughtfully. “And what would you do if I say that I can give you that?”

You blinked owlishly. Did you hear it right? Lilia Vanrouge, a person who was almost a stranger to you, wanted to give you lots of money? You laughed incredulously.

“Lilia-senpai, please don’t speak nonsense. Why would you give me money, anyway?”

He merely shrugged. “Why not?”

Why not? There were many reasons why. First, nobody was kind enough to pay you without anything in return. And second, he was a student too! He clearly needed money for himself. It didn’t matter if he was filthy rich, everything needed money in this world. Sometimes, even friendships.

“I just don’t see why you should do that.”

“So, you’re doubting my kindness?”

You looked at him as if to say ‘well, shouldn’t I?’

Lilia laughed.

“Oh, dear. You’re too cautious.” Well, it was better being paranoid than being gullible, right? He wiped a stray tear from his eye with his gloved finger. “We’ve been so accustomed to unwarranted cruelty to the point where we become skeptical of sudden kindness. Don’t you think that’s just too pitiful?”

You frowned, yet unable to respond. He was right, though, as much as you hated to admit it.

“There are very few kind people nowadays. So, if you doubt their kindness, they might not want to extend the same hand, you know~?”

“Well, what do you want in return, then?”

Lilia hummed, tapping his chin thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you later, but don’t worry, it’s nothing too expensive.”

You huffed. And here you thought there was another Kalim in this school. You’d been too blinded by his willingness to hear your problems.

“So, you’re not being genuinely kind to me.”

“Weren’t you the one who asked if I want something in return?”

Well, damn him.

“I wasn’t being completely serious, you know?” you grumbled.

Lilia chuckled.

“Like I said, it’s nothing too expensive, so you don’t need to worry too much about it. But,” he paused for dramatic effect, and when he continued, you noticed his voice darkened slightly. A faint chill crept down your spine. “you should be able to spare some time when I ask you to, okay?”

You frowned, wondering what he could possibly want from you. It wasn’t as if you had anything precious in possession, nor did you have special skills that he might want to use. Your experiences were pretty much limited to handling overblot incidents and waitressing.

… Oh, wait. What if that was what he wanted? Considering it wasn’t ‘too expensive’.

“Do you want me to serve you or something?” you asked, reeling back to look at him incredulously.

“Well, I certainly don’t mind…”

“I was just joking!”

Lilia laughed and patted your head affectionately. “I’m aware.”

So, you agreed to his offer.

And, honestly, nothing had changed much.

Except he visited more often to drop some money (as expected, he was filthy rich, you were almost jealous) and stayed a bit for chatting, mostly during nighttime. He seemed to prefer to show himself as your friendly senior in front of Grim and your friends, and not, well, benefactor. You didn’t really understand it, but you chalked it up to him liking all these ‘rendezvouses’.

Another mysterious preference of him.

Other than that, you’d quit your job as a waitress. That was also his order, but he phrased it as a request. Not that you’d planned on continue working, anyway.

About the trio? Well, they weren’t stupid, by any means, nor did they prod much. They did remark on some changes, particularly how brighter you’d looked, and Grim was delighted with the number of tunas he received almost on daily basis. But upon your insistence to drop the subject (because you got a feeling Lilia didn’t want to broadcast his kindness), they reluctantly complied. And Crowley, although remaining apathetic as always unless it concerned him, still noticed and had beamed. He was probably glad that he didn’t have to fund for you anymore, because the money you got from him was getting rarer and rarer.

The nerve.

Regardless, everything had been going well. Everyone was happy, and even you were happy, despite the lingering loneliness.

Until one night, Lilia invited you to go to the Valley.

“You don’t have any plans during school holiday, right? So, I think you should go with me later.” he smiled. “You can broaden your horizon while you’re at it. Educational vacation is always good for the soul and brain.”

You stared at his radiant face. You weren’t dumb; you knew exactly what he was implying. Sometimes, you wondered if you were dealing with a second Azul, and if you’d just unwittingly signed your life away for the sake of comfort and material happiness.

You sighed.

“Well, I guess it can’t be helped, then.”

His smile widened, while his eyes glinted under the moonlight. He was satisfied with your compliance. You supposed it was a good thing, although it did hurt your pride a bit.

It was rather awkward to go with the Diasomnia gang, especially with Sebek who wouldn’t stop assuming that you came to attack Malleus and other bullshit like that. Lilia had chuckled, and reassured him that you were here upon his request. Silver was stoic and sleepy as usual. And Malleus, although surprised by your sudden arrival, had welcomed it almost heartily.

Of course, you had your trusty monster cat with you, who – to complement Sebek’s paranoia – kept rambling about tunas and other local Valley food.

It didn’t last long, though, because as soon as you ate and rested for a while in the castle (courtesy of Malleus), Lilia asked you to come with him.

Alone.

And, well, who were you to refuse that?

So, you left Grim in the castle, who didn’t even complain due to the seafood they provided, and went with Lilia.

“So,” you drawled. “where are we going again?”

He smirked. “You’ll see.”

You didn’t like that, but there was nothing you could do. Being with him meant being subjected to vague responses, and although you didn’t necessarily mind that, it didn’t mean you preferred it.

Very soon, you entered the woods, where little fairies and fireflies mingled into one. It was a beautiful scene, how their wings beat and fluttered in the air. Some fairies curiously yet cautiously approached you, bumping their tiny heads against your arms, while the others eyed Lilia warily. You giggled, feeling their warmth on your skin, and patted them as lightly as you could. A few had hissed, despising being treated like an animal, but the rest seemed to enjoy it.

“Here we are.”

You hadn’t noticed it yet, but you’d stopped in front of a large cabin. You gazed at it for a moment, trying to process if this was truly what he wanted to show you behind his sudden invitation. It wasn’t an underwhelming sight, by any means, just very… surprising.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Lilia mused, hands clasped behind his back.

“Uh…”

“Should we go in, then?”

Lilia didn’t wait for your response and gently ushered you inside by the hand. Snapping his fingers, all candles in the cabin suddenly lit up. He guided you from the front of the house to the back, including the backyard. You noticed there were four bedrooms in total, each with a double bed neatly made, and one nursery.

“Now that we’ve seen everything, what do you think?”

“I don’t–” You stopped yourself and turned to him. “Is this why you wanted me to come here? To give me a house tour?”

“Why? You don’t like it?” he asked, tilting his head slightly. “If so, then please tell me what changes should I make. We need everything to be perfect for our family later.”

You sputtered. “W-what? Family?! Lilia-senpai, I never agreed to that!”

“Whatever do you mean? Considering you accepted my money, that means you agreed to the term.” He raised an incredulous eyebrow. “And have you forgotten? I told you that whatever I want isn’t too expensive, because I’ll be the one who provides for you later. You don’t need to take a single coin out of your pocket.”

“Indeed. Life can be unfairly cruel to some people.”

You gaped at him, and in a moment of horror, you ripped your hand out of his hold and slowly backed away.

“They’ve never done anything horrible, and yet, life subjects them with so much pain, anyway.”

“Lilia-senpai, have you… have you been tricking me all this time?”

“In which case, it’s advisable for them to ask for help as soon as possible. Because there’s nothing worse than trying to solve everything alone.”

“Of course not. Since the beginning, it’d been your choice to accept my kindness. I was merely offering.” Lilia stared at your withdrawing self. “I was planning on letting you study for another, well, a year, since I’m going to graduate very soon. But if you escape now…” The candles flickered, and his eyes promptly darkened. “I might have to cut your freedom short.”

“Don’t you think so, [Name]?”

You abruptly halted just as the back of your feet touched the doorframe, body trembling like crazy.

“It’s alright, you can tell me.”

“I’m giving you another offer.” The draft picked up until his hair and clothes fluttered behind him. “Keep being obedient, or be my wife. Either way, I don’t mind. I’m just considering your situation, being the kind man I am.” Lilia glanced at the window, in the direction of the castle. “Obviously, you can still keep your cat. I don’t want to take away your only source of entertainment. But, of course,” Slit eyes peered back at you. “it all depends on how you act.”

“I won’t tell a single soul.”

Slowly, he smiled.

“Your secret is safe with me.”

“So, what do you say, my dear?”

Chapter Text

You were going to go home.

It was quite unexpected, considering that for the longest time, Crowley had never seemed willing to return you. There were always excuses and tasks stacked on top of your existing ones to deter you from asking again, and it worked.

You’d resigned to your new and dangerous life, doing your duties as both a student and a drudge. They didn’t pay much, just enough to keep you and Grim alive. And during those times, Silver had inserted himself into your life, playing as a caring yet stoic senior who would protect you during his free time. It was quite a clever move, Lilia admitted, and he couldn’t have been prouder of his own son.

Except, Silver never really dared to confess.

Lilia should’ve known that regardless of his upbringing, his more… human characteristics would still appear in some cases. Because you were an alien in this world, Silver, too, had resigned to the fact that you’d return someday, and that was the biggest pity in Lilia’s opinion. It was always better to tell your loved one about your feelings, Lilia said, but Silver, with the little humanity inside him, merely shook his head.

“I don’t want to hold her back.” he’d murmured with the most lovesick expression Lilia had seen from him.

And now that the news of your upcoming departure had reached their ears (because Lilia had ‘asked’ Crowley to tell them anything regarding you first before you), Silver was barely able to meet you.

Obviously, it didn’t sit well with Lilia, who had been his supporter since the very start. On one hand, he wanted to force Silver into confessing before it was too late. But on the other hand, he knew that Silver would most likely refuse. That was how kind and selfless he was to you, much to Lilia’s chagrin.

Regardless, Lilia couldn’t bear to see his only son wither away from his untold feelings. Humans were dangerously delicate, and he’d seen enough to know that depression could lead them to early death. For all their impulsivity, humans could be quite static too, and Lilia wanted Silver to get out of his rut.

And what better way to do it than to approach the source of his pain?

But before Lilia could confront you, there was still one thing he needed to do.

“Crowley.”

The said man dropped his pen and snapped his head up.

“V-Vanrouge, what brings you here? I swear I’ve told you everything about her!” he sputtered pathetically.

“I know. That’s not the reason why I came here, though.” Lilia intoned, slowly floating towards him. “I want you to destroy the mirror.”

“W-what?”

“You heard me.”

“B-but… what about [Name]?”

“What about her?”

“She’s been asking to go home now.”

“Oh,” Lilia sneered. “so you suddenly have compassion now, Dire?”

“She’s… she’s finished all her tasks here, that’s why.”

The bat fae hummed, pretending to inspect his nails.

“Well, that’s a shame. Unfortunately, my son still wants her to be around. And we can’t let her have this silly idea of going home, am I right?” His hand shot up and grabbed Crowley’s chin with surprising speed, bring his face closer to his. “So, why don’t you stop dillydallying and do as I said, hm? Unless, you want me to spread all the dirt you’ve buried until now? About all the overblots you would’ve failed to manage without [Name]’s assistance?” Lilia smirked, his eyes glowing in the darkening office. “I’m sure the press will gobble it up like the starving dogs they are.”

Crowley gulped, trying to resist the urge to shiver from his frigid breath. “A-alright, I’ll see what I can do.”

Lilia simpered, eyes closing.

“Great!” he chirped, shoving Crowley’s face back as if disgusted by it. “I expect it to be destroyed as soon as possible, okay? Maybe…” he trailed off, putting a fist under his chin thoughtfully. “right now? Oh, and don’t forget to lure her towards it, okay? I want her to see the surprise~”

Crowley immediately rushed out of the office as if it was on fire, leaving Lilia to snicker at his back. Sighing, he rested his palm on the desk and stared at the ceiling. Step one was completed, so that left two more.

A bat slipped through the slightly ajar door and landed on Lilia’s finger, looking at him with a pair of tiny, beady eyes. Lilia smirked. Well, you were closer than he thought.

Then again, he’d already memorized the whole school, anyway, so you could never hide even if you wanted to.

Lilia teleported to your current location and found you sitting underneath a tree, writing on your book. Looking at you now, he realized why Silver fell for you in the first place. You were wholly innocent, and oblivious, to the various pairs of eyes that were watching you. He could’ve hurt you, right here, right now, and you wouldn’t be able to react much. Not that anyone could stop him, anyway. He repressed himself just like how Silver repressed himself. But honestly? It was for everyone’s sake too. Nobody would want to see him being all scary and intimidating to them.

“Hello, [Name].”

You looked up, your doe eyes looking even larger from this view. How cute. They reminded him of Silver’s baby eyes. Your lips quirked into a friendly smile, and he wondered how many times had Silver been dreaming of kissing them.

“Vanrouge-senpai, hello!” you chirped.

“Oh, dear. I thought we were closer than that.” he tutted, feigning a pained frown. “Just call me Lilia, like many others.”

“Lilia-senpai it is, then.” you corrected yourself, and he resisted the urge to giggle at your overly formal nature. He’d need to change that later. It wouldn’t be good to have you be distant from him, physically and emotionally. “What brings you here?”

Everything.

“Nothing much.” He plopped down on the grass beside you, glancing at the content of the book. History. Huh, that should be easy. “Have you finally found a way home, [Name]?”

A strange pleasantry. People had learned not to question it, lest you became upset and your friends coming to your rescue. But not anymore, he mentally noted as your face brightened like the thousands of stars before him.

“Oh, yes, I have! I’m so excited! Finally, I got to go home after so long!” you gushed, pumping your fists in the air. Lilia’s eyelids drooped, yet the amiable smile he always wore remained.

“Oh, my. Do you hate Twisted Wonderland that much?”

You sputtered.

“N-no, of course not! I have so many good memories here, and friends too! It’s just that…” you trailed off, a strange mixture of bashfulness and melancholy tainting your once cheerful voice. “I can’t live here forever, you know? I miss my old family and friends too. No matter how I look at it, Twisted Wonderland will never be my true home.”

Well, that was a pity.

“Is that so?” he mused, pretending to mull over your answer. Had you were anyone else, he would’ve comforted you. But you were you, and Silver needed you. Yet, Lilia couldn’t afford to be hasty, either. “When will you leave, then?”

“Tomorrow! I’m trying to do all my last homework as quickly as possible, and after that, I’ll say goodbye to all my friends.”

“Would you mind if I help you? I happen to be quite… proficient at History.”

“Oh, sure! I’m struggling with number five, anyway!”

A hint of darkness eclipsed his smile.

Perfect.

Lilia took your book and easily solved any difficulty you had. You really were a naïve one, weren’t you? At the very least, if his plan failed, he could use this against you. No matter how small and forgettable his assistance was, it was still assistance, and faes operated on a fair exchange. Therefore, you’d unwittingly owed him now.

Poor you.

“Is this the last one?” he inquired once you finished your homework.

You nodded.

“Yup! So, I’m going to give this to Trein-sensei now. Thank you so much, Lilia-senpai!” you beamed, waving at him who gladly returned the gesture.

Lilia slowly lowered his hand when your figure grew smaller in the distance, his smile contorted into a smirk. Well, that was painfully easy. Of course, your innocence helped him for the most part. Otherwise, his plan wouldn’t be able to proceed this smoothly.

Stretching, Lilia got up and followed after you. How adorable it was to see you skipping down the hallways, holding what you thought would be your last homework. He wondered if his future grandchildren would be this cute too? That’d be nice. Kids were always a delight to be around, especially for someone so dulled by eternity like him.

You entered the classroom, where the old man Trein was still sitting and grading the papers. You both chatted a bit, him showing a rare yet tiny smile at you, before you left. Then, as if lured by something, you began to head towards the direction of the Mirror Chamber. There was no skip in your step anymore, and the closer you got to your destination, the wider Lilia’s smirk got.

Splinters of glass scattered on the floor, and the once functional mirror stood gaping like a bottomless hole that sucked your joy and life. Shocked, you could only stand in the doorway for a moment before you finally crumbled, wailing into your palms. Lilia had enchanted the entire hallway so nobody would enter it aside from you two, and kept watching from the shadows. It hurt him, truly, to see you in this state. You just wanted to go home, and he understood.

But sacrifice needed to be made, and Silver’s happiness wasn’t one of them.

For a long time, you sat there, sobbing and hiccupping, until you regained a sense of the time and place. Sniffling, you shakily stood up by gripping the door and lumbered out of the empty school.

Time for the last step.

“[Name]?”

You halted, but kept your back on him. You didn’t have to, he already saw everything.

You just didn’t know it.

“[Name], are you alright?” Lilia whispered, floating around you to get a better look at your face. Your eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and your lips trembled pitifully. Snot occasionally trickled down your nose, before you sucked it. “Oh, dear. What happened? Did someone hurt you?”

You shook your head.

“N-no, it’s just–” you paused, before bursting into tears again. Lilia promptly hugged you and cooed, feeling your body shook against his.

“It’s alright, you don’t need to tell me anything.” he murmured, caressing your hair. “How about we go to my dorm? Silver has been wanting to see you too.”

“B-but Grim…?”

“I’ll tell him you’re under my care for now. In the meantime, we should hurry. The moon is getting higher.”

You slowly nodded and allowed him to guide you to the Diasomnia dorm. The lounge room was surprisingly empty, but Lilia focused on bringing you to Silver’s room. Knocking on the door, he waited until Silver opened it and smiled.

“Hello, Silver. I hope you don’t mind if you have a guest for tonight.”

Silver looked surprised, as expected, but he quickly took you from Lilia’s arms. He glanced up, silently asking for clarification, but Lilia kept simpering.

“I leave her to your care, then, Silver.”

Shock and reluctance flashed in his face, rooting him on the doorway. It wasn’t until you whispered his name, did Silver finally snap out of his trance.

“O-of course.” He looked at Lilia and nodded resolutely. “I’ll take good care of her.”

The door slowly closed, sealing your fate forever. Lilia nodded in satisfaction and turned around.

Now, for a closure…

Chapter Text

“I heard that you broke up with Silver.”

You sat on the couch of your dorm, head inclined as if you were ashamed or something. But why? You didn’t know. Breakups were common, and very few could maintain their school relationships until adulthood. Maybe it was because Lilia had asked you to take care of Silver when you first dated him? Maybe because you’d destroyed his trust, and the other two Diasomnia students, by breaking Silver’s heart? Or maybe because this was Lilia you were talking about, the vice dorm leader people were so scared of?

No, you shook your head, the feeling you were experiencing right now was far from fear. Lilia had always emitted a friendly aura, almost fatherly. Even now, when he confronted you after hearing about your breakup, he was still as congenial as ever.

“Yes, I felt like I was slowly drifting away from him, so I decided to break it off before we could hurt each other even more.”

Lilia hummed, still keeping his crimson gaze on the murky tea. What was he thinking about?

“It is true that Silver is quite busy with his duty to Malleus.” he intoned. “But I can assure you that he’s always thinking about you every second, and that he always looked forward to meeting you in his free time.”

Is? Was he implying that Silver was still thinking about you? Well, you supposed it was normal, considering you’d just broken up with him a week ago. You couldn’t force him to forget all the memories you’d created together.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I think it’ll be best if he just focus on his duty instead. I don’t want to disturb him or something.”

“Oh, so you think he doesn’t deserve to have a romantic relationship?”

“O-of course not!” you sputtered, and Lilia snickered. What a cruel joke he was playing. Your heart almost leaped out of its rib just now. “What I mean to say is, he’s already burdened by his duties as a student and a guard, and I don’t want to add to it.”

“Whatever do you mean, dearest? Silver was delighted to have you by his side. Never once did he feel as if you were a burden to him.”

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t help but think that way, though…”

“So, is that your only problem?” Lilia chuckled. “Oh, dear. You know I can ask Silver to be more… affirming with his love. You don’t need to hide your pain from us.”

You looked up, seeing him already staring at you. Was it just you, or did it feel as if he was trying to pressure you into dating Silver again? No, that was impossible. Lilia had always been a mature senior, albeit a little… mischievous, so he must be curious about the root of the problem.

“Still, this is the best decision for us.”

“For you both, or for you?”

You unconsciously gripped your pants when his smile turned a bit darker. What was with him trying to challenge you? You thought he respected your decision!

“For us both, definitely.”

“Is that so? How can you be so sure, then? Have you ever asked about how he felt when you asked to break up with him? Or how he’s feeling right now?”

You forced yourself to take a deep breath. Calm down. Getting angry would only worsen the situation, and you didn’t want to make an enemy out of your senior, especially one as important as Lilia. If you ever needed his help someday, you wouldn’t be so embarrassed to ask.

“I admit I haven’t, but being hurt is totally normal in breakups.”

“So, you wish to leave him in a state of pain forever?” he retorted, before his lips quirked into an uncharacteristic sneer that sent chills down your spine. “How cruel. I’ve never expected such a reaction from you. How… disappointing, truly.”

Did you even want to know what he was expecting from you?

Lilia closed his eyes and sipped his tea calmly. It’d gotten colder now, but not as cold as the room.

“Then again, some people do take a long time in revealing their true selves,” He peeked through his eyelashes, red eyes boring to your scared ones. “don’t you think?

“Lilia-senpai, I don’t appreciate you questioning my decision. Silver has already agreed to it, so we should just leave it at that.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I don’t appreciate you hurting my son, either.”

You froze. Son? What? No, no, no. You must be mishearing things! There was no way a college student would have a teenage son! Sure, Lilia liked to tell you things that made you internally question his true age, but he was still a college student, right? He wasn’t Silver’s father… right?

“You’re… you’re joking.”

Lilia chuckled.

“Am I?”

This wasn’t funny anymore. You needed to process everything and stayed the fuck away from these weirdos. You abruptly stood up.

“Lilia-senpai, I think you should leave now.”

“How rude. Is this how you treat your future father-in-law?” he tutted, putting the cup back onto the table. “As expected, I ought to fix your attitude, huh?”

“Go!” you barked, stomping towards him. “I said go!”

Lilia suddenly grabbed your wrist, stopping your hand from yanking his sleeve.

“Such a dainty hand. It’ll be a shame if something were to break it, no?” he mused, his gloved thumb rubbing your wrist where your veins lied. He peered up and giggled coyly. “Come now. Don’t give me that expression. You know I was merely jesting.”

“Your joke isn’t funny.” you hissed, trying to wrench your arm out of his grip.

“Ah, is that so? Well, we have all the time in the world, anyway. In the meantime,” Lilia outstretched his hand and covered your eyes, emitting a green glow that sapped every bit of your energy. “why don’t you get some sleep, my dear? You need to be in the best shape for our… family reunion, after all.”

And then, you fainted.

image

You fluttered your eyes open, discerning a dark canopy above your head. What happened? Where were you? You didn’t remember having a canopied bed. Turning your face to the side, you gasped at the sight of Silver’s sleeping face centimeters away from yours. He was hugging you too, as if he was still your boyfriend and not an ex.

That old man, Lilia…!

You tried to get up, but his hand gripped you in place. Damn him and his biceps! Why did he have to be so guarded even in sleep, anyway?! Once, you’d felt safe in his arms, but now, you felt trapped instead.

Silver grumbled, and you froze, glancing to your left as if he was about to devour you. He slowly opened his eyes and smiled sleepily, his other hand caressing your cheek.

“Good evening, [Name].”

Good what–?!

You ripped the pillow from under your head and shoved it to his face, enough to startle him. Using the opportunity, you leaped out of the bed and yanked the door open. You were scared. You were so fucking scared here. Not only Lilia had kidnapped you, but Silver was acting as if nothing happened too!

You wanted to escape. You needed to esca–!

“Oh, you’re awake.”

You halted right in the mouth of the hallway, staring down at the little family that you used to consider as yours too. Lilia looked up from his spot on one of the chairs, while Sebek poured tea into his cup diligently. Beside him, Malleus sat on the head of the table, his horns standing proudly even from this angle.

Were they having a tea party despite having a hostage here?!

It was then you realized there were three empty cups on the table, one beside Lilia and the other beside Sebek. You didn’t doubt the former was for Silver (because he was his son, what the fuck?! You still couldn’t believe it!), while the latter was for–

Found you.

A hand clasped over your mouth, muffling the scream that would’ve woken up the entire dorm. Silver had wrapped his other hand around your stomach too, essentially locking your arms in place. You cried and tried to head-butt Silver, but he already moved away so his head was resting on your shoulder instead.

Below the stairs, Lilia chuckled.

“Oh, my. Such a lovely couple they are, already chasing each other right after waking up, as if they can’t get enough of one another.” he cooed. “Why don’t you help her get dressed, Silver? I recall there are still some clothes left in your closet for her to wear.”

Silver nodded, still the obedient junior and son, and proceeded to drag you back to his room.

“Forgive me, [Name], but what my father says, goes.” he whispered, the ironic guilt in his voice unknowingly drove the knife on your chest deeper. “I hope you don’t hate us too much. We already considered you as a part of our family, you see, and family sticks together.”

You merely sobbed against his hand and hung your head.

Behind you, the sound of Lilia’s laugh accompanied you to your prison.

Chapter Text

Like most people, you had a soulmate string. And like most people, you were excited at your latest discovery. You wasted no time dawdling around and quickly dashed towards your parents’ room, enthusiastically shoving your little pinky to them. As expected, they were happy with the news and prayed that your soulmate was a good person. You joined their prayer, too, childishly hoping that your soulmate resembled the prince you’d often seen in comics and movies.

