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You are the Miserable

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The woods were quiet again. Not like the demon king was bothered by it, he was barely bothered by anything at this point. It wasn’t like he had a choice in the matter though. With a sheathed sword, a red flame burning brightly at his face, and wounds he never mind, he marched on. His lack of sleep didn’t bother him, he taught himself to live off of three hours a day. He just had to survive, survive, and, most importantly, dominate the world.

The chirping of the crickets gave the forest an uncharacteristic sense of ease, but he couldn’t afford to take the crickets’ offers. He wasn’t too sure where the safest place to rest would be at that moment, nor was he too sure if he was truly alone. His wounds from the previous battle needed to be treated, but he’d deal with them later. Wanna be heroes can come out of nowhere, some more surprisingly stronger than others.

His father was a threat too. Creasion consistently damned Rchimedes for being able to pop out of seemingly nowhere. Of course their win ratio was always “how many times have we done this same song and dance again” to zero, but it was always those fights that got him out with more wounds than the average wannabe knock off.

He loathed heroes.

The demon king continued marching on, hoping to find some shelter to sleep in before burning the kindness he’d been offered to the ground. He’d take anything, anything but sleeping outside again. He’d done it before, but that didn’t mean it was preferable. He loathed the feeling of helplessness against the world, and would constantly sleep with his guard up. Shelter is what he desired more than anything when it came to resting. Even if he thought resting was just an unnecessary thing.

The trees were seemingly endless, but he continued onward.

He blessed his high pain tolerance.

The demon king did not falter on his path, unfeeling and cold to the world around him. The chirping crickets would never lull him into an unsecure rest until he truly felt he had no choice in the end.

He thanked his sheer will for continuing on, with the only noise behind him being the crinkling of the leaves and the flicker of his flame.

“Eh? Is someone here?” asked an unfamiliar voice, coming from somewhere and breaking the quiet. Creasion’s defenses immediately went up, unsure if the voice came from some average bystander, or someone after his head. He unsheathed his sword, got into a fighting stance, and let his mana maker blaze brighter..

Creasion tensed as the rustling got louder and closer, tightening the grip on his blade. His eyes narrowed, and waited for the thing in the bushes to make its appearance.

Said thing stepped out and made its appearance, and the hero made for the attack. He took three quick steps with sharpened eyes with a bright blaze, blade in hand ready for the kill. The thing yelped as Creasion moved the tip of the sword for its neck, backing it into a tree close enough to pierce the neck ever so slightly, drawing blood.

“Mister, what are you doing?” the thing asked, cocking its head out of confusion. It didn’t appear to be aware of what exactly the situation was, but it didn’t appear to mean any harm. Creasion paused at the voice of the thing he was attacking. The thing appeared to just be… a boy. A boy with maroon hair in a black t-shirt with a raised collar and shorts of the shade. He didn’t appear to have anything on him, nor did he appear to have mana on him. He was just… a regular boy.

Creasion sighed before lowering his blade. He slid the sword back into its sheath, before attempting to walk away. He figured it wasn’t worth it. However, the boy followed, grabbing ahold of the edge of his violet cape.

“Are you lost, Mister? Do you have a place to stay?” the boy asked, “I haven’t seen you around here before, are you a traveler?”

He looked at the naive annoyance before him, did he know who he was? His stoic face didn’t change though, and just stared at the boy’s stupidly innocent face with his bright blue eyes. The boy just stared back though, seeming to expect an answer out of the man. It was an eerie silence as the two merely observed each other with blank stares.

The boy looked up at the flame burning, now softly, next to the worn fighter’s face. The vermillion light seemed to paint a vivid picture of the two in each other’s eyes. He seemed to be entranced by the flame, and it was as if the spark crackling at his face ignited one within the curious boy’s eyes. He seemed tempted to let go of the cape to reach out and touch it in amazement and curiosity, not minding the fact that he was told to not touch fires by the people around him. Even if a mana maker wasn’t exactly a flame.

Creasion couldn’t exactly pinpoint why he didn’t want to kill the boy right then and there.

The boy’s eyes wandered around the current sorry sight of the man, taking in his entire appearance. From his dingy rags called clothing, to the bright blaze burning right at the top of the side of his face, to the sharp, bright blue eyes that didn’t match his dark and worn expression.

The boy’s maroon eyes widened as he let out a shocked gasp, grabbing onto the man’s hand and looked up to him. “You’re hurt! We shouldn’t let those wounds go untreated! Come to my village, my mom’s house has a spare room you can stay in for the night.”

Creasion seemed to jump at the boy’s sudden kindness with widened eyes, unsure of how to react to the boy.

Well, at least it was a place to stay.

“Okay,” the demon king said emotionless. The boy merely beamed, before grabbing the man’s hand tightly and lead him further into the woods.

The demon king seemed to be caught off guard by the boy’s sudden emotion change, and his bright smile. The hand that intertwined with his own seemed to overwrite his cold self with an unfamiliar, but welcoming warmth. Well, not exactly welcoming. His old and worn days never let himself trust a welcome ease, and if anything it put him at a sense of distrust and an uncomfortable slight sense of fear ran down his spine.

This boy wasn’t exactly threatening in anyway, he didn’t seem to have any bad intentions. You never seem to know with anyone what their true goal in the end was, it was an obvious fact to Creasion, and he believed it should be an obvious fact to anyone really. Yet, there was a boy in front of him, wearing his heart on his sleeve with a bright grin on his stupid face. The fact that he could tell that he had no bad intentions, blindly letting him into his home with a warm smile, made him only the slightest bit fearful of him.

It was a weird feeling, knowing that blind kindness is the thing that made him more fearful than any of the knock off heroes or their recruiter, his father, could ever manage.

As the young boy ran for the village, Creasion tried to keep up with him as best he could, running in pace with him. He couldn’t exactly get a good look at his face, but judging from the amount of energy he had, he could only speculate that he was grinning from ear to ear with joy as he lead him.

“Our village is so deep in the forest, we almost never get visitors! So this really is a treat for me!” he said cheerfully, continuing on the trail. “I don’t know anyone outside of our village, aside from my dad, but he’s the only one, and he spends a lot of time traveling.”

