“Explain yourselves,” Cherry lashed out.
The fairies looked at her as if they didn’t know what it was all about – which was a lie. They weren’t stupid in the least. Their behaviour was understandable to a degree, but not excusable. She internally agreed that perhaps she could have had a meaner approach, had she been in their place. But that was beside the point. The Queen’s orders were the Queen’s orders. They weren’t to be discussed, and under no circumstances should they be broken. The Queen was not as harsh as her predecessors. However, just as the Queens before, she did not permit betrayal in any form; otherwise, their society would have been ruled by anarchy. Ely hated when she had to punish the fairies, but it was unavoidable – especially since the Golden Fairies insisted that this was the way the Kingdom should be ruled.
Cherry furrowed her brows. She could empathise, but this was one of those times when she had to put duty before personal feelings. She was not content with the situation either; as she had accepted this task, she would do her best, at least – thought, who would have dared not to take a mission from the Queen, aside from her disciple. It should have been the same for the other as well. Why get involved in something you wouldn’t strive for perfection? It would be a waste of both time and energy. And the latter was vital for the survival of the fairies.
“You should’ve taken better care of him. Why didn’t you?!”
She was worse than unpleased. She was mad. With just casting one glance at Daren, she realised how hard it would be to breathe some life back into him and bring him to normal. If they had paid more attention to his condition, it would have eased her work. She would be the one to suffer the consequences. Cherry knew from experience that when a creature was, no matter what kingdom one might belong to, he had to be treated as fast as possible through the existent means. Every second counted. The Earth Fairy didn’t want Daren alive, and perhaps Ely was on the same page, deep in her soul; there was a possibility that the Golden Fairies were pressuring her into having Daren healthy as the word of the oldest fairies in the Kingdom weighted heavy in the decision to be taken. If that was the case, Ely, and now Cherry, didn’t have, at the moment, other option than ensuring the demon’s wellbeing.
She doubted that the others were up to the current situation, but she had been informed that Daren wouldn’t die unless special requirements were met – though, what those were, it was a mystery. Having him in pain was jeering. That was all. It definitely did not solve anything. Besides, there was always the possibility that, after he had recovered, being the ungrateful demon he was, Daren would be more hostile towards the Kingdom than he was already.
“Cherry-dera, he’s a murderer.”
She was taken aback by him adding the suffix “dera” to her name. It was a sign of respect; only the Queen, her councillors, the Golden Fairies, and few high-ranked people had the privilege of being addressed in such a manner. Although she had made a name for herself during the war, she wasn’t used to it. It made her feel old and wise – two things she knew she wasn’t yet. Cherry thought she was quite immature.
It wasn’t true. Cherry had had, since her early childhood, the tendency to think the worst about her. She struggled no to do it, but she seemed to be a lost cause. She had fought fierce battles with herself on the matter; all in vain.
Ely used to say that respect had to be won and that in the world of fairies the only way one could gain it was through one’s abilities and strength. Respect brought along power from a certain point, though it was usually the other way around. Cherry was not used to being acknowledged and willingly empowered by the others. Most of the time, she had had to fight her way through life with the fists tightly clenched.
“Yeah! How could we help me after all he did?”
Cherry’s lips twisted in a grimace. She knew they were right. Her heart was heavy in her chest due to her task. But if she had to choose a team between Ely and these fairies, she’d always, without any exception, choose her mentor, Queen, and friend. No matter what the situation might be. She owned her life to the Queen. All she was now was thanks to that Earth Fairy. Cherry was as honest and pure as a fairy could be – which wasn’t too much – but she could have never betrayed Ely. The blonde was one of the most important beings in her life, especially since her parents had died in a fire.
Damned be that fiery summer day!
She wished had the power to extinguish the sun. After that event, Ely, who was unmarried and didn’t have a successor to the throne, took Cherry in, adopting her spiritually. She had acted more like a mother and less like a ruthless Queen, helping her whenever she needed it and offering her moral support. She provided her with anything she requested. No one knew how comforting was Ely under her cold exterior.
“I don’t want excuses! You had one job: to be sure he’s safe,” the pink-eyed fairy commented, keeping a serious face, and putting as much authority as she could in those words.
“But that’s what we did.”
“Starving him and letting wounds untreated just because they seemed superficial, when you could’ve easily healed them, is unacceptable. If you consider you’ve done your job, I must say it’s done pathetically.”
“But Waterfall-dera,” one addressed her officially, but annoyed, “you haven’t been here. At night, he would scream as if he was the Devil himself.”
He’s not far from it, she thought bitterly.
“It’s downright scary! He sounded like he was possessed,” a petite woman added.
Cherry barely stifled a laugh. He couldn’t be possessed. He was a damn demon. He was the one taking over other creatures’ minds! What had they been expecting? And Daren was not even in his best shape.
She opted for being diplomatic. Ely had taught her that there were moments in life where acidic words said with a sweet smile were worth more than shouting insults.