And, indeed, your soulmate was nothing short of a gentleman you’d always dreamed of.

Azul Ashengrotto was a cordial and intelligent man, albeit a little weak in physical. You got attached to him easily, finding him pleasant to talk to despite the constant murmurs and fearful glances that surrounded him daily. It came as a slight surprise when you learned that the thread had pointed to him all along, but you didn’t mind.

You loved it, even. You were one of the few lucky ones who managed to find their soulmate early, even if you had to wake up in another world first. He didn’t seem to be very surprised by the discovery, either, and merely smiled.

And, if you looked closer, you’d notice a hint of  satisfaction  in there.

Azul continued to treat you courteously but with a romance undertone this time.

Slowly, he became bolder with his advance. A hand around your waist, company to your classes by the twins, and dates in Monstro Lounge after school, they became all too frequent.

Of course, you thought it was just him being amorous. You were his soulmate, after all. You’d tried to excuse his actions, had tried to rationalize them to your friends who gradually became strangers instead. You’d tried to look at the bright side of things, had tried to remind yourself to be thankful for your luck.

It could’ve been worse, you mentally told yourself as you sensed the distance between you and your friends growing in each day. Nothing was free in this world, after all.

Though, you wished you didn’t have to sacrifice your friendship for this inevitable relationship.

Everything was normal – well, as normal as you could get with a merman attached to your hip almost every day – until you found yourself in Azul’s room one day.

As his girlfriend, you’d obviously visited his room before. But you’d never slept in it, let alone waking up on his bed. Gripping your head with one hand, you vaguely recalled your last date with him in Monstro Lounge. He’d given you a drink, smiling as gently as always, and–

Oh, God.

No, no, no! That… that was impossible, right? He wouldn’t… he’d never do that, right?! You were his soulmate, after all. And despite his shady behavior, Azul had been nothing but kind to you.

So, he wouldn’t… he couldn’t…

Ripping the cover open, you heaved a sigh of relief at the fact that your uniform was still intact. Not that you’d suspect him to, God forbids, rape you. But it was still good to check first, right?

… No matter, you couldn’t afford to waste another time here. You needed to leave because Azul had crossed the boundaries now, although you still didn’t know the reason behind his recent action. Was he scared that you’d abandon him for another man or something? If so, then why didn’t he bring it up to you? Why did he stay quiet?

Why did he have to  drug  you first?

You leaped off of the bed, nearly tripping over the cover that pooled on the floor, and ripped the door open. The breath hitched on your throat once you met the person behind the door, heart thumping at the sight of his surprised face.

Azul blinked owlishly before smiling, head cocked. “Oh, you’re awake already?” he asked innocently.

“Azul…” you whispered almost in disbelief. “What… what am I doing here?”

“You fell asleep, so I brought you here. It’s closer than your dorm, you know?”

“No…” You slowly shook your head. “That’s not… that’s not true. You… you drugged me to sleep, I remember it. There’s no way I’d fall asleep just like that!”

Azul frowned slightly. “Such an unpleasant accusation. Have you forgotten that you’ve stayed up the whole night doing your papers? You fell asleep in the middle of our date. I was just moving you to a better place.”

You reeled back. Was that… was that true? No, of course, it wasn’t. Your brain wouldn’t fool you.

… Right?

“I remember you giving me a drink, and then I fainted.” you mumbled, frowning hard in a mix of confusion and persistence. “It wasn’t the first time I’ve pulled an all-nighter, anyway, and I was able to stay awake during the day!”

“But there’s a limit to your body, no?” he retorted, smiling patiently as if you didn’t know any better. “You’ve been working hard ever since you arrived here, so it’s only natural for your body to shut down.”

Azul gave you a moment to consider his answer and closed the door behind him. “Why don’t you sit down first? I’ll ask Jade to bring you some refreshments. I’m sure you’re hungry after sleeping for the whole day.”

The whole day…? Did that mean you’d missed your classes?

And, as if he read your mind, Azul proceeded to reassure you whilst ushering you towards his bed. “Don’t worry about your classes. I’ve informed the teachers that you were ill today.”

“No…” You willed yourself to stay put despite the nudge on your back. “No, I… I need to go back to my dorm now. Grim must’ve been waiting for me.”

“Oh, sorry. Have I forgotten to tell you that this is our room now?”

You snapped your head towards him so fast your hair whipped his arm.

“What…?”

Surely, you must’ve misheard it, right? Because as flattering as it sounded, you didn’t want to sleep with him – not after everything he’d done to you.

“I’ve ordered the twins to retrieve your belongings from Ramshackle dorm.” He smiled innocently as if he hadn’t just moved your things without permission. “There aren’t many, to begin with, so they were able to finish the job quickly.”

Slowly, your eyes glided towards the desk where your books and stationery sat upon.

How could you notice that important detail  now ?

“Don’t worry, I have the Headmaster’s permission.”

Your heart dropped to your stomach. Crowley had always been unreliable, but you never pegged him as a traitor too. Just how much influence did Azul have over him?!

Azul pushed his glasses, hiding his smirk behind a gloved hand.

“So you can’t say that I hold you against your will now, because the Headmaster has agreed with your new arrangement.”

You stared at him deeply, discerning the darkness that swirled behind those blue eyes. It was there, it’d always been there. That was why the students feared him so much because he was just that good at manipulation. But, as always, you pretended to be oblivious instead.

And now, you had to pay the price.

“You’re lying…” you whispered, unable to believe the length he’d gone through just to keep you in his grip.

“I’ve never lied to anyone, let alone to you.” he replied calmly. “After all, soulmates stay together forever, right?”

You shook your head frantically and bolted towards the door, ripping it open only to reveal the twins waiting just outside the room. They grinned down at you, pointy teeth gleaming under the artificial light. You merely gaped at them, pupils stinging with the telltale sign of tears.

Behind you, Azul toyed with the crimson string on his pinky and smiled triumphantly.

“I’ve done my part, so it’s time for you to do yours, [Name].” he said. “Be a good girl, and your friends will be safe.”

Chapter Text

“Are you scared?”

A whisper caressed your ear like the sea breeze as you stood on the dock that overlooked the ocean and starry sky. It was a beautiful night, and you’d love to admire the tranquil scenery had Jade wasn’t there to ruin everything.

Then again, when had he didn’t try to ruin something? It was as if he was born to be a destroyer – no, a mastermind.

And you’d fallen into his trap. An obvious trap that you could’ve avoided had you pay more attention to the signs, to the plethora of warnings other students constantly spouted. Even Riddle was wary of him, and that was saying something.

It  should’ve  said something.

And yet, you remained naïve. So painfully naïve you almost wanted to smack yourself in frustration for being gullible, for believing that he meant well with his friendly smile.

But it was too late to regret everything, wasn’t it? You were gonna die, anyway, because–

“It’s not too late, you know?” he murmured seductively, deft fingers tucking strands of hair behind your ear. He reminded you of the devil sometimes, always tempting and plotting. Manipulating. “You just need to stop being so stubborn and be honest with me; with yourself.”

You couldn’t… you didn’t want to. Because being honest meant acknowledging that you loved him deep down – had loved him.

And he wanted to use those precious yet painful feelings against you because everything was a game for him anyway.

You shook your head.

“No,” you said resolutely. “I will never…”

I will never  what ?

“… I will never admit it, because that’s not true.” You gritted your teeth, hands clenched on your sides. “And I’m not gonna lie about anything.”

“Is that so…?” Jade smirked against your bare shoulder, heterochromatic eyes peering at your determined yet shaky profile. “You seem rather hesitant. Are you sure you’re not trying to lie to yourself right now?”

“Of course not.” you retorted, frowning at his persistence. “I’d rather… I’d rather die than loving you.”

Jade squinted slightly. “Oh my, that’s a little painful to hear. After everything I’ve done for you, you chose death instead? That’s very rude of you.”

Scowling, you swiveled and jabbed a finger to his chest. How dare he made it sound as if you wanted those things…!

Rude? So asking for you to stop beating up my friends is considered rude? Asking for you to stop being so fucking possessive of me is considered rude? Fuck you! Had I known what kind of person you are, I would’ve avoided you instead! You piece of tra–”

You’d expected something like this to happen – had expected him to ‘betray’ you in some way. As unpredictable as Jade could be, you’d learned to anticipate the worst from him. But it still didn’t stop you from shrieking and screaming for his help when you felt a hand abruptly pushed you towards the sea.

Salty water immediately burst into your mouth and nostrils as you struggled to stay afloat, hands flailing around for a lifeline. Through your wet lashes, you could see Jade staring down at you from the dock before he disappeared. You choked on both water and sobs, tears streaming down your bloodshot eyes and merging with the ocean.

Was he… was he really leaving you to drown here? Were you really going to die all alone without anyone bothering to help you – without being able to see your family and friends for the last time?

The thoughts filled you with so much dread you instinctively panicked, struggling to push yourself out of the water. But no matter how hard you tried, you could never win against nature, especially during your frantic state. And the hands that desperately reached out skyward slowly grew limp as you allowed the sea to engulf you forever.

Maybe… maybe this wasn’t so bad. Out of any death you could’ve experienced, this one was definitely more peaceful. Your body would rot naturally, or eaten by some fishes, and nobody would know.

Nobody would  care .

You slowly closed your eyes, feeling yourself falling further and further into the darkness. At least now, you could finally get the peace you always wanted.

At least now, Jade wouldn’t be able to  torture  you anymore.

A shadow flashed and grabbed your weakened person, bringing you close to a rather warm body. A pair of lips pressed against your pale ones, and you soon felt liquid trickled down your throat. It tasted refreshing like water after a long, hot day.

Sluggishly, you cracked your eyes open.

Jade greeted you with a soft smile, webbed hands holding you bridal-style. However, you could see a glint of triumph within those glowing eyes.

“Good evening, [Name]. I trust that you had an enjoyable trip today?”

A tear responded to his rhetorical question.

His smile widened.

Chapter Text

Jade wasn’t kidding when he said that the Coral Sea was dark and cold. Despite living here for months already, you still weren’t very accustomed to the temperature. Though, you probably should thank Jade for warming your house.

But it didn’t matter; the coldness of the deep sea was better than the warmth of his crushing embrace.

You heaved as you glided through the rocks, wary of the creatures that might live in there. There were too many unpredictable things in the sea, especially the ocean floor. You’d never know if you’d die from the pressure, being eaten or being poisoned by fishes and sea snakes. It was moments like this where you began to miss the land even more because at least you could see the danger instead of blindly entering it.

At least in the land, the chance of you escaping Jade was a bit  higher .

You propelled yourself to hide behind a rock and sat down. Ever since Jade took you to his house in the Coral Sea, you rarely had a chance to go out, let alone exploring the ‘neighborhood’. And… well, it was your fault, actually. Had you weren’t so rebellious, he would’ve given you more freedom instead.

But how would you know? How could you be so sure that he’d be kind enough to let you roam around without supervision? Regardless of how long you’d lived with him, you could never trust Jade. You were certain he knew that too and didn’t even feel the slightest bit offended.

How could he, when your escape attempts were his main entertainment?

How could he, when your desperate face brought him certain arousal that he never thought was possible before?

How could he, when he relished in your quiet sobs after one of his rough lovemaking? Sobbing because you both hated and enjoyed his touch on your body, sobbing because you failed once again, and sobbing because you knew that something like this would happen again if you kept trying to escape.

But you knew you couldn’t stop. And he knew that, too.

That was why he loved you  so  much, knowing how stubborn you were – how  desperate  you were for the freedom that lied just beyond the water.

You blew into your hands, trying to warm your freezing body. The temperature made it feel as if you were swimming in the arctic sea, instead. You were pretty sure you would’ve died from the sheer frigidity had he didn’t alter your appearance. It was both a blessing and a curse, really. How could he live in such an extreme place like this? Merpeople were truly something else.

A tiny light suddenly illuminated your hands. It wasn’t enough to bring some heat, but you could see the lines on your palms. You blinked owlishly, wondering why there was a light in a dark place like this. You thought the sunlight didn’t reach here, Jade had said so himself.

So, then, why–?

You stiffened, eyes bulging at the realization. You knew what that fish was, knew what it looked like because your curiosity had forced you to look it up. You’d never thought it’d come in handy, nor did you expect yourself to personally see it one day.

Because what were the chances of you stumbling upon an  anglerfish  in the land?

Slowly, you turned your head and gasped. The fish was smaller than you’d expected, presumably male, but the sight of its gaping face and long, uneven teeth still terrified you nonetheless. You screamed, trying to clamber away from the sea monstrosity. You didn’t know if anglerfishes were hostile or not, but you did know that you needed to escape–

– Now!

You hastily got up and swam further into the darkness. You weren’t sure where you headed, but anything was better than being in the same place as that fish. Who knows, maybe you could find someone nice the deeper you traveled, as ridiculous as it sounded.

Jade had said that dangers lurked everywhere, but it didn’t mean the situation was hopeless, right?

You abruptly halted, noticing a huge crack in front of you. It wasn’t just an ordinary crack, either.

It was a  trench .

“Oya, you sure play farther than I expected, [Name].”

You whipped your head towards the speaker, discerning someone worse than the anglerfish himself. Jade stood a few meters away before you, arms crossed over his chiseled chest. And yet, he still wore that annoyingly calm smile.

As expected, he didn’t even seem fazed by your escape attempt. If anything, you’d say that he was amused by your feat. The bastard always enjoyed your suffering no matter how small it was.

You withdrew slightly, wary of his next action. Jade was faster than you, you both knew that much, which was why you could never rest in his presence. The sea only increased his speed, and if you put down your guard slightly, he could easily snatch you as he’d done before.

“I see that you met our neighbor, too. What do you think? Isn’t he just nice?”

In another situation, you would’ve laughed at the questions. What kind of person would consider an anglerfish as a neighbor? But then again, this was Jade you were talking about.

Not knowing what to respond, you chose to blurt out the first thing that came to your mind.

“Fuck you, Jade.”

He blinked owlishly, somewhat taken aback by your curse.

“My, that’s quite rude, don’t you think? Here I am, worrying about my wife. And yet, she doesn’t seem to appreciate the sentiment. I’m hurt.” He touched his heart as if emphasizing the fake pain he was feeling. Then, he outstretched a hand. “But it’s getting late now. So why don’t we go home? I’ve prepared some hearty dinner for us.”

You scowled and slowly edged towards the trench. Jade frowned in return, noticing your reckless plan.

“[Name], you do realize that you’ll die if you go there, right? Your breathing is rather unstable here, so what makes you think you can survive the pressure in there?” he chided. “Not to mention, you’ll meet more terrifying creatures. Can you stand being in their presences without screaming?”

“Shut up.” you hissed. “I’m sure the trench is better than being with you.”

Jade’s frown deepened, while his smile turned stiff.

“[Name], please don’t do anything rash. Land dwellers can’t possibly know what kind of horror waiting for them down there.” he warned firmer this time.

You gritted your teeth. “Well, then, allow me be the first.”

With that declaration, you turned around and prepared to plunge into the trench. However, a pair of arms hugged your stomach and dragged you away before you could even so much as move forward.

“What the fuck, Jade?!” you shouted, both shocked and angry at the interruption. “Let me go! Let me just die already! I know you’ll like it, anyway. So let me go, you bastard!”

“Ah… I hate it when you put words in my mouth, [Name].” Jade tutted, still as calm as ever despite the way you thrashed like a worm in his arms. “You should’ve known that if I wanted you to die, I could’ve done it a long time ago. But I didn’t, because I love you, you see?”

“What you feel for me isn’t love! It’s obsession, and it’s making me sick!”

“Well, perhaps you should learn how to handle it. You’re my wife, after all. And I can’t let my wife go unattended, can I?” he chuckled, clearly enjoying what he called ‘an old couple’s spat’.

“Though,” His grip suddenly tightened, and you instinctively knew that something was wrong. “I figure I should just bind you, instead. And what better way to do it than a couple of children?”

Chapter Text

“Your Highness, His Highness has arrived.”

You stayed quiet, hoping that he’d leave with your ignorance. It was a stretch, considering how patient Jade was. But it didn’t hurt to try, right? You weren’t in the mood to meet your fiancé, anyway.

Then again, you were never in the mood to meet him.

It wasn’t as if he was a bad person, really. He was as charming as a prince could be, as handsome as a young man could be, and as smart as a cultured gentleman could be. Had you weren’t forced to marry him, perhaps you two could be good friends already.

But alas, your father had agreed to his proposal, and there was nothing you could do but obeyed.

Because his words were absolute.

However, Jade remained on your side. Crouching on one knee, he put a hand over his chest and dipped his head. A single grey lock swayed in the calm water, as if beckoning you to follow his lead.

“Well, then, tell him I’m not available today.” you retorted, sipping the lukewarm tea calmly.

The corner of his lips twitched slightly, revealing the amusement he’d been holding inside ever since he learned about your recent engagement.

“Do you want me to lie to your fiancé, Your Highness?” he asked, heterochromatic eyes peeking up at you through strands of blue hair. He appeared as though he was requesting your confirmation, but you knew better.

He was taunting you.

“I imagine His Majesty won’t be too pleased to hear this.”

You peered down at him, suspicion and irritation sharpened your gaze. Jade confidently stared back, a calm yet faintly mocking smile gracing his pale features. For some reason, he seemed to have picked up the hobby of teasing you. You didn’t know what you’d done to earn this… unnecessary attention from him, but it also gave you enough information to conclude that he was nothing like what your father had said.

To conclude that he wasn’t as friendly as he looked.

Of course, you could always fire him for his impudence. But you imagined your family, especially your father, wouldn’t be happy with it. Jade had successfully fooled them with his serene yet enigmatic demeanor, amiable yet pointed speech, and tender yet mischievous eyes. It wasn’t hard to see how popular he’d gotten despite his status as a new butler, and if it still wasn’t obvious enough, then the love-struck sighs and squeals from the maids should suffice.

You squinted while maintaining eye contact. He wasn’t wrong, of course. Your father wouldn’t be pleased if you missed the chance to get close to the prince, especially when he discovered that you lied to your own fiancé. It was irritating, but what was your marriage worth compared to a good relationship between the two kingdoms? What was your life worth compared to the innocents who’d surely fall victims to a war that could’ve been easily prevented had you were more cooperative?

Clucking, you put down the cup with an audible clink and stood up from the garden chair. Another servant immediately cleaned the table as soon as you swam towards the castle with Jade, leaving no sign of mess or occupancy behind.

It was quiet between you two, but that was okay. You wanted to savor the peace before you had to humor Gabriel like you always did.

Unfortunately, Jade seemed to think otherwise.

“You don’t look very happy, Your Highness.” he remarked. “Does entertaining your fiancé pains you so much?”

“Shut up, Jade.” you hissed.

The man chuckled. “Do forgive me, Your Highness. It wasn’t my intention to provoke you.”

Bullshit. You rolled your eyes, choosing to ignore his hollow apology. He totally did it on purpose. When was the last time he looked genuinely happy doing something that didn’t include antagonizing you?

“However,” he continued, peeking one eye open. “if the princess allows it, I can help you.”

“Help me with what?”

“Terminating your engagement.”

You halted in the middle of the hallway, ears perking up at the word ‘terminate’. You didn’t want to believe it. How could a mere servant like him convince your stubborn father to change his mind when you, his own daughter, couldn’t?

You scoffed. “Yeah, right. As if he’ll believe you.”

“There are many ways to do something, Your Highness.” Jade explained patiently, cryptically. “If the first option fails, there’s always another one.”

“What?” you sneered. “Don’t tell me you’re planning to assassinate Prince Gabriel.”

Jade’s smile subtly widened, and had you looked closer, you’d see a glint of malice in his eyes. “If that’s what Your Highness wishes.”

You rolled your eyes.

“Yeah, let’s see if you can do that.” you mumbled skeptically. “You’ll probably die on the guards’ hands or something…”

Truthfully, you didn’t think much about his offer. Sure, it was tempting, but it was simply impossible to do. His authority was too small, if you excluded the fact that he could easily order the love-struck maids to do his bidding, and you doubted your father would change his decision easily.

… At least, that was what you thought.

And what would Jade do if the first step didn’t work? Would he really assassinate Gabriel? You doubted he had the connection or skills necessary to carry out such a risky task. Height meant nothing if you couldn’t fight, after all. And even if he managed to kill Gabriel, it’d surely destroy his and your reputation too.

Well, unless he hid the evidence…

You shook your head as you approached the drawing-room. It’d been several days since Jade offering his ‘help’ to you, and Gabriel hadn’t visited since. There was a small voice inside you that said he’d died, but you refused to believe it.

Luckily, you did, because he soon came again.

Stopping just outside the room, you inhaled deeply and mustered a smile as wide as you could. Sometimes, you wondered if Gabriel knew you’d been faking enthusiasm to him. But he didn’t seem to mind, or chose to ignore it, or just didn’t know. It was hard to maintain a friendly façade for too long.

After a brief preparation like you always did before facing him, you entered the room and instantly frowned at the sight of his hunching back on the couch. He looked paler than usual, lips dry and chapped, and he was trembling as if he had just witnessed the greatest horror of all time. His butler patiently rubbed his shoulder, trying to ease his anxiety. He only stopped once he spotted your presence near the entrance.

“Gabriel-sama…?”

The said man whipped his head towards you, eyes dilated. “[N-Name]-chan…”

You gingerly swam towards the couch and sat down, keeping a careful yet concerned eye on him.

“Are you okay?” you asked, cocking your head slightly. “Is… something wrong?”

“[N-Name]-chan, I think… I think we should break our engagement.”

You blinked in surprise. Well, that… that was a relief, wasn’t it? The bind that had been keeping you in place for so long was finally destroyed with a simple sentence, and from the prince nonetheless.

And yet…

“… Why?”

Gabriel looked down and began to bite his thumb. You deduced it was a quirk that he did whenever he got too stressed. “I… I’ve been receiving some distressing letters lately.”

You nodded slowly, urging him to continue.

“And they… they said they’ll kill me if I’m still engaged to you.” He swallowed the lump on his throat as if confessing the truth was comparable to revealing his deepest, darkest secrets. “I don’t know who they are. We tried to search for the culprit, but… they’re just too elusive.”

Distressing letters, huh? Could it be… Jade’s doing? If that was the case, then, how did he manage to reach inside the castle? And into Gabriel’s hands, nonetheless. As far as you could remember, Jade hadn’t left your castle. You’d occasionally passed by him in the hallways, and he still served your evening tea.

“That’s why…” Gabriel continued, the fear on his face became more obvious. “I need to break the engagement.”

You understood. Had you were in his position, you’d definitely choose your safety first. Still, you nodded sympathetically at him. Just because you hated the arrangement, didn’t mean you hated him personally. He was merely an unfortunate victim here, disregarding the fact that he was the one who proposed to you first.

“It’s alright.” You said solemnly. “I’m sorry that our engagement has brought you nothing but danger.”

Gabriel smiled shakily. “Thank you. I… I’ve notified your father about this, and he permitted it. I don’t think he has told you yet.”

“No, he hasn’t.” Though, you could’ve asked Jade sooner.

You accompanied him to the porch where a seahorse carriage was already waiting outside. After giving you one last apologetic smile, Gabriel bowed and entered the carriage. His departure left a contradictory mix of relief and pity as you headed inside and ordered a nearby servant to fetch Jade to you. You sat on the couch where Gabriel occupied and rested your back against the cushion, staring at the beige ceiling wearily.

What a poor soul. To think that he’d get threats from a stranger just because he proposed to you… You couldn’t imagine how agitating the experience must be, realizing that you didn’t know anything about the culprit but aware that they were watching him somewhere, somehow. You wondered how long he’d been stalked, and if his absence was a sign all along.

“You summoned me, Your Highness?”

Jade appeared beside you, bowing his head respectfully with a hand on his chest. You looked up at him, squinting suspiciously.

“You sent those letters, didn’t you, Jade?”

As expected, he kept his composure despite your pointed question. He calmly blinked, but you noticed his smile disappeared.

“Whatever do you mean, Your Highness?”

“Don’t pretend to be dumb.” you retorted, frowning. “You know exactly what I said.”

When he went quiet, you huffed. “Gabriel told me that someone has been sending him distressing letters and forced him to break the engagement. You said that you’d terminate the engagement, so the culprit must be you.”

“But, Your Highness, I didn’t send them.”

“I said don’t pretend to be dumb!” you hissed, slamming your fist against the cushion to emphasize your demand. “Who else is brave enough to do that if not you?!”

“I’m not lying; I really didn’t send them. And besides, I’m certain there are many people who hate him and adore you, Your Highness.” Jade smoothly denied your accusations. “The possibility isn’t farfetched.”

You clenched your hands. “Jade, I order you to be honest with me.”

Jade slowly smirked and leaned down until you were eye level.

“Perhaps, you should word your question properly, Your Highness.” he murmured, gently tucking strands of hair behind your ear to fully display your irritated face. “I didn’t send them, however, you didn’t ask who wrote them.”

You scratched the cushion, scowling.