Creasion could only nod, not too sure on just how exactly he should react to the boy right now. It did make sense to him why this boy didn’t know who he was now, but that still didn’t mean he shouldn’t have been wary around him. He was sure that he looked a bit more than suspicious to the average nobody, or somebody, on the streets. Like he shouldn’t have been trusted. He wanted to ask this boy, why was he being so kind? But, well, he didn’t want to exactly come off as suspicious to this individual who mistakenly trusted him so easily.

“My name is Alba by the way! What’s your name Mister?” asked the boy ever so kindly.

He also didn’t exactly know how to reply to this question either. He risks giving away his identity by giving his birth name, or his now name, he makes up a name, or he just doesn’t say it. Shion, Creasion, something, or nothing.

“Wanna… make it a game?” he’ll play with him a bit.

“A game?” the boy stopped where he was, turned his head around, before continuing to walk as he led the man to his village.

“Yeah… a game. You guess my name and if you get it right before I leave, I’ll show you something cool… if you don’t, by the time I’m rested up I’ll leave as though I was never there.”

The boy didn’t seem to falter in his answer, giving it to Creasion without a delay.

“That sounds fun! I’m in!” he agreed with a beam that the demon king wouldn’t have seen if it weren’t for his mana maker.

“So… uh… do you know the way to your village?”

“Oh! Yeah I do! I’ve lived my entire life surrounded by these woods, was born and never left. I just know my way around them now, especially since I do a BUNCH of odd jobs around these parts! Just to help out my mom here and there!”

Creasion still didn’t understand why this boy wasn’t afraid of him. Even after being attacked by him, a man with a tiny flame sparkling right by his head, with a worn appearance and rags barely making an excuse for clothes, he was still being lent a hand that made him feel warm. Here he was, trusting him with a game with an end result him not even learning his name, and a promise of something cool. Sure it wouldn’t matter in the end as, at the end of the day when this all is done, he was gonna burn down this, probably, small village when he was ready to leave.

He was feared as the demon king. A title only given to him, not because he was truly the king of demons, but because he was doing acts terrifying enough that could only be from someone anything but human. People were after his head. He threw away his humanity long, long ago, and the common human would have known this.

This kid isn’t even uncommon either. He was… just a naive, annoying soul. A soul who didn’t question a man with a flame-like object burning near his face, or wasn’t in the slightest bit suspicious of a man with bright, piercing blue eyes, hidden behind a worn, cold, unfeeling face.

And annoying soul that caused his heart to want to be filled with a warmth known as joy. It was as if… there was a connection.

A connection he didn’t want to make.

And as that vermillion flame continued to lightly flicker as their only light, the two continued through the woods to the village. Creasion knew he was already getting a bit attached to this boy… this boy named Alba.

And just like he was somehow scared of Alba, he was scared of the tiny attachment he already had.

Chapter Text

The two travelled through through the dark forest, hand in hand, as the small boy lead the larger man through the woods with the biggest smile the demon king has ever seen, painted on Alba’s face. There wasn’t much conversation between the two, only just questions or pointers about where exactly they were going, and any and all names the boy could think of. Creasion swore the boy was repeating names at this point.

“This way Mister uhhhh… Wolf?” the boy guessed, all while pointing towards the supposed direction of the village.

“No, that’s not my name.” Creasion replied, following the boy as though he had little choice.

“Aw…” the boy wasn’t looking his direction anymore, but based on the tone of his voice, he could tell Alba was pouting.

Creasion couldn’t guess how the boy came to navigate these woods, especially in the dark. He himself couldn’t make sense of the nature surrounding them at the time, even when the sun was there to light his way. Perhaps it was merely just growing up with nature all around him that caused him to learn them.

“You’re quite the expressive one,” Creasion stated in a passing comment, observing the boy’s bubbly nature. The boy was practically skipping, with the only thing holding him back was the two walking hand in hand.

“Expressive?” Alba asks, cocking his head to the side.

“Oh, uh, expressive means that it’s easy for you to show what your feeling.” Creasion thought that’s what the word meant anyway.

“Ohhh so that’s what that means! Ya think that? I haven’t been called that before… I’ve been called happy before by my mom and her friend!” he says, “But expressive? I haven’t been called that before. Just a bright ball of sunshine most of the time. I’ve also been called Aru-tan by my mom though! But that’s only for my mom!”

“Is that so?” Creasion asked.

Alba merely nodded bubbly with a childish giggle. His nickname, being a “Ball of Sunshine,” really did fit him. He seemed to glow and radiate such an infectious, positive attitude, that he was just a little… sunshine child. Just a tiny ball of light, and the complete opposite of what the supposed demon king was.

“We should be aaaaalmost there! I can smell my mom’s bread from here~!” the boy cheered, seemingly bursting at the seams with excitement. “Oh wait ‘til the villagers find out we have a visitor!” Alba let go of Creasion’s hand to spin around, never going back for the hand as he was just too bouncy. Creasion wasn’t sure if he was relieved that the warmth was gone, or longed for the warmth to return.

If he could feel or express an emotion, he knew he’d be smiling right now as he observed the bubbly boy. But alas, his cold and dead heart didn’t know if he was truly happy. It was forever since he last felt an emotion, and more than that since he last felt happy.

“Well you have to tend to my wounds first, right?” the demon king asked, looking down at the boy who stopped prancing where he was at the mention of wounds. The grin on his lips transformed into a concerned frown.

Alba nodded, “Yeah you’re right, I guess I was so excited that we’d finally get a visitor that I forgot about the purpose of your visit,” he confessed with an awkward chuckle. He scratched the back of his head and kicked at the dirt on the ground all while he looked off to the side. “You doing okay?”

“Oh, yes, I’m doing fine.” Creasion stated plainly, reassuring Alba in the most plain, almost, if not, uncaring tone you could have in response to a question like that. Alba didn’t really think much about his tone though, taking it as it was. He was doing fine.

“I see. Well if you’re alright we should get going! Again, we’re almost there! So the sooner you get patched up, the sooner you can rest um… Bruno?”

Creasion just shook his head, “No, my name isn’t Bruno. You already guessed that one.”

The concerned look on Alba’s face shifted to crossed eyes, puffy cheeks, and crossed arms, a face a child would have made if they found out it was bedtime. But the boy with the maroon hair and black shirt soon had a bright smile across his face, seemingly the brightest light among them in the dark, before grabbing hold of Creasion’s hand tightly. He pulled the bigger man along with him, travelling further into the woods.

