Tadaa! New Chapter. We’re getting close to some very exciting things~
In other news Affection:CK should be out tomorrow.
Demon-Lord’s Little Bride
“Being in love really feels nice,” Adriel thought.
As he was sweeping the floor in one of the hallways of the dungeon, he constantly had to supress the smile that wanted to burst out of him.
It had only been a week since he and the Demon-Lord had come to an understanding, and tomorrow Adriel would finally be able to see the man again. He was full of hazy anticipation, his body quivering at the thought of what might happen.
Adriel had never been in a relationship, if what he and the demon had agreed to could be defined as such. During his school years he’d been far too quiet and withdrawn to be noticed, and moreover had not paid attention to any romantic notions himself either. He’d acquired the servant post right out of school, and here, he hadn’t been particularly popular either.
Not to mention, he had been a servant of Her Holy Maiden’s – which meant he was technically supposed to refrain from any physical intimacies. Be it with males or females.
Of course, the reality was not as pure, and the congregate of servants that was made up of beautiful youths enjoyed their share of passions in secrecy.
In truth, it wasn’t like Adriel had never received any interested looks, mostly from men, but his heart had never felt moved.
Adriel had always known he was more attracted to men than women, though he’d always kept it secret.
It wasn’t like relations between people of the same sex were outlawed in the Holy Empire, people knew that it occurred naturally and that it would be pointless to try to stop it, but you’d still find few who would actively endorse such lifestyle.
For a man, in the end it was considered his duty to marry a woman and produce children.
But the priests that governed their laws did not condemn same-sex lovemaking, and so it persisted in the underbelly of the Holy Empire’s seemingly conservative culture.
And really, Adriel was quite sure that it would be bizarre of the priests to forbid it, considering more than half of them partook in it. Most pretty servant boys in the Holy Citadel had probably been involved in an affair with a priest at some point.
Same-sex pleasures were considered the unspoken loophole of the clerical vow of celibacy.
Adriel did not have a good opinion on the priests, who were the subordinates of the Holy Maiden. The power of the position tended to go to their heads, making it very hard to deal with them.
Thankfully, he’d been mostly stuck in the gardens, so unless a visiting priest wanted a tour or there was a lack of manpower due to some unforeseen circumstance, he’d been able avoid interacting with them.
Adriel yawned as he supported himself with the broom. He had an early shift today, and sweeping was quite a tedious activity. No wonder he’d gotten distracted by random musings. But then a smile almost escaped him again.
At any rate, he was really looking forward to tomorrow.
“There you are.”
Adriel jumped in surprise as somebody suddenly spoke. He turned around and blinked.
Caleb was standing a few steps away from him, his expression cool.
“Weren’t you supposed to be in the Western hall?” Caleb asked. He did not seem irritated, but it was always hard to tell with him. Which was why Adriel took the safe route.
“I was just about to go there.”
Silence ensued. “Is there anything you need from me?”
Caleb’s brows tightened, and now Adriel could perceive that he was indeed irritated, but it did not seem caused by him.
“Yes, Her Ladyship’s servant just informed me that the Holy Maiden will be visiting tomorrow, the second time this month.”
Adriel could feel his whole body freezing over instantly.
Caleb took no notice of it and continued, “You’re the servant attending the demon tomorrow. It should be the same as the last time, even if this it is an unexpected second visit. I’ll send Jesse along again to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
Then, without muttering another word, Caleb turned on his heel and departed.
This left Adriel standing still in the middle of the hallway, all his happiness forgotten.
The next morning, with a great deal of anxiety, Adriel hurried to the demon’s cell carrying the breakfast tray.
He hadn’t been able to sleep last night, his thoughts tormented by memories of the last time he’d been present during the Holy Maiden’s visit. The sight of the mighty Demon-Lord chained to a wall, helpless and powerless, was engraved in his mind.
At that time, he’d already felt bad for the demon, but now…the thought of what might be happening today was nigh unbearable.
When he stepped into the prison quarters’ sitting room, the demon was already waiting for him. And he immediately noticed that something was wrong with Adriel.
The tray was taken off his hands, and he himself was picked up and positioned face-to face on the demon’s lap as the man sat down on the settee. A hand brushed his face, tracing the bags under his eyes.