How?”

“How? Well, there are many sources.” He cocked his head, smiling serenely. “When you observe someone, you’ll know what their weaknesses are. It’s not that hard, truthfully.”

“Give me a direct answer, Jade.” you hissed.

Jade chuckled, relishing in your chagrin over his equivocal answer.

“I have many… acquaintances, you see. With a threat of exposure dangling on their heads, it makes it easier for me to order them around.” Warm breath caressed your lips as he stared at you with half-lidded eyes, but it was far from seductive. In fact, it almost felt like staring into a devil’s eyes. “Someone slipped into his room and left a letter, one by one. Every single day, to the point where he became desperate and notified your father.”

“But that wasn’t enough, you see.” he continued. “I wanted to see his reaction. That alone is enough payment for all my efforts.”

You clenched your hands unconsciously. It seemed that you’d grossly underestimated him. Then again, you should’ve expected it. With such a personality, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to rope someone – or people – to be his associates. Or acquaintances, as he described them.

“I could punish you, you know?” you asked rhetorically. “Or my father. He’ll find out for sure.”

Jade grinned wickedly, revealing a row of pointy teeth.

“Go ahead, as long as you join me. After all,” He pushed his face closer to the point where your lips nearly touched. “you’re the one who refused the engagement in the first place, aren’t you? Even if you didn’t accept my help, I knew that you were tempted to do so. And, of course, I must fulfill your wishes as a butler, don’t I? Including the hidden ones.”

You stared into his malicious eyes and huffed an incredulous laugh. You almost couldn’t believe your own ears. To think that he dared to manipulate everything, even you too.

A mere butler playing with his master like a puppeteer, like a mastermind.

“You’re the worst, Jade.” you sneered, pushing his chest away. You stood up from the couch and stormed out of the drawing-room, desiring some time to process everything.

You hated it. You hated that he was right. You hated that there was nothing you could do because you basically had a hand in this ordeal too.

Because had you were more cooperative, then none of this would happen, wouldn’t it?

The next day, you received a message saying that Prince Gabriel had died from an accident.

Chapter Text

Your son liked to tell you about the creatures that lived in the river.

You didn’t believe it, of course, thinking that he was just playing with some imaginary friends or something. You always nodded and smiled whenever he recounted their activities together, occasionally warning him to be careful. Though, you had to admit that it was odd for him to have imaginary friends in the river. You thought they’d live in, well, his head, but it seemed you were mistaken.

Well, as long as it didn’t hurt him, he was free to interact with them. Besides, you had some time for yourself now.

“Mother, mother! They wanna see you!”

Blinking owlishly, you put down the shovel that you used to dig the dirt and looked down at him quizzically.

“Who?”

“My friends!” he chirped.

… Oh? That was quite a surprise. You certainly had never met them. You didn’t think you needed to, anyway. They were his ‘friends’, and they’d never hurt him too, so there was no reason to ruin their fun. You were sure they wouldn’t appreciate your presence, but it seemed you were mistaken once again.

“Why?” you inquired, frowning confusedly.

“They’re really curious about you, so they want to meet you.” [s/n] grabbed your hand and eagerly tugged you towards the estuary. “Come on! They’re waiting in there!”

You allowed him to drag you into the woods, leaves crunching underneath your soles. [s/n] grinned during the entire walk, occasionally tightening his grip on your wrist to ensure you wouldn’t leave him. Your eyes softened at his radiant profile, reminiscing about the last time he looked this happy. Your divorce with his father had impacted him greatly, and it hurt you to see him isolate himself in his room. The other times when he didn’t sob and sniffle, he used it to play with his toys quietly. He rarely spoke as loud and enthusiastic as he used to be, morphing into a shy and quiet boy.

And it crushed you on the inside.

You decided to move to this new, desolate house near the estuary, hoping for a new life and sparking the joy that had died inside him. Nothing had changed much on the first few days; [s/n] was still as reticent as usual. It wasn’t until you urged him to explore the new environment did he come home with a huge smile on his face, claiming that he befriended some water creatures. You’d cheered and lifted him, gleeful because he finally found his long lost happiness. You didn’t know who his friends were, nor did you believe in their existences very much, but you were grateful for them. Because thanks to them, [s/n] no longer isolated himself in his room.

Though, frankly, you didn’t know what you expected when you saw the quiet riverbank. The breeze swayed your hair, following the calm stream of water below you. Little creatures scurried in the separated land before you, occasionally peeking out through the bushes and trees. It looked perfectly normal.

“Where… where did they go? I could’ve sworn they were here a while ago.” [s/n] whined, glancing around almost frantically. “They told me they’d wait here!”

“Calm down, [s/n].” You approached his trembling person and patted his head comfortingly. “Maybe they went home.”

“But why…?”

You shrugged. “Perhaps, their mother called them.”

Did they even have a mother? You didn’t know. At this point, you were just spouting nonsense.

[s/n] wilted, visibly upset with their disappearance. You pushed his head into your stomach and caressed his [h/c] hair, hoping that it’d lessen his disappointment. What a shame. He was already so excited, too. Maybe they were too shy to meet you? Maybe they changed their minds? Did they even exist?

Looking up, you squinted at the sight of heterochromatic eyes watching you from the water. They vanished as soon as you blinked, leaving a ripple and questions in your mind.

What was that? You didn’t… you weren’t seeing things, right? It almost looked like someone was observing you just now, but who? And what? Did someone swim? You didn’t hear anyone or the sound of water splashing, though. Could they be [s/n]’s ‘friends’? No, that was impossible. Right? Then again, you’d never imagined their forms. And you’d never asked him, either.

“[s/n]?” you called out somewhat hesitantly. Your shirt muffled the automatic ‘yes’ that left his mouth, but you heard it loud and clear. “Your friends… what are they?”

[s/n] was silent for a moment, and you gulped. Were you even ready to know the answer?

“They’re… a part human and a part fish.”

“Mermaid?” you quizzed almost immediately.

“I guess…?” [s/n] turned his head away to gaze emptily at the woods behind you. “But they’re males.”

Males.

You… certainly didn’t expect that. Then again, the eyes did look rather masculine. If you chose to believe that they were real, that is.

… Were they, though? What if you just tired and began to imagine things? What if it was a piece of wood and you somehow thought it was eyes? It was quite far, anyway. Your eyes could’ve tricked you somehow.

Shaking your head, you swiveled and guided [s/n] back to your house. No need to waste time thinking about the impossible, or the strange. The sun was beginning to set, and you didn’t want to dawdle in the woods with a child. Who knows what kind of creatures lurked in the dark…

The rest of the evening went peacefully. As always, [s/n] rambled about his day with his friends at the dining table. And you, as always, listened attentively with hidden skepticism. You let him played for a moment while you washed the dishes, and tucked him into the bed once the clock hit nine. Kissing his forehead, you left with a sweet smile and proceeded to lock the doors.

Everything was as serene as it could be, until you saw something moving in your yard.

Frowning, you watched the bushes shook through the window. You contemplated approaching it, but decided against it at the last moment. It was probably a wild animal, and if it wasn’t, then it’d be better to stay inside. Going outside would be equal to suicide, and you weren’t planning on dying anytime soon.

That is, until you spotted a shadow standing among the trees.

Those eyes…! You mentally shrieked when you noticed a pair of heterochromatic irises staring back at yours. You blinked, wanting to know whether they’d disappear again.

They didn’t.

Instead, they merely stood there as if transfixed by your house – or rather – you.

And, well, you couldn’t let a stalker roamed around your home, could you?

You gripped the keys, using the tip as a weapon in case they tried to attack you or something. The door opened with a creak that sounded too loud in your quiet house as you locked the entrance and gingerly approached the motionless shadow. They still hadn’t moved despite the shrinking distance between you, as if daring you to come closer.

A smirk was what you saw before the darkness engulfed them.

You gasped, freezing on the spot. They… disappeared? Again? Should you… should you chase them? If you didn’t, then they’d probably return the next night… or day. They might even hurt you or your son later. If you did…

What would  happen , then?

Shaking your head, you inhaled deeply and resolved to follow the shadow. Like hell would you let them hurt any of you, especially [s/n]. He was the only one you had, and if he died, then you wouldn’t have anything left in this vicious world. There’d be no anchor that held you back from plunging into the abyss.

You’d be left meaningless, hopeless, and helpless.

You braved the woods, wary of the wild animals and branches that scattered around. Using the moonlight as your guide, you marched down the trodden path until you reached the estuary. As expected, it was deadly quiet save for the crunching leaves underneath your soles. Mist shrouded the land in front of you, preventing you to see what lived inside. The river was calm, and the wind howled in your ears.

The shadow disappeared to this place, right? There was no other way they could’ve gone. Or maybe it was just your eyes tricking you again? But they looked so real! And those eyes… There was no way you could’ve imagined them. They shone in the darkness, gleaming with mischief and–

A hand abruptly grabbed your ankle and dragged you towards the river. You shrieked and turned your back, desperately clawing the ground for support. The keys fell from your hands and lied forgotten during your panic. Water instantly rushed into your mouth and nostrils once you submerged, frantically grabbing anything that could propel you back to the land. However, the hand merely tightened its grip and pulled you deeper and deeper.

You choked on the water that filled your throat, and slowly, your hands slackened. Your eyes softened, but before you could close them, a face appeared in your blurry sight.

male, you recognized. He had droopy eyes, heterochromatic eyes, bluish skin, and a set of pointy teeth. Fish ears spread from the sides of his face, while a pair of fins clung to his toned arms. The elongated dorsal fin stretched across his back until it merged with the anal fin that began from his pelvis to the tail. Gills lined his ribs, and dark strokes marked his cheeks.

Heterochromatic eyes, huh? You silently mused as he grinned mischievously, relishing in your fatigued person. Who would’ve thought that he’d be the cause of your doom? And you hadn’t bid your son farewell, too.

How unfortunate. To think that you’d die at the hands of a sea creature.

He unceremoniously pushed the back of your head and shoved his lips against your parted ones. Despite the teeth that grazed your lower lip, you could feel liquid flowing down your throat.

Mermaid…

You slowly closed your eyes.

… [s/n]’s friend.

You jolted awake and gripped your throat, feeling as if you’d just swallowed a fireball. Bubbles floated from your mouth, containing unheard screams that mixed with the deafening water. The man cackled sadistically, twisted mirth dancing in his eyes. And yet, he never once released his hold on you. In fact, you felt his hands tightened around your waist as if wanting to squeeze your soul out.

You choked and choked, until the last bubble escaped your parted lips. Your body went limp in his arms, hands languidly drifted off of your neck.

Darkness finally covered your sight.

“Eh, Angelfish-chan faints?” the man pouted, shaking your listless body. “Not fun! Just when I finally got to the interesting part…”

“Floyd.” A calm voice uttered his name. Floyd swiveled and spotted his twin brother gracefully swam towards him, holding an unconscious child in his arms. The twin glanced at your lower body and smiled satisfyingly. “I see that you gave her the potion, huh?”

“Angelfish-chan tasted so sweet!” Floyd chirped, licking his lips hungrily. “It’s a shame that she passed out too soon. I wanna play with her more!”

Jade chuckled, unfazed by his implication.

“Don’t worry, you’ll have all the time in the world once she wakes up. After all,” He peered down at the [f/c] tail that swayed in the current. “she’s ours now.”

“And Koi-chan, too~” Floyd added.

“That’s right.” Jade averted his gaze to [s/n] who remained unconscious despite the new environment. “Him, too.”

Chapter Text

“Malleus, this is Cyrus.”

Cyrus, meaning sun. Or Lord. What a fitting name for the prince of the light fairies. With hair as yellow as the sun, and eyes as purple as an amethyst, he was nothing short of ethereal and vibrant, in contrast to Malleus’ solemn and menacing aura.

And the worst thing was, he liked you.

Of course, Cyrus couldn’t do anything to you, not with Malleus here, holding you like a dragon guarding its hoard. So, he simply smiled and bowed.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Prince Malleus. I’ve heard many wonderful things about you.”

Malleus refrained from sneering and deigned a greeting. It wouldn’t be good to make an enemy out of another royalty, even if the said royalty had a crush on his lover. Lilia, and his grandmother, wouldn’t let him live another day if he messed up due to his own jealousy.

It was irritating, really, to force himself to be calm just so he wouldn’t embarrass his own kingdom. Malleus almost wished he could have Leona’s brazenness. How great would that be?

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Prince Cyrus.” Then again, just because he couldn’t be lash out to Cyrus, didn’t mean he had to hide his edge completely. “I hope you’ve been containing yourself very well around my [Name].”

Fortunately, Cyrus understood the implication and smiled apologetically. Malleus commended him for being able to stay amicable despite his near growling tone. Other people would’ve cowered or, better yet, escaped.

As expected of the Light Prince, his antithesis.

“Of course, I will never touch her against her will.”

And even if he wanted to, was what he’d say.

You nudged Malleus’ rib, reminding him that he, too, needed to behave, and bowed apologetically to Cyrus.

“Please pardon my boyfriend, Prince Cyrus. He can be quite, uh, blunt.”

“O-oh, it’s fine. I completely understand the desire to keep your loved ones close to you.”

Malleus wondered if it was an implication that Cyrus would’ve snatched you had he didn’t do it first, and tightened his grip on your waist, almost pulling you behind him. Light or not, he was still a Fae, and Malleus didn’t trust him to not steal you from him anytime soon.

Despite your best effort to bring up more topics in hopes they’d get along, it was clear everything didn’t go as planned. Once Cyrus had excused himself, you immediately turned to Malleus and frowned disapprovingly.

“What was that?”

“What?”

That,” You jabbed his chest with your finger. “you were being acting really rude to a fellow royalty. You do realize that it made you look bad to him now, right?”

At your accusation, Malleus scowled in return.

“Do not think of me as a fool, [Name]. I am very much aware of who he is, even without you saying it. If I wanted to be impudent, I wouldn’t have bothered to act civil in the first place.”

“W-well, yeah, I know. But you could at least try to be a bit… friendlier, you know? I want you to get along with him too.”

“Why? So, he can steal you from me?”

You froze. Steal you? What? You knew Cyrus liked you enough to be your friend, but he definitely didn’t have romantic feelings for you.

Still, to think that Malleus was…

“Are you jealous?”

“No, I’m just wary of him.” he retorted a bit too quickly to be sincere, but you knew he was.

So, you laughed.

“Oh, dear. You know that I only love you, right?”

Malleus squinted as if glaring at you. It reminded you of a snake spying on its prey sometimes, or a dragon.

“I do, but I can’t say the same about him.” he hissed. “You should’ve seen how he looked at you.”

You shook your head, still chuckling.

“No, Malleus, he’s just a friend to me. So, you don’t need to be jealous.” you smiled reassuringly. “Besides, with you here, he can never ‘steal’ me.”

Since you knew just how deadly his wrath was. Though, you couldn’t deny that you were curious about Cyrus’s power too. Would he be as strong as Malleus?

Malleus said nothing for a moment, and you were beginning to worry that you might’ve offended him with your nonchalance somehow. Then, he spoke up.

“As long as you promise not to meet him again, I won’t be jealous.”

You froze, before tittering.

“A-ah, Malleus. I told you he’s just a–”

Promise me.” he growled, his eyes flashing dangerously.

You flinched and hurriedly nodded, fearful of his punishment if you kept disobeying him. Malleus finally relaxed and smiled, patting your head as though you were a kid and not his equal.

“Good girl.”

Though, your promise wouldn’t stop him from ordering Lilia to personally visit Cyrus later.

Chapter Text

You got a love letter.

In hindsight, Silver should’ve expected it. As the only girl in an all-boys school, you were bound to be famous, whether you wanted it or not. It didn’t help that you came from another world too, so many people were interested in your life or just the general customs of your world.

Still, he didn’t like it. Hated it even. How the guy blushed as he presented you his trashy letter, how you smiled as you accepted it, and how you stared at the envelope with the most shocked yet flattered face even after the guy had already left.

Silver didn’t like it, but did he have a right to feel that way, when he never confessed his love for you? When he, a knight who had faced many monsters in forests as a part of his training, barely had any courage to even send you a letter compared to his own junior? When did he choose to become your unofficial guard instead, always following you around like a dark shadow without saying anything about his true motive?

No, he didn’t, and he was painfully aware of it. If you were to pick a braver person as your boyfriend, that guy would have more chance to win than him.

Still…

“What did he write in there?”

Silver didn’t want to know, didn’t want his suspicion to be correct. But at the same time, he did. Great Seven, was he curious, especially when you giggled and moved away from him so he wouldn’t be able to look.

“Oh, he just confessed to me.” you chirped. “But his way of confessing is very cute.”

Cute? So, you thought that love letters were cute? Lilia had told him that they were considered romantic, especially for human girls, but cute? Was it another word for ‘romantic’ to you? Should he start writing you one, then?

“Is that so?” Silver mused, withdrawing slightly so he leaned back against the tree again. “Would you accept him?”

“I don’t know. I’m gonna think about it. But well,” You shrugged. “he’s still pretty cute, though.”

There it was, that word again. Did you like cute things and boys that much? Was he a part of them?

“Do you like cute boys?”

“Huh? Oh, uh, well…” you stammered, and he frowned slightly when you blushed. “They’re not that bad to look at.”

That bad?

“Am I cute too?”

You blinked owlishly, clearly flustered at his sudden question. Silver felt the back of his neck heated up when you kept staring at him. It might be a bit unexpected, but surely it wasn’t that hard to answer, right?

“Um, I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

What was that supposed to mean? Was he cute or not? Or was he ugly instead? Silver had never really cared about his looks, but now that you kept talking about cuteness, he couldn’t help but wanted to know what you thought about him. If he had even a small chance to grab your heart.

“… Oh, I see.” Silver murmured, looking down somewhat gloomily. Even though he wasn’t sure of your reply, it still disconcerted him. This was the first time someone – and a girl, nonetheless – had made him feel this way. He wondered how Lilia would react to this. Would he think of him as a weakling now?

“S-sorry, Silver-senpai. I didn’t mean to upset you, I swear!” you sputtered. “It’s just… your question really surprised me, that’s all!”

So, if he prepared you beforehand, would you respond honestly?

Silver would never know, because the bell soon rang in the distance. He silently got up and outstretched a hand for you to take, which you did, albeit awkwardly. In a typical gentleman manner, he allowed you to walk first and accompanied you to your next class. You apologized once again, thinking he was still upset about earlier. Silver didn’t want to burden you with his troubles, but at the same time, he couldn’t really lie, either. So, he calmly reassured you that he was fine and told you to go inside.

And, yeah, he was fine. At least, on the outside. Stoicism had always been his forte, after all.

But nothing could mask his true feelings for Lilia.

“You seem crestfallen, son.”

Right after school had ended, and Silver had just opened the doors to Diasomnia, he was immediately greeted by the sight of the fae floating upside down. Silver wasn’t even surprised, both because he was already used to it and because he was too… crestfallen to even humor him.

“Won’t you tell this old man of yours what troubles you at school, Silver?” Lilia prodded. “Or perhaps you got into an argument with our dear little Sebek again? If that’s the case, I shall chide him later. Malleus has quietly rebelled by disappearing more often because of his overprotectiveness, after all.”

“Oh, no. Should we start searching for him now?”

Lilia chuckled.

“Still as dutiful as always…” he mused. “However, he is fine. He’s currently attending his last class for the day, so you don’t need to worry too much. And besides,” He cocked his head and poked Silver’s cheek, simpering. “I asked you a question, my son. It won’t do you any good to try to elude me.”

“I-I can never…” Silver stammered.

Lilia giggled.

“I am well aware. Now, will you tell me?”

Silver looked down and frowned thoughtfully. Should he do that? What if it was too ridiculous? What kind of knight would care whether he was cute or not, anyway? He should care about training and protecting his master, for goodness’ sake!

“Father…”

“Yes?”

“Am I cute?”

Lilia stared at him wide-eyed, while Silver merely averted his gaze. This was ridiculous, he knew it. He shouldn’t have told him. Great Seven, what was wrong with him–?

“… Oh, dear. Is this one of the signs of your puberty, Silver? I thought it’s passed ever since you started having wet dreams and your voice changed. Have I been mistaken all along?”

Silver blushed at the mention of his wet dreams. “Father, I’m not joking.”

“Of course, I know. I was merely trying to speculate about the reason behind your abrupt… obsession.”

“I am not obsessed.”

Was he, though?

“Regardless,” Lilia frowned slightly as he inspected Silver’s expression, all traces of amusement and lighthearted curiosity vanished instantly. “what drove you to ask me that? It is rather odd how you suddenly start caring about your looks.”

“Well, [Name] said she likes cute boys, and I–” Silver halted mid-sentence when Lilia slowly grinned, too mortified to continue.

“Oh, my. You should’ve said so, Silver. No need to be so roundabout. Wishing to match your lover’s preference is totally normal, after all~”

“That’s not the only thing, Father. She… she also got a love letter from someone, and while she told me that she’d think about the confession, she also said that he looks cute.”

“And you feel insecure?”

Silver fell quiet. Insecure…? Yeah, he supposed he felt insecure. It felt somewhat disturbing, but it was the only word to describe it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t stew over your response all day.

“While insecurities happen to everyone, even the strongest one, I wish to know about something first.” Lilia intoned. “Tell me, Silver. Do you feel insecure due to her offhanded compliment, or is it because he managed to confess sooner than you?”

“I… I don’t know.” But it’d be a lie to say that, since he knew exactly what bothered him the most. “I think… I think it’s the latter, Father.”

Lilia hummed.

“And what are you going to do? Letting your insecurities simmer never ends well, you know?”

What would he do? Silver didn’t know. He hadn’t thought about it yet. He supposed he could–

“… I want to burn the letter.”

Lilia nodded with a simper, urging him to continue.

“And then?”

“I also… want to teach him a lesson.”

“Well, aren’t you a grownup now, capable of planning and solving your own problems.” Lilia chirped, patting his back like a proud father. “[Name] will surely be pleased to have a lover as mature as you, regardless of whether you’re cute or not. In the end, personality is more important than looks.”

“Do you really think so, Father?” Silver asked hopefully.

“Of course~!”

So, they just did that. While Lilia teleported to your room to burn the letter, Silver confronted the boy. He could’ve done it all alone, but he wasn’t as stealthy as his father. Besides, there was a chance Grim would suddenly wake up, and Silver wouldn’t know what to do.

Fighting, on the other hand, was more of his forte.

“You, stop right there.”

The boy halted, and slowly turned around. It was nighttime now, with the moon already hang high in the sky. What he was doing in the woods instead of sleeping, Silver had no idea. But at least, he didn’t have to search for long. This was the best possible location, just far away from prying eyes.

“Silver-senpai, what are you doing here?”

The said knight didn’t even deign a response, and merely assumed a fighting stance.

“I, Silver, challenge you to a battle. The winner will get to win [Name]’s heart, while the loser will avoid her from now on.”

The boy blinked owlishly, before he smirked, eager to beat his own senior. And, honestly, it was pathetic how he thought he could beat Silver, one of Malleus’ most trusted retainers. But he let him strike first, before Silver delivered a sick blow that incapacitated him.

The battle was over before it even started. In fact, it shouldn’t even be called a ‘battle’ at all.

Regardless…

“Oh, has he fainted already?” Lilia asked, appearing out of nowhere as usual. He huffed. “How dull. I thought I could at least watch his struggle first.”

“Forgive me, Father. For the sake of efficiency, I decided to knock him out instead of prolonging the fight.”

Lilia sighed bemusedly. “Well, it’s alright. What matters is that you won fair and square.”

Silver nodded.

“And about the letter…?”

“Burned.” Lilia opened his fist and watched as the night wind blew the small pile of ashes from his gloved hand, eyes glinting. Looking up, he simpered. “Don’t worry, son. [Name] shall be yours in no time.”

Chapter Text

All his life, Jamil had tasted any food. From small to big, delicious to trashy, and pretty to ugly, he’d stomached it all. Of course, it was done to protect Kalim. Jamil couldn’t say that he liked it, especially when the food turned out to be poisonous. But, at least, he could withstand many poisons now.

As expected from a  servant .

Years of experiences also sharpened his observation when it came to dangerous food, and he knew your food wasn’t one of them. It was just that… the display was arguably worse than his plain one. Just a glance, and he could immediately tell everything that had gone wrong with your cooking.

Which was, well, everything.

And yet, you were staring at him so hopefully. Little stars twinkled in your widened eyes as you smiled up to him, hands propping up your recent ‘creation’. 

“A thank you gift for helping me all this time.” you’d said when he spotted you bouncing up to him.

Sighing, Jamil reluctantly took the plate and inspected the fried rice… or burned rice. Regardless, Jamil decided to give you the benefits of the doubt, and gingerly brought a spoonful into his mouth. Maybe it was still edible… somehow.

… It  wasn’t .

Jamil’s nose crinkled slightly when he bit the hardened rice, the scorched yet overly salty and sweet taste of the soy sauce left a bitter sensation on his tongue. It was hard to chew without feeling like he was munching on rocks, but he bore it all for your sake. It wasn’t the worst thing he’d ever experienced, anyway, even if he didn’t want to get a stomachache during school.

