Cherry inhaled the fresh air. She closed her eyes and listened to the rustling leaves. Here, in the middle of the forest, among trees and with the earthy smell floating around, she felt in her element. Although fairies lived in minimalistic houses – and those were built thanks to what nature provided – it was a different feeling than this one. Now, the experience seemed more… authentic.
Her flying came to a halt. She touched tenderly the soil and energy prickled under her skin. Her lips curled up. If the demons had known the true origins of their powers, perhaps they would have won. Fortunately, they didn’t know that it was their tattoos which fuelled their energy. Fairies were naturally prone to having more energy than any other magic creature. After their wings had developed, they underwent a series of tests to see what their element was. They would eventually realise, as a particular element would have a strong pull on them; the tests eased and quickened the process.
Cherry caressed the green tattoo on her tight. It represented a leaf. Earth. As soon as a fairy was aware of the element, one would have it imprinted on the skin. It was the bond between the fairy and that element.
“Tch,” she lifted her eyes towards the sun. She wished she could sit down and take a nap. A frustrated part of her wanted to punch someone to death. A certain demon.
Calm yourself. You can’t go there like this. I bet that demon wants you to lose control.
She put the other hand on the ground and concentrated. Her eyes fluttered close. She needed to let loose. A wall rose in front of her, and she eyed it furiously. Training would help her relax. Besides, she had wanted to see this wall crumble for the longest of time – since the Queen showed her the first time how to create it. It was a defensive wall, but it could be used for training, too. Ely said that when she could destroy it, she would have reached or even surpassed the power of a queen.
She was a medic, but she wasn’t running from the battlefield. In fact, she was used to running to it. It had been a while since she last feared a fight. Indeed, Cherry had a lot of things to improve – she was well aware of that. After the last war, though, she felt like there was nothing that could scare her anymore. She had seen friends and allies dying, she had heard pained cries; she had lived for one hundred thirteen years, but the Great War was the bloodiest she’d witnessed.
It almost got her killed. Not that death was unexpected, given the circumstances. However, it was surprising since she was one of the very best. Cherry had an uncanny control over her energy and a high resistance. When reality slapped her face, she immediately took action, starting to train harder so as to preserve her energy and use it more efficiently. Ely had taught her a few tricks, and she developed a new fighting technique. But it was taxing on her body; she had to be careful with using it. She didn’t want to risk passing out when it mattered the most.
Once, she made a promise to herself: to get strong enough so as to be the one who protected the others, not the one who was protected. As Ely’s apprentice – no one understood why the Queen took a pupil in and it would remain a secret known only by the two of them − she could stay on the front line, fighting; during the war, she helped by healing wounds and destroying any strange creature that was on the enemy’s side. For Cherry, it wasn’t enough. She wasn’t selfish, but she craved more power. She wanted to be stronger to protect her loved ones.
Still, it was only her who saw herself as being “too weak.” Others would have said she had enough power to destroy an army by herself and it sufficed.
C’mon! Destroy the fucking wall already! A voice inside her head roared. It was growing impatient.
Yet, Cherry wasn’t sure it would happen today. It wasn’t the first time she attempted to shatter the wall and failed miserably. She had hoped that today’s anger would make the dream possible. The green-haired fairy had a bad day. She could only make small holes; had she used the Double Tattoo technique, she would have succeeded. It wasn’t the point: she had to do it bare-handed.
Do not dare give up! She internally growled, trying to push her limits. Her wings spread.
“Ki,” she shouted in her usual manner, gathering the force of nature in her fist. She punched the wall.
Why?! Why I can’t destroy it, for the name of Shinzen, the Goddess of Nature!
Gasping, she held her head between the palms. Her legs felt weak. She wondered if there was a chance she might faint. Falling on her knees, her forehead met the ground. She squeezed her eyes shut.
She had been furious after her discussion with the Queen. Training had not been her first choice; initially, she wanted to speak to Julia – they had had a good relationship lately, encouraging one another and doing small talk often – but she soon realised that it might not be the best idea. She was quite the gossip type. Letting her know that Daren Bronson was alive was the worst thing possible. Not to mention that she was going to play the private nurse for him…
Yes, that was a dangerous combination.
Besides, Cherry doubted Ely would appreciate the gesture. She didn’t specifically mention that it was a secret, but the fairy thought it went without saying.
That was how she ended flying freely through the forest and training afterwards. Despite her working out as hard as she could, the Queen’s eyes were present in her mind. Cherry could have sworn that Ely had been demanding her trust telepathically with her narrowed eyes, reminding her that walls had ears.
I trust you! The fairy wanted to scream. But hell no, I can’t agree with you. It seems like fate is mocking me. How am I supposed to treat the one who killed my former mentor? The one who destroyed out houses and tried to kill Aland and Jacy?