They were close to the village according to Alba, and for once in his time of being the supposed demon king, he trusted someone. Even if it was only a tiny trust, it was still trust. He trusted a mere village boy who wore his heart on his sleeve. Only because he was, as far as he could see (and he could see a lot when it came to the intentions of other people), just a harmless boy who was too naive, or friendly for his own good.

“Just past these bushes aaaaand…” Alba pushed through some bushes, making way for himself and the man following behind him, “We’re here!”

Behind the greenery was a clearing, a rather big one, big enough to house an entire village. Sure it was small, probably the smallest he’s seen in his travels (and in his rampage) but it was a village nonetheless. It was pretty much empty at that moment, but he would have been surprised if there were more than a few people outside. There wasn’t much a beaten path anywhere to be seen, just a bunch of grass to be stepped on by those who inhabited it. The houses didn’t have much variety between them all, same wood with the same base made out of the same stone. Same shape, same size. The only exceptions were the ones that he could only assume were a school house, a small clinic, and some form of office. It was a cozy little village though, only lit up by the occasional lights that painted the town in a comfortable orange.

“This is my home!” proclaimed Alba, letting go of Creasion’s hand, “It’s small, but this is home for me and everyone else.”

Creasion nodded, “It’s a comfortable place... that’s for sure.”

“Yeah! Almost everyone really like it here ‘cuz it’s very quiet.”

“I can see why… I like it myself. It feels like… I dont know, a safe haven?”

“I think that’s why it was made. No one can find us here… it’s safe. No one can harm us, that’s what everyone says,” smiled Alba.

No one can harm you. Creasion pitied the poor boy’s naivety, wanting to laugh at him for believing that he wouldn’t do him harm. At the end of the day, some one would do this village harm.

“I have to admit though, it gets kinda lonely when it’s the same faces all the time with no visitors,” the boy noted with a wistful grin on his lips, “And I think everyone agrees.”

“But don’t tell mom I said that.”

There was silence between the two.

“Okay, Alba.”

The boy giggled childishly with Creasion’s response, showing off his teeth with a smile before letting go of the man’s hand, stuck out his arms, and ran through the village as though he was bird. Creasion yelled for the boy to slow down so he could follow.

The boy’s neverending energy didn’t stop him from slowing down at any time soon, not even when he reached a house, that didn’t really look all that different than the rest. He marched on up with some sense of pride, knocking on the door to a rhythm unfamiliar to Creasion, all before he finally entered the house with the man in tow.

“Mom! I’m home~!” called Alba, kicking off his black boots and placing them side by side each other next to the door. Creasion just followed him in that, figuring that was the polite thing to do in their culture.

“Alba I thought I told you not to stay out so late in the forest, it’s too dark for that and you know it,” a feminine voice scolded from what Creasion assumed was the kitchen.

“Yeah yeah,” the boy groaned before announcing the arrival of a certain man, “I have a surpriiiise!”

“If the surprise is a slug again, you know to leave it outside!”

Creasion gave Alba a look that could only tell the boy, ‘You did what you gremlin child?’ Alba looked up at the demon king and punched his head lightly with a wink and a smile. The man just sighed internally and furrowed his eyebrows. He wasn’t sure if he was surprised or not surprised.

“No mom he’s not! I promise, I didn’t bring a slug this time! It’s something a thousand times cooler! Come outta the kitchen you gotta see it!” the boy replied, still yelling from all the way back at the door.

“Alright, alright Aru-tan, give me a second to finish up dinner. I’ll be done in about five minutes.”

“Okay!!” He tugged on Creasion’s lightly, seemingly welcoming the demon king into his house wordlessly. He looked at the boy with his dead, expressionless eyes, pitying him for being too stupid, too kind, letting a terror into his house. It had been more than a while since he felt pity for humans, the race he intended to dominate for his own reasons.

The two sat in silence at what the raven haired believed to be a dinner table (he didn’t know when the last time he sat something like this was). Well, not complete silence. The two didn’t really talk as they waited for Alba’s mother to finish up whatever she was doing in the kitchen. Instead of talking really, Creasion sat motionless, while Alba had been swinging his legs, humming a tune the elder wasn’t sure was even a song he could follow.

He wondered if his wounds were going to be treated in the first place.

“Okay Aru-tan! Dinner is ready!” the voice called again, coming out of the kitchen with a pot that smelled better than anything he’s cooked since going on his journey. Out of the kitchen came a woman that seemed to be entirely made of sticks. The demon king turned pale and his eyes widened at just what exactly his eyes were laying upon. Creasion couldn’t believe his eyes at what he was seeing at that very moment, having to do a spit take internally just to register internally what exactly he was looking at.

The woman seemingly made up of nothing but lines set the pot on the table before wiping her hands together with a proud huff. She apparently didn’t seem to know the tallest man in the room was here. “So before we eat, Aru-tan, what did you want to show me?” she asked with a motherly grin.

Alba pointed at Creasion with a proud smile, “He is the thing I wanted to show you!” he proclaimed proudly. His mom took one glance to the side, right at the man with black hair, and there was a moment of pure silence coming from the disbelief of the mother. It was after that long silence came a loud gasp from Alba’s mother, telling Creasion what exactly she just processed.

“A… a traveler?” she exclaimed, her black eyes seeming to sparkle with amazement of the oddity. She seemingly ran across the room and around the dinner table, grasping the wrists of him with those lines excusing for hands. She raised them up, looking up and staring at the man with those shining, black sticks that he assumed was his eyes. “I can’t believe it, we have a visitor for the first time ever in my thirty-eight years of living here in this village!” she continued.

Creasion winced at the tight grasp around his wrists, feeling the circulation beginning to cut off from her tight squeeze. This woman wasn’t the weirdest thing he’s witnessed in his travels, he’d admit that. Still it was, rather a fascinating, intriguing, and kinda intimidating thing to witness. He’d admit that much.

Alba must have noticed the demon king’s reaction to his mother’s tight grip on him, as he soon came to his rescue. “Mom, be more gentle! He’s hurt!” he scolded, taking the woman out of her trance with a shock.

Creasion could see the woman growing pale and her eyes widening, if she wasn’t made out of just lines and could barely emote. He had to make assumptions with what emotion she was expressing.