Just another spoonful, he convinced himself as he closed his eyes stoically, and this torture would end…!

“… It tastes bad, isn’t it?” you inquired suddenly. Looking down, you smiled bitterly. “You… don’t have to keep eating if you don’t like it. Just seeing you accept my gift is enough for me.”

Almost instinctively, Jamil stopped eating with his hand froze mid-air. Thanking whatever deity that the torture ended earlier than he’d expected, he frowned when he perceived a hint of sadness in your face.

“You just need more practice, that’s all.”

Jamil wasn’t the type who would give unsolicited advice, but maybe once wouldn’t hurt. Because as much as he hated to admit it, he disliked seeing you looked so dejected. He knew better than anyone how crushing it felt when your hard work just wasn’t enough for other people, after all.

You tittered, rubbing your nape bashfully. “You’re right. But… it’s kinda hard, you know? Crowley doesn’t give me much allowances, to begin with, and Grim isn’t exactly the best teacher.”

“You’re right, he’s not.” Jamil responded almost immediately, recalling all the chaos the cat had caused in the cafeteria.

Then, he swiftly backtracked, eyes widened a little.

Teacher…? Did that mean–?

… Well, well, well. Jamil pursed his lips, trying to repress the smirk that threatened to break out. Wasn’t it just a perfect opportunity? How nice of you to provide him a way into your life…

“I can teach you, if you want.” he offered coolly to avoid revealing his excitement at the prospect of spending more time with you. Couldn’t have you suspecting less than noble intention, could he?

And, as expected, you perked up. “R-really? You’ll do that, Jamil-san?”

“Of course.”

You were his crush, after all. Obviously, he was willing to do anything for you, especially if it gave him more benefits than to you.

But you didn’t need to know that, of course.

In your eyes, he was a hero who came just to teach you how to cook, and Jamil was intent on keeping it that way.

Even if it meant abusing his status as your soon-to-be teacher.

Not that you’d suspect anything, though. Jamil was quite confident in his scheming skills. And besides, your fondness towards him just made it easier for him to ‘guide’ you to the right path; to his grasp.

You cheered, raising your fist jubilantly. “Yes, thank you! You’re the best, Jamil-san!” you chirped. “So, when will we start, Jamil-sensei?”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Jamil mentally smirked at the change of nickname. “As soon as possible.”

The sooner, the better, after all.

Chapter Text

Everything had turned chaotic.

You weren’t stupid. You knew something like this would happen, sooner or later. Azul and the twins’ assistance only postponed the eruption that bubbled over the crater. The lava had flown and dripped, a black liquid full of hatred that smeared his gemstone. You could only watch fearfully, a little girl among the monsters, as Jamil threw your friends to the end of the desert as if he threw a basketball into the hoop.

Dokkan…!”

His voice boomed like thunder in broad daylight. You gasped, listening to the sound of your friends’ screams being swallowed by the night. Their battle had ended too quick, too unfair. Their jointed powers couldn’t defeat the hypnotist, and the hypnotized snakes were simply too persistent. If your friends alone couldn’t handle him, then how would you do it yourself?!

You stared at Jamil who floated in the middle of the hallway, clutching your stomach dreadfully. How scary he was, with snakes as hair and body defiled by ink. His clothes had changed drastically, red and black, with many accessories encircling him. The cloth was torn below, resembling the back of his turban. Red gems etched on his legs like eyes; always seeing, always coveting. His skin had turned slightly ashen. He looked like a Sultan, especially with his turban, but the collar on his neck said otherwise.

Servant.

Wasn’t it what caused his outburst in the first place? The injustice, the displeasure, and the agony of being born a servant. Kalim wasn’t a bad person, but he was still a human. He had many flaws, mistakes, and they stacked on top of each other, one by one, years by years, into a tower inside Jamil’s heart. Because he couldn’t vent, shouldn’t vent, didn’t have anyone to vent to. And the tower finally crumbled, revealing a man consumed by rage and hatred, greed and yearning, misery and fatigue.

This mess had never been about you, or yours to handle. This was a personal problem between Jamil and Kalim, between a servant and a master. Outsiders shouldn’t meddle in their businesses.

But what could you do about it?

As an alien in NRC, you relied on Crowley for finance, for safety. And if he ordered you to do his duty, then you had to do it, whether you wanted it or not. You hated this; your life, your job, your fate.

But what could you do about it?

“You.”

You gasped, whipping your head towards Jamil. His eyes were dark, like coal, lit by the little fire on his left eye. And, deep inside, a spark of desire intensified the flame. You trembled, mind blank. You didn’t know what kind of desire he had, didn’t want to name it, didn’t want to acknowledge it.

Because if you did, then you would’ve found the answer to your abrupt separation from your friends far too early.

“Bring her to me.”

You shrieked and spun to escape, to merge with the mist that overcast the whole hallway. You weren’t Azul who could plan far to the future, especially in such a short time. You only knew that you needed to hide and contact Crowley again somehow. This wasn’t a problem that you could solve alone.

But the students were simply too many, too obedient. They surrounded you, a bunny among a pack of wolves. Strong hands reached out and gripped your limbs, dragging you to the snake master. You screamed and squirmed, crying for help to their deafened ears. There were so many things Jamil could do to you, and none of them sounded pleasant. Unless he had a change of heart and decided to release you.

But it’d be impossible, wouldn’t it?

Jamil welcomed you in his arms, smirking triumphantly. The snakes slithered to your shoulders, to your neck, like a choker, like a collar. His hands were cold, smeared by ink, with three golden bracelets. One more bond that signified his status as a servant.

“Finally, I have you in my grasp now.” he hissed.

“Jamil, Jamil, please. Let me go…!” you begged. “Wake up! This isn’t you!”

“Shut up!” You flinched, bumping into the golden snake accessories clasped on his chest. “I’ve been restraining myself for too long. Seeing Kalim prancing around, touching you, made me sick! So now it’s time for me to be free! To be the master I should’ve been born as! And you…”

Jamil gripped your chin and raised it until you were eye to eye. The eyes that, despite raging with indignation, held a sea of sadness. The repressed tears billowed just behind his fiery stare.

“Obey my words, and I’ll treat you like the queen you are. I’d hate to hypnotize you like the rest of these fools.”

Relief pierced the dread that wrapped your chest, a tiny ray in the darkness. You just had to obey him if you wanted to be safe. It’d be easy, wouldn’t it?

But there was still one thing you needed to ask…

“Why…?” you whispered. “Why are you doing this?”

Jamil hummed. “They say love makes people do stupid things, and I guess that’s true.”

You were stunned. Love? He… loved you? Of course, he often stared at you, or giving you unexpected tips to survive in an all-boys school, or… or standing too close with you when you helped him cooking a few days ago. But you thought he was a nice person, despite being so quiet and almost forgettable.

Then again, he didn’t look like someone who would do something without a reason.

“And you know what?” Jamil pulled your face closer to his, cool breath breezing past your trembling lips. “I don’t regret it at all.”

Then, he dove and captured your lips in a bruising kiss. One hand squeezed your jaw, while the other pushed your lower back. Your cry went muffled, swallowed by his desire. He kissed you as if it was his first and last, and it would’ve been romantic had he wasn’t in the Overblot mode, had he wasn’t so… crazy. Seconds passed by slowly, too slow, until he retreated.

That was how time worked. Fleeting during pleasant moments, and lagging during painful times.

A string of saliva dangled from your throbbing lips. You hurriedly covered your warm face with both hands, mortified by the blank stares from the students and his abrupt action. Jamil chuckled and brought you to the lounge where he sat upon a pile of pillows, like the leader he’d always wanted. He kept cradling you in his lap, and when someone presented a bowl of fruits to him, he ordered you to feed him.

Hesitantly, you stood up and took the golden bowl from the boy’s hands. Your hands couldn’t stop shaking, and you almost dropped a grape, but you managed. Jamil looked satisfied, and he didn’t seem to notice your anxiety, unlike his usual self. You kept feeding him until he raised his hand as a sign to stop. Then, you sat beside him and listened to his tirade. He also allowed you to eat anything from the feast, but you shook your head and smiled nervously. You were too busy thinking about your friends; whether they were okay or not, whether they’d return or not. How could you think about eating right now?

“Are you hoping for your weak friends to save you?”

You froze. How… how did he know about that? Were you being too obvious?

“A-ah, no. Of course not. I was just…” you tittered. “I was just thinking about… how handsome you are.”

Well, that wasn’t really a lie. He was handsome; with black hair that cascaded down his back, warm brown skin, and sultry eyes. Even his current state didn’t lessen his looks in the slightest.

Still, you could never feel comfortable with such a dangerous person no matter how gorgeous they looked.

“Master, my Queen.” he corrected, surprisingly patient.

You sputtered. “O-oh, yes. I mean, Master. You’re very handsome, Master.”

Jamil grinned and nodded gratifyingly.

“Good, good. I like that.” he purred. “Again, praise me again. I want to hear more compliments from your pretty little lips.”

You mustered a fake smile and began to exalt him. You could see it, his ego that swelled like a balloon with each stroke. You frowned in the middle of the chanting, gripping your skirt. Would this be enough? Would he return to his old self if you kept flattering him? You didn’t have any other plan than following his orders. Certainly, he’d forbid you from opening your phone. You needed to focus on him, after all.

Fortunately, your friends managed to sneak inside the lounge and joined the students’ worship. It didn’t take long for Jamil to realize their presence. Growling at their persistence, he demanded the students to guard you and fought them again. You watched from a safe distance, fearing their second defeat. But your friends looked more spirited now, and even Kalim challenged him to a duel. And when they won, a smile finally blossomed in your face like a flower in spring.

You chuckled when the twins remarked wittily, and you tittered when Jamil yelled at Kalim and Azul. The sun penetrated the mist that enshrouded Scarabia, growing wider and wider, until it glorified the whole room.

Everything had gone back to normal now.

At least, that was what you thought, until you saw Jamil’s sinister glance towards you when Kalim helped him to his room.

It’s not over yet.

Chapter Text

Truly, Vil could make anyone look gorgeous. He had the money, connections, and tools necessary to turn the ugliest person into the most breathtaking figure in the room. He also implemented a strict beauty routine, both to himself and his dorm members. You weren’t an exception to that, either, even if you didn’t necessarily want to partake.

It was all for the sake of preserving beauty.

And yet, despite the jewelry that adorned your neck and hands, the expensive and fragrant body lotion that coated your skin, and superb dress that clothed your body, you didn’t feel any prettier. Even when he caked your face with makeup that would make the most beautiful model to shame, you felt trapped instead.

Like a porcelain doll in a display case, meant to be admired and polished.

“Doesn’t this feel nice?” he asked softly as he layered your lips with red lipstick as the finishing touch. “I can give you more, you know. All I’m asking for is your love.”

You merely stared at the familiar yet unfamiliar woman in the mirror before you, eyes hollow despite the chandelier that illuminated the spacious room. It was better to keep quiet than answering him because no matter how many times you lied about loving him, your heart would always say otherwise.

You both knew about it, even if Vil chose to stick to his self-delusion. He kept trying and trying, believing that if he worked harder, if he forced you to confess your nonexistent love, you’d come around someday.

Truly, Vil had an enviable determination. Maybe it was a virtue that stuck out the most from him.

It was a shame that he used it for the  wrong purpose.

Perhaps, this reminded him of the whole ‘beauty preservation’ thing in some way. Appearances needed constant maintenance, and Vil was the queen in taking care of himself. And if he could achieve this extraordinary beauty that nobody had succeeded before, surely he could do the same to your love, right?

When there’s a will, there’s a way. You could only rebel for so long, after all.

And true to his prediction, you started to become compliant. Maybe it was the result of the countless love potions he’d shove down your throat, maybe because you didn’t want to undergo that temporary love-struck state anymore. Regardless, Vil was satisfied with your improvement.

If only you didn’t  hesitate  in saying those three words.

“I believe I asked you a question, [Name].”

You stiffened, trying not to frown and risked ruining the makeup he’d painstakingly worked on for hours. Vil would surely have your head for destroying his hard work.

“I-it’s nice. Thank you, Vil.” Maybe it was due to his overbearing presence, the dress felt suffocating despite it being tailored to your size. But this was nothing compared to the momentary unconsciousness you used to endure.

At least now, you were awake. At least now, you knew what he was doing to your body.

Not that he’d do anything particularly harmful… or sexual. Vil might be delusional, but he wasn’t a rapist. And that was probably another upside from him.

Still, it wasn’t nice to know that someone had been doing something to you in your delirious state.

Vil raised a perfectly plucked brow. “And…?”

“And…” You averted your gaze from his expecting stare and gulped, shaky hands clenching the silky dress. “And… I love you.”

The sound of his cluck throbbed your heart even faster if that was possible.

“Still reluctant, huh…?” he remarked disapprovingly as he turned away to put the makeup box back to its respective place. “We need to change that,” he paused, peering at you. “Unless…”

“N-no, please don’t. I… I’ll do better next time, I promise!” you begged, squeezing your eyes shut.

“That’s what you said the last time, too.” Putting both hands on his waist, Vil stared down at your trembling person. “You sure have the guts to break your promise to your own boyfriend.”

“No, I promise I’ll be better this time. I won’t…” you choked on your spit pathetically. “I won’t break my promise again, I swear!”

Vil regarded you for a moment before he scoffed. “How pitiful, thinking that you could fool me for the second time.” Retrieving a vial of pink liquid from the drawer, he uncapped it and started to advance towards you. “I won’t forgive it.”

Your eyes bulged as you abruptly stood up from the stool, nearly knocking it in the process. But before you could turn around and escape, you accidentally stepped on your own dress and fell.

A hand shot forward and gripped your chin, forcefully raising your head. In less than a second, you felt a pair of lips pushed against yours and the undeniable love potion that flowed almost flawlessly down your throat.

Vil withdrew slightly, waiting for the effect to occur. Very soon, your body weakened and eyes softened with love sprinkled in your irises like iridescent stars. Caressing your chin, Vil smirked when you closed your eyes and sighed blissfully at the mild affection.

“This way, there won’t be any hesitation from you.”

Chapter Text

Perhaps, this was bound to happen someday. You knew that dating Vil wouldn’t be easy, considering his occupation and fan base. You’d accepted it after long contemplation, hoping that you could bring this relationship to marriage.

But it proved to be harder than that.

It didn’t take a genius to know that some, if not, half of his fans disliked you. Whether it be your looks, intelligence, style, or whatever, they always seemed to find something ‘wrong’ from you. They called you names and practically spammed your social media with unsavory pictures and texts, forcing you to break up with Vil. They believed you were unfit for him because you were too ugly, too dumb, etcetera, and only someone as gorgeous as Vil would be compatible with him. Or better yet, for him to stay single forever so they could fulfill their wishes of being his partner.

The media also fueled their growing hatred towards you by publishing photos of your dates, even the secret ones. How they managed to do that, you didn’t know.

You’d tried to bear with the onslaught, closing your social media for the sake of your sanity. You’d tried to go out less, canceled some of the dates that you’d been anticipating, and ignored Vil’s concerned questions just to please them.

But none of it worked, because the hate messages kept haunting your mind. It took a toll on your health and sleep, turning you into a grouchy and disheveled woman; the same woman his fans had been seeing all this time.

Your mother, worried about your condition, urged you to break up with him. And although you’d been vehemently refusing her encouragement, thinking of her as similar to the haters, you couldn’t deny that your relationship was detrimental in the long run.

Vil might’ve treated you nicely, but that didn’t mean you had to stay and suffer in silence. Granted, it was your fault for not telling him, but you didn’t want to burden him more than necessary. And if the only way for you to gain your freedom and peace was to sever this relationship, then so be it.

And so, after long contemplation and preparation, you set out to Vil’s house.

You nodded at the guards that were stationed in the entrance and went to his room, letting your guts lead the way. As expected, you found him inside. He sat on the stool, effortlessly applying the mascara. He didn’t seem surprised to see you on the doorstep and merely told you to sit down.

“You sure have the audacity to come here after ignoring me for a week, huh?” he mused, calmly putting the mascara back to its place. “Done sulking?”

You flinched at his passive-aggressive question and looked down, fumbling with the hem of your shirt. Your mannerisms reminded him of that time when you first visited his house; shy and nervous.

“I…” What should you say first? Should you be straightforward or beat around the bush? “I’m sorry… for ignoring you. I just had a lot in my plate.”

Vil merely hummed.

“The reason why I came here… is to break up with you.” You gulped, fearing his possible reaction. Would he be angry at you? Would he kick you out of his house? You didn’t know, and it was eating you on the inside. “You’re a good guy, Vil, but I don’t think we can continue this relationship any longer.”

“… That’s funny.” he remarked off-handedly after a long, awkward silence. “I remember you were the one who was hoping for us to marry, and yet, you chose to leave me during our first year anniversary instead.”

Your eyes widened. Our first anniversary…? Oh, no. How could you forget about that?!

“But it’s okay if you want to leave.” he continued before you could spiral down the self-hatred thoughts. “In the end, you’ll always come back to me, anyway.”

You quickly looked up, shocked at his bold statement. You had to admit you hadn’t expected that kind of response, and it showed.

“… What?”

Vil stared at you through the mirror emotionlessly. He didn’t even bother to ask the reason for your break up, much to your shock. “You heard me.”

You regarded him for another moment, unsure of how to react to such confidence. It wasn’t as if you’d thought about dating him again if the situation allowed it, but you couldn’t deny that his words sounded… ominous.

Slowly, you stood up and bolted out of his room. You needed some time to process the conversation, even if it meant avoiding him again.

For  real , this time.

Everything was peaceful for the next few days. You’d finally gathered the courage to open your social media and delete the spams after weeks of absence. You’d begun to go out more often, and your mother looked pleased with your gradual change.

You were finally learning how to enjoy life again until you spotted a bunch of girls sneering at you.

You tried to ignore them, not wanting them to ruin the fun you had. But it felt as if everyone suddenly turned evil, because the moment you entered a restaurant, the customers immediately snapped their heads towards you and whispered to each other.

Clasping a hand over your mouth, you cursed yourself for forgetting to wear a mask and dashed out. They must’ve recognized you as Vil’s girlfriend, because why would they–

Wait.

You hid in one of an alleyway and unlocked your phone. Searching for Vil’s name, you tapped his page and realized that your photos were still there; visible for everyone to see. There was no announcement of your breakup, and the most recent one was his training picture.

It was like you were still  dating  him.

Your body began to tremble, either from shock or anger, you didn’t know. Why…? You didn’t understand. Why didn’t he tell them? People were more likely to believe him if he declared your breakup, and yet, he still–

“Oomph!”

Your phone dropped as you struggled to push the gloved hand that abruptly covered your mouth from behind.

Unfortunately, your consciousness betrayed you.

The person hugged your body before you could fall and tapped their phone.

“I got her.”

“… Good.” A silky, yet deep voice said from the other line. “Bring her here, and leave no trace. If you fail, you know what will happen.”

They instantly nodded.

“Yes, Schoenheit-sama.”

Chapter Text

You hung out with him. Again.

Vil already hated it whenever you went out with other people, especially boys. And now, you befriended Neige too? Wasn’t his company enough? Why did you have to seek others? Vil knew that he was a busy man, but he hoped the scarce free time he spent with you was enough to make you stay; to make you desire him even more.

But, of course, it wasn’t enough. It’d never be enough because…

… He wasn’t Neige.

He wasn’t as popular, nor was he as charming as the brunet. He wasn’t as friendly as him, too. So it was no wonder why you gravitated towards him, honestly. Neige just had this glow around him that attracted many people to him, kind of like Kalim.

And it sickened Vil.

“Where have you been?”

As always, he sat in the living room, resting his back against the couch whilst sipping a glass of wine. This had been three consecutive days where you hung out with Neige, and three consecutive days where he waited for you as if he were your disapproving mother or something.

You never seemed to notice his simmering exasperation, however, or maybe he was just too adept in hiding his feelings. Instead, you threw your arms around him and pecked his cheek innocently.

“I’ve been eating with Neige.” you chirped, the shopping bags hit his shoulders slightly. “He said that you looked gorgeous in your last magazine shoot.”

He raised a skeptical brow. “Oh…? So it was a date, then?”

“Of course not.” you chuckled, still oblivious to the bitterness that dripped from his tongue. “You’re my boyfriend, after all.”

“You said that, and yet, you keep hanging out with him.”

You shrugged nonchalantly, releasing your one-sided hug. “Well, he’s just a friend.”

“Really now?” Vil drawled, squinting at the shopping bags in your hands. “Doesn’t look that way to me.”

You turned towards him, frowning confusedly.

“Hey, what’s up with you?” you inquired, noticing the direction of his heated stare. “I bought these clothes with my own money, okay? He was just accompanying me for a while before he left to his shooting.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if you didn’t stay out too late with another man, I wouldn’t be so angry.” Vil crossed his arms, directing his glare towards you. “And you could’ve asked me to accompany you or something. I’m your boyfriend, after all.”

“Well, I didn’t want to bother you–”

“And you think you didn’t bother him too?” he retorted smoothly, sharply. “He’s a popular celebrity, mind you.”

Tension hung in the living room as he glowered at you, the irritation that he’d been building these past few days finally spilled and stunned you.

“… Vil,” you murmured after a moment of thick silence. “are you… are you jealous?”

“So, what if I am?” he hissed, his hands clenched unconsciously. “You’ve been coming home late these past three days, forcing me to wait for you. Have you forgotten about me, perhaps? Or are you finally bored of me?”

“Vil, I–” You tried to speak, to deny his accusations, but you could only move your mouth like a fish out of water. Vil knew he was being unreasonable, but he wanted to know whether you still loved him; whether you wanted to maintain this relationship or not before he did something drastic. “You know we’re not like that, right? I don’t like him romantically, and he considers me as a friend too.”

He squinted. “And how do you know that he considers you as a friend? What if it’s more than that and you just don’t know it?”

“Because–” you sighed, pinching the bridge of your nose. “Look, can we drop this already? I really hate arguing with you. If you want me to spend more time with you, I’m gonna tell Neige to hang out less. Just… please don’t be mad at me, Vil.”

Vil eyed you for a moment, weighing your answer. You looked sincere enough, if not borderline desperate.

However…

“Fine, this conversation is over.” He closed his eyes, listening to your relieved sigh. Then, he patted the spot beside him. “Sit with me.”

You smiled wryly and plopped down, gratefully accepting a glass of wine from his hand. You gulped it and sighed, putting the glass back to the table.

“Careful, there. You might choke.” he chided, gently smoothing down your disheveled tresses.

Another silence ensued, but this time, it was more peaceful. You’d closed your eyes and rested your back against his chest, enjoying the way those lithe fingers caressed your head.

“They say love makes people do stupid things,” he mused. “and I guess that’s true.”

You cracked one eye open, huffing an incredulous laugh. “What’s with that sudden statement?”

“Nothing, really. Just something that came to my mind, that’s all.”

… What’s done is done.

You slowly grasped your head, feeling your it throbbed violently. Your vision grew blurry, while your other hand gripped his pants to ground you.

“And you know what?” Vil continued, peering down at your hazy eyes. His fingers kept stroking your hair, slowly coaxing you to a deep slumber. “I don’t regret it at all.

Your hand went limp on his thigh.

Sighing, Vil fished out the phone from your bag and effortlessly unlocked it. His eyes squinted at the wall of interaction between you and Neige, and he wasted no time to delete it and his contact. Vil knew he’d still capable of texting you, anyway, but you wouldn’t know it if he confiscated your phone.

And besides, he could always confront Neige and tell him to stop bothering his girlfriend so much.

Chapter Text

Vil didn’t know when it happened.

For as long as he could remember, he’d been neutral towards your visits to Pomefiore. Sure, it was a little annoying how often you asked him about Rook’s whereabouts, but it wasn’t something he minded much. Rook had never really had anyone who eagerly approached him before, and Vil could use you to drag him back to the dorm.

Vil also knew you had a crush on Rook, but, again, it wasn’t something he minded much. As long as you both remembered your manners and Rook still did his duty as the vice dorm leader, he was okay with your little ‘rendezvouses’.

At least, until recently.

image

Vil didn’t know when it happened.

Maybe it was when he was in a particularly bad mood that day, and seeing your radiant face looking up at him and your luscious lips uttering Rook’s name rubbed him off the wrong way. Maybe it was when he spotted you sitting a bit too close with Rook, obviously taking advantage of his focus on the sleeping Leona to enjoy the proximity. Maybe it was when he saw how disappointed you looked when he told you he had no idea where Rook went, like he often did. The disappointment that he couldn’t help but relish in secretly.

He knew it was unbecoming, and uncharacteristic of him to smile when you turned around with a hunched back, something that would usually earn you a thorough scolding about your posture. But he thought he could let it go for now. After all, your chagrin was enough lesson already.

And then, he realized that maybe, maybe he liked you. Maybe he liked you more than an acquaintance should be. Maybe he liked you more than a sane person should be.

And Vil wasn’t sure if he could accept this revelation.

At first.

