Ky’s heart raced as he surged forward. He was terrified Liem would magic Magnificent Night away in an instant. When he slammed into Liem’s petite form with all intentions of beating the crap out of him, it took him too long to see the coil of black whip up. Liem might have gotten a collar around Magnificent’s neck, but the demon wrapped his tail around Liem’s just as quickly.
“Magnificent.” Ky froze and stared with wide, silver eyes as Magnificent lifted Liem off the chair with his tail and held him tight by the neck. Lovely appeared next to Ky, and behind him he heard Feral on the stairs blocking escape. The room grew dark at the edges the longer Ky stared. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from Liem’s red face as it quickly turned purple, the teen’s expression twisted in terror and pain.
This was his fault; Ky knew it. If Magnificent killed Liem, it was his fault. Ky failed to protect the requiem; he failed to keep a monster like Liem away from the three Relics in his care. If Magnificent killed the awful apprentice, Ky wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to forgive himself. He let Liem in the house. He ignored every fucking intelligent reason to turn him away and because of it, Magnificent was forced to defend his life.
“Magnificent, please.” Ky walked past Liem, who was clawing at the tail wrapped like a coil of black rope around his neck. Magnificent Night’s eyes glowed power while he glared into Liem’s frightened face and raised him higher. Liem’s legs flailed in the air while choked gasps escaped his lips. His whimpers silenced when Magnificent gripped tighter. Ky didn’t know what he felt at the idea of Liem dying. He did know what was right and what was wrong; this was wrong.
“Magnificent, I’m going to take him away. Right now. Just let him go, and I’ll take him out of the house and never let him in again.”
Ky waited the longest minute of his life. Did he truly know Magnificent Night? Ky couldn’t speak his language; they came from two completely different worlds. All Ky really knew about Magnificent was Anselm captured him, and when he died the overseer Demencious chained him. For years, Magnificent was trapped in this basement while other Relics were murdered and eaten in front of him. It would be easy for him to be a monster after such a life, maybe even expected. Demons were powerful and killing came easy for them. Chained and weakened, Magnificent was still far stronger than Liem. The apprentice was a frail, helpless child compared to a Requiem.
“Please, Magnificent,” Ky whispered beseechingly. He reached his hand out to caress the demon’s grim expression. He should have been afraid; Ky knew he was an absolute idiot when it came to the Relics. Still, he had to try. He couldn’t bear if his fuck up led to Magnificent having to take a life. “You don’t need to kill anyone. I’m so sorry I made you feel like you needed to. Please, let me fix this.”
The furious glow in Magnificent’s eyes faded as his gaze moved to Ky’s upturned face. Ky sighed in relief when the demon uncoiled his tail from around Liem’s neck. Liem fell to the ground and collapsed, gasping for air.
“Thank you. Thank you.” Ky’s voice cracked with the flood of emotion moving through him. He tore the collar from Magnificent’s neck and flung it across the room. He wasn’t sure where to direct his rage; Liem who came into his house and tried to capture Magnificent Night like he was a bug in a jar, or himself, who was so dumb he trusted the awful teen enough to let him in the house in the first place. God, he was fucking it all up. He just met his first sorcerer apprentice and nearly let the asshole die.
Although, given how Liem tried to kill him just last night, Ky wasn’t about to spill any tears over it.
“Ky!” Lovely hissed. Ky whirled from Magnificent to discover Brave. The wolf demon appeared in the basement when summoned by the fallen Liem. Brave growled and hovered protectively over his young master as he pulled him across the room away from danger. The two demons glared at each other warily, Lovely a bristling white glow of long, silvery hair, cat ears and claws while Brave was hulking, scarred muscle and dark whirl of hair. Brave snarled and snapped razor teeth when Lovely stepped menacingly toward him.
“Stop,” Ky ordered roughly. He wasn’t sure who he was talking to anymore; he just wanted it all to fucking stop. Brave was injured; blood crusted his handsome face, and the flesh beneath his collar was raw, red, and oozing yellow fluid that dripped over the fresh bruises and cuts on his body. It was his punishment for being linked to Ky; there could be no other reason.
Ky’s stomach plummeted as he remembered his conversation with Lovely about the link. Nausea was a hot wave that threatened to overwhelm him. Liem punished Brave for something he hadn’t even done. Ky created the link with his will, not Brave. His ignorance and inability to control his magic directly led to Brave being harmed.
Liem unsteadily pushed up on his knees. His eyes shined bitter tears as he pointed accusingly at Ky. “Fido, kill! Now!”
Lovely hissed warningly, but it was Feral’s growl, loud and full of death, that froze everyone in the room. The bronze-skinned coyote demon slinked from the shadows. With deliberate steps he crossed the room and took an aggressive stance in Ky’s defense.
Liem gaped up at the new black feathered demon. Hatred twisted his features as he whirled back to Ky. “Three? You have three fucking archons? Two of the things aren’t even collared, and they just answer to you!”