If he ever found out that the Demon King was alive, he would go mad for goof – as in no turning back.
He doesn’t need to know. Not yet.
She didn’t like that she had to lie. Sure, it wasn’t unusual for fairies to lie and mislead, but never each other. They were loyal to their bonds. Cherry tried to convince herself that she was doing this because the alternative was worse. Omission was not actually lying, was it?
She looked up at the sky. It was getting dark. She wiped the sweat from her face. Fairies were creatures of light and sun. The hated darkness.
“I should go home,” she murmured.
A weary journey was waiting for her the next day.
• • •
He was in excruciating pain. Nothing he couldn’t handle, though. He was the King of the Kingdom of the Night, wasn’t he? There should have been more than the sensation that his body was torn apart while his brain was in a dense fog.
His eyes were the most disturbing. They burnt and stung. It was as if something was missing, he just couldn’t name it. His power lied in his eyes and his horns. To have both of these zones damaged made him felt vulnerable. He had a bandage over his eyes and a wet cloth on his horns. He could hardly move his limbs.
He wished he could just unleash his power and blend again into the night, taking his demon form – the one that frightened nations and alerted gods. It had been a long time since he felt this way. It had been a long time since he was forced to stay for so long in his humanly form. It felt unnatural.
Daren was not worried. Those idiotic fairies had taken pretty good care of him, healing his injuries and making sure none would get infected with light dust – which seemed to be everywhere on their fucking kingdom. Some of the Golden Fairies, the ones who ruled along with the Queen, visited him, asking for his cooperation. He didn’t agree to anything and barely heard half of their bullshit. Damn it! He couldn’t even speak at that moment. Thus, he was forced to listen to their plans concerning his power. They sounded obsessed, and it was something coming from him.
A groan escaped his lips. He wasn’t going to die, and he knew it. Everyone seemed so sure about it. He somehow felt it, too. In fact, the Golden Fairies had been polite enough to explain to him that his now resurrected body – when did he even die? And how did he come back? – was immortal and that only having his soul destroyed – was that even possible? – would kill him. It was as if there was a blank period in his mind, and he couldn’t remember anything. Of course, just as any other creature, even demons could be killed, but he didn’t remember his death. Well… it could have been worse.
He didn’t agree to anything, but he was no fool. It had been made clear to him that he would be haunted till the rest of his immortal life if he didn’t cooperate. He doubted they would ever help him regain his truly god-like power. And he didn’t want to spend his life in pain either. He could be easily traced down in his current condition. For the moment, he had to play by their rules.
I am ashamed of myself. To think that I’m waiting for help and kindness from those pathetic creatures.
His ego was as big as always. Nothing changed.
Being unconscious for more than five weeks seemed to have no impact on his behaviour. Some would say he was an irretrievable case of madness. Daren begged to differ. He was not afraid of death. He hadn’t been before, and he wasn’t going to be now, especially after finding out that he’d been killed once before. With what could have Death surprised him now?
He heard quick steps outside his room and flutter of wings. He couldn’t see, but he was not senseless. In fact, his hearing sharpened as he used it more than before. Since he’d woken up, it was always like this, here – fairies hastening their pace when they got in front of his door as if he could hurt them with a single thought. It amused him, their fear. He found himself laughing inside. It was nice to see that he was not perceived as a weakling. He couldn’t have accepted it.
Even if it was pleasing, it was also irritating. There was no one around when he needed something. He was brought water and food every now and then, but everyone seemed oblivious to the fact that he could not move. Or maybe they did it on purpose, who knew?
He knew that fairies could be wicked, but he didn’t interact with the often enough to know that they had a menacingly demonic persona.
A week after he’d been conscious, he started to resist the temptation to beg for food, blocking his hunger. It somehow worked. He forced himself, both mentally and physically, to get up – nothing happened. It appeared that he needed more than will.
He cursed under his breath, a soft “Let them burn in hell!” rolling off his tongue. Though he had to correct himself, he didn’t want them in his house.
Suddenly, an intense energy flared in the area. It caught his attention. It couldn’t compare to his – or at least what he had when he was healthy – but it was impressive. It felt familiar, but he couldn’t associate it with a face. A growl built up in his chest. Someone shouted about a tree and Madara became confused.
What the heck is happening?
It made no sense at all. Why were they making such a fuss, considering there was an ill being inside? He liked to take advantage of his conditions, as he had always done.
“The Queen, did she really…?”
“Can you believe…?”
For a brief second, he thought that they might have been attacked. But how many could be outside to make such a racket?
It can’t be an attack, he mused. ‘Cause if this is their reaction, I’d rather die or be hunted down than work with these assholes.
The energy was coming closer. A thrill of excitement surged through his body.