“What’s wrong? You look unwell.”
Adriel grasped the man’s wrist with both of his hands, and held it tight. Then he revealed the cause of his unrest.
“The Holy Maiden is coming today.”
The demon’s gaze grew thoughtful. “I see. Is that what made you so upset?”
“Yes. Do you think she suspects something? Caleb mentioned that this was her second visit this month, and it’s only the 12th today.”
The demon shook his head. ”No. There’s nothing for her to be suspicious of. However,” there was a trace of contempt in the Demon-Lord’s eyes as he spoke, “I can very well imagine why Dear Hosanna has decided to grace me with her presence so soon again.”
“Why is she? Will she torture you again?” Adriel had to ask.
The hard look disappeared from the Demon-Lord’s face. “Are you worried about me?”
“Of course!” Adriel exclaimed without a pause.
A chuckle. “You don’t need to be, although I appreciate it. She cannot hurt me in any meaningful way.” The man’s other hand moved to grasp his hip.
“I will tell you everything, but not now. You’re far too anxious, and I want us to enjoy ourselves for a bit before that woman intrudes upon us.”
Adriel wasn’t given time to voice his opinion on the matter before hot lips descended on his, and he was pulled in closer to the demon.
For as second, Adriel couldn’t help feeling miffed about the man’s clear attempt to pacify him, but before long he gave in, the demon’s charm too strong for him to resist.
Sometimes he wished his personality was at least a little bit firmer.
The breakfast had grown cold by the time the Demon-Lord finally let him go, kiss-dazed and pliable. The demon ate it all the same, not bothered one bit, but Adriel was quite embarrassed by the fact that they’d gotten so distracted.
The demon had laughed at him for that.
Afterwards, they had lazed about, waiting for the approach of noon when the visit was scheduled. The Demon-Lord had suggested continuing with their art lessons, but Adriel rejected it – he was far too nervous to focus on drawing.
It was an hour before midday when Jesse stepped into the sitting room. He gave a bow to the Demon-Lord who was lounging on the settee with a book, and turned towards Adriel who had been busying himself with dusting the shelves.
“Hello Adriel. Caleb sent me. Her Ladyship should be here soon, we should proceed upstairs.”
With even bigger trepidation than the last time, Adriel followed Jesse out of the dungeon to wait for the Holy Maiden.
As they climbed the stairs, Jesse suddenly asked him, “How have you been adjusting to the work?”
“It’s fine. In some ways working in the gardens had been more nerve-wracking. the Demon-Lord is not an unreasonable master.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
After that they spoke no more. Once they were upstairs, they took to standing on either side of the corridor, and began waiting for the Holy Maiden.
She did not make them wait long. The set time had not yet even come, when her white-clad figure appeared from around the corner. The white veil hid her face, but she walked more briskly than Adriel was used to seeing, she seemed almost impatient. Behind her followed the same two female bodyguards and young male servants.
They didn’t even have the time to bow and make greetings before she waved them off, and they could only hurry after the entourage as they descended to the dungeon.
Adriel was surprised to see the Holy Maiden in such a state. In all of his memories, she had always retained a detached grace, like no matters of this physical world could touch her. Even in her anger, which she was infamous for, she ran cold instead of hot.
Something must have indeed incensed her, and in his mind, Adriel worried for the Demon-Lord.
When they reached the cell, the Holy Maiden seemed to have regained some of her cool, and they entered the cell in a much slower pace.
The demon was standing next to the door to the bedroom, leaning against the wall. He wore an arrogant smirk, the sort Adriel had not seen since the very beginning of his working days in the dungeon. He still found it stupidly attractive.
“Back so soon, Dear Hosanna? Can’t get enough of this lowly beast?”
“Dispense with your pleasantries, Demon. I have no time or taste for them.”
The smirk got even more sinister.
“Oh, and what has gotten you into such a twist? Did something go amiss with Your Grandship’s schemes? I wonder…do you need…say a boost?”
“Silence yourself. I do not know how you found out, and I do not care…”
She motioned to her bodyguards, and they moved towards the demon, but the man sighed and relented.
“Very well. Let’s get it over with.” He then went into the bedroom by himself, and, except for the two boys, the Holy Maiden’s group followed. The door shut, and the two male servants Her Ladyship had brought stood guard in front of it.