However, he couldn’t deny the seed of hope that bloomed inside him whenever you approached him, as usual, hoping against hope you’d finally come to him instead. As usual, you asked for Rook. And, as usual, Vil would resist the urge to scowl and tell you about the hunter’s location. He wondered why he was so honest with you, when he could’ve easily lied and watched your happiness dissipate like smoke, but it wasn’t as if he could easily accept these blooming feelings.

After all, you had too many flaws to be with someone as perfect as him.

But, perhaps, those flaws were exactly why he was attracted to you in the first place. You weren’t the prettiest or the neatest girl he’d known, nor were you the smartest and the fastest. You were painfully average, banal, in ways he should’ve been bored of. Because men liked challenges, and nothing was challenging from you at all. If he offered you money, and he had more than he knew what to do with, he was certain you’d fall for him too.

But, alas, you didn’t. Because Rook had struck your heart first with his bow – something that he definitely noticed, given his keen observation with people, although he never took advantage of it as Vil would, and he would – and you didn’t seem to want to pull the arrow anytime soon.

That was fine, though. Vil could help you with that. He’d helped many people before, albeit for study and appearance matters. He was sure romance wouldn’t be so difficult.

After all, he had the self-proclaimed Love Hunter at his side.

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Being approached by Rook was probably a dream come true. It wasn’t as if he’d never come to you before; he definitely had, albeit for an entirely different reason. You beamed at him who lowered himself to kiss your knuckle, sharp green eyes peeking through his lashes.

“Mademoiselle, it is good to see you looking so lovely and healthy as usual.” His lips stretched into a sultry smile that he knew you loved, because he knew everything about you. And you, in your love-struck state, readily told him everything he wanted to know. It was mostly harmless, but sometimes, it was rather… invasive.

Still, you trusted him, like you always did. You saw no reason why he’d deceive you, anyway, unlike Jade or Azul. Rook was as honest as he was strange.

You giggled. “Of course, I need to be in a good condition for today’s lessons, after all!”

“Ah, yes. You had physical education, didn’t you?” he inquired, which earned him a vigorous nod. His smile grew wider, and you still couldn’t see the darkness that belied his congenial greeting, too blinded by the rose-tinted glasses you wore. “I’m happy to know that you’ve been taking a good care of yourself. Vil, too.”

You furrowed your eyebrows, though your beam remained. What did Vil have anything to do with this?

“Speaking of, he’d like to talk to you.” Rook straightened until he practically towered over you, his gloved hand still holding your limp one. “If you don’t mind, we can go there together.”

“O-oh, sure!” you beamed, nodding enthusiastically. You’d take any chance to be with him, even if it meant visiting the strict dorm leader. Though, you wondered what Vil wanted with you. You always made sure to keep your manner around him, although you sometimes forgot about it. It was purely human error, and you didn’t think it warranted a private lecture with him.

At least, that was what you hoped.

Rook squeezed your hand in an attempt to comfort you. You weren’t nervous, per se, just very confused. But you appreciated the gesture, nonetheless.

Besides, you were finally holding hands with your crush now! You could die from bliss right now.

The hunter led you deeper and deeper into the beautiful dorm until you arrived in a garden, where Vil was already waiting for you. Your eyes widened at the food that laid on the white table, no doubt with your calorie intake in mind. At your arrival, Vil stood up with the elegance of royalty and approached your nonplussed self.

“Took you long enough.” he remarked nonchalantly, but had you were sharper, you would’ve noticed a subtle tremble of anticipation in there.

But, of course, you didn’t. Like Rook, you didn’t think Vil would do anything… bad to you. Why should he, anyway?

You sucked in a surprised breath when he gently grabbed your hand and kissed your knuckle, staring at you with those mesmerizing purple eyes as Rook did to you. Except, you didn’t feel the butterflies. Instead, you were even more perplexed when he put a hand on your lower back and nudged you towards the table. You looked through your shoulder somewhat frantically, seeing Rook trailed after you like a loyal servant. He offered you a placating smile that didn’t placate you at all, and proceeded to pull out a chair.

Vil cleared his throat, frowning at the way you kept staring at Rook dumbly despite him being seated right in front of you. You gasped and quickly plopped down on the chair, trying to ignore his disapproving stare boring onto your forehead.

“Go ahead. Take a sip.”

You obliged, taking dainty sips to make up for your improper act earlier. The drink tasted somewhat sour, and you scrunched your nose at the sudden sensation in your tongue. You heard Rook chuckled nearby, and you felt your cheeks immediately burned.

“I suppose I should get to the point, then.” Vil leaned forward and intertwined his fingers, hiding his mouth behind them. “I want you to become my girlfriend.”

You choked on your drink, and once again, Vil frowned. You coughed repeatedly and reached out to wipe your mouth with a handkerchief, shaking your head apologetically.

“… I’m sorry, what?”

“You heard me. I want you to become my girlfriend.”

“No! I–” You cleared your throat, trying to make yourself appear less of a wreck in front of the exalted Vil Schoenheit. “I don’t think I can, sorry. I… I already like someone else.”

Vil hummed, long fingers tapping on the table. He almost looked… bored. As if your refusal was a drag to him, and you should’ve just accepted him to shorten the interaction. “And do you think Rook likes you back?”

“H-huh?”

He clucked and inspected his painted nails, glaring at you through his lashes. “You’ve been asking where he is. Do you think I’m dumb?”

“Wha– no! Of course not! I just… I just can’t, okay? I’m so sorry.” you exclaimed, fidgeting in your seat. How did it get to this, anyway?! You never knew Vil even liked you in the first place! He was always so aloof, so strict. You’d thought you were just another chaotic kid to him, only good at bringing constant headaches. “I know Rook doesn’t like me back, but I can’t force myself to date someone I don’t like, either.”

“Well, that’s a bit too late for that.”

You blinked owlishly. “W-what do you mean?”

“It’s all your fault, you know, for making me feel this dumb feeling. It’s not as if I like it, either, but you have to take responsibility.”

You frowned, urging for more explanation. Vil spoke nothing for the next moment, not even Rook bothered to clarify further despite your perturbed glances. Suddenly, your view grew blurry. It seemed as if the ground rotated to the sky, and vice versa. You clutched your head, while the other hand gripped the edge of the table. Distantly, you heard Rook said something, but you couldn’t hear it. The ringing was too loud, too overwhelming. It felt as if you were drowning, but in the air.

“Potion… works…”

“… Indeed.”

A pair of arms clad in black sleeves immediately propped your body before you could fall sideways. In your haze, you saw Vil staring down at you with an almost pitying look.

And in your haze, you saw him smirking down at you.

Chapter Text

The door was unlocked.

You’d thought someone like Rook would take safety measures, him being a hunter and all, but it seemed you’d misjudged him.

That, or maybe he was testing you instead.

He’d told you time and time again that he loved watching people in their natural state when they thought nobody was watching them. And every time he said that he always peered towards you as if expecting you to understand the implication of his words.

And you did. You understood it clearly as if he’d said it aloud.

A warning for you to behave.

A warning that you were never as alone as you might think.

A warning that he always watched you, either conspicuously or inconspicuously.

But… maybe he forgot. After all, humans were forgetful creatures, right? Even someone like him was bound to overlook something sometimes.

It wasn’t farfetched, but you were still doubtful, anyway. What if he was just toying with you? Sure, he’d stalked you relentlessly before he kidnapped you. But maybe he was bored and wanted to play games with you? It sounded rather unlikely but… it could happen, right? You could probably count on one hand the number of things you knew about him.

That was just a proof of how secretive he was; how much of a hypocrite he was.

… But what if the former was true? What if he just forgot somehow?

You gingerly approached the front door and hesitantly touched the handle as if it was a ticking time bomb. It felt cool on your palm and somehow… foreign. For weeks he’d been ‘accompanying’ you, and only left when you slept. So why was it any different now?

Regardless, you’d use this opportunity to the fullest.

And if he caught you, well…

You quickly shook your head and gripped the handle. No, don’t think about the bad things yet. You should try first and, who knows, maybe you won. Maybe you managed to escape somehow.

Pushing the handle down, you slowly opened the door and peeked outside. The sun was still shining overhead, and the grass swayed calmly from the breeze. It wasn’t as if he never allowed you to go out, but there was a relief in solitary. Without eyes to study you from behind, or a calm smile that he usually wore during his ‘observation’.

You’d eventually concluded that he loved to see you squirm under his keen stare because an amused smirk always appeared whenever you glanced at him.

Slowly, you closed the door and began to bolt across the field, hands gripping your skirt. Despite the serene scenery, your heart thumped as if you were being chased by something – or someone. You focused on the woods before you, trying to discern a trace of blond hair or a figure standing among the trees. Rook was a skilled hunter, and that meant you could – and should – never put your guard down even in the most unnoticeable places.

Because the moment you stepped a foot into the woods, you were officially on your own now. Nobody would save you, and let alone see you here. The nearest town was a few kilometers away, but that was okay. You could eat some berries there, even if they wouldn’t fully sate you. You just had to be careful not to accidentally pick the poisonous ones and, of course, attracting his attention. Or any dangerous animals, really.

The sun was rather concealed here, but you could still see the path very well. You were lucky that you fled during midday, otherwise, you’d stumble around and eventually fall into his trap. And if your stamina allowed you, you should be able to leave the woods before night.

… It should’ve been that way, had something didn’t zap past you.

You gaped at the arrow that quivered on the bark and dazedly touched your arm.

It… it hurt.

Why…?

Your irises grew smaller when you felt something wet on your palm. No, it wasn’t– it wasn’t what you were thinking, right?!

A squeak left your lips at the sight of blood staining your hand, body trembling from horror.

You hadn’t even reached the center of the woods, yet! But he–!

“Aw… are you scared?” You whipped your head towards the speaker, the flight or fight response already kicking in. Rook slowly lowered his bow and smiled, but it looked different this time.

It wasn’t the cool or entertained smile you’d often seen.

It was malicious.

His eyes crinkled on the edges as his simper widened, emphasizing the dangerous aura he emitted.

“Honestly, Mon Lapin, you should’ve known better than frolicking in the forest. Who knows what kind of things are waiting for you here…?” he tutted. “I thought I’ve given you enough time to play already, but I suppose it wasn’t enough, huh? Perhaps you’re doing this just to get my attention? Oh, Mon Amour, you know that my heart only belongs to you, right? Even if you’re alone, even if you run away from our home, I’ll always love you.”

You slowly withdrew, grasping your bleeding arm whilst eyeing him cautiously.

“Ah~! That look reminds me of a frightened rabbit! You truly live up to your nickname, aren’t you?” he chuckled despite the gravity of the situation; despite the fear that wrecked your body from his unpredictable nature. “Please, let me to tend to your wound, Mon Chèrie. I can’t allow it to ruin your beautiful skin any longer.”

“L-like hell…!”

Gritting your teeth, you swiftly turned around and ran. More blood began to leak, but you couldn’t bring yourself to care.

How could you, when your captor was standing right behind you?

For now, you just needed to rely on the adrenaline to numb the pain.

… But even it couldn’t block the scream from leaving your mouth when you felt something stabbed your shoulder.

You stumbled, your chin taking the brunt of the fall. You winced at the impact and closed your eyes, trying to assuage the burning pain as best as you could despite the arrow still lodged in your shoulder.

You wouldn’t… you couldn’t stop now. You had to… you had to leave.

After all, you’d already reached the center of the woods.

“Such a stubborn spirit you have there!” Rook cooed as he watched you trying to drag your body away from his approaching figure. “Truly, you never cease to amaze me, Mon Chèrie. Oh, aren’t I just the luckiest man ever~?”

He smiled and plucked the arrow from your body, uncaring towards your shocked cry that echoed in the woods.

“There, there.” He patted your head as you teetered on the verge of unconsciousness. “The pain will disappear soon. So why don’t you take a nap first, Mon Lapin?”

***

Translation

Mon Lapin: My rabbit

Mon Amour: My love

Mon Chèrie: My sweetheart/darling

Chapter Text

[Name] is dizzy.

She knows she should’ve slept more, or even drank more juice, but how can she remember doing any of those when freedom is finally within her reach?

Though, it’s not as if Rook has never escorted her outside, either.

Escorted, not released.

Because she’s his favorite prey, that’s why.

Of course, he only accompanies her during the night. Daytime is when she sleeps, and the evening is when she wakes up. The change was quite jarring, and remains that way until now. Whereas other people will be asleep by now, she still roams the manor like a bat… or a jobless person.

Because aside from serving him as his blood bag, she really doesn’t have a special task she has to do. He just… lets her do her own thing once he finishes with her.

[Name] supposes it was something that she should be grateful for, had she didn’t feel his eyes boring onto her back most of the time. Even in the confines of her room, she can still his keen stare from somewhere.

Of course, good things never come for free.

Still, would it be too much to ask for a shred of privacy, even if it’s limited to her room only?

No, she shakes her head as she quietly scampers down the front yard, it doesn’t matter now. The fence is just a few meters away from her. Just a little more, and she can–

“Oof!”

Something, or someone, abruptly pushes her to her stomach. [Name] winces at the impact on her chin and the sudden weight on her back. Through her slightly blurry eyes, she can discern a pair of large hands gripping her wrists tightly.

Large, manly hands that protrude from the purple sleeves he seems to be fond of wearing.

Rook.

Ma lune, I’ve been calling you but you didn’t respond. Could it be that you’re trying to leave?” Cocking his head, Rook simpers. “You should’ve tried harder if you wanted to leave. Or maybe that’s your plan all along? For me to capture you? How sneaky. I never thought you were capable of manipulation, Ma lumière.”

“Let… let me go!” She writhes under his weight, teeth ground. “I’m so sick of being your livestock! I want to go home!”

Nonnon. This is your home, Ma chérie. The castle and its belongings, all of them belong to you just as much as they belong to me.”

“I don’t care!” she hissed. “It’s not and will never be my home!”

“Oh, it truly wounds me when you said those harsh words, Ma chérie. Have I not lavished you enough? Or could it be that you’ve been plagued by loneliness all this time?” he sighed as if pitying her assumed predicament rather than the reality. “Indeed, I’ve been too distant from you. But I couldn’t help it! Your face, your mannerism, your body language are just too fascinating! How could I ruin such fleeting moments?”

“That’s exactly why I don’t want to live with you anymore!” she barked, trying to lift her head so she can glare at him properly. “You’re a creep, a stalker. You never gave me a little privacy even in my own room! You’re so fucking obsessive it sickens– oomph!”

“Nonnon. It’s unbecoming of a lady to curse so freely, and as much as I relish in your fierce expression, there are still some things I can’t tolerate from you.” Rook digs his nails into her jaw, drawing faint lines of blood. “First, you should never swear, especially in my presence. Second, you should always heed my calls. And third, you are required to stay inside at all times unless I accompany you outside.”

Squeezing her cheeks together, Rook inclines his head and stares at her upside down. “Do you understand me, Ma lune?”

[Name] stays quiet and merely squirms.

“Oh, sulking, aren’t we?” he mused, huffing an incredulous laugh. “That’s fine. We have all the time in the world, anyway. I shall await the day where you willingly come to my arms.”

“You wish.” she hissed.

“Indeed, that’s my humble wish; to please the lady who has stolen my heart with her innocent face and endearing smile.” He sighed blissfully, recalling the memory where he found her hunching on the wall that surrounds the manor during one rainy night and bringing her inside. “And until the day comes, I shall wait patiently.”

***

Translation

Ma lune: My moon

Ma lumière: My light

Ma chérie: My darling

Chapter Text

“What happened to you?”

Rook looked up and smiled, one hand clutching his bleeding arm. Behind him, the door opened wide after he barged into the house.

Mon amour,” he chirped, looking as blissful as ever. His face was a bit pale and tired, but you didn’t doubt that he could easily capture you even in such a… pathetic condition. “seeing your beautifully stoic mien greeting me is truly a blessing! I’m sorry that you have to catch me in this state, Mon chérie. But please, don’t worry your pretty head. This small injury won’t stop me from lavishing you in my love.”

You frowned incredulously, wondering how he could still be flamboyant despite being injured. Slowly, your eyes glided to the entrance before you, where the grass swayed underneath the sun.

There it was, the freedom you’d been longing for was finally within your reach. If you could just, maybe, kick his jaw, you’d get a head start.

But that’d be a stupid decision, wouldn’t it?

Rook had proven time and time again that he’d never truly lowered his guard around you, no matter how many times he professed his love for you.

Because love and trust were two different things, especially when it came to a skilled hunter like him.

You could feel Rook’s keen irises following your movements as you approached the door, ready to tackle you to the ground if he had to.

It didn’t take a genius to realize that he was testing you, because what else would he let the door wide open? He might not seem like it, but he was actually pretty sadistic. Though, not to the same extent as Jade or even Floyd. Just enough to let you know that he was toying with you before he shot an arrow on you again.

However…

You slammed the door shut and turned to face him.

… Everything was different now.

Because what was the use of escaping if you didn’t even know where you were, anyway? In this vast field where grass spread as far as the eyes could see, Rook was the only one you recognized. And besides, he’d definitely drag you back like he always did.

Escaping was, and had always been, useless.

It just took you a rather long time to acknowledge it.

“You haven’t answered my question yet.” you retorted as you headed towards the kitchen, ignoring his shocked stare boring to your back. You feared that if you looked at him in the eye, you’d lose your composure.

And then, he’d know the truth quicker.

Mon ange…” he breathed out once you returned to the living room with a first-aid kit nestled in your arms. Hunter green eyes marveled at your cool mien as you crouched in front of him and helped him take off his clothes and bow. “You truly are an angel, aren’t you? Oh, what have I done to deserve this treatment?”

You decided to dismiss his diversion, opting to focus on cleaning the wound. There was no use in forcing him to answer if he refused. And despite the painstaking effort, Rook never once winced or grimaced. Instead, he kept watching you as if your expression was the most fascinating thing he’d ever encountered.

… He probably - no, certainly - felt that way. No matter how many times he observed you, Rook always seemed to find something interesting from you.

“I wonder,” he mused, studying the way you effortlessly wrapped a bandage around his toned arm. “what caused you to change your mind, [Name]?”

You stiffened slightly, hands hovered over his reddened skin. Rook always called you by your name whenever he demanded an explanation, and there was no way you’d confess. Not unless you wanted to sacrifice your pride more than when you decided to stay with him.

“Could it be that you finally love me…?”

“No, I hate you.” you retorted quickly, chest hammering, but he merely laughed.

He knew.

“Oh, mon. Your dishonesty never ceases to amuse me.”

“If you already know the answer, then why did you ask?” you inquired somewhat sourly, trying to avoid eye contact by busying yourself with the kit.

“I asked because you might have another reason, but seeing that you confirmed my suspicion, I can now rest assured that my hard work has paid off.” Gloved hand gently lifted your chin, pausing your mindless job. Rook smiled down at you, his eyes appearing like slits from this height. “My love has finally melted the ice that encased your heart, and now, I shall wait the day where you’ll return my affection. Though, I can confidently say that this is a step towards the right direction.”

Chapter Text

Another victim fell that afternoon.

Horror deafened the hushed murmurs and faint cries as you pushed through the crowd and halted near the body, dilated eyes scanning the injury. Dry blood leaked from the two small holes that punctured the side of his neck and tainted his shirt. Glassy eyes stared at your shocked ones while his lips, dry and chapped, parted slightly as if releasing one last scream.

A scream that begged for someone’s help.

A scream that went unheard forever.

And a scream that sealed his doom.

You fell to your knees and slowly reached forward to touch his face, hand trembling. It… it must be a dream, right? Your boyfriend… was still alive, right? He didn’t… he wasn’t… he couldn’t–

A calloused hand grabbed your wrist.

“[Name],” You looked up, and you saw your brother’s pitiful yet disapproving face staring down at you. “Don’t.”

“But he–”

“Let the officers handle him.” He crouched behind you and urged you to stand up. “Come on, [Name].”

You let him drag you away from the alleyway, away from your dead boyfriend who had suddenly disappeared days ago. The news of someone died from a vampire attack wasn’t uncommon, but it didn’t mean you’d expected it to befall someone close to you.

Maybe if you had, the pain wouldn’t be so severe.

… Would it?

You buried your face on your brother’s chest, unable to watch the officers handling his cold body. To think that you’d be the one crying over someone’s death after witnessing so many others in your spot, or being too complacent because you didn’t think the vampire would consider him as their next victim.

You still remembered your last meeting with him, where he promised you that he’d bring the biggest deer he could find. You’d chuckled back then, and jokingly said that he’d meet the vampire instead.

Who would’ve thought that it came true instead?

It was hard to get up from the bed after the discovery, and it was harder to attend [boyfriend]’s funeral. You didn’t want to be seen as a bad girlfriend, like you didn’t care about him or something. But it was so, so difficult to gather the courage and energy and just go. His departure was too abrupt, and had you knew something like this would happen, you’d definitely hold him back instead.

But it was too late for that, wasn’t it? He was dead now, and there was nothing you could do to prevent or change it.

You were helpless, hopeless, and…

Slowly, you gripped the blanket that covered your languid body and scowled at the wall in front of you.

… Angry.

Yes, you were angry. You were angry because the vampire had killed the man you loved so much for the sake of satisfying their insatiable hunger. You were angry because they ruined the lives of many people. And you were angry because they existed.

That was why, you decided to end this once and for all.

You resolved to murder them.

It was a foolish decision, you admitted that much. If they could kill large and burly men, then someone like you would be over in a second. But there was no harm in trying, right? Maybe you could win somehow. Ever since the first discovery of a corpse in the alleyway, not many people had ventured to the mountains in fear of suffering the same fate. Nobody had ever seen the vampire’s true face, and those who did, ended up dying.

You couldn’t blame them for being fearful, though. The prospect of dying at the vampire’s hands and have your body thrown to a back street was terrifying enough, but you wouldn’t know until you tried.

Of course, just because it was a foolish decision, didn’t mean you’d go there without any preparation beforehand. You’d visited the town library, read lots of books, and even asked around. Many people had questioned your motives in quizzing them on how to kill a vampire, but you used curiosity as an excuse. Those who did know about your true purpose had tried to lecture you, but a few of them also warned and even bade you good luck. Your chest never failed to flutter whenever you heard their encouraging words, and you ensured to warmly thank them in return.

You also hired the nearest blacksmith to forge some silver knives and a wooden stake. It’d taken nearly all of your savings, but at least, you could rest assured knowing you had the proper gear to kill that damned vampire.

Now, to convince your brother to let you go…

“No.”

As expected, he brusquely dismissed your attempt without bothering to hear the full sentence. He’d probably anticipated this, you were sure of it.

“But why?” You trailed behind him as he headed to the kitchen to prepare the dinner. “Don’t you want the vampire to leave? Or even die?”

“Of course, I do. Everyone do.” he retorted, slicing the onion. “But can you even do it? You were so terrified when you saw the first victim. What makes you think you can kill the vampire?”

“Well, I won’t know until I try–”

“Don’t give me that half-assed reason, [Name]!”

You unconsciously flinched when his voice boomed in the small kitchen, wilting under his glower. He must be in a quite foul mood today until he could snap easily. Of course, you couldn’t exactly complain. He was the sole breadwinner in your house, after all.

“Killing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of courage, patience, and skill! Can you live the rest of yourself knowing that you’ve killed someone? Knowing that you have blood on your hands? Just because they’re a vampire doesn’t mean you can come up to them and slice their head off. What if you die first, huh? Wouldn’t that make your efforts useless?!”

“There’s a fine line between being brave and being suicidal, and what you said is just plain stupid.” he continued, glaring at you with such intensity you were ready to bolt into your room like you used to do during childhood. It wasn’t the first time you’d angered him, but this time, you sensed something uncommon yet familiar from his tone. Something that you’d only heard once in your life, but echoed in your memory forever.

Desperation.

He was desperate for you to stop, to resign because if you died…

He wouldn’t have anyone to live for, to come home to.

Huffing, [brother] turned back to the half-finished onion he’d paused cutting. “Just give it up already. They’re stronger than you, and even if you manage to kill them, it won’t bring [boyfriend] back to life.”

You slowly gripped your frock, head bowed deeply. You knew he was right, of course, he knew the situation better than you. But you’d come this far; had prepared everything to ensure that your survival chance was a bit higher.

“So, you’re saying that I should just… accept his death? Is that it?” you inquired somewhat meekly, half fearful of his reaction and half determined with your resolve. “Even though it’s unnatural, even though he deserves to live a little longer, I should just give it up because killing that damned vampire is too impossible?”

[Brother] pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly tired of handling your stubbornness. But how could he blame you for being unsatisfied with the way things were, with his answer? You were so ready to take your relationship further with [boyfriend], so ready to spend the rest of your life with him. But fate decided to spit you on the face and stole his life instead, leaving you bedridden for weeks.

How could he blame you for wanting to change things? For wanting to avenge your lover’s death? For wanting to prevent the vampire from killing more people?

“You heard me, [Name].”

You knew that tone; knew the emphasis he’d put. His decision was final, and he refused to hear anything anymore. He always remarked on your stubbornness without knowing that he, too, shared it. Granted, he did it because he wished to protect you. After your parents’ deaths, you were the only family he had. His protectiveness was understandable, but just this once, you wanted to oppose him.