“Oh my! Aru-tan’s right, hold on we’ll fix you right up Sir!” she announced, running off to a room right next to the one they were all currently sitting in, before coming back with a kit of things that must have been used for treating wounds like his. “You must have endured these for a long time, why didn’t you treat them? They could have gotten infected!” she scolded, “Aru-tan be a dear and help me with this nice man’s boo-boos?”

“Mooooom I’m not a kid you don’t have to say it like that!” the boy complained with a pout. Creasion seemed in disbelief at the boy not being a child.

The woman chuckled at her son’s reaction to her teasing, “Yes, yes I know Aru-tan, you’re sixteen. Now come and help me out.” she said with a smile. Alba nodded, agreeing with her and getting right to work as though he had plans to help from the beginning, without his mother asking from him to do so. “Please grab the towels and soaps, along with a change of clothes from your father’s room.”

The demon king wondered if the mother was the slightest bit suspicious of him, or if she was just like her son.

Creasion unwrapped his torn, violet cloak, from around his body and threw it on the floor carelessly, not exactly caring if it would get dirty or not. As far as he was concerned, the dingy, old, torn up rag that excused for clothing was dirtier than the ground outside.

Alba’s mother observed the man from how he was, taking a good look at just what the exact state of the man was. Blood caked his skin with the dirt only covering the dirtied man further. He couldn’t remember the number of scars and bruises he had. He probably smelled like hell from a lack of bathing, not to mention how he knew he absolutely looked like death to someone like her and Alba. His dark and tired eyes hiding sky blue orbs and bag hanging right below, didn’t say enough about just what the exact state of the man was. With scars and bruises all over, not counting the ones all three new where hidden behind clothing, Creasion knew that the average person would distrust him. He was sure he looked like something the cat dragged in from the woods.

“You look like hell,” the women acknowledged, “Just what exactly did you do?” she asked. Creasion didn’t want to answer that one. Alba’s mother just merely accepted the silence with sigh, seemingly knowing that he didn’t want to tell. He was thankful she didn’t press for answers. “Well it’s a miracle you’re still alive, and I doubt my son would be able to carry you all the way here from wherever he found you so lord knows how you were able to walk here. You must be stronger than you look.”

The demon king merely continued with his silence, not answering or replying to anything.

The woman put her hands on her hips and sighed heavily, “Okay well I’ll need you to take the rest of your clothes off, I’ll be having Alba bathe you while I take care of washing your clothes. We’ll treat you then since they should be cleaned before anything else.”

Creasion turned pale, “B-bathe? Undress??” that was not something he was expecting to do under any of the circumstances he could have thought of. “I-I’d rather just do it myself Lady!” he explained with a glowing, red face. He couldn’t remember the last time he had needed help bathing, he must have been four at most from what he could remember.

Alba’s mother simply chuckled, proud of herself for getting a peep out of the seemingly mute man. “Well aren’t you a rude one? You can just call me Auntie!”

“No? I’m good with just calling you Lady right now.” he retorted sharply, albeit with a scarlet tinted face.

“Aw, I guess we’re not exactly at that. No matter! I am a mother! We’ll make sure you start calling me Auntie before you leave! Anyway, not right now silly! Overnight! You’ll be borrowing my husband’s clothes in the meantime.”

“Okay! I got the towels and the soaps and the clothes you wanted!” came a young, innocent voice. The two looked up from their exchange, to see the young boy that brought the raven into their house, looking at them with curious, naive, round, maroon eyes. He was holding a change of clothing in his arms with towels and three bottles of what he assumed was the soap.

“Oh! Aru-tan! Thank you! Can you lead this man to the lake?” his mother asked kindly. The boy nodded eagerly, marching over to the door with the objects in his arms. “Make sure to take the lantern with you!”

“Yeah yeah! Come on Mister!” Alba exclaimed, grabbing a nearby lantern with a happy hum, trying to carry it along with the rest of the items on his hands. The demon king stood up from where he had been sitting to follow Alba. He pushed open the door, allowing for the kid to march outside with a grin.

There was more following to be done, with no real notable talking between them. Just more guessing really. Even as the Demon King washed off all the blood and dirt from his body in the clear lake, the boy continued to guess his name, just from behind a tree with his hands covering his eyes. From names like Aaron, to Filbert, to Helge, to even Alba’s own name, all being wrong. As he dressed, to the trip back home, names were thrown out as if Alba was a father trying to name a baby.

“We’re baaaaack!” sang Alba’s shoving the door aside with a cheery grin. The two walked back into the house, with Creasion rubbing his hair with a towel while wearing a different man’s clothes. It was a weird feeling to be wearing clothes that weren’t his, nor was it any less weird wearing clothes that weren’t covered in dirt or blood from various attacks from heroes.

There really wasn’t anything notable about the following events. He was just patched up to the best of the two’s abilities, and the most he needed. He watched with tired eyes as bandages upon bandages were wrapped around his worn body. He said nothing and just watched in silence as they got to work, just his soft breathing. Instead he just picked things up from various conversations.

Such as how the supposed man of the house wasn’t around at all seemingly, so he wouldn’t have to know if his clothes were worn by some other man without his permission.

It was weird, being shown all this hospitality even after everything he had done. He had a sneaking suspicion that these two really were just clueless as all hell about the place outside the threat surrounding them. He typically expected to be treated like a monster, as everywhere he went he had instilled fear into the souls of people. People would run away at the sight of him, the slightest sense of warmth coming from his mana maker, everyone shutting their doors, boarding their windows, at the slightest sense that he was among them. Sometimes one, MAYBE two people would try to play hero and save the village. They would try and slay him where he stood, behead him and stick on a pole as though he was a trophy. Of course it never ended well for those foolish enough to try and challenge the demon king, but he admired (and pitied) their bravery.

Still though, here he was. He was offered a place to bathe to wash away the grime, he was offered bandages for the hurt, and a home cooked meal to feed himself, instead of berries he found on a nearby bush. All of this, without even a mention or question about what his name was or what he was even traveling for. They wore their hearts on their sleeves, and put their intentions on full display. They didn’t want to hurt him. At least he didn’t think they wanted to hurt him.

Especially the chi- the teenager. God, if you somehow exist, save that child.

These people were too kind, Creasion had decided in his head. They didn’t know better. They weren’t safe.