“I am sure you know how to deal with some injuries.” Every fairy had to know how to treat the smallest wounds. “You are Purple Fairies. You are fighters. The Queen wouldn’t have entrusted you with this mission if she hadn’t thought you were capable of accomplishing it.”
It was the truth. Even if the leader of the Kingdom seemed to have lost her mind, she was intelligent. In the depths of her madness, she would still be a genius.
The fairies in front of her fidgeted, averting her eyes from her. They were embarrassed. The Purple Fairies were supposed to be brave warriors and were rarely scolded, as they were efficient.
“Let’s not waste any more time. I want you to go and give him something to eat – and actually help him if he can’t eat on his own. Meanwhile, I will have one of you showing me my room, and I will prepare some medicine. Got that?”
“I won’t get anywhere near him!” the girl shouted, her wings fluttering violently.
Fear was written all over her face, and the others didn’t look more courageous.
You’ve got to be kidding me! These are fairies from the Kingdom? Are these Purple Fairies?! I am more than sure that we don’t have an army full of cowards. How did they come so far in this life if they act as such? Weren’t there tests for becoming a warrior? And in the name of Haru, didn’t they fight in the war?
“He can’t hurt any of you. He can barely move, for Haru’s sake!”
Come on! A darker side of her barked, and Cherry hold back as not to unleash it. You call yourselves fighters?! What the hell are you afraid of?
Had she not seen Daren herself, perhaps their reaction would have been pardonable. But she saw him with her own eyes. The demon was inoffensive. She didn’t underestimate him, but his eyes and horns were bandaged, and he was partly paralysed at the moment. If the Purple Fairies acted like this when he was in this state, what would they do when he would regain part of his power?
“Fine,” she grumbled. Apparently, no one wanted to take responsibility, so, as per usual, it fell upon her to do it. “I’ll go. I want to have food prepared within twenty minutes.”
She turned on her heels and exited the hideout.
They were no warriors? Well, then she was no cook.
• • •
He heard voices rising and then a strange silence. Daren couldn’t help himself wondering what was going on. He was a curious creature and liked to be well-informed. Otherwise, how would have he survived? He tried again to move his arm. It did not hurt, but he felt nothing. That annoyed the shit out of him. He decided to take it as a good sign. So what if he didn’t feel anything at the touch? He could move his arm, at least. It meant he was recovering, right?
He didn’t know how much time passed with him pondering over the problem. At some point, he was disturbed by the brutally opened door. The noise resounded, in what he supposed it was, the small room. He sensed the warm energy that had impressed him earlier. He kept his mouth shut. He heard some clicks and somebody approaching him.
“I know you’re not sleeping. You may as well stop pretending.”
Well… it seems I got myself a smart-mouthed woman.
He could say she was a woman for sure now. There was no doubt in his mind, as it had been when she had touched him. Her voice gave her away – it was soft and smooth, but firm and determined at the same time. It was feminine and somehow… seductive? He couldn’t decide since she had spoken just a few words, but there was something in the way she rounded the words. Like the other demons, he was not a talkative creature, rather enjoying the quietness of the night – though, it was another story with the desperate screams and whiny cries. In spite of it, he wanted to hear her more. Daren told himself that it was to gather information, not because her calm voice appealed to him.
“Who are you?”
His dark tone made her frown. He did not sound like a suffering demon. The power in his voice convinced her that he might get better faster than she had expected. Well, less work for her! Daren’s question was neither insulting nor unexpected, but she wanted to make as little conversation as possible. Cherry agreed to taking care of him and being – almost – polite, not to chatting with him.
Her response was unsatisfying. Daren didn’t have to comment about it since she started speaking again.
“Don’t force your body anymore unless you want to remain paralysed. There are splits in your energy flux that are easy to spot on your arm. Please, don’t make my job more difficult than it is.”
Okay, I managed to sound polite.
Damn! Why do I even care? There’s no one else to know if I burst out, is it?”
It was a lie. To her praise, only partly. He wasn’t damaged beyond repair. Considering her powers, he should have done much more than try to move a few times to aggravate his condition tremendously. However, she wanted to get her work done fast.
“You can say just by looking?” He was surprised.
“I am the apprentice of Ely-dera. She prepared me well.”
Ely was one of the most skilled doctors in the Kingdom. She was the first Queen ever to use her energy for healing.
Cherry stared at him for a moment. She’d seen demons both in their unleashed form and their human one. But he… he was something else. His jaw was strong and well-defined. She caught herself wanting to touch him. The excess of self-confidence was there, even if he was vulnerable; as if he was prepared for anything to come and wasn’t scared in the least. She had the ridiculous urge to fondle him. Shaking her head and passing a hand through her green hair, Cherry tried to put order in her thoughts.
It was ludicrous that she wanted to comfort him, to tell him that everything would be alright since she was there – because she was more than capable to stop his pain.
Cherry helped him sit. She adjusted his pillow so he could stay cosily.