• • •
Cherry’s steps on the corridor were determined and unwavering, but she was nervous. Very. She had travelled for four days straight and had gotten little sleep. The fatigue made her feel this way. As a medic, her duty was to check her patient’s files first. Not that she wanted to do it.
There were about seven fairies in the hideout. All of them had been happy to see her – they knew who she was; by now, everyone knew who she was. They offered to bring her food and to give her the best bed. She declined the second one, saying it wasn’t the case.
When she opened the door to Daren’s room, she stopped brusquely. She struggled to see inside. He looked terrible. She hadn’t expected that. The room was almost primitive, with only a bed and a desk. Not even a window to let the sun inside; it fitted for the ruler of the night.
He felt someone studying his body. And he was also aware of the killing intention that was in the air, which became unbreathable. Daren waited to see what would happen next. He was expecting to be attacked and prepared himself mentally. He wondered if it would hurt more than it was already.
The Bronson demon was only half right. Cherry had wanted to murder him when her gaze first landed on him. But then, she wasn’t that mean – she was the least vengeful of the fairies; it came with the duty. She almost pitied him. He was thin, fragile and seemed breakable. His dark skin was a tangled mess, and his skin looked ghostly pale. Frizzing her nose, she tried to ignore the stale air. He smelled horrible – like a corpse would.
The aim of the other person in the room had slowly faded, and Daren wondered what could have caused such a reaction. Little did he know that Cherry was not a cold-hearted bitch, even if she wished so. It would have made her life easier.
Don’t forget who he is! She scolded herself.
She was sure that Ely had known this would be her reaction. She couldn’t quarrel with a person in his position. Not only because he was now her patient, but also because that was her way of being. Fuck, she had to work at being a mean fairy! She shook her head and picked up his file, skimming through it.
Hm. It seems that flux of energy from his eyes had been affected, and his left horn had been broken; that, along with other problems. Her lips became a firm line. He was unconscious, and his energy is recovering at a slow rate. She bit the inside of her cheek. She knew a thing or two about how demons worked, but not the details. I wonder why. He should’ve looked better.
“Do you need anything…” somebody entered and asked, but she made him a sign meaning no. Taking the cue, the fairy left soundlessly.
Cherry couldn’t speak. Her throat was dry. She was mad. She shouldn’t have mercy for this devilish creature; yet, she found herself actually concerned. It was something more than the fact that he was her mission. The fairy was curious and excited to see if she could change something – his condition was a challenge.
Daren wasn’t happy either. Nobody told him anything, and it seemed that a doctor as in his room. A silent doctor, it was. The creature didn’t say a think as if he hadn’t been there on that uncomfortable mattress. He knew he was not invisible. And he fucking hated being ignored.
He was not going to be the one to start a conversation. What would have been the point? Daren could hear the breathing of the other; even the pumping of the heart if he concentrated. Before he knew it, he’d been mesmerised by the sound.
It was like a song. It resembled the destruction in the night – he adored that sound.
Well, that’s interesting, Cherry hummed, eying him. There’s a seal on his body. The one who put it must be strong. This must be the reason to why he recovers at this pace. Why didn’t Ely demand it to be taken down?
Her patient started coughing, and that was the moment she raised her eyes. Perhaps the Queen hadn’t passed by. His wounds were treated, but not professionally. Daren knew the other creature was right next to him in a moment. His throat burnt. Sakura her hand there; she sent her energy into his body as she did with the other fairies and sprinkled some dust in his mouth.
She was too nice.
When Daren felt a palm surrounding his neck, his mind ceased functioning. His body reacted on its own, and, surprisingly, he moved his hand over hers. Was she a woman? He wasn’t sure… He didn’t know how it happened. Maybe it was a sign that he was getting better. He noticed that he could move the fingers from his left hand. His head was dizzy, and it hurt.
His movement took her aback. A sharp intake of breath was all she needed to collect herself. She didn’t move her palm. Cherry had recognised the signs before he even thought about them. He started shaking violently, and a headache hit him.
He forces his body. And he’d also done it before.
She rolled her eyes. Stubborn demon; did no one inform him that he should stand still?
Someone gasped behind her, watching horrified the scene. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he was scared since Daren could move – even after they hadn’t fed him properly.
Cherry leant closer to Daren, her fingers moving fast. She pinched a point, sent some energy, and the great King of the Night fainted. Pitiful. She knew it wouldn’t have been so easy if he was his true self.
She turned on her heels. She sized up the fairy in front of her, trying to anticipate what would happen next. Chaos was the last thing she needed, but something told her it was inevitable. Cherry was confident that the fairies in the hideout made anything to ensure Daren would recover painfully slow. She was going to have a discussion with them. The Queen’s orders had been clear, after all.
And, if chaos descended, why shouldn’t she be the one to inflict it?