Where did that “No one can hurt us” go? When you let someone into your home, someone that looked like him, you risk everything. Yet here they were, welcoming him into their lives with a smile. He knew that they didn’t know what he intended to do when he leaves, so he couldn’t help but be frustrated and confused at just who these people were.

Even after eating the warm stew, no longer hot after tending to the worn traveler, he was asked nothing about who he was. No utter of anything that even resembled a question that was stopped midway was made.

He was offered a bed, clothes to wear while he waited for his thin, dingy clothing to be washed, and a seemingly safe haven. All given to him by a woman that looked as though she was drawn by a toddler, and a boy that was nothing but a ball of sunshine.

He cursed that boy for just being the way he was. He felt drawn to him, and he radiated a comforting warmth that he wanted to be around. Just like the sun, just like the stars.

He wanted to tear his hair out just trying to think of a reason why these two were being the way they were with him. For once in his life he was excited to burn down a village just so he could forget about these two, forget about that sun, and be on his way. He tucked himself under the blankets of the missing dad’s bed he’d been offered by the mother, reassuring the demon king that her husband wouldn’t have to know.

He’d sleep it over night. When he’d wake up, he’d wait for his clothing, wrap his violet cloak around himself and walk under the wisteria, watching them wilt them as he passed under. It’d be back to normal.

Tucked under the covers belonging to the missing father, he fell asleep.

But by the time he woke up, Alba was already out (he assumed anyway), and his mother was sitting at the dinner table with a kettle full of tea and a cup being warmed by her hands. Across her was an empty cup. Right by her side were his clothes bundled up. Her waiting at a table by herself was everything that needed to be communicated to him.

He sat himself down and poured tea into the empty cup sitting in front of him. He took a sip, wincing at the bitter flavor of the hot drink.

The silence between them was nearly unbearable.

“So… where’s the kid?” asked Creasion, slightly curious about where Alba had gone.

“He’s out trying to make some money, since I’m off work for today. Nothing he needs to do but he likes to help out, so I let him. I just try and make sure he doesn’t stay out of too much trouble or get himself too hurt, he can be a pain sometimes.” Creasion winced at the boy’s mother’s words. It wasn’t like he could blame her for being like that, as he could definitely see how Alba could be a nuisance. Still though, she was his mother. He wondered if she could have been less blunt about her words, and wondered how the same motherly person from the previous night was the same person he was seeing at that very moment.

Alba’s mother sighed, releasing her grip on the cup of tea and looked straight up at the demon king.

“So how’s life outside the forest?” she asked.

It was at that moment Creasion knew he was going to be put on trial at that very moment.

Chapter Text

“You travel, right? You must know a bit more than the average person about what’s going on,” the woman asked with as much of a curious face someone like her could manage probably.

“...It’s a bit rough out there,” the demon king answered.

“Ah, I see. Well I guess that’s what I should have expected. My husband doesn’t really talk about what goes on outside whenever he does visit, so it’s nice hearing about what’s going on out there for once. Ah, but I guess our fear of the outside beyond these walls might be justified, so maybe it’s not nice.”

Creasion raised an eyebrow at the ramblings of the women, having had his curiosity sparked. He began to ask questions about the village internally, some of these being ones he was curious about before, but only began to drive him madder with confusion and curiosity. “I heard this place is supposed to be a safe place, a sanctuary. Is that correct?” he questioned the mother.

“From what I’ve heard from word of mouth, yes. I’m not an official of the village so I don’t exactly know how we got started and hid ourselves away, and I haven’t exactly paid attention to the story, so it’s from what I’ve heard. You could probably ask my son for the full story if you wanted since he tends to read the story books a lot.”

“I see…” Creasion wondered where that boy was right now. He guessed he wasn’t going to learn of the story, since at the end of the day he was going to forget about this place once it was gone. That was just how it was for him, intimidate people into letting him stay the night, hoping he would spare them when he left, before leaving the next day with a fire blazing redder than the vermillion flame burning next to his hair. This village would be like the rest.

“Yeah, and to be honest… I’m really happy you’re here, and I’m pretty sure Alba is even happier than me.” Creasion raised his eyebrow at that, internally questioning how this supposed safe space caused people to be happy when an outsider made their home here.

“Even if I could be a danger to you and your home?” he asked.

There was a long second of silence between the two, before Alba’s mom let out a long, loud laugh, confusing the demon king even more. It took a while for her to calm down from her hysterics, wiping tears away from her eyes while holding onto her stomach. “You act like I don’t think you’re dangerous, I’m not as stupid as my son!” she cried with laughter, continuing on her rampage.

The demon king had to take a minute to process what the woman had just told him. She willingly, knowingly, let a man into her house, who she thought was a danger, who was most definitely a danger, and didn’t even think of the possible dangers it would have caused. “Okay wait, you let me into your house, even though you know I could potentially harm you and your son.”

“Well duh! Who wouldn’t think you’re a danger? You came in looking like hell personified, and you have that fire-thingy hanging by your face!”

“...You’re son.”

“He doesn’t count!” she retorted, all while trying to catch her breathe. Creasion just merely held the tea cup with both his hands, he watched the woman cry with laughter yet still trying to look away. He bit his lip and just sipped at his tea, just shifting his eyes to the side. That painting of—Alba’s dad? Maybe?—looks nice, he acknowledged while trying to wait for the person across from him to calm down.

When she finally did, she let out a large sigh, “God I haven’t laughed that long in AGES! And over something so stupid too! Ahhhh I’m so BORED!” she groaned, looking straight up at the ceiling.

Creasion looks back, relieved that her laughing had finally stopped. “Is that so?”

She wiped a tear away and let out a small snort, obviously still trying to calm herself down. “Yeah. It’s a safe place, that’s for sure. However…”

“...However?”

“..It gets boring and lonely here. None of us like it here. We would be seventy-five percent safe if we were willing to shut out everyone who comes to see our village, but ask anyone here and they’d tell you it sucks living down here. It’s pretty, but it’s same-y. There’s nothing exciting going on, just the same faces and the same happenings. Nothing new. No sounds save for the animals and the nearby waterfall and the rivers.”

“...So why don’t you just leave?”

“... I guess the fear of the unknown would be the best way to put it. None of us are brave enough to venture outside these trees. We don’t have too many non fiction books describing what it’s like out there, and the only thing that’s consistent about them, from what I remember, is that the world out there is filled with people who want nothing more than to harm you.”