“They’re not things,” Ky replied hollowly. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the blood on Brave’s face. The wolf demon’s ear was torn, not from a blade but from something dull. A piercing pulled from his flesh. This morning, Liem rang his doorbell and pretended to apologize while only minutes before he brutalized and tortured this poor Relic. How could he have ever been so blind?
Liem scrambled to his feet. He held his palm upright, and a wand immediately appeared within his grasp. “Fuck. Three winged demons belong to that weak, stupid, demon loving freak! Fido, I said kill the stupid fuck! And so help me, if you fail this time, you better fucking die because I’m going to make you wish it!”
Brave didn’t move. His lips pursed in a thin line as he met Liem’s furious glare with one of cold indifference. Lovely went to stand between Ky and the wolf demon, but Ky stopped him.
“Brave’s not going to hurt me. He doesn’t want to hurt me, so he won’t.” Brave’s intentions radiated through the black link on his collar. His connection to Ky wasn’t as deep as Lovely’s, but they were still linked. Brave didn’t want to hurt him, and Ky could feel it.
“Fucking, son of a… His name is Fido! Fido!” Liem gritted out. “He’s mine, not yours, you fucking weirdo, and he has to do what I say!” Liem’s breath was heavy with rage as he shot a burst of magic at Brave. The wolf demon yelped and fell backward from the blow. “Now fucking listen to me!”
The room pulsed red around Ky. He didn’t even know he moved. One moment he heard Brave cry out in pain and the next he was across the room. His hand throbbed in aftershock from where he slapped Liem across the face. “Grow the fuck up!”
Liem clutched his burning cheek and stared at Ky in shock. His wand was limp in his hand. “Y-You…”
“That’s not the way to do things!” Ky shouted. “You’re just some stupid, spoiled child with too much power who can’t see demons are people. They’re not fucking toys. They don’t exist to do what you want. They’re people!”
Ky’s outrage grew until he was gasping for breath between words. Liem continued to stare at him dumbfounded; it was too much. “You never should have been bonded to someone as beautiful as Brave. All you’ve done is hurt a being who would have been grateful to have someone understand him in this new world. You chose to hurt him. You treated him worse than someone would treat the lowest of the low.” Ky tripped over his words but kept going, unable to slow from his fast, clipped pace as he shoved Liem back. “You don’t deserve Brave, and if I knew how to free him from you, I would! You’re a fucking monster! He has fangs and a tail and wings, and you’re the fucking monster, you horrible brat!”
For an instant, it looked like something got through to Liem; there was a flash of understanding and regret deep in his blue eyes. Liem’s expression immediately contorted, and the moment was gone. Red flushed his face and his voice shook with anger. “You don’t understand anything!” Liem hissed. “You dare strike me? I will find a way to get that Requiem for myself. Demons are weak and weak things deserve to be used. You’re the weakest fucking sorcerer ever and you deserve to be broken just like these pathetic creatures!”
Ky pulled his fist back; he’d show the stupid punk just how weak he really was. Liem wasn’t looking for a beating. He grabbed Brave roughly by the arm, and with a muttered spell they both blinked out of the room. All Liem left behind was an echo of his angry laugh and Ky shaking in fury.
Ky looked around sharply. He met Lovely’s gaze when the room proved to be empty of the sorcerer and his wolf demon. “Are they in the shadows?”
Lovely shook his head. “They’re gone; it was a teleportation spell. The apprentice would have to be an imbecile to face the three of us, especially when his bonded demon refused to follow orders.”
Ky nodded mutely as his eyes were drawn to the spot he last saw Liem and Brave. His anger was brittle. Something inside cracked and snapped until he realized he was fighting back tears. “Is he… Is he going to kill Brave?” he forced out through his tight throat.
Lovely crossed his arms over his chest. His shrug was full of indifference when he met Feral’s knowing gaze. “Anselm killed demons, but he had many at the time. It is unlikely a child sorcerer would kill the only bonded demon he has.”
Yeah, but Liem wasn’t a sane person. Ky didn’t want to believe he’d do something so terrible, that anyone would. A day ago he couldn’t imagine a person out there cruel enough to harm someone as beautiful as a Relic. Liem Kane, a classmate younger than Ky, seemed ready to murder a demon just to spite him.
All of this was his fault. Ky never should have black linked with Brave. If only he didn’t say those things, if he hadn’t hit Liem and pissed him off. If he never let Liem into his house in the first place…
Fuck. Dear fuck, should he have let Lovely kill Liem yesterday when he asked?
Ky’s stomach lurched and he fought to keep his balance. Would it have been the right choice now he knew what Liem was plotting? Was he going to come back in the middle of the night to steal the Relics? Maybe he’d kill Ky first, just to get him out of the way. Liem was ready to kill him yesterday; why would that have changed? His parents; would Liem kill his magicless parents just because they were there?
The alarming questions piled in Ky’s mind without any answers. He had no idea what he could do to protect the Relics or his family. Everything he did only seemed to fuck things up more. Brave might already be dead because of him. What was he supposed to do?