Just this once, you wanted to make things right.

Just this once, you wanted to be independent.

So, you pushed aside the issue for now and helped him cooking dinner. [Brother] said nothing during the entire time, but you noticed he’d calmed down slightly. You put the plates on to the table and sat down, praying for the food you’d received today. The atmosphere was peaceful, if not a little awkward. After that, you washed the dishes while he retired to his room.

And that was when you struck.

Slipping into your room, you prepared the bag you’d filled with the gear and waited for a while until you were certain he’d fallen asleep. You couldn’t risk being caught red-handed, either by him or your neighbors who’d surely report you to him.

Once the clock hit twelve, you skulked out of your room and tiptoed down the stairs. The bag felt heavy on your back, but it was nothing compared to the adrenaline that flowed in your veins. You were glad [brother] had given you the task to lock the door, because if he didn’t, then it’d be more troublesome.

You were also glad that he didn’t know you hadn’t locked the front door yet.

You slowly turned the knob and opened it, mindful of the painful creak the old wood emitted. Your brother was somewhat of a light sleeper, so you needed to be extra careful. Closing the door, you swiveled and peered around the quiet neighborhood.

Everyone must be asleep by now.

… Good.

You bolted towards the mountains, gripping the bag as if it’d somehow lessen the clashing sound of the knives inside. Although you feared the day where the vampire would burst into your house and killed you both, you were somewhat relieved that the location was near the mountains. It saved your time and energy.

As expected, the forest was dark and forbidding. You opened your bag and grabbed a flashlight and a wooden stake for safety measures. Who knows, maybe you’d encounter them here. It’d be a great surprise for sure, but it was better than nothing.

The sooner you killed them, the sooner you could leave the mountains.

You turned on the flashlight and slinked down the untrodden path, trying not to step on the dead leaves too much in fear of attracting unwanted attention. What you wanted was the vampire, not wild animals or… strange creatures. You definitely didn’t plan on dying here, too. If you could help it, that is.

Unfortunately, accidents were bound to happen one way or another.

You screamed when something suddenly bit your ankle, startling the birds that immediately fled from the vicinity. You toppled to the ground, trying to recompose despite the searing pain. Looking down, you saw a bear trap clamped to your right leg.

Beartrap…?! Why was it here? Was it to catch the vampire? And you thought they had supernatural speed. Or maybe it was used to trap bears instead. You didn’t know. It hurt to even move slightly. Drops of blood leaked and flowed from the wound, staining the dirt underneath.

Should you call for help? But that’d attract people’s attention, wouldn’t it? Your plan would be ruined, and you’d be forbidden to leave the house ever again. But if you didn’t, you’d be trapped here forever. Some prowling animals would find you and decide to eat you, or worse, the vampire themselves.

And you didn’t want it. You wanted to… you wanted to live. You wanted to show people their head. You wanted to see your brother again, dammit!

And, most of all, you wanted to visit [boyfriend]’s grave and proudly say that you’d avenged his death.

But that was just a pipe dream, wasn’t it?

“Oh, mon. What a surprise to see a damsel in distress here.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, mon. What a surprise to see a damsel in distress here.”

The coldness of the night wind was nothing compared to the sudden remark that echoed in your ears. Your body went rigid, while your eyes bulged in horror. Slowly, you began to shake because you knew. You knew they were – no, he was here.

The vampire.

The being who had sucked the lives of others and dumped their bodies in the alleyways as both a warning sign and his amusement.

The being who had terrorized your little town.

And, most of all, the being who had murdered your boyfriend.

The dead leaves crunched as he emerged from the shadows, clad in a purple outfit with floral patterns over a black dress shirt and crimson vest. A black sash wrapped around his waist, fastened with a golden buckle shaped like an apple. A pair of low-heeled boots with golden ties covered his legs, stretching until it reached just above his knees. And despite the way the hat masked his upper face, it couldn’t hide the wicked glint on those sharp eyes.

“Another rabbit that falls into its own hole.” The ebony cloak flowed behind him as he ambled towards you with the confidence of someone who could easily overpower you, as much as you hated to admit it. He stopped just a few meters away from you and crossed his arms over his chest, smiling down at your alarmed face. “It’s been a long time since I found a human who got trapped in that bear trap. But who would’ve thought it’d be a lady instead?”

He peered towards the wooden stake that lied forgotten beside you, his dark lips widened subtly. “And it seems that the lady isn’t entirely aimless. How interesting…”

You immediately snatched the stake and brought it to your chest, eyeing him warily. It was a frail defense, you both knew that already, but it was better than nothing. At least, with this stake, there was a chance you could injure him somehow.

“Those who intend to kill me are males so far, so imagine my surprise when I heard your lovely scream from miles away.” he mused. “The pain mixed with surprise truly sent shivers down my spine, and when I saw your troubled face, I just knew that I had to approach you!”

You said nothing, only gripping the stake in case he’d something outrageous. Your resistance would be futile, especially in this state, but it didn’t hurt to try. At least, then, you wouldn’t die as a wimp.

“Tell me, Jeune dame. What would you do if I released you from that trap? Would you escape? Or would you fight me instead?”

What kind of question was that? Of course, you’d fight him. You’d come too far to back down now, and it seemed that your determination reached him because he soon hummed whilst cocking his head slightly.

“Ah, I see. You’re planning to fight me anyway, aren’t you? Merveilleux! Such a spirit is rare to find nowadays. I’m beginning to fear that maybe I’ve played with you all a bit too much.”

There it was. You should’ve expected that kind of sadism from him, but hearing it personally took all of your self-restraint not to slash him in rage.

“You’re sick.” you hissed, scowling up to him. “You suck the lives out of others and dump their bodies on the alleyways as if they’re some lowly carcasses or something. What’s your point, huh? What are you trying to show us by leaving their corpses in public? Does it satisfy your sick pleasure? Do you really enjoy seeing us suffer?”

He raised his hands in surprise, blinking owlishly.

“Now, now. Let’s not get too defensive, shall we?” he said as if trying to pacify the tension. “I, for one, need sustenance to keep me alive, and it just so happens my diet is blood. Certainly, nobody will sacrifice themselves to me, so I have to do everything myself. The way I kill them is the same as you killing animals for food.”

“You can’t compare humans to animals! They have families, friends, and–!” you paused and looked down, hair framing your flushing face. “Lovers. And you took those people away from them!”

The vampire blinked for another second before smiling, eyes crinkling delightedly.

Très bien! You sure possess such a big heart underneath that cold demeanor.” He put a hand on his hip, canary gold hair swaying slightly. “I assume you’re doing this because I murdered someone close to you? A lover, maybe?”

You unconsciously squeezed the stake, recalling the incident at that time. You hated that a simple word like ‘lover’ was enough to make you tear up, but you couldn’t. You wouldn’t cry. Not here, not now. You wanted to save the tears until you visited his grave and showed him the vampire’s head. This damned creature didn’t deserve the pleasure of seeing you weeping pathetically, or even sniffling.

And yet…

“… So, I was right.” he mused. “I murdered your petit copain. And let me guess, it’s the man from last week, isn’t it?”

Your other hand clenched the fabric of your pants.

“I admit, he was quite a skilled fighter. He managed to land a punch on me before I struck back. He was thrown against a tree, and during his confused state, I bit him. Hard.” he recounted the event that you didn’t want to hear, because how could you? You didn’t want to know what happened. What mattered was that he was dead, thanks to him.

But the vampire didn’t stop. He refused to stop, because your indignant face was too entertaining not to watch.

“He thrashed around for a bit before he went completely still. His heart slowly beat until it finally stopped. He went limp on my arms, and that was when I saw a photo sticking out of his pocket.” As if to emphasize his discovery, he pulled out a certain photo from his pocket. “A picture of a beautiful young woman, smiling blissfully to the camera.”

The vampire sighed, caressing your beaming face.

“Regardless of the location he’d go to, he always made sure to bring your photo so he wouldn’t forget about you. How romantique.” He peered towards you, simpering. “But you didn’t know that, did you?”

Gritting your teeth, you growled and tried to stab him. You didn’t know what you were doing; it hurt to move, and at this point, you were just blindly attacking him. You couldn’t bear to stand up, your leg was bleeding profusely, and you couldn’t even graze his skin. You were being suicidal, but you didn’t care.

You just… you just wanted this to end already. You wanted to go home. You couldn’t endure hearing his story anymore. And you wanted him to die.

But you couldn’t.

You couldn’t because you were too weak, too inexperienced, and too stubborn.

Because, as your brother had said, there was a fine line between being brave and suicidal.

And what you were doing was just plain stupid.

Die!” you wailed, moving your hand around pathetically. “Just die already, you piece of shit! I hate you! You took him away from me! I won’t forgive you, you murderer!”

The vampire merely hummed as he watched you thrashed about, almost resembling your boyfriend during his last moments. It was less than seconds later until you dropped to the ground in exhaustion, chest heaving from the recent fury. The metallic smell permeated in the air, but he waited a few minutes until you finally passed out.

And that was when he struck.

Strolling towards your unconscious form, Rook easily unclasped the trap from your leg and threw it away. A gloved hand proceeded to push the strands out of your sweaty face, admiring the peace that softened your features.

“What a pitoyable life you have there, [Name].” he murmured, caressing your dry lips. The familiar glint reappeared in his eyes as he slowly smirked. “But fear not, you won’t have to suffer anymore. Not much, at least.”

Rook lifted your limp body bridal style and teleported into the night, leaving the bloody trap and leaves behind.

***

Jeune dame: Young lady

Merveilleux: Marvelous

Petit copain: Boyfriend

Romantique: Romantic

Pitoyable: Pitiful

Chapter Text

Rook never lied.

At least, as far as you remembered.

And that’s why his threats were scary, because you knew he wasn’t lying.

“If you want to escape, then be my guest. The door is always open for you. However, I must remind you that I’ll be chasing you down at every step you take and drag you back when you least expect it.”

You stared at him, at his simpering face, at his gleaming eyes. Confident, he was, for he knew he’d win this challenge, go through with this threat. And you knew it, too. That’s why you didn’t try to bolt towards the unlocked door that was located just a few meters behind him. Instead, you let him hold your hand, gently yet probingly. His gloved fingers slithered down your palm to your wrist, feeling the thumping heartbeat just beneath the skin.

You might be able to mask your emotions, but you couldn’t mask your nervousness deep inside.

Slowly, Rook brought your hand to his lips, kissing it like he’d done so many times. It was how he usually showed his love to you; the gentleness that belied the roughness and firmness of a wicked subjugator, the affection that belied the obsession and possession of a man in love, and the kindness that belied the selfishness and the ruthlessness of a skilled hunter.

He stared at you. He always stared at you. You wondered when he’d grow bored of you, since he pretty much knew everything he needed to know about you, which was, well, everything.

Probably never. That was how good he was at entertaining himself, by challenging you. Subtly, so unlike himself yet so like himself.

Because he was still a formidable hunter deep inside, even if he acted like a smiling neighbor. Because he knew how to be quiet, even if he tended to ramble.

Because he knew how to be patient, even if he was itching to capture you.

That was how you got yourself in this predicament in the first place, by allowing yourself to relax in his unpredictable yet solid presence.

You should’ve known that a hunter was still a predator. That although he was more gentlemanly than the rest, he was still dangerous as the rest. That was how you survived in the college, you supposed, by having an advantage over others, or knowing something people didn’t. The hidden sides, the stray glances, the fleeting emotions, those minute details that revealed someone’s true nature. How to manipulate them to your desires. Jade used them, Azul used them, but you never thought Rook would use them too.

And against you, nonetheless.

He simpered. “So, will you take the first step, Mon amour?”

You stared at him now. Not at his forehead, or the space between his eyes, but truly his eyes. Living with Rook meant familiarizing yourself with his constant stalking, and learning how to maintain your guard at all cost. It was impossible considering that you needed to rest just like any other human, but you didn’t have the pleasure to relax during the waking hours. Even in the moments where he went out to hunt or observing some poor creatures in the woods, you always felt those eyes boring onto your back.

That was how potent his staring was, and how accustomed you were to it.

Ironically.

You frowned as if he should’ve known the answer. He did. He was merely testing you, urging you, coaxing you so he could cool the hunter blood that simmered beneath his skin. And because you knew that too, you ripped your hand from his and stormed towards your shared room. It hurt to deny what your heart wanted, yearned, desired, but this wasn’t a battle you could fight.

And Rook knew that, too. That’s why he didn’t stop smiling when you slammed the door closed, eyes boring onto your back.

image

The door remained unlocked since his challenge, even during nighttime. Well, it wasn’t as if there was anyone near your house, anyway, and it wasn’t as if he’d let anyone – or anything – intrude on your humble abode. He was a light sleeper and a very early riser, you knew that much. It came naturally from his job, or hobby. You’d first discovered it when you woke up one midnight to drink, and the next morning, he mentioned if you wanted him to start preparing a glass of water every night.

He was sleeping with his back on you at the time.

And, of course, he’d said it with the kind of voice that let you know he was always watching, observing, studying even in the dead hours. Even when he supposedly looked vulnerable.

It was kind of ironic, how he wanted you to be vulnerable around him, but never once returned the gesture. And when he did, he faked it, like a predator he was.

For someone who never lied, who refused to lie, he was quite skilled at pretending.

You stared at the door as you slowly ate your lunch. Rook had left this morning, saying that he’d hunt a deer for food. It’d been hours since then, and you were getting bored. You’d purposefully taken a long time to cook lunch, leaving a smaller portion for Rook out of spite, and now you were a few spoonfuls away from finishing yours. Of course, Rook wasn’t so cruel as to leave you in complete tedium. He still provided some entertainment such as television and radio, mostly for the sake of spending time together. You’d know, because he tended to pull you into a side hug whenever you watched TV or forced you to dance with him whenever an old, romantic song came on the radio.

And it would’ve been romantic, indeed, had you didn’t have him as your only companion and weren’t living in the middle of freaking nowhere.

But the woods and fields were his territories, and to leave them without his permission meant setting yourself up for failure. And besides, the nearest town was miles away, and you’d need plenty of food and water to survive in the wilderness. A rough place that he knew like the back of his hand.

You could try, though. No matter how sharp he was, there was bound to be something he forgot, right? He was a human, after all, and humans were full of flaws and errors. He wasn’t an omniscient creature who could always predict your every action, or think ten steps ahead. And if you left now, you might be able to reach the middle part of the woods. There was a lot of food and beverages in the fridge. He’d notice some were missing, but if you cover your tracks very well, you could lose him in the process, right?

… Yeah, right. You sighed at your pipe dream. Even you knew that was a stupid idea. Unless you’d learned the art of hunting, and had practiced it so many times it became second nature, you could never truly cover your tracks. It was hard, what’s with his keen sight, hearing, and smell. Fear, of the known and the unknown, always blinded your eyes, deafened your ears, and masked your nose. Your hypersensitive senses would exhaust you quicker the longer you skitter, the longer you linger. And when that happened, he’d capture and drag you back when you least expected it.

Just like he said he would.

The front door suddenly opened with a creak. Rook peeked inside and beamed, showing off his latest prey.

“Look what I’ve gotten for us, Mon amour~” he chirped, strolling inside as if he didn’t carry a big, dead deer on his hand. When you frowned at the floor, he quickly dismissed your unspoken concern. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up. Wouldn’t want my princess to stain her dainty hands with such filth, no?”

You rolled your eyes and turned around to wash the dishes. Leave it to him to compliment you while still reeking with blood.

“Oh, my. You already prepared lunch! How lovely~” he remarked. “Did you eat lots, Princesse? If you’re still hungry, feel free to take mine. I have no problem eating meager food. I’ve caught us a deer, after all. We can have a feast later!”

You remained quiet, pointedly ignoring his offer and concealed observation. Of course, he knew about your petty action. Why did you think about escape again?

Rook leaned beside you, one hand propping his jaw while the other rested on the kitchen counter. You noticed he’d shed his gloves. “Planning something, Mon amour?”

You stiffened, nearly dropping the clean plate back to the dishwasher. But you didn’t offer him the satisfaction of knowing that you were, indeed, shocked, as most people did to his sudden jabs. So, you put the plate away and spun, still ignoring him.

Rook merely smiled. He never let anything faze him, and if it did, then it just provoked his interest even more. A carefree man, with walls higher than a fortification and secrets deeper than a moat.

“The offer still stands, you know.” he said airily, tapping the counter with his finger. “I want to know just how long you’ll hold up, before you succumb to the pressure.”

To the agitation, to the exhaustion, to the resignation. You knew almost everything he didn’t speak of, just like he knew everything you didn’t speak of.

Unbeknownst to him, you weren’t  that  stupid.

You scoffed. “I have no time for your petty little game.”

At least, that was what you thought.

Rook’s smile widened as his eyes narrowed. You didn’t see it, but you could feel it. Rook had always been intense, both his words and actions. If he wanted to hide his satisfaction, he could. It’d be too easy, considering the nature of his job. But he didn’t.

Because he wanted you to know just how pleased he was with your compliance.

Bonne fille~” he cooed, cradling you from behind. “I’m so happy to know that you’ve recognized your place now, although I do feel slightly disappointed because I’m not able to see the extent of your survival skills. I’m sure you’ll do splendidly.”

You scowled, gripping the hem of your shirt silently. “I’m not stupid, Hunt.”

He chuckled on your ears.

“And that’s what I love about you, Hunt.”

***

Mon amour: My love

Princesse: Princess

Bonne fille: Good girl

Chapter Text

You were having your birthday soon.

How did Malleus know that? Well, through his retainers, of course. It wasn’t as if he was incapable of doing that himself, but some things were just better to be done by someone else. Or people. Although it irked him to admit, Lilia was more charming and approachable than he could ever hope to be.

Which is why he was perfect for gathering information.

Silver would’ve been suitable too, had he didn’t fall asleep so often. His face and attitude were innocent enough to easily garner people’s trust. And Sebek… Malleus sighed, recalling all the complaints and grumbles the youngest boy uttered at the slightest mention of you. He was the best supporter, but also the worst protester. He wasn’t ashamed to say what was on his mind, both the good and bad things. Needless to say, he wasn’t fit for such a delicate mission.

Leaving Lilia, the most ancient and versatile member. Even with a matter of choosing gifts, Malleus still relied on him.

“I think it’ll be best if you give her a simple present instead.” Lilia advised, glancing at the two bracelets that dangled from Malleus’ hands. “An extravagant gift might startle her.”

Malleus scowled. “Whatever do you mean, Lilia? My love doesn’t deserve anything less than the best.”

“I am aware. However, such a gift might attract… unwanted attention.”

“That’s impossible. If anyone dares to touch even a strand of her hair, I shall electrocute them.”

Lilia sighed at his stubbornness. “How about something less… flashy but still lovely, my Lord? Something that she can wear on daily basis despite its high value.”

Malleus mulled over his suggestion, inspecting the bracelets on his hands. The noblewomen he met often wore ornate jewelry, so he assumed that most women liked it too. The only reason why you didn’t wear any was that you were pathetically poor, and as your suitor, he must give you the whole world.

Of course, once you married him, you’d give him your world too, and he’d make it so that it’d revolve around him.

But that could be done later. For now, he just needed to find the perfect gift for you. Considering Lilia’s suggestion, Malleus eventually settled for a simple bracelet enchanted with magic so he’d know your location at all times. Relying on his guards alone wasn’t enough, and besides, they had those pesky classes to attend to.

Malleus wished he could bribe Crowley into letting them all free from their boring studies so they could focus on protecting you instead. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t learned about anything back at the Valley, anyway. In fact, he’d say that the Valley was more thorough with the lessons than in NRC.

But alas, there were still some things that couldn’t be solved with money and threats. Namely, their duty as a student. Malleus couldn’t really slack off, either. It wouldn’t look good to his reputation as a future king, and that would surely incur his grandmother’s wrath.

Malleus sighed as he trimmed the glass box with small, perennial twigs and flowers. It was times like this where he wished he could be as free as Leona, or as apathetic as he was, really.

Once the box was fully embellished, Malleus stood up from his study desk and glanced at the window. Diasomnia dorm’s weather was always gloomy, but he’d been living here long enough to know that the sun had set. During this time, he usually disappeared to the school grounds to have a rendezvous with his beloved friend and future wife. Although, he huffed a laugh, you probably didn’t think of it as a rendezvous. That was just proof of how innocent you were. And during this time, too, his two young guards would set out to search for him, despite rarely succeeding to do so. As for Lilia? Well, he already knew where Malleus went to, but sometimes he liked to humor the youngsters by joining their wild-goose chase.

Teleporting to Ramshackle dorm was easy, but Malleus liked to take his time by walking there. Of course, after making sure that his retainers weren’t there to stop him. Lilia probably wouldn’t, but there was no guarantee that those kids would too. Besides, Malleus couldn’t deny that his heart was beating so fast right now, so a little stroll should calm him down. He needed to present himself as a calm and collected suitor, after all.

“[Name].”

It was hard to restrain the giddiness from appearing, so Malleus opted to smile faintly instead. It wasn’t much, but anyone would know that it took a lot for him to do that. Not a smirk, not a sneer, but a smile. And a genuine one at that, not the fake kind he was trained to show in public yet rarely did.

“Happy birthday, my dear.” he said, extending the gift he’d meticulously decorated. “Here’s a present for you. May you live a long, healthy, and happy life.”

Not that he’d let you die early, be it from old age, diseases, or sadness. But you didn’t need to know that, of course. At least, not now. This was your special day, so the focus should be on you, not him.

“Ah…” you tittered, slowly accepting the dainty box from his gloved hand. Malleus frowned at your uncharacteristic hesitation, and the lack of joy he’d been hoping to see. You were never really the type to hide your emotions, after all. “Thank you… for the gift, but my birthday was yesterday.”

Malleus’ eyes widened, and it finally dawned on him that there was no party or celebration. The dorm still looked as messy and quiet as usual, with no sign of cheer everywhere. What happened? He thought this was the correct day! Did he get invited at all? Or did you forget about him, just like the others?

His hand, which still hovered between you both, slowly curled into a fist.

“… Why didn’t you come?”

Malleus snapped back into reality and looked down, discerning you bowing your head deeply. He couldn’t really see you from this angle, but he could still sense your disappointment.

Why…?

“Did you forget about it, perhaps?”

“What?” he accidentally growled, the thought of forgetting your special day too silly for him to entertain. Never mind that he’d missed many school events and meetings, your birthday should be something he remembered as clearly as your first encounter. “Weren’t you the one who forgot to invite me?”

“What?!” Now, it was your turn to exclaim incredulously. “No, of course I invited you! I gave the invitation to Silver. Did you get it?”

“No.” he retorted quickly.

“O-oh, well, that… can’t be helped, then.”

Malleus scowled, torn between getting angry at you or Silver. You should’ve known that Silver, for all his skills, was a bit unreliable when it came to relaying messages! But on the other hand, Silver should’ve known better than to let his sleepiness consume him. He could’ve at least given the invitation to Malleus first before he rested!

Oh, whatever. He could scold Silver later. The most important thing to do now was…

“From now on, you should relay anything to Lilia.” Malleus crossed his arms over his chest and pouted, although he’d never admit it. “Better yet, visit Diasomnia dorm yourself. The door is always open for you, after all.”

You sputtered. “I-I think I’m just gonna bother Lilia-senpai instead.”

“Why? Are you scared?”

Malleus knew he should be offended. It wasn’t rare for people to be intimidated by him, and to some extent, his own dorm. And yet, he couldn’t help but chuckle at your silliness. If you were already this frightened at the thought of coming to Diasomnia, then how would you react once you saw your future house? Would you freeze up? Shake? Escape?

No, he shook his head, he wouldn’t allow you to escape. Not now, not ever. You were meant to be his, eternally. Though, he supposed he could try to embellish the dorm to lessen your fear. He wondered whether you’d like it if he surrounded the entire building with thorns. The Thorn Witch used to do that, too. And weren’t people more likely to bow down to a grand display of power? Perhaps you, a magicless alien, would realize that it was better to side with him.

He didn’t want to use force on you; everyone knew just how fragile humans were despite their great ambitions and abilities. But if a push comes to a shove, then–

“Tsunotarou…?”

… Ah, yes. How could he forget about you and instead wander in his maze of mind? He really needed to pay more attention to the present. It wasn’t as if his plan would fail, anyway. He’d make sure of it.

You both strolled around the school premises and visited more abandoned buildings. At some point during the walk, Malleus had ordered you to wear the bracelet. It fit snugly, as expected. Though, he still considered his first choice as better than Lilia’s suggestion.

But that was okay, since Malleus would don you in the fanciest and rarest jewelry on the land once you got married later.

Once the rendezvous was over, he immediately returned to his dorm. Fortunately, Silver was still there, preparing to search for him like a good guard he was. Unfortunately, he was about to receive his master’s scolding.

“Silver!” Malleus barked whilst slamming the doors open, startling everyone in the living room. “Why didn’t you tell me [Name] has invited me?!”

“My Lord, calm down.” Lilia quickly put the cup back to its saucer with a loud, hurried clink and stood up from the couch, frowning slightly. “Did something happen?”