The demon king couldn’t exactly disagree with that statement. He began to think about his own experiences, and it put a grimace on his already dark face. He looked down at his tea to see his own reflection, shown to him with a brown hue. Even he was someone who wanted nothing more than to hurt people, after being hurt by them himself. He began to see his animosity illustrated in his reflection, shadows beginning to blossom from his body and looming over him like a monster.

He didn’t know how he wanted to feel knowing that seeing even his own reflection could be fear inducing.

“...So you let in someone that could potentially harm you, knowing that you’re afraid of the outside world harming you?” he asked, confused at the hypocrisy, questioning the woman.

She let out a soft chuckle, before sipping her tea. “I guess everyone here is a hypocrite then, haha.” she responded, with a weak laugh. “The sad reality is, at the end of the day, we all know someone is going to harm us in the end. They’ll find out village, then use it, maybe destroy it. Massacre us even. So we just kinda hide behind it. We close our eyes, cover our ears, and shut our mouths, not wanting to acknowledge that in the end, we’ll all be hurt one day. It’s kinda funny actually. We don’t even like the lie.”

The demon king felt a sudden pang of sadness, causing his heart to ache. Why would they… do that to themselves? He took one good look at the mother, and bit his lip. Even judging from her tone, he could tell that not even she knew why they did it.

It was weird. He thought he would be the one being put on trial, questioned for his intentions and told if he deserved to live or die. Yet here he was, getting questions answered, and being left confused because even the person who inhabited it didn’t know.

It had been a long while since he last talked to someone like this, it was the first time since he burned down his first village, since he sat down and had a human conversation. Not a conversation where he was feared, or simple exchanges. But a real, genuine conversation.

“...Why did you even help me then?”

Alba’s mother had to pause, she looked down at the amber liquid in her cup and shook her head, before bowing it. She sighed, “That… I can’t even tell you really… it just felt like something we should do. If we knew we were going to be harmed no matter what, we should still help them. Give them a place to belong, make them feel welcome. It would have been the right thing to do, no matter the situation. The logical solution would be to leave you out to die, tell Alba to put you back where he found you like he did with all the other forest critters he finds. Even if it would probably null our reasons for never venturing beyond these woods, giving us less of a reason to hide. Because, let’s face it, we’re not staying here because we want to feel safe.”

There was a silent pause.

“So I guess… the best answer would be that… we don’t know any better.”

Creasion looked down, unsure of what to make of everything she was saying. Unsure of what to make of her reasons for letting him into their village, into their home. No… bad reason? No gain. Just them doing what they thought was bad with no ulterior motive. That was something he wasn’t used to, even before taking on this life. There was really only one person he could name who… wasn’t like the others.

And now he’s gone.

He took in a deep sigh, trying to process everything he was told. About their intent, about their village. It made sense why they didn’t want to be there, but at the same time it made no sense. Safety sounds like it’d be for the best. He would have relished in it if he was younger, even if he knew… he… they wouldn’t have liked it. He knew they would have been more than willing to leave in this situation.

Although his curiosity began to spike when he remembered someone.

“Do you know why the kid hangs out in the forest? You told me he does odd jobs… but that wouldn’t explain why he was out there and found me,” he asked, taking another sip of the hot, bitter drink he was offered.

“Alba doesn’t really talk much about why he hangs out in the forest, but it’s obvious enough for me. I’m his mother, and I think I can pinpoint two things.” She takes in a deep breath, before sighing. “One of the things he wants to do is go beyond the forest. He was always the energetic type so I can’t really say I didn’t see it coming. I think he ventures out to try and go to the edge of the forest, but gets too afraid and never goes beyond.” She gave a small laugh. “He’s doing better than anything anyone has done here so I can’t really judge him for being chicken.”

“But… as for the other reason, he’s lonely. More lonely than me, really. Or anyone else here.”

Creasion raised an eyebrow, sipping his tea while he listened intently. He thought the kid would have friends, honestly. He just seemed like the type that would get along with others no issue, be the center of everyone’s attention with the proudest smile. “Eh? Are we talking about the same kid here? He seems like the type that’d be treated like a treasure or bring everyone together.”

Alba’s mother shook her head, rapping away with her fingers at the teacup in her hands, “No, it’s not like that. He gets doted on by elder women but, like that’s about it when it comes to friends. He doesn’t have anyone to play with his age, especially since we don’t have many children or teenagers around these parts. So he just goes into the forest even in his free time outside of odd jobs.”

“Do you have any clue why?”

“Why are you so interested?” she asks with an amused smile on her face.

Creasion cocked his head, not understanding what she meant. Sure he had been asking a lot of questions, but it had just been for his own curiosity’s sake. He laid the cup on the saucer gently, not answering, and keeping his dead and stoic expression.

“Hm… you sure don’t talk much,” Alba’s mother complained.

“I feel it’s rather unneeded,” retorted Creasion.

“But it’s been a rather one sided conversation! This is barely even a conversation, just me venting into the void about how much we all hate it here.”

Creasion didn’t reply, instead just waiting for her to continue what she was saying. Alba’s mother sighed, knowing that he wasn’t going to change it.

“...I believe it’s because he’s more mentally challenged than others. He isn’t mentally ill or anything he’s just… a bit too childish and lacks more intelligence compared to other kids his age. Even when the most our intelligence goes up to is basic algebra and a tiny bit higher level reading. He was the star of the show when he was younger, but everyone just kinda faded out of his friend circle, I’ve heard the kids his age call him strange and weird.”

Creasion should’ve expected that answer. “Should’ve guessed that, teenagers can be some of the most judgmental asshats around.”

“That’s a little rough, don't ya think?” mused the mother.

“I’ve never cared if my words were rough or not since the day I’ve begun traveling.” Besides, she was the one who called her son an idiot. She had no place to say someone was rough with their words when she said that… or so he mused to himself. He’d never say it though.

She chuckled, “Must’ve guessed that. Seems obvious enough considering how rude you are!” she said with a glint of smugness in her voice. “It’s a good feeling knowing I can just stop caring about the world now and taunt the person I know is gonna kill me.”

Creasion knew exactly what she was talking about, who exactly she was referring to. He just stared straight at her with a curious expression, yet also unchanging from his eternal boredom.

“How do you know I’m going to kill you? I could just leave here and be on my way like nothing happened,” he asked.