Ky’s fingers bit into his palm as he shook with unshed tears. Useless. All he did was cry and fuck things up while others were hurt. Lovely reached for him, but Ky shrugged away with a low sob.
“This is my fault. I got him angry and linked—I don’t even know how I’m linking to them!” Ky yelled suddenly, his eyes wild and glittering. He waved his hands in a wide gesture at Magnificent, Lovely, and Feral. “I’m going to get us all killed. Brave is going to die, and it’s all my fucking fault.”
Ky gasped and stumbled sharply when he was tugged sideways. He hit a solid form and blinked up into Magnificent Night’s fathomless, hauntingly blue eyes. Magnificent’s tail loosened from Ky’s wrist and soothed at the tear sliding a thin path down his cheek. Ky sobbed and crumpled forward, his shoulders hunched inward as he leaned against the demon for support.
“I can’t even get you out of the chains… c-can’t get you home.” Ky couldn’t bear the weight on his chest. He wanted to curl tight, twist into a ball until he disappeared. He went to step away; having the Relics see him like this, so weak and pathetic with every failure, was intolerable. Magnificent wouldn’t let him go. His tail twined around Ky’s chest and he pulled him tight against his body. Ky struggled, but soon found each teardrop lost in Magnificent’s long, dark hair soothed him a little. He wrapped his arms around the demon’s waist, and with is face buried against Magnificent’s neck, Ky mumbled a stream of heartfelt, tearful apologies.
Lovely cleared his throat, and Ky glanced up while sniffling. The cat demon kept his distance, his blue and violet eyes wary as he observed the two of them wrapped together. “It would be wise to collar Seriphous now, if only to prevent the apprentice from breaking in and doing so while we sleep.”
A feeling of dread hit Ky in the pit of his stomach. Liem would come back for Magnificent. Maybe for all of them. What it took to protect the demons… Ky shook his head weakly. “It’s not right. Magnificent’s been chained here for years, fed off of by the overseer. I’m not going to take his freedom away while he’s chained to the fucking ceiling. He can’t choose, and it’s not right.”
Ky regretted bonding with Lovely in that moment. He regretted every black link he collected. Each one was a life endangered by his ignorance. The only thing he was good for was feeding the demons so they didn’t starve.
More tears spilled when Ky pulled from Magnificent and reached for Lovely’s hand. Lovely readily moved to hold him but Ky didn’t want another hug. He pulled Lovely’s claw down his wrist and blood flowed scarlet on his pale flesh.
“Ky?” Lovely tried to read his eyes but Ky wouldn’t look at him.
“He’s hungry,” Ky whispered. He raised his bleeding wrist up to Magnificent’s lips. “He wouldn’t have wanted to kill Liem if he wasn’t so hungry.”
Lovely’s eyes narrowed as he watched Ky feed Magnificent his blood. “We’re not human, sweet boy. We kill things. People. We fight to survive with all the power we have. It is our way and that way involves killing.”
“It was my fault.” Ky was unhearing. He leaned against Magnificent’s chest while the requiem lapped long strokes over his narrow wrist. Heat trickled through Ky. The sensation grew when Magnificent Night’s eyes burned into his, his lips tight on his flesh to suck more fluid free. Brave liked his blood too, Ky remembered in a haze. His eyelids were heavy as he gazed up into Magnificent’s intense features.
Lovely exchanged a glance with Feral, their expressions closed off. “Be careful. We don’t need to feed daily unless injured, and Seriphous is very strong,” Lovely cautioned. “Some are stronger than others, sweetling. Dangerous. Without a collar, he might unintentionally hurt you. You’re still human, and you need to remember to protect yourself.”
Ky’s legs trembled and his face flushed with heat. He pressed into Magnificent’s dark cascade of silky hair and breathed in unsteadily. “He would never hurt me.” Ky doubted too many times already. There were so many opportunities for Magnificent to hurt him if he wanted, but he never did. He wanted to hurt Liem; he could have snapped the apprentice’s neck with a simple flick of his tail the same way he destroyed the bolt cutters. Magnificent wasn’t going to hurt him, and guilt squeezed at his heart when Ky realized how many times he questioned otherwise.
Ky lost a breath when his head was forced up, and his neck stretched tall. He reached, expecting to find Magnificent’s tail around his throat, but there was nothing, just the sorcerer collar. It felt different, stiffer, and as his fingers slid over the smooth fabric, Ky found more slots where links could fit. He met Lovely’s concerned gaze for an instant before he looked away and buried his face back into Magnificent’s hair.
It was only more magic. Ky was able to fuck things up even when he wasn’t doing a thing.
Lovely’s fingers clenched into fists as he watched Ky curled inward and away even more. He wanted to pull his delicate master close, but he didn’t dare get within reach of Seriphous. The Relic was too powerful to underestimate, chained or not.
Feral grabbed Lovely by the bicep and pulled him toward the stairs. He willfully ignored all of Lovely’s quiet insistences to stay with Ky.