Jesse took a seat at the table, and Adriel sat down as well.
What followed was probably the most agonizing hour in Adriel’s life. Not physically, but his heart wrenched in pain every time another scream or grunt came from the bedroom. He was almost certain there were more such sounds than the last time.
It took all of his willpower, and the knowledge that the man had been fine after a rest the last time he had been witness to this, to persuade himself not to get up and try to force his way through the door and beg the Holy Maiden to stop.
It would have been a fruitless endeavour, he knew that, and might have landed him in big trouble, but that did not stop him from seriously contemplating it.
It seemed the torture of his heart would never end, when, finally, all sound stopped.
Another few minutes went by before the door opened and the Holy Maiden surfaced. Adriel did not dare look at her directly, afraid that some fragment of his loathing could be grasped in his gaze, but obediently stood up to guide the party back upstairs.
He did, however, notice that Her Ladyship’s gait was much more even on the way back. The tension had bled out of her, and she’d returned to her usual bearing of a mystical beauty.
Whatever the thing-gone-wrong that the Demon-Lord had hinted at earlier had been, it seemed she had been able to resolve it within the demon’s bedroom.
Rather subjectively, Adriel even thought that from the back she even looked vaguely self-satisfied.
He couldn’t be any happier when they at last emerged from the dungeon, and he and Jesse bid the Holy Maiden farewell.
As he watched the Holy Maiden disappear, he suddenly became impatient to return to the dungeon. He was about to bid Jesse farewell, when the youth offered to accompany him back to the Demon-Lord’s cell. Adriel awkwardly rejected him, explaining that he’d be completely fine on his own and that Jesse probably had his own duties to attend to, and he wouldn’t want to inconvenience him.
Jesse did not prod at him, but the look he gave Adriel was quite curious.
Adriel felt sweat gathering on the back of his neck. He worried that he’d given away his anxiousness over the Demon-Lord.
But in the end all Jesse did was nod, and they amicably parted in the entrance hallway of the dungeon. And Adriel went back to the demon’s prison quarters.
The minute the cell door closed behind him, Adriel broke into a run towards the bedroom.
He threw open the door separating the two rooms, and rushed inside. However, just as he crossed the threshold he immediately stopped, gasping and clutching at his chest.
Just like in the memories that had had tormented Adriel last night the Demon-Lord was chained to the wall, his head slumped and covered by his long red hair.
But unlike then, Adriel did not hesitate to approach and did not flinch the moment the demon’s head rose to look at him pensively. The man remained silent though, as Adriel unlocked the manacles, and even moved away his hair to let Adriel remove the chain attached to the collar.
The demon did not stand up right away, but instead Adriel slid down to his knees to check on him.
“Are you alright?” Adriel asked, unable to hide his anxiousness.
“I’ll be fine in an hour or so. Just help me get to the bed.” The man finally opened his mouth as one of his hands slid over Adriel’s shoulder.
Together, they staggered to the bed, and the Demon-Lord dropped himself on it, no doubt intentionally taking Adriel with him.
Before he could adjust his position, the demon sneakily put his head on Adriel’s lap and sighed. “Just nice. All soft and plump.”
Adriel resisted the urge to sigh to himself. This certainly felt familiar.
The Demon-Lord did not seem to be in the mood to speak any further, and was slipping into unconsciousness so Adriel did not bother to question him.
Adriel did, however, soon grow restless as the demon rested, and to occupy himself so no anxious thought could pervade his mind, he started braiding the man’s hair. The long strands were silky soft and easily passed through his fingers. He did feel a bit foolish doing this while the man slept, but it did not seem to bother the demon.
Just when he was about to finish the braid, he realized he didn’t have anything to tie it with, and raised his head to look around in search of something he could use.
“Why did you stop? I was enjoying that.”
A noise of surprise escaped Adriel, and he dropped the unfinished braid. The demon turned his head, so he could look at Adriel from below.
“You were awake?”
“I hadn’t fallen asleep; I was just resting my eyes. I did promise you an explanation, and it wouldn’t do to break it. If I slept now, I’d probably while away the whole afternoon. These sessions tend to make me sleepy.”
“It’s fine. Rest first.”