“[Name] said she relayed the invitation to Silver, but he never gave it to me. Thanks to him, I’ve missed her very first birthday party now.” the dragon fae snarled, clenching his trembling fists. “Were you trying to prevent me from meeting her, Silver?!”

Sebek gasped scandalously. “Silver, how dare you be so insolent towards Young Master?!”

A pair of aurora eyes widened in realization. Dropping to one knee, Silver bowed deeply until his hat nearly slipped from his head.

“Forgive me, Your Highness. I’ve accidentally fallen asleep after I received the invitation, but trust me when I said that it was never my intention to prevent you from meeting her.”

“And how can I trust you?!” Malleus growled. “After all, I have greatly embarrassed myself in front of [Name] by thinking she hadn’t invited me, when it was your fault, to begin with.”

“My Lord, please.” Lilia said softly, putting a hand on his broad chest to stop him from taking any more murderous step towards Silver. Regardless of how great of an error he’d committed, Lilia still wanted to protect his only son, after all. “Take a deep breath and calm yourself.”

Malleus merely ignored him, although he did stop in his tracks. He was breathing heavily, and everyone thought he might just exhale green flame any second now.

Silver squeezed his eyes shut in resignation, one hand over his chest.

“I’m ready to accept any kind of punishment you deem fit for this lowly knight, Your Highness.”

“That’s right! You should heavily punish him so he’ll never think about upsetting you anymore, Young Master!” Sebek added vehemently.

Malleus stayed quiet for a moment, glowering down at Silver so intensely the knight felt his scalp grow hot. Usually, he would’ve imprisoned and even killed anyone who dared to embarrass and make him embarrass himself. But Malleus knew Lilia wouldn’t allow him to do it, even if he hid it behind a ‘please don’t be hasty, my Lord’ excuse.

Then again, Malleus didn’t have to resort to such a drastic thing because…

“I won’t punish you, but,” he paused, closing his eyes calmly. He relished in the pressure that slowly grew and laden Silver’s shoulders like boulders, before he opened his eyes to reveal a pair of glinting irises. “you shall assist me in convincing [Name] to come with me, and to capture her if she dares to escape. Alone.”

Silver had always been the most hesitant when it came to performing his orders regarding you, after all.

As expected, Lilia discreetly relaxed, Sebek sputtered, while Silver snapped his head upwards and looked at Malleus wide-eyed as if he’d just demanded him to kill an innocent person. Which he would, if they dared to steal you or, worse, hurt you in some way.

“N-now…?”

“Of course not. Let her enjoy her limited freedom for now.” Malleus turned around, his black cloak fluttering behind him. “When the time comes, I shall inform you.”

“B-but, Young Master, such a punishment is too–”

Sebek tried to protest, but Malleus merely ignored him and strutted towards his room. The passing students immediately bowed when they encountered him in the hallways, reminding him of his own servants back in the castle. Silent, diffident, and complaisant.

Boring, all of them!

And also…

His stolid yet proud eyes slowly softened.

… isolating.

Unlike you, he thought. With you, he could talk about nothing and everything at the same time. With you, he could let loose. And with you, he could be himself. His true self, not his princely or tough façade. He didn’t have to worry about whether you’d badmouth him from behind, or criticize him through sugary words, or beg for his favor.

He could just be Malleus Draconia, not Prince of the Darkness or the heir to the Valley of Thorns.

Of course, he sneered, those people weren’t you. They were worlds apart! How could he compare them to you, anyway? That kind of thought should be an insult in itself, and nobody should insult you, including him.

… Well, unless you were asking for it.

Malleus plopped down on his bed and opened his palm, materializing the sight of you hunched over the study desk and writing something, presumably homework. As expected, the bracelet worked very well. It was worth the slight fear and hesitation on your face when he forced you to wear it earlier. He needed to know where and how you were at all times, of course, in case his retainers couldn’t get to you somehow.

Yes, this was for your safety. He couldn’t have anything happen to his future queen and wife, after all. And it’d be great if you could remain oblivious to this little feature, too.

Sighing, Malleus slid down until he was facing the ceiling. He wouldn’t admit it, but ever since Lilia had stopped reading bedtime stories to him, he’d been very lonely sleeping alone. Although, he peered down at his hand where you were climbing onto the bed, he knew it wouldn’t be for long.

Malleus smiled softly. He wasn’t sleepy, not yet. And the sun would rise in several hours, anyway, so he could spare some time to watch you sleep.

Before he had you sleep beside him.

“Good night, my dear.”

Chapter Text

“Is this how you repay me?”

You stared up at Silver, or rather, the blood that dripped from the tip of his sword. The moon reflected on the red pool below, glinting and gleaming. For the longest time, you’d always known him as the sweet and quiet guy. Never once did he show you his violent side, although you knew he wouldn’t hesitate to beat up anyone who tried to harm you. It was simply his duty as a boyfriend to protect you, and as a knight to some extent.

Still, to think that he’d kill someone right in front of you…

“S-Silver…” you whispered fearfully, a cruel realization that Lilia wasn’t the only one you should be frightened of. From this angle, you could see his aurora eyes staring – or was it glowering? – down at you, frigid just like his sword. Like the night. Like the ground beneath you. He’d never been the most expressive guy, but you wished he could show something. Anything. Even if it meant screaming your ears off like Sebek would do, or smirking coldly like Lilia.

But alas, Silver remained stony.

Nathaniel laid in front of you, having long stopped breathing after a particularly gruesome battle against your boyfriend. He was a human knight like Silver, with gentle cornflower eyes and bright yellow hair. He was probably the only one who was truly worried about your gloomy demeanor, being the first to inquire about it. At first, you’d denied being bothered by anything, trying to protect both you and him from Silver, or Lilia’s wrath. But slowly, his concerned gaze melted your heart until you found yourself confessing about everything that Silver had done to you; from wanting to break up with him to becoming his glorified hostage. You’d begged him not to tell anyone, and Nathaniel had nodded, vowing that he’d keep the secret close to his chest forever.

Despite this, he was still angry on your behalf. It touched you greatly to know that he cared about you this much, even if it was someone you’d never expected. You’d thought he’d support Silver, but you supposed his gallantry overruled his solidarity. Still, you forced him to promise that he wouldn’t do anything reckless, and he eventually relented after so many persuasions.

Of course, under the condition that he would help you.

You’d smiled tearfully and nodded, despite knowing the risks. How could you not? It might be your only chance of escaping! You were confident Nathaniel could protect you. After all, only the selected ones were allowed to work in the castle.

Regardless, you didn’t expect that he’d fall so soon.

No, you squeezed your eyes shut, you had expected it. You just didn’t want to acknowledge it. Because if you did, you might jinx it. And you couldn’t afford that to happen. Silver and Lilia weren’t mind readers, but they’d been haunting you for so long you were starting to believe they were one. Silver came when you finally felt a little peace at home, and Lilia appeared when you thought it couldn’t be any worse, and vice versa.

So, was it any wonder why you chose to be in denial? To be optimistic even though fate had left you time and time again at their mercy?

“After everything I’ve done to you…”

Silver bowed, strands of silver hair concealing his face. Was he sad? Disappointed? Angry? You didn’t know. His voice had always been even, monotone, and you hated it. Hated that you still couldn’t read him, after all this time. Maybe because you were too focused on leaving him, instead of studying him.

If that was the case, who was the one at fault here?

Silver looked up, a deep frown contorted his flawless face.

“You still want to escape?”

You gulped. Oh, so even he could feel betrayed, huh? You couldn’t say you didn’t expect this to happen. Nobody was made from steel, including him.

So, what should you do now? What should you say? The truth, or the lie? A reassurance, or a plea?

You silently clenched your hands, nails digging into the dirt.

“Silver, what you’ve done to me… is wrong.”

You didn’t know why you said that. Maybe you thought it’d lessen your punishment somehow, or prolong your imminent doom at his sword. Whatever it was, you hoped it’d work. That, perhaps, without Lilia’s presence here, Silver could find some sense within him and let you go. You’d never forgive him, but you were willing to forget everything. After all, how could you beat such a strong knight like him, anyway? It’d be better to try to move on, rather than trying to fight a useless battle.

“… I know.”

You snapped your head up in surprise.

Did he know all along? So, why–?

“I know what I did, and will do, is wrong.”

Will…?

“So, I ask for your forgiveness.”

You gasped when Silver abruptly disappeared from your sight. Instead, you felt someone breathing against your ear.

How did he–?!

“You’ll forgive me, won’t you?”

Before you could utter a single word, something solid knocked the back of your head.

And just like that, you fell unconscious.

Chapter Text

“People are complex.” You’d remembered what your mother said once. “Good people can change for the worst, and vice versa. Just as it’s possible for them to be both good and bad.”

You’d nodded, still so young and innocent. You didn’t understand what it meant at that time, merely closing your eyes to further relish in her loving stroke on your hair. And you thought it didn’t matter, because your parents were reliable. They were good people, and they’d never betray you. So, why should you think about her vague and complicated words any longer?

Oh, how you wished you could turn back the time.

“You’re finally awake.”

You fluttered your eyes open, discerning a boy with black hair and magenta streaks through your blurry sight. No, not a boy, you thought as your eyes slowly adjusted to the dimness of the room. A man. A man so ancient yet so young. A man so innocent yet so smart.

And a man so kind yet so cruel.

“Lilia.”

He chuckled whilst hovering over you, as if his face was the first thing you wanted to see after…

“It seems that you still remember the face of your lover, huh?” he mused, before his smile darkened. “It’s a shame that you tried to leave him, though.”

… your failed attempt.

You glanced around, and you grew restless once you realized the familiarity of this place.

“Why am I here?” you croaked. “Why am I in your room?”

“Why not? This is your room too. Is it so strange that I’d carry you here?”

A pause. The clock ticked calmly, nonchalantly. And your heart beat loudly, thunderously.

“Or, perhaps, you want me to leave you out there instead?”

He knew.

You grasped the sheet. Of course, he knew. That was why you were here. Lilia never did anything without a reason, and so far, he’d been dropping hints about his uncanny knowledge ever since you opened your eyes.

Regardless, his friendly façade remained unnerving.

“Well, that’d be awfully kind of me, wouldn’t it?”

You flinched.

He simpered.

“Aw, don’t be like that. You know I wouldn’t do anything harmful to you, right?”

Because, apparently, isolating you in Diasomnia dorm wasn’t harmful at all, nor forcing you to keep dating him.

Right, because he did it all for your sake. Other people were too dangerous, he said, and he could take care of you better than anyone else. Not even your freaking parents, if they were in Twisted Wonderland.

“Also, I need to thank him for his contribution.”

Lilia looked behind him, and the door slowly opened, revealing the person who had been assisting you all this time.

Or should’ve been assisting you instead.

“Caleb…” you whispered, gawking at the boy who you thought was your confidante. At the boy who used to stare at you worriedly, and now bowing his head. At the boy who had helped you scheme your escape from the dorm, from him, from everyone.

In this place, you had nobody to turn to. Lilia was too possessive, Silver was too reluctant, Sebek was too loud, and Malleus was too scary. You’d spent your time either in the bedroom or the lounge room, in his lap or his hug. Lilia had always wanted you to rest, to think nothing but him and your looming future. And yet, you found it more stressful than anything else. More than exams and handling Crowley’s tasks.

There was never any ‘rest’ for you, not even a little. They all took turns in guarding you, those men Lilia had lovingly called his ‘sons’. If he had classes, Silver would replace him, and then Sebek, and so on. Although Silver and Malleus hardly did anything to you, except for some intense – or warning – staring especially from Malleus, it didn’t mean you were comfortable at all. And you hadn’t even mentioned those times with Sebek. You were always on the verge of your nerves, of your wits.

Until Caleb came, with his kind face and question. With his disarming manner and demeanor.

“Are you okay?”

Even as you gazed at him now, he still looked kind.

Just not enough, and not to you.

“… You betrayed me?”

Caleb flinched and looked away, like he felt guilty or something.

For you or Lilia?

The said fae huffed a laugh.

“Why don’t you tell her the truth, Caleb?” he simpered. “Go ahead, tell her everything.”

There was a moment of silence, and you wondered if the revelation could be any worse than his appearance.

“I’m sorry, [Name]. But the thing is, I… have always been loyal to Vice Dorm Leader.”

Your eyes widened.

If that was the case, then did that mean–?!

“And yes, that means everyone’s working hard to keep you here. That’s his order, and Dorm Leader’s too.” Caleb peered at Lilia, who nodded approvingly. “Because you’re a part of us now.”

A part of them, he said. What kind of bullshit was that?! You never really fit in anywhere, because you didn’t belong in Twisted Wonderland. And especially not in here, in Diasomnia, where the most powerful students gathered. In here, you’d just be a disgrace, a hindrance, an eyesore.

What was he thinking? What was Lilia thinking? Did he want to subtly humiliate you? Did he want you to know your place, your weakness, your vulnerability? Was that it?!

You glanced at Lilia for confirmation.

He merely smiled coyly.

“People are complex.”

“Then, the reason why you helped me is because…”

Caleb didn’t reply, but you already knew the answer.

“Good people can change for the worst, and vice versa.”

Shaking in anger, you ground your teeth and hurled a pillow at Caleb. Unfortunately, a gloved hand quickly intercepted it before it could hit him straight on the face.

“Now, now, don’t be so aggressive. He was just being honest, you know? You, of all people, should appreciate it. After all,” Lilia peeked through his lashes. “that’s what you want too, right, my dear?”

“Shut up! You both are traitors. Traitors!” you screamed, flinging more pillow towards them only to end up in Lilia’s hands again. “Get out! Get out from my face! I don’t wanna see you anymore!”

“Aw, did you hear that, Caleb? The lady wants us to get out. If that’s the case, let us leave now in fear of stressing her even further. I shall reward you outside.” Lilia spun and patted Caleb’s back, urging him to move. “Come now, child. We should let her have her beauty sleep. Hopefully, she’ll wake up with a clear mind.”

You heaved, watching them innocently walk out as if they hadn’t just blatantly humiliated you. Your lips trembled, and when the door finally closed, you broke down.

“Just as it’s possible for them to be both good and bad.”

Chapter Text

“Where are you going, Mom?”

You stopped on your tracks and stared down at the stairs that led to a path. Just a few meters again, the forest would open up to a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. If you walked for a few days, you could probably find a town or village to hide and rest in. After that, you’d return your journey to a bigger city, where the possibility of Rook finding you was small. Maybe you could even find your old friends and family along the way.

Of course, it was all easier in your head.

There was a reason why you named your son ‘Levi’. Or maybe it’d always been your fault, to begin with. Levi meant ‘joined’ or ‘attached’, and just like the name suggested, he was ‘attached’ to his father. Well, maybe if you tried hard enough, you could prevent him from ‘brainwashing’ Levi with his constant hunting lessons. But in all honesty, you never really cared about him. You didn’t ask to have a kid, after all, especially from Rook.

Which was why Levi’s presence was suspicious, although you could’ve assumed he was simply being a concerned son. However, the reality was never that simple. At least, not with Rook as your husband.

“Levi, what are you doing here?” you asked, frowning. Not because you were particularly surprised to see him here, but because he ruined your only chance of escaping. “I thought you were napping.”

He said nothing, and continued to stare at you. You forced yourself to return the gesture, but his gaze proved to be too intense for you – as expected of Rook’s son – so you looked away.

“I was just taking a walk.” you grumbled, frustrated that freedom felt so far yet so close. And it was all because of him. “It’s a bit too stuffy inside.”

“Do you want me to air the room?”

“No!” you exclaimed, before sighing. Sometimes, you wondered if he pretended to be dumb or not. “I just… I just want to take a breather, okay? Leave me alone!”

“I can’t do that.” Levi slowly descended the stone stairs. “Dad told me to keep an eye on you.”

“For what?! You think I’m gonna escape?!”

“Isn’t that what you were planning to do earlier?”

You froze, eyes wide in disbelief. How… how did he know?! You thought he was truly dumb! Clutching your pounding chest, you twirled and dashed down the remaining steps. Just a little more, and the path would surely end. After that, you could finally be free–!

A knife breezed past you and pierced the tree below, vibrating against the bark. In your shock, you tripped on the last step and tumbled down. You winced, too focused on the blooming pain on your legs rather than the sting on your cheek. You looked up at the sound of his calm footsteps and hissed.

“You…! How dare you do that to your own mother?! Don’t you have any shame?!”

Levi merely stared down at you, almost apathetically. The sight only served to irritate your wounded pride, but before you could berate him again, another voice spoke up. Cheerfully.

“Excellent! You’ve caught yet another beautiful prey, Levi.”

You whipped your head towards the speaker and gulped, scooting away from his approaching figure. Rook noticed your subtle movement and grinned down at you.

“It’s a shame that it wasn’t an animal, though. I was hoping we could surprise your mother with a fresh kill.” he murmured, yet lacking in gentleness. “But this should do, don’t you think? I’m sure she’ll be happy to see it.”

Levi nodded silently.

“Lead the way then, Levi.”

“Rook, don’t you dare…!”

You squeaked when he slipped his hands under your body and lifted you bridal style. You didn’t want to return to that hellhole, but at the same time, you didn’t want to fall and roll down the stairs too. So, you clung to his shirt for dear life and hid your face on his chest.

“As for you,” Rook whispered, his lips nearly brushing against your ear. “I have another surprise waiting~”

You peeked through your hair.

Rook simpered, eyes glinting coldly.

Chapter Text

Waking up in a cold and dingy room wasn’t something that you expected, but something that you were used to. Or rather, something that you should’ve been used to, given your position as the gang dealer’s daughter. Your father had drilled you on the importance of keeping a low profile, and staying calm whenever you got kidnapped. The former was easy, considering that you weren’t interested in his job, but the latter was hard. Even now, you struggled not to scream or cry and risked a fate worst than death. Some people were simply sadistic, and you didn’t want to elicit that desire within them by showing any sign of vulnerability.

So, you forced yourself to take several deep breaths and peered around the room, even if your eyes were stinging from upcoming tears. It seemed like an old, abandoned storage room, with pipes on the wall and some boxes on the shelves, most likely empty. There were ventilation around the place, and a single rusty drum lying carelessly on the floor. A gasoline drum, perhaps? The lamp flickered on and off, and if you squinted, you could almost see specks of dust floating in the air.

It was a painfully common sight, but that didn’t mean you weren’t afraid in the slightest.

You closed your eyes and tried to recall the events that led to this. Flashes of a supermarket, an alleyway, and a black car with tinted glass came to mind, but you couldn’t remember who had kidnapped you. Were they old enemies of your father? Or new? Were they doing this for revenge or ransom? There were too many questions, as always, and those people weren’t always kind enough to answer some of them, if any.

And, as always, you could only hope your father would come and get you out of here immediately. Whether he killed them or not, wasn’t really your business. It wasn’t as if this incident wouldn’t happen again, anyway, as much as you hated to admit it.

Sometimes, you wondered what you’d done in your previous life to suffer this fate. Your father was nicer to you than to his subordinates, sure, but it didn’t lessen the risks of being his daughter. Regardless of how tight the security was, or the many hoodies and masks you used to conceal your identity, it wouldn’t stop some people from recognizing you somehow and abducting you like some kind of a bargain.

The metal door in front of you creaked open, and a tall shadow appeared on the entrance. In your fearful mind, you almost thought it was the grim reaper, until they stepped forward to reveal a man worst than the grim reaper. Unfortunately, the cloth on your mouth hindered you from uttering his forbidden name, but you could distinguish his face even from the sea of crowd.

“Good evening, Miss [Name]. I trust that you had a pleasant sleep earlier?” Jade Leech asked genially, despite your bounded state. He donned a calm, almost friendly smile, and had your father wasn’t so wary of him – and thus influencing you to act that way – you would’ve thought that he was a pleasant individual. How could you not? He was smart, handsome, and strong. Anyone would be lucky to have him.

Until they saw the demon behind the human mask, that is.

He dragged a chair from the corner beside the door and placed it in front of you. Even when sitting, he still towered over you. The bastard. You looked up through your lashes, being very careful not to show your dread. You knew he’d interrogate you, but who knows what else he’d do.

“Do you know why you’re here, Miss [Name]?” he asked again, this time pulling the tightly wound cloth down from your mouth. When you remained quiet, Jade chuckled. “Of course, you don’t. I disturbed your shopping time, didn’t I? My apologies.”

“Get to the point.” you retorted.

Jade’s smile widened.

“Your father… has broken the contract.”

You tensed up. This wasn’t the first time your father had dealt with shady people, but you thought he had some sense not to breach the contract with Jade, or any of the Leech Family, really.

Or maybe Jade was lying. Nobody in the underworld could survive by being honest alone, him included.

But if it was truly your father’s fault, then what would happen to you? Oh God, what if this was the last day you lived? What if your body really got thrown to the sea, or mutilated, or sold, or–?!

You shook your head. No, you needed to be calm to not give Jade the upper hand. You’d gone through a similar situation before, and that meant you could survive this too. Hopefully.

“What do you mean?”

“He failed to give us the drug at the promised time.”

“Well, it’s not his fault that the police increases their patrol.”

“But it’s not our problem now, is it?” Jade simpered. “A contract is still a contract, and he broke it. And you know what happens to the incompetents.”

You looked away and squeezed your eyes shut, trying not to crumble under his penetrating stare despite your pounding chest. You could never get used to this pressure. You just wanted to have a peaceful life!

“T-then, I recommend you to speak to him. I have nothing to do with this.” you grimaced, mentally scolding yourself for stammering a bit.

“You’re right, you have nothing to do with this. You don’t even understand anything, do you? Being uninterested in your father’s job, and the many victims it brings…” he mused. “But, honestly, how can I speak to a dead body?”

You snapped your eyes open and whipped your head towards him.

Jade grinned, either because he finally managed to gain your whole attention or because of your shocked expression. Or both.

“W-what?”

“You heard me.”

“You lied…” you murmured incredulously, before screaming to his face. “You lied! There’s no way you killed him! My father isn’t weak! He has many strong guards! He couldn’t have lost to you!”

“Indeed, his guards were quite formidable. However,” he chuckled to his gloved fist, heterochromatic eyes glinting wickedly under the dim light. “it doesn’t mean all of them are loyal to him.”

You froze.

“I’m sure even someone like you isn’t completely clueless to the way of the world. How the weak often flock to the strong in order to protect themselves.”

You began to tremble and breathe harder. The rope felt even more suffocating too, like a snake that wanted to squeeze your insides out.

“It doesn’t help that many of them have families waiting for them at home too, regardless of whether they know about their secret job or not.”

Jade crouched before you and wiped the tears that had flown unknowingly, smiling coolly as if he hadn’t just dropped a bombshell on you. You peered down, fearing his other hand would shoot out and stab you and twist the knife until it was buried deep inside your stomach. You’d never know.

“Actually, I could’ve extended the time a little. It’s not as if my father is in a rush to get the drug, either. But…” he paused, a gloved thumb trailing down your cheek and toying with your lower lip. “They say love makes people do stupid things, and I guess that’s true. And you know what? I don’t regret it at all.”

He gripped your chin and lifted it, smirking smugly at your tearful face.

“So, from now on, please behave. Unless you want to follow your father’s step, that is.”

Chapter Text

Was it natural to be jealous of your own kid?

No, Silver shook his head, of course not. What the hell was he thinking about, anyway?! He should be grateful and even proud that [Name] cared so much about their son! And not… not… considering him as his rival or something. Because what could a mere baby do against an adult? And even if he had grown up, what could he do against a seasoned knight?

That’s right, he couldn’t. Which was why Silver’s feelings were silly.

Still, he couldn’t quite extinguish the fire inside his chest. Even as he watched her cooed and fuss over the baby, the sight merely suffocated him even more.

“You really ate a lot today, huh, Cassius? Good boy! I’m so proud of you~!”

“[Name].”

The said woman peered at him before turning her attention back to the gurgling baby, her face darkened as quickly as it brightened. It wasn’t the first time she’d done so, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time. Regardless, Silver would’ve appreciated it if she could at least acknowledge his presence, even if it was just a lukewarm greeting. After all, he’d worked so hard to feed and clothe them both.

“[Name], look at me. Please.” Silver never begged, and wasn’t used to. It didn’t suit his image as the prestigious knight of Draconia Family, or the son of the former Dread General. But for her, he was willing to do it over and over again.

Because only she was allowed to see him at his weakest.

But even that wasn’t enough, because she soon stood up once he got too close with her and brought Cassius out of the dining room. Silver didn’t dare to stop her, fearing the situation would blow out of control. He merely watched as Cassius peeked through her back before the tuft of his silver hair disappeared behind the wall. His doe eyes, that reminded Silver of her, looked at him curiously yet strangely.

And it finally dawned on him that he hadn’t held him. Not really.

When was the last time he’d done that again? Silver could’ve sworn it was some time after his birth. After that, [Name] would always take care of him, except for those sudden visits from Lilia.

Silver had never really had time for him, for them, and it crashed onto him like a brick.