“Intuition. Too much blood on you to just be from a nasty accident, your injuries also looked man-made. Must be getting in a bunch of fights are you?”

“...How does that mean you know I’m going to kill you.”

“You must have some bounty on your head if so many people are out for you. You don’t get bounties easily ya know? Also I bet you’re trying to hide your steps as best as possible. Best route of safety is to hide.”

She wasn’t exactly wrong, he’ll give her that. “So you don’t care if I destroy this place?”

“Nah not really. It’s such a nothing place that I can’t really care what happened to it, and I don’t believe it has any real impact on what happens to us. We aren’t special and we don’t have much of a future outside of being trapped in here by our own hypocritical fear,” she says with a bored expression. She lets out a deep sigh, resting her chin on her palm. “We’re a bunch of useless people at the end of the day, wouldn’t make much of an impact at the end of the day if we were to suddenly disappear. It’s basically a nothing place. We don’t exist in this world. So go ahead, I think everyone would agree it’s for the best.”

Creasion’s eyes widened and his skin faded into a pale hearing the woman’s encouragement. He had never met someone more cynical in his life than himself. He was so used to just… hearing everyone’s beg for mercy. And she was so sure of herself too, she was so… they were so…

Helpless.

Hopeless.

Depressed.

Lonely.

Despaired.

Cynical.

Somber.

She chuckled, probably from his reaction he had guessed. “You’re not used to people begging you to end their life right?” she taunted with a smirk. “I just got a single request for you.”

The demon king stayed silent, waiting for the woman to continue with what she wanted to request of him.

“Take Alba with you. He’s a good kid, and he deserves to see the world. Unlike us who’ve given up hope, he deserves to see the world. He’s different and… I just want him to live a better life than with what cards would be dealt to him here. Maybe it’d be a bad idea to send him with someone looking like you, but it’s the only chance he’ll get to actually brave outside. He doesn’t deserve to live here.”

“...And you’re saying everyone else here deserves it?” Creasion asked.

“We gave up. Why should we be allowed to go out there?”

He didn’t really understand how to respond to that, and he didn’t really know either. He couldn’t really agree or disagree, and it left him at a stalemate. It wasn’t like he felt empathy for them, it was just a dilemma that seemed to be more than a simple yes or no question.

He hated humans.

“I’m gonna take that silence as an agree.”

He didn’t speak up and deny it, but didn’t confirm it. He just stared with a dark expression.

She chuckled, “Think about it alright? Take him with you. I’ll haunt ya if you don’t. Hey, he can even be a little comrade if you really need a reason to take him, other than me begging. I’m sure he’d adapt just fine.”

Creasion just merely sat there, looking down at the amber drink, still processing her entire request. He took in a deep breath, still keeping his darkened expression, before uttering a single, unsure phrase. “I’ll think about it.”

Alba’s mother had her lips transform into a satisfied smile. “That’s fine.”

“I heard from my son that you were letting him guess your name. Mind if i take a swing? Since I never got yours and you never got mine, you can guess mine too,” she proposed.

“...Sure.”

“Guess mine first!”

Creasion took a good look at her. He couldn’t really guess based on her looks. His eyes narrowed, trying to think of a name that seemed to fit. He didn’t really even think about why he was putting effort into these simple guesses. So he sighed and said the first one that came to mind, “Theresa. Your name is Theresa.”

Alba’s mother’s grin never faded, and instead just kept it’s satisfied, somber look. “Ah, I see you have a talent for guessing names.”

So that was her name.

The woman took one last sip of her amber colored drink, letting it rest on the saucer. She looked up at him, before uttering a phrase he didn’t like. “Hm… is your name Ross?”

Ross…

He felt himself turn pale, dropping the teacup on the plate, causing the two shatter. The sound rang between the two and static filled the demon king’s ears. The tea splattered onto the table, reflecting a shattered man covered by dangerous, immense shadows that seemed to threaten to drown the man in his animosity. “...No… no that’s not my name,” he answered in a raspy, yet antagonistic voice.

Crea…

Did she know the importance of that name?

The mother just looked at him with a satisfied look. Nothing smug, just one satisfied about the reaction she had received. “I see. Well, your clothes are right there,” she explained, pointing at the clothes on the table. “There should be a pendant with them, that’s for Alba. Have him keep it as a memoir of me and the village.”

Creasion stood up and walked to the pile of folded articles, taking notice of a pendant. It was a silver heart, with a vermillion jewel in the middle. It looked a lot like the tattoo on his wrist.

He said nothing, just grabbed the pile of clothes and walked towards the room he came out of.

She grinned, “...No problem. Don’t let me down now, burn this place to the ground.”

“Y… yes.”

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to now.

But it was for his safety.

He walked to the father’s room, changed in silence, shoved the pendant into his pocket, then walked out with the mother’s eyes following him from the door to the front door. Not a word was uttered between the two, just an eerie silence that seemed to haunt the demon king.

It was a dark, cloudy day.

There was a bonfire in the middle of the village, he decided that’s where the fire would start.

The grass beneath him began to wilt with each step he took, leaving a crunching sound with each step. He plodded over to the bonfire, letting his cloak cover his arms and hide away his hands. The entire village stared at him, and any and all talking between them was silenced. Doors creaked open to witness him, not uttering a word as they looked on with a weary, yet fascinated gaze. Each step he took felt heavier than the first.

He paused in front of the bonfire, taking in a deep breath. He raised his wrists beyond the cloak, revealing his now cleaned and bandaged hands. He faltered, expression unchanging, but he felt a pang in his hands. He closed his eyes, shaking off the feeling dragging at his feet, and forced himself to ignite a flame in his hands.

He gazed at the cerulean lighting burning brightly. He did not utter a word, before he touched the bonfire at the heart of the village. It was lit a beautiful shade of blue, turning that orange glow of the village he witnessed last night into the color of the ocean, lighting it in to a new hue that trapped it into an entrancing color. It was seemingly in an instant, where the houses followed the heart of the village, turning into a beautiful sea of blue.

He turned around, and looked up at the faces watching him, staring at him.

He saw children hiding behind the skirt of their mothers, twins holding hands, everyone in the village stared at him. No more than forty people were watching him, sharing the same gaze, the same expression. Tears fell down their faces, yet had a satisfied, accepting, thankful, knowing smile.