Adriel tried to reassure him at once. He was curious about this whole affair, yes, but he wasn’t so impatient to make the man exert himself while in this state.
The demon shushed him. “It’s cute how worried you are about me, really it is,” he chuckled, “but there’s no need as I said before. There are far worse things than being siphoned off some of my power.”
“That caught your attention, right? So let me get this conversation rolling – that’s what Hosanna does every time she comes down here – she’s stealing bits of my power. And she’s certainly not the first one to do so. Though she might be the most shameless one.”
To say that Adriel was flabbergasted would be an understatement. He’d never even heard of such a thing being possible.
“What is she doing with it?”
The Demon-Lord chuckled again. “I’m sure you can imagine. She’s using it as her own, of course.”
“But how is she doing that?”
“Can’t you guess?”
Adriel thought for a moment. However, he soon shook his head in disappointment.
The demon’s hand reached out to pat his head. Adriel’s cheeks reddened. He knew he wasn’t exactly the smartest person ever, but being pacified like that was still embarrassing.
“It’s fine, I was just teasing you. It’s this gold collar. The thing’s ancient as heck. Its main purpose, like everyone thinks, is to supress the magic of whoever wears it, but it can also steal and transfer magical energy.”
When the Demon-Lord mentioned transfer, a hazy memory surfaced in Adriel’s mind.
“The Holy Maiden has a ring with a bright blue gem, the same shade as the one on your collar. Is that where she stores it?”
There was another pat on his head, but Adriel still smiled, happy that he’d gotten it right. He was still confused about something though.
“You said she’s not the first one to do it? Do you mean to tell that all Holy Maidens have done this?” He asked in shock.
“Well, not exactly. It is true that Dear Hosanna isn’t the first Holy Maiden to do this, but she is the first one in I’d say roughly 500 years…as fate would have it.”
“What do you mean?
The Demon-Lord removed his hand from Adriel’s head and started playing with the gold collar. The bright blue gem glowed brighter for a moment every time his fingers came in contact with it, drawing Adriel’s attention until the demon resumed speaking.
“This thing, it’s quite older than me. Maybe even from my grandfather’s time, the zenith of the Holy Empire. They put it on me the instant I fell into their hands. At the time I had thought it was just a tool of suppression I’d figure out how to overcome with time, but I was punished for my naiveté the first time a Holy Maiden stepped into my cage.”
There was deep loathing flashing in the Demon-Lord’s eyes. At himself or his capturers – Adriel did not know.
“It took a long time, longer than it should have, for me to figure out that the only ones who knew of the collar’s secondary power were the Holy Maidens. They passed the secret from generation to generation. Not surprising, considering what a boon it was to them. Helped quite a few of them hold on to power during political crises or so I’ve heard. I was basically an endless fountain of magic to them.”
“All the little people don’t know this, but that is the true reason why I had not been killed back then.”
“But something changed, didn’t it?” Adriel interjected, “What happened? Why did they stop doing it if it was so beneficial to them?”
Instantly, the demon’s expression changed. Unexpectedly, the man rose up from Adriel’s lap and sat at the edge of the bed, his back towards Adriel.
If Adriel had not seen the Demon-Lord acting so nonchalant about everything he’d relayed up until now, Adriel would say the demon seemed reluctant to speak.
He thought about moving closer to the man, about offering some sort of support, but thought better of it. There was a reason the man had moved away, and the best thing he could do was to give the demon some space.
At long last, the man finally broke the silence, his voice subdued.
“It would have been somewhere around 500 years ago. She was the youngest woman to ever be elected as the next Holy Maiden…it had been a scheme of the priests, of course, they had thought she’d be easy to control.” A morose chuckle, “Of course, it didn’t turn out that way, but that’s beside the point.”
“Still, when she first met me, she had still been a child…a soft one. And she had been fascinated by me. When she’d learned of what the Holy Maidens had been using me for, she had come running to me, exclaiming in a furious tone that she would never resort to such villainy.”
Here the Demon-Lord grew silent for a moment. Then he spit out in a wistful tone.
“She was a very silly girl, but I could never get mad at her.”
“You sound like you were very fond of her…” Adriel ventured to prod at the man.