Daren was feeling abashed. She was too nice to him. He couldn’t see, but he knew she was scanning him. That was why he tried to conceal any weakness and misery when she had helped him. Pain burnt him to the bone. Strange was that where her eyes landed, his skin tickled. His mind wasn’t in control – and for a demon of his rank, it was his mind was everything. He hadn’t seen many doctors in his life, but he knew that she was treating him platonically and professionally. His body responded, unaware that there was no passion in her for him. When he was told to open his mouth, his first instinct was to protest. The spoon was already touching his lips. It was unbelievable.
The soup of ashy leaves was good.
Cherry held the object tight, hoping she wouldn’t end hypnotised by his lips. She could have averted her eyes. Something inside of her stopped from doing it. He might not have known, but he emanated sexuality through all his pores. Or perhaps he knew but didn’t care? Or did it intentionally? She was an experienced doctor, but he managed to distract her. His lower lip was fuller than the upper one, and Cherry couldn’t help gazing at it.
Daren was oblivious to the devastating effect he was having on the fairy. He himself was stressed. She was feeding him like he was a little child and it made him feel… exposed, vulnerable. He was positive that he looked less than pathetic. The great Demon King, the ruler of the Night, the nightmare of the unlucky, couldn’t even eat by himself.
Something happened then, disrupting his course of thoughts. It made both her and his heart race. So fast had it happened, that she realised what she’d done only after, and he didn’t have time to react – because he didn’t know how to!
A naughty little drop of soup had escaped from the tablespoon, deciding to slip on his chin. She rushed her hand to wipe it. Both froze in place when she caressed his skin. A voice inside her head was screaming that she had to take her hand off, right now; the fairy couldn’t find the strength to do it. Daren was shocked – even if one couldn’t have said it by looking at his face, as he knew to mask his emotions. To shock a demon like him was something. It was his reaction that took him aback, not her action.
He liked it. He liked her touch. It was silky and confused him, but at the same time, he could see everything clearer than ever. He felt something for the first time in many days. He did feel alive and as if he could have conquered the world. He wanted to anchor in this moment, to never lose this sentiment. In the urge of the moment and against his better judgement, he kissed her finger, licking the problematical drop.
Cherry’s face reddened and her wings spread, a growl escaping from the depths of her being. She was rendered speechless in front of the sensual and somewhat sweet gesture. She was terrified by the way her body responded – willing, ready, hungry. She had liked it.
That demon is such a damn fine piece of ass, a perverse thought crossed her mind.
Daren smirked when he heard her. He was old but knew how to treat a woman, how to play, have fun and engage her in the process. Demon, fairy, werewolf, witch, or vampire – women were still women at a point; they wanted the same things. The demon knew it was a very, very bad idea to tangle with his medic. She could’ve tortured him. Her warm energy had already entangled him… He wouldn’t touch her first. But why be a rude person and not respond to her touches?
He liked women. What demon did not? He found that there was no harm in entertaining himself as long as he didn’t let one control him. Why would his doctor make an exception? He thought that the idea of associating himself with a creature from the Kingdom of the Fairy would disgust him. It did not. Power was an essential value for demons, and she had do be strong: she’d told him that she was the disciple of the Queen herself.
She tried to pull back her finger gently. In all honesty, she should’ve snatched it. Daren nibbled it, leaving a slight mark behind. Cherry had forgotten how to breathe.
She wanted to punch him for what he’d done.
She wanted to punch herself for enjoying it.
Nobody had ever done such things to her. Some fairies had had to seduce males on their works; it hadn’t been her case. She had nothing against sex – July coaxed her into reading some “not-so-adequate” works. She just hadn’t come across the chance of changing her body from its virginal state. At a hundred thirteen years old, she was as inexperienced as a child. Among her training, working at the Enchanted Tree, and her friends, she had never had time for love. Besides, she’d always thought she’d end up with Jacy. They had been close to one another until he went crazy and rebel. She had been keeping herself pure for him – they refused to admit it aloud, but it was common knowledge that fairies were possessive and cared about being someone’s “one and only”; now, that some kept the traditions while others didn’t, it was another story. She declined overtures having him in mind, and then suddenly woke up alone.
After Jacy had left, she’d tried to do anything to keep her mind off him, but love or any kind of affair didn’t appear on the horizon.
Daren’s sly grin awoke a part of herself. She was alive; blood was running through her veins. She should’ve allowed herself fun and discoveries. She should’ve indulged.
Confused and scared by the waves of thought crashing in her mind, Cherry hurried to get out of the room. He chuckled wickedly. Cherry, as the young and oblivious fairy she was, didn’t realise that she had just provoked him to try to get a response the next time.
Daren wouldn’t demand a thing. He’d merely continue what she might start – though, he wouldn’t let her run, the second time.
“Huh. This must be one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever eaten,” he murmured in the dark room while licking his lips. The words echoed in the room. He was looking forward to the moment when she’d have to take the bandage off his eyes.