They weren’t screaming, they weren’t begging for their lives. He wasn’t a sadist, but that was all he wanted to hear right now.

Tell me I shouldn’t be doing this. Tell me you want to live. Anything to tell me you don’t want this. Tell me I’m wrong. Please… it doesn’t feel right.

He pleaded silently, yet unemotionally, but they answered his begs with a smile.

He wouldn’t cry for them.

He wouldn’t.

So he just ran away, ran away from the crackling flames, ran away from their gazes.

He decided he’ll find Alba.

“Alba!” he called, looking for the boy. He was sure he hadn’t wasn’t far, and with the blue light among the trees behind him, he knew the curious boy would be running his direction.

Sure enough though, his guess was right, as a small boy with maroon hair wearing the exact shirt he met him in was there. He was panting, pale, “M-Mister? What’s wrong? What’s that blue thing farther ‘way?” he breathed out, holding his knees while trying to catch his breath. “It’s warmer than usual… what’s wrong?”

“There’s… there’s a fire… I came to get you,” the man answered darkly. It was true after all.

Alba grew pale, his skin turning near white if it weren’t for the soft glow of blue in the distance. “F-Fire? W-why is it blue?” he asked, before gasping, “MOM!!!” he cried, running as fast as his legs would take him toward the fire.

“ALBA!” the man yelled, following him.

Thunder boomed in the distance, seeming to ring in the two’s ears. The rain began to fall as Alba stumbled through the forest, desperate to reach the village. He began to hyperventilate, wanting nothing more than to put out those flames devouring the village. The boy tripped on a branch, landing in a face full of dirt. He pushed himself immediately, but yelped in pain and fell back down.

“Alba!!” yelled Creasion again, stopping in front of the boy. The boy began to whimper as tears fell from his eyes.

“I- I need to- mom!” he screamed in a cry, pushing on in a limp despite his ankle begging for him to rest. He ran in his desperate limp, desperate to put out the flames, desperate to save his village, desperate to save his mother. Creasion was almost tempted to stop him.

The thunder crackled again as the rain continued to fall down on this dreary day, painting the two boys in a somber look. One screaming, crying for the rescue of his village… and an utterly emotionally dead man. The man followed the boy to the village, already knowing what were to await them.

Smoke filled the air and the fire crackled as the blue light glowed and enraptured the place in a cerulean hue, warming the place up as it destroyed the village. When Creasion caught up with the boy, he was met with the despaired gaze of a broken child. It was dark, yet it was fearful, almost hateful. Tears pricked his eyes as he desperately grasped for air.

He fell to his knees, before letting out a despairing, mournful scream of agony.

And Creasion could only watch, letting the ache from his heart take its toll.

“Why… why did this have to happen? Who… who did this?” he sobbed under his breath. “D… Do you know who did it?”

Creasion stayed silent at that question, knowing he shouldn’t tell the truth. “I… I don’t know. I came to gave you a pendant your mom wanted to give you, and yet when I left the village the fire started. I don’t know who did, nor do I know why they did it… I’m sorry.” Creasion took the pendant from his pocket and showed Alba the jewel.

He snatched the jewelry from his hand, took one good look at it, before holding it close to his heart and shattering into more tears. Alba looked up at him with teary eyes, “I… I won’t forgive them! They were… they were my family, the most important people in my life… now it’s gone, everything’s gone! Mom’s gone!!” the boy in the black shirt cried.

Creasion just stayed silent and watched the flames as Alba sobbed with all his energy until he had none. There was no one around. He couldn’t hear the screams, he didn’t see people running for safety, just a blue glow igniting the houses and the charred corpses he wasn’t sure were people anymore. The thunder broke the silence and lightning flashed from farther ahead, rain had coated them in water and chilled the atmosphere. Even if the fire was warm to them.

Creasion trudged tonwards Alba, before kneeling before him. He grabbed the free hand of the boy gently, holding it gently. “...If you come with me on my travels, we’ll find your arsonist,” even if he was right there in front of him.

“E… eh?” whimpered the boy.

“We’ll find the arsonist… I promise.”

Alba stared at him, the water from the rain matting his hair and hiding his tears. He looked like a lost puppy underneath the rain. “R… really?”

Creasion hesitantly nodded, “...Yes.”

The boy seemed to look at the man with amazement, as if his eyes vowed to follow the man where he would go. “Th… thank you…” the boy’s face began to shrivel up in tears, using his free hand to wipe away the water that pricked his eyes. “Thank you so much…” he whimpered tearfully.

“Please, I just have one request of you…” the man said, grabbing the boy’s attention, “Never leave my side… vow to be here forever.”

Alba nodded slowly, given the nonverbal affirmation he needed before he spoke in his young, raspy voice. “I vow to never leave your side… Mister. I… I promise, I’ll always be here,” he vowed.

Creasion nodded, never letting his outside emotion change. He reached for the boy’s closed palm, opening it to reveal the pendant. He let go of the boy’s hand with his other, letting his hand fall gently to his shorts. He takes the pendant gently, before placing it over there boy’s head, and letting it fall gently down his neck. He let go, and observed Alba, now wearing the special jewel.

It fit.

“That’s a promise, okay?” the demon king told the boy, and the boy could only nod.

Alba suddenly wrapped his arms around the demon king tightly, as though he could never let go. Creasion was taken aback by the boy’s sudden affection, unsure of how to react. He wasn’t too… familiar with hugs. But… he figured he’d go along with it, just this once. He let the boy cry into his chest until he could no longer, as he rubbed gentle circles into his back.

When he was all cried out, and the flames still raged on, the boy fell limp. The demon king figured he was tired after it all. He probably knew it was going to be impossible to get this near sleeping boy to move so they could find shelter from the rain, especially with a twisted ankle, so he wrapped a hand under his knees and another under his torso. Lifting him up, he began to pad away from the village.

“Mister… what’s your name…?” the boy asked, tiredly.

“...Ross… my name is Ross…” the man lied.

“Ross huh…? That’s a nice name…” he commented, before falling into a gentle slumber.

The man began to hike away from the disaster he caused, not wanting to look at the thing he thought he would have been proud of. The person in his arms was something he wanted to protect, he realized this now, even if this was something he didn’t want.

And as the demon king lumbered away, the wisteria above them did not wither. They merely bloomed a violet color, as they should have.