“I was. She was the first friendly face I had seen while in that cage. Sometimes it felt like I was her only friend in the whole Holy Citadel as well. We grew quite close as she matured and threw off the priests’ control.”
“The reason my prison quarters look as nice as this is also her. She thought them too shabby. All those knick-knacks you’ve seen as well, she would always bring me random things. The proceeding Holy Maidens had just not bothered changing anything.”
There was a growing suspicion in Adriel’s heart as he listened to the story. It burned at his heart like open wound.
“Were you lovers?”
He saw one of the demon’s fists tighten. There was a clear tone of melancholy in his voice when he answered.
“She loved me, I know that. She never said as much, but it could be plainly seen on her face. But, no, we were never lovers. Eunice never broke her vow of celibacy.”
Eunice. Adriel had heard of her. Not much, but she had been venerated for her kindness and political acumen, if his memory was right.
“But did you love her?” He couldn’t help comparing himself with her, which, of course, made him feel disheartened. So he had to ask.
At this point, the demon finally turned around again and gave Adriel a knowing look before answering.
“Frankly, I don’t know. And time hasn’t made my feelings on her any clearer – all I have are fond recollections and a vague sense of sadness.”
They both fell silent, lost in thoughts. Then Adriel broached a different, but also difficult subject.
“You say she loved you, but did she never think of releasing you?”
The Demon-Lord sighed. “And that’s a very good question. I’m sure she had, but she wasn’t perfect. If she’d managed to do that, she would have either lost me or she would have had to come with me, and abandon her country. She was perhaps too selfish to pick the first, and held her duty much too far above her feelings for the second.”
Adriel couldn’t hold himself back anymore. He crawled towards the demon, and wrapped his hands around the man’s waist, offering comfort. The demon’s hand slipped around his waist as tension seemingly left the man’s shoulders.
The Demon-Lord spoke again. “I think that’s enough wallowing in the past for one day. The short of it is that at the end of her life, Eunice chose to not pass the knowledge of how to use the ring to the next Holy Maiden. She did not know how to destroy it, so she hid it somewhere as well.”
Then. “As such for the last 500 years I had not been subjected to its effects.”
“Until Her Ladyship?”
“It was bound to happen at some point or another. She probably dug up some old Holy Maiden document mentioning it that Eunice had not managed to destroy. I know the Holy Maidens have a private library with a collection of writings by the previous Holy Maidens.”
“And really, I’m not surprised it ended up being Her Grandship.”
“The Holy Maidens, by and large they’re all the same. More holy-than-thou on the surface, but a melting pot on the inside. The previous Holy Maiden, Ruth, for example, well, she had been even more cantankerous than Dear Hosanna. Looked at me like I was dirt beneath her feet.”
The Demon Lord started speaking, but then, as if he had been caught by a stray thought, smirked.
“It’s not hard to understand though, that’s what happens when your job description includes getting nil for the entirety of your hundred year long life.”
Adriel glanced up at the demon; it seemed he’d regained his equilibrium if he was making jokes about the Holy Maidens.
“But Dear Hosanna, she is probably the most ambitious one I’ve seen in the last hundred or so years. Her aptitude for magic is awfully low, but she compensates it with a great deal of cunning. She’d probably combed her way through the private library to find something that would enhance her power the second she’d gained access to it.”
Another silence fell over the room. Adriel snuggled deeper into the Demon-Lord’s chest, thoughtful. After a moment, he whispered, “I think I’ve heard enough today.”
The demon hummed in agreement.
Seeing that story time had come to an end, Adriel mentally went through all that had happened today, and then looked at the man, trying to ascertain his condition.
“How do you feel? Can I do something? Do you want to lie down?”
He could see the Demon-Lord start to shake his head in denial, but then stop as a strange glint entered his eye. The demon’s hand grasped his chin, and lifted it so that their eyes met. Adriel was overwhelmed by the embers of desire that had suddenly begun to burn in the man’s gaze.
He felt a shiver run over his back as the demon rumbled seductively.
“Actually…there is something that could make me feel better.”
If you need a hint to what’s about to happen next chapter…well, I might have to revoke your fujoshi club membership card…XD
I only have 7 more chapters to write for this story, I should start a countdown… But, anyways, next chap should take me about the same time – 1~2 weeks.