He slumped on the dining chair she’d sat on earlier and covered his face with his hands. How could he just realize it now? Was it the reason why [Name] treated him so coldly, because he was distant from them both?

No, she’d always been like that. Silver had stolen one of her rights, after all. The most precious and universal thing to every creature.

But affection goes a long way, right? If he just paid more attention to her, maybe she’d forget that he’d robbed her of her freedom and grow to tolerate him, if not love him back.

Still, could he ruin the peace between a mother and a son? Could he ruin the peace that she’d painstakingly built and relished in his absence?

Could he, after everything he’d done?

Sighing, Silver got up and lumbered towards the bathroom to refresh himself. Maybe a nice, long bath could help clear his mind. It worked, although only a little. The water merely washed away the dirt and sweat from his body, not his anxieties. And when he returned to his shared room, [Name] was already lying on the bed with her back towards him.

As usual.

Silver put on some loose clothes and rested beside her, being very careful not to disturb her. She hadn’t slept yet, he knew. She’d do that long after he’d fallen into the dream world, where everything was fine and dandy. Where there were only the three of them, a little family playing and eating in the sunny field. Where [Name] was kinder, brighter.

And when he opened his eyes, she’d disappear like a mirage, like a ghost, if it wasn’t for the indent beside him. Then, he’d see her feeding Cassius in the dining room, not even bothering to prepare a breakfast for him. Silver wasn’t sure if she’d eaten too, because she never answered him whenever he asked nor did she eat the food he’d cooked for her. Such treatment had become a routine for him, like training, except it was more painful than being hit by a wooden sword or falling to the ground in a bitter loss.

And now, Silver was determined to change it somehow.

“I know you’re not sleeping yet.” he whispered as he wrapped an arm around her stomach like he always did. And like she always did, she tensed underneath his touch. “But I want you to listen to me just this once.”

There was no reply, as expected. Only awkward silence with a hint of impatience for him to get it over with, for the sun to rise so she could leave and be with Cassius once again because that was her only form of escapism. Sneaky, Lilia had said once, although it wasn’t so bad. Rather than abandonment, Silver would rather see her excessive attention towards their son.

Closing his eyes, Silver took a deep breath.

“I will spend more time with you both from now on.”

“No.”

He snapped his eyes open, somewhat shocked by the speed of her response. He could almost feel her scowling from behind too. Regardless, Silver persevered, like his father had taught him to.

“I will contact Father to permit me to have a day off tomorrow.”

“What kind of a knight are you to abandon your own master?”

Silver flinched before immediately recomposed. It was understandable why [Name] would say that, given that guarding Malleus had always been his top priority, as much as he hated to admit it. But Silver was certain he’d allow a break for him too, or maybe Lilia could convince Malleus for him. It wasn’t as if there was any pressing matter in the castle, anyway. Sebek could certainly cover for him.

Once again, he took a deep breath.

“I’m sure Lord Malleus will allow me.”

“That is very optimistic of you.” [Name] huffed. “But we both are fine without you, like we always do.”

Unwittingly, Silver tightened the grip around her and squeezed his eyes shut. He deserved it, he knew. But Great Seven, was it painful to always hold the urge to wince, to grimace at her bitterness. What could he do to lessen it?

Probably nothing, but he’d be damned if he didn’t try.

“Then, I will make it so that you can’t survive without me.”

And once again, she tensed.

***

Cassius: Hollow, because she’s hollow without him.

Chapter Text

Dragons.

Such regal, yet rare creatures.

Malleus could count on his two hands the amount of time he’d met his species aside from his grandmother, and it was mostly chance encounters. And from those encounters, he could infer that although male dragons were scarce, females were even more so. He wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the verge of extinction. The rate of successful hatching had always been low, and Malleus happened to be one of those ‘lucky’ ones despite the misfortune of having to grow up without his parents. He didn’t even have a single sibling to accompany him, either.

That was why loneliness was something he was accustomed to. Or rather, something he was forced to accustom to. People despised a weak royalty, after all, especially an heir like him. They could use him, or underestimate him, and he couldn’t afford that. He needed to look untouchable, impenetrable, invulnerable.

And so, he began to close himself off. Protect himself under the thick scales of his armor against the arrows and swords of insults and insincerity, open his mouth to fire those who strike, and swipe those who were brazen.

Regardless, such a coping mechanism couldn’t hide who he was underneath; a lonely boy. He’d spent centuries watching people come and go – families, friends, and lovers – and wondered if he could ever be a part of them. Lilia, Silver, and Sebek could never be enough. They were simply following their duties, even if Lilia tried his best to fill the fatherly hole in his chest.

Malleus wanted more. A connection with a stranger, a friend, and if he dared to dream it, a lover.

But who? Who could possibly fill that hole, when everyone else feared him, flattered him, derided him?

“Tsunotarou…!”

Malleus snapped out of his thoughts and peered to his side, where he spotted [Name] waving at him. As always, she donned a beret. He didn’t know why she loved it so much to the point of wearing it at night, but he couldn’t deny it suited her. Although today, she did look a bit… messier than usual. Stress, perhaps?

“Sorry, I’m late. I was cleaning my room when I realized the clock has passed eleven.”

Oh, so that was why…

“Only you would keep me waiting like this. But, so be it. I’ll forgive you this time.”

She nodded. “So, where do you want to go now?”

They both strolled around and reflected on things, interjected by remarks of the bizarre objects in the surrounding area. Sometimes they’d talk about nothing at all, basking in the sound of crickets and the sensation of night breeze against their contented faces. Hours fleeted, and Malleus silently wilted like a flower in winter once it was time for her to return. He wished the pathway to Ramshackle dorm would lead to Diasomnia, and he wished those old, creaky doors were the big, elegant ones his dorm possessed instead.

“I’ll see you later, then, Tsunotarou.”

The farewell sounded tender, yet bitter in his ears. He nodded and watched as the fragile wood closed and separated him from his beloved. Her silhouette receded like the moon above, and his loneliness ascended like the sun. Lilia appeared beside him, silent yet knowing, and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I noticed something odd in her head.”

Malleus peered at him. “What is it?”

“Her beret covered it, but I could see a tiny horn peeking out.”

“A horn?” the boy huffed. “Don’t be ridiculous. [Name] is a normal human.”

“Indeed, had she was more thorough in hiding her features.”

“Are you saying she’s been fooling me all this time?”

“I’m certain she’s not trying to deceive you, per se. You know what humans do to dragons, and how rare their species is. If someone were to find out about this, she could be in danger.” Lilia mused. “Though, she’s lucky that we are the only ones who know about her true identity now.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“I can try to observe her more. Just say the word, and I’ll do it.”

“Then, do it. Show me the proof.”

Lilia bowed. “Of course, Your Highness.”

A puff of glitters blew, and silence filled the air once again. Malleus sighed and teleported to his dorm, preparing himself for yet another tedious day and curious night. Luckily, his two young guards weren’t there when he materialized in the lounge room, presumably searching for him somewhere else. Malleus pitied their pointless attempt and headed to his room, face thoughtful as he mulled over Lilia’s remark.

How nice would it be if [Name] turned out to be a female dragon. They could even be soulmates too! He was sure his grandmother would accept her, despite her ordinary status. After all, her species could be a great advantage in winning his grandmother’s heart!

That is, if she wanted to use it…

Malleus frowned.

She would, right? There were no benefits in living here, except for temporary safety. He doubted she felt comfortable at all, living in such a… ramshackle place, and she even messed up her own disguise after cleaning it! What if someone other than Lilia had realized that she was more than meets the eye? What if they were already planning to use her? What if he was too late?

No, Malleus needed to calm down. There was a chance that [Name] wasn’t even a dragon, to begin with, although that possibility disappointed him greatly. And even if she was one, he needed to believe Lilia’s statement about them being the only ones who knew about it. Anyone aside from them both didn’t.

It was the next day, after the two youngsters left to attend their own classes, Lilia finally showed the evidence. Various pictures spread on the table, each portraying [Name] in different poses… and different features.

“She uses magic to disguise herself, but she must’ve been in a rush last night until she forgot to completely hide her horns. Regardless, she still wears a beret to help her cover them. And it did work… until now, that is.”

So, that was the reason why she always wore that hat. Who would’ve thought? Regardless, those pictures just confirmed everything, and most of all, his wishes.

“Tell me she doesn’t have a mate.”

“I don’t think she does. She probably spends more time trying to avoid attention than mating, if she ever considered it at all.” Lilia clapped his hands and beamed. “Anyway, isn’t it a pleasant coincidence? Two dragons in one school, both male and female.”

Malleus put a hand under his chin and nodded thoughtfully. “Indeed…”

“And imagine how great your offspring will be!” the ancient fae gushed. “But whether you decide to pursue her or not is completely up to you, and I hope you know that I’ll always support you wholeheartedly.”

“I know,” Malleus sighed, and stood up from the couch. “and I don’t plan on letting her go anytime soon.”

Lilia grinned, his crimson eyes glinting under the greenish light.

“I wish you the best of luck, then~”

The moon rose, along with the nocturnal creatures. Malleus teleported to the Ramshackle dorm as usual, but with far more giddiness than usual. He couldn’t wait to tell her about his plan, her new life, their future! How would she react, he wondered. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait for long, because he met her right on the porch.

“Oh, Tsunotarou. You’re here…”

Malleus frowned at her lack of enthusiasm. What happened? Was she cleaning her room again, and it sucked more energy today? He inspected her appearance, which was neater than yesterday. His frown deepened.

“Where are you going?”

“Ah, I’m going to visit Deuce. Why?”

“Spade?” He squinted. “What kind of business do you have with him?”

“We’re just…” [Name] sputtered, shocked by his interrogation. “We’re just going to hang out, that’s all.”

Hang out…

She was going to hang out with another boy, when she’d never done so with him. Most, if not all of their nightly meetings were planned by him. And although she always agreed, it didn’t mean he was thoroughly happy now that he realized that fact.

“No.”

[Name] blinked owlishly.

“I won’t allow you to see him.”

“W-what? Why?!”

“Because your– our kind has been suffering from the hands of those mortals.”

[Name] froze, eyes dilated.

“I’m disappointed, [Name]. I thought you were trying to avoid their attention, so why are you seeking out his company now?” he scowled. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for him.”

“What– no! He’s just a friend!”

“A friend…”

“A-and what do you mean by ‘our’ kind, anyway?! I’m not you!”

“Is that so?”

Malleus muttered a spell, and suddenly, her appearance began to change when sparkles swirled around her body. Her irises grew narrower into slits, her ears were longer, her fangs sharper, and her horns larger. [Name] shrieked and snatched the beret that almost fell, trying to hide her true form despite the futility of it.

“Stop! Stop! I get it now, you won! Just please, stop!”

She didn’t have to ask that, because the transformation – or rather, revelation – had completed. Malleus examined her from head to toe, and hummed gratifyingly. If she was already this gorgeous, then how much more would she be once she showed her dragon form? Already, he could imagine flying together and doing the mating ritual, and he hoped it wouldn’t be a mere dream for long.

“Do you still want to make another excuse?”

“Why are you doing this? Deuce isn’t a bad person, and besides, he can’t do anything against me.”

“Just because he can’t do anything against you, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t ask for help. I’m sure you already know how cunning humans can be.”

“What about Silver, then? You can’t criticize Deuce without commenting about him too!”

“You sure are very defensive of him.” Malleus scowled. “Unlike Silver, who has been trained to obey me since birth, Deuce doesn’t. And that makes him more dangerous than Silver.”

“W-well, whatever it is, I still don’t appreciate you for trying to ordering me around. So–”

The earth below him shook before exploding, sending pieces of dirt in the air. Malleus swiftly jumped back and grunted at the dust that blocked his view. He didn’t expect things to end this way, but he wouldn’t complain.

It was time to show her who was stronger between them, anyway.

Malleus outstretched his hand, and vines rapidly sprouted from the ground, latching onto her legs like hungry snakes. [Name] squeaked when they abruptly pulled her from below until she hit her chin against the ground and dragged her towards him. Immediately, she slammed her hand and held the little stone pillar, while her other hand reached out to burn the vines. Malleus was quicker, however, and created more vines that instantly wrapped her whole body and snuffed the fire as if it was nothing.

Truly, he’d considered using thorny vines instead so she could learn her lesson once and for all, but he didn’t want to hurt her too much. Maybe later, if she still tried to pull the same stunt. He’d also need to stifle her magic, if not extinguish it completely as he did to her measly fire. He didn’t want to give her a weapon to rebel, after all.

“Are you done now?” he asked, watching her squirm in the plant grip. “Honestly, you should’ve known better than to attack me, but I suppose your friendship with Spade has made you as stupid as him.”

[Name]’s protests went muffled, but he wouldn’t even deign to hear them if they weren’t.

He huffed.

“Unbelievable… even your attempt was nothing short of cowardly. Is this the result of years of living in hiding?” Malleus shook his head disapprovingly. “No matter. I won’t let you lead such a pathetic life any longer. With me, you will be safer than anyone else. So, stop struggling and accept your fate now.

And then, she fainted.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry, Deuce, but you’re just a good friend to me.”

A good friend…

There was a time when Deuce felt happy at hearing those words. He used to hurt so many people, injured so many people, and fought so many people for the sake of childish pride and an equally childish group. So when someone told him that he was a ‘good friend’, and not a ‘bad delinquent’, he was simply overjoyed. That meant his hard work had paid off! His mother would be so proud to hear it too, he was sure of it.

But now…

“O-oh, it’s okay. I understand.” he tittered.

… Now, he despised those words.

[Name] smiled apologetically. “Again, I’m so sorry, Deuce.”

“Y-yeah, no problem.”

He spun and trudged away from the place, from her, with shoulders drooped and head bowed. What was he lacking? What was his flaw? What was his fault? Was it because he was stupid, both in academics and feelings? Was it because he was too impulsive? Or was it because he was too boring?

All of these questions were pointless if he didn’t hear the answers straight from her, he knew, but he wasn’t brave enough to do that. Not after what happened earlier. Could he even muster the courage to meet her again one day? It felt like even a glance at her face would hurt him more than a punch to the gut.

Deuce sighed. Was being a ‘good friend’ such a bad thing? If [Name] considered him as one, then surely he could be a ‘good’ boyfriend too, right? Of course, her being the only girl in an all-boys school was a factor in his crush, but he wasn’t that shallow! Her personality mattered a lot to him too, and he thought… he thought… they could match. Somehow.

But, clearly, she thought otherwise.

All because he was too good of a person. Of a friend.

“Bro! You’re okay there?”

Deuce glanced up at the sudden yet subtle pain of someone slapping his shoulder, and realized it was one of his classmates, Rhys. Ace was nowhere to be seen, which was great because Deuce was definitely not in the mood to hear his mockery. And luckily, Rhys wasn’t the type to do that. So, Deuce allowed himself to show his real emotion instead of pretending to be tough like he would’ve done had Ace was around.

“Just some... bad stuff happened, that’s all.”

“Aw, man. That sucks.”

Rhys looked like he wanted to ask more, but chose not to. Instead, he beamed and slapped Deuce’s shoulder again.

“How about we go to the school store, hm? See if there’s some new comic.”

“But you just bought one yester–”

“Ah, you talk too much. Come on!”

Rhys dragged him to Sam’s shop, where they spent some time browsing the comics and other goods. Deuce had to admit the sight of books and exotic items comforted him a little, and fortunately, the shop wasn’t too crowded today. Rhys ended up buying a comic as planned, and promised to let Deuce borrow it after he was done reading. Deuce wasn’t really a fan, but the offer was very much appreciated.

It was around evening when they bade farewell to each other and left for their respective dorms. Ace was tasked with something tiresome from Riddle, apparently, and kept complaining about it in their room. Deuce ignored him for once, too down to respond, even after Ace realized his uncharacteristic silence and decided to tease him.

Regardless, Deuce couldn’t sleep no matter how hard he tried to squeeze his eyes shut. [Name]’s surprised face, reluctant voice, and pitying gaze lingered in his mind like a nightmare, a shadow, or a ghost. It reminded him of that time when he overheard his mother’s conversation through the phone all over again, except for a different context this time. He wasn’t even sure if he could vent to her like she’d done with her mother, deeming the situation as too… embarrassing. Though, the temptation to reach out for his phone remained. What would she say, he wondered. Would she tell him to move on? To be patient? To try again?

For some reason, he’d like it if she told him that. Of course, he knew that he should avoid [Name] for now, and to treat her more politely. But surely, there was still a chance for him, right? If he just showed her that he could and would be a ‘good’ boyfriend, she’d come around eventually, no?

Deuce shook his head and climbed out of the bed. Perhaps a breath of fresh air could do his mind some good. It was hard to relax in a room full of snoring and sweating boys, after all.

Heartslabyul looked different at night, almost drastically so. The bizarre layout was barely concealed in the candlelight, but Deuce could see the teacups, books, cards, photo frames, candles, a clock with cutlery as the hands, and a hat hanging on the wall. He descended the winding stairs with irregular, black and white floor tiles and out of the building, where he was greeted by the smooth sound of the gushing fountain. A stone-paved path stretched before him, leading to the transporting mirror, with rosebushes on each side of the path highlighted by the lampposts. The stars twinkled above him, and Deuce wondered how the night could be so tranquil despite his turbulent mind.

Could he ever have that peace again one day?

Deuce didn’t know what possessed him to march down the path and slipped into the mirror. If Riddle knew about this, he’d surely be angry and punish him. But tonight, he just wanted to be away from everyone yet…

“Rhys!”

… close to her.

Deuce immediately hid behind a tree and observed the unlikely, yet happy pair. Never in million years had he expected [Name] and Rhys to be together, but now that he thought about it, it all made sense. Her excuse of him being a ‘good’ friend was too vague, and Rhys didn’t bother to ask why he was upset earlier too.

It was like… he already knew the reason. Therefore, he just needed to…

“Deuce confessed to you, didn’t he?”

[Name] nodded with a beautiful yet distasteful smile on her face.

“But I rejected him, saying that he was just a good friend to me.”

Rhys burst into a mocking laugh. “Of course! He’s stupid, impulsive, and boring, anyway. You deserve better than him, sweetheart.”

… proceed with the next step.

Deuce’s hands twitched before curling into fists shaking. So, Rhys had been fooling him all along, huh? No, Deuce shook his head, it wasn’t just him too. Both of them were the ones at fault here, but why? Why did it hurt so much? Was he expecting [Name] to be innocent, despite the proof telling otherwise?

… Yeah, that must be it. There was no way she could’ve done such a cruel thing, right? She must be manipulated by that bastard somehow, because what else would she be so pleased with his reaction? Because he was the one who ordered her to do that, of course!

And Deuce would definitely save her from his clutch, as a good friend should!

Deuce waited for another moment, spying on the couple despite his legs itching to move. He couldn’t afford to blow up his cover, after all. And if he could muster a little bit of patience, he’d do it. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before they parted ways, with Rhys leaving a revolting kiss on her forehead. By now, Deuce was basically shaking in anger, but he bade his time a little longer until [Name] completely disappeared from the view.

And so, he stepped out of his hiding spot, patted Rhys’ shoulder, and punched him square in the face.

Rhys didn’t have time to react before he got thrown back unceremoniously, collapsing on the ground with a wince. Deuce loomed over him like a grim reaper, but he wouldn’t kill him. Oh, no. He still loved his mother very much, and didn’t want to worry her needlessly.

But it didn’t mean he wouldn’t let a perpetrator go unpunished.

Deuce punched his face again and again, until blood coated his fist and stained his shirt. He was panting and sweating, but he wouldn’t budge. Not until Rhys stopped struggling and faint. And he did, and Deuce still hadn’t quit yet.

He might be stupid, impulsive, and boring, but Rhys forgot that he was once a delinquent. And a malicious one at that.

The moon was already high in the sky by the time he ceased hitting Rhys senseless. Deuce huffed, blowing the dark blue bangs out of his eyes. It’d been a long time since he fought someone like this, albeit one-sided. He wondered how his mother, or [Name], would react if she saw him like this. She’d probably faint too.

… Ah, right. His shirt was dirty now.

Oh, well. It was nothing a good rinse with soap couldn’t do. He just had to do it quickly to avoid Riddle or Trey’s suspicion, although a bloody fight wasn’t really uncommon here. But Riddle liked neat and organized things, and Deuce didn’t want to suffer an extra punishment for his impulsivity.

After all, he needed to meet his ‘good’ friend tomorrow.

Deuce smiled giddily.

Chapter Text

Stupid.

Impulsive.

And gullible.

Those were the words Kalim used to hear from other people, including Jamil. Of course, none of them was true. Kalim had a brain, had self-control, and had met many manipulators than he cared to admit. But he still chose to face any situation with optimism, help those he cared about even if it meant holding an impromptu feast, and give people second chances.

He wasn’t stupid or impulsive. He’d never been one.

But maybe…

“No!” a maid shrieked, weeping at the sight of the diamond necklace on [Name]’s hand. “No, I didn’t do it! I swear!”

[Name] stared down at her, eyes colder than the gleaming diamonds.

“Really? Then, how come my necklace is in your room?” she interrogated, almost sneering. “Doesn’t that mean you stole it? Or are you suggesting my personal maid lied to me?”

… maybe he was gullible.

“No! I didn’t do it, I never did! Please believe me!”

[Name] peered towards Kalim, gaze unreadable.

At least, that was what he wanted it to be.

Of course, he knew about her true motive, although he didn’t really understand why. For some reason, she always hated that maid and tried to torment her in various, albeit subtle, ways despite her loyalty to the Al-Asim family. But this was the first, and probably the last, time [Name] accused her of stealing something. Kalim could easily buy another necklace, but he knew [Name] wouldn’t let this slide. No sane person would, honestly.

Regardless, he still tried to be optimistic. As usual.

Kalim tittered. “A-ah, I’m sure it was just an accident, right?”

The maid nodded vigorously.

“Oh? Are you defending her now, Kalim? Even though I’m the victim here?” [Name] retorted, squinting. “I didn’t know that you’re such a cruel husband, Kalim. Or maybe you’re just blind to the truth, as usual?”

Kalim flinched.

“I-I mean, we could set up a surveillance camera in her room…”

“A surveillance camera? Don’t be ridiculous.” she scoffed, looking away as if he’d just proposed the dumbest idea in the world. “Every camera has a blind spot, and besides, this girl is brave enough to steal my jewelry despite all the guards nearby. Do you want to give her a chance to repeat it?”

“No, of course not! I just–”

“Then, cut her grubby little hands off so she’ll learn her lesson!”

Kalim flinched again and quickly ordered Jamil to escort the maid out of the room, preferring a gentler punishment. It didn’t matter if she was innocent, [Name] wanted her to leave and that was what he’d do. Kalim was too busy staring apologetically at the maid to notice Jamil shooting [Name] a dark glance, but he didn’t have to.

Jamil had warned him, after all. Repeatedly, even. He told him that [Name] had changed for the worse. Told him that she’d become a manipulator, like those before her. Told him that she was trying to destroy him little by little now. But Kalim had brushed it off too, all because he couldn’t accept the fact that [Name] could have such… malicious intent inside her.

No, it was simply impossible for such a sweet and pure girl to be hateful and deceitful. The [Name] he knew had always treated him kindly, and Kalim merely wanted to repay it with marriage. Because marriage meant eternal company, right? Kalim didn’t think about the future very much, but he began to realize that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. And he assumed she’d be happy, because he was. Heck, even his family was happy too!

Of course, she’d tried to reject his proposal kindly, but he’d thought she was just being shy somehow. So, he kept urging her to agree until the wedding day arrived, which Jamil felt was too soon. Then again, Kalim didn’t have the same patience as him, and it wasn’t long before [Name] moved into his room as a couple. A married couple.

So, then, why? Why did it change now? Why did she change?

“Why did you do that?! I didn’t say you could kick her out!” [Name] hissed once everyone had left the now abandoned servant room, crossing her arms with the deepest scowl he’d ever seen from her. “Don’t tell me you still pity her even after seeing her crime.”

“[Name], please…! Don’t be like this!”

“Oh, shut up! I thought you loved me, but I guess I was wrong! You’re just like those cheating bastards that you hate so much.”

“Y-you know that’s not true!” Kalim cried, feeling tears already prickling his eyes. “I love you. I’ll do anything to see your smile…!”

“Then, why did you fire her?!” [Name] stomped towards him and gripped his chin, lifting it until he finally looked at her properly. “If you love me, you should do anything I say. That’s your duty as a husband too, unless you can’t do it anymore. In which case, I’ll gladly accept divorce–”

“No!” Kalim threw his arms around her and buried his face on the crook of her neck, hugging her so tightly as if she’d disappear right before his eyes. “Anything but that!”

“Say it, then.”

“Huh…?”

“Say that you’ll do my orders with no exceptions.”

Kalim hesitated. Could he do it? Could he do her biddings, even if it meant punishing more innocent victims along the way?

Would he do it?

“Y-yes, I promise. I promise that I–” he sniffled, eyes squeezed shut. “will do your orders, with no exceptions.”

Kalim was too busy savoring her caress on his hair to notice her growing smirk, but he didn’t have to.

“… There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

He’d always love her, after all.

Like the gullible man he was.