Little Marius closed the door behind him as he arrived back home, with the handle almost reaching to his jaw by just how young and small he was. Tired and hungry, he headed to the long table at the near-middle of the room; the only room in the house save for his bedroom, as the outhouse wasn’t even part of the house itself. Over the table, as he had imagined, he found his everyday food already prepared, though crudely so. The usual letter of the church lay next to it, wishing him safety, along with success over his studies. He couldn’t help but sneer at what crudely prepared food it was, as if they were rations for a military campaign rather than proper lunch, made ten times worse by how used he had gotten over eating the same thing day after day after day. If only he knew how to cook, he thought, or had someone to do so for him dedicately.
Though his stomach rumbled, he didn’t feel enough hunger to force himself to eat. He headed to his bedroom, crossed the door, and threw himself onto the bed face-down. A little nap wouldn’t hurt, and more hunger would help him shove that disdainful food down his throat with more ease if needed be. The bad feeling over rejecting the church’s generosity over giving him free food in exchange of studying was outweighed by the impossibility ofeating it properly.
A strange smell woke him up, along with weird noises. Because of the fact that he was the only inhabitant of the house, anything but complete silence within turned to be cause for alarm. Still, the smell entranced him, calmed him from the fright partly, even though it only made his stomach ache more and more. He jumped to his feet and grabbed a dagger close by, and then slowly walked to the doorway of his bedroom.
When he reached the doorway and stared into the main room, he saw the intruder. A woman with long, black hair, with her back at him, standing at the hearth of the house, stirring a steaming pot. Strangely, he saw horns, along with pointy ears, wings, a strange attire, a tail, and skin of an unnaturally blue color. Then, the woman turned her head and spotted him, looking at him from the corner of her eyes and smiling. He saw the red eyes with black sclera. The fact that she saw him sent him into a fit of fear, stumbling back into the room while screaming, then crawling back once he tripped and fell. He thought it was a monster purely because she didn’t appear human at all; the church didn’t teach him anything about monsters at all, since he didn’t even know how to write. At Marius’ reaction, the woman brought her hand to her mouth while growing a smile, then turned and slowly walked towards him.
“S-stay back! Stay back!” Marius screamed, stuck against the corner, pointing the dagger at her as she loomed past the doorway, just as he kept sliding his feet against the ground as if he wanted to keep crawling back, yet unable to due to the wall.
“I’m not going to do anything to you.” The woman said. Behind her fingers, she hid a smile that grew wider.
Marius remained shocked, though now also confused. He couldn’t do anything but stare, still with his dagger pointed at her, trying to comprehend the situation. Then, his stomach growled.
“The church’s food is horrible, isn’t it?” She said with confidence. “I thought I could prepare some for us. Why don’t you give it a try?”
The woman then turned around and left for the main room, leaving Marius’ sight. Marius kept silent, though the smell kept sneaking into his nose, and his stomach soon hurt over the prospect of tasty, prepared food. He stood up and, with dagger still in hand, walked out to the main room, where she found the woman already sitting at the table and staring at him with a smile, supporting her head with her hands with elbows resting on the table, and with a hot steaming bowl of soup ready for him where the church’s food once was.
He walked to the table and sat down, all while staring with confusion at the woman who stared back with expectation. He left the dagger on the table, picked the spoon, scooped a little of the soup which appeared to be of vegetables and meat, blew to cool it down, and ate. His eyes sparked wide open with how tasty it was in comparison to the church’s food, along with it being the first warm meal in years, and so began eating to his heart’s content. The woman smiled in happiness and joy at Marius’ reaction, and even her tail wagged a little.
“Do you like it?” She asked.
Marius couldn’t answer with a full mouth. Instead, he nodded in joy while humming an answer.
“Who are you?” He asked after swallowing.
“You can call me Charlotte.”
“Charlotte… Why did you come here? I didn’t think anyone would want to visit me…”
“Oh, I just saw you lonely all on your own, so I decided to pay a visit. You are not bothered, right?”
“No, no! You cook wonderfully, too!”
“Aw, thanks~. Say, you are going to the church, right? Are they teaching you something?”
“How to write.”
“Write, you say… How much do you know?”
“Nothing yet. I barely started.”
“I see… Say, I have an idea. You get lonely these days, living all on your own… What if I come here and keep you company? You could even show me what you learn in the church. I can cook for you, too. I just love seeing your happy face.”
“Yes, yes, please! I’d love it!”
The woman smiled and rubbed his head, ruffling his hair while he smiled and closed his eyes. Then, once she saw one tiny piece of food on his cheek, she removed it with her finger, and then ate it.
“We’re going to enjoy each other so much, Marius.”
“Charlotte! Charlotte!” Little Marius called as he crossed the door of his house.
“Oh, excited, are we?” Charlotte answered, cutting tomatoes over a table, with her smile widening upon seeing him. “What’s the occasion?”
“The church, they taught me how to write my name!”
Charlotte’s eyes sparked wide open, just as her smile grew from ear to ear. “Your name?” She asked, bringing her hand to her jaw.
“Yes, want to see?”
“Oh, I’d love to.” She answered, just before, right in front of her, a quill in a bottle of ink along with a paper appeared in a puff of dark smoke, startling Marius.
“You… You can do that?”
“Yes, I can. Don’t be afraid, it’s normal for me. Come, now. Show me! I’m as excited as you are!”
Marius’ fright died down in an instant, then he rushed to the table and sat on a chair beside her while she placed the paper and quill in front of him. Marius took the inked quill, but as soon as he was about to write, he noticed how almost the entire page was filled with words.
“Uhh… Should I really write it here? It’s already written all over…”
“Don’t worry, Marius. Here, do you see the line with a cross next to it?” She asked, pointing at the bottom of the paper. “You can write it there. I saved that space just for you.”
“Yes. Don’t you feel special?” She said, rubbing his head and making him smile, along with erasing any doubts he had.
Marius then wrote his name, although exceptionally slow, since between every letter he had to remind himself what letter stood for what, and how to continue. Soon enough, he wrote his name, ‘MARIUS’, with a handwriting so crude and big that it contrasted with the rest of the well-written text. Yet, as soon as he finished, the paper and ink disappeared in the same puff of smoke they came with.
“D-did I do something wrong?” He asked, worried.
Charlotte lifted him to her lap, kissed him on the forehead, and then hugged him.
“No, Marius. You did everything right. You made me proud. Now, though… I’ll have to leave for a while, alright?”
“You have to… leave?”
“Yes. It breaks my heart, but there’s no way around it. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise. You just wait.”
Eight years later…
‘I promse. You just wait.’
The sudden uncannily accurate memory of a voice awoke Marius, who had been lying on his bed. Soon, he began to remember what was associated with the voice. The strange woman that visited him once, or he believed so, for he didn’t even know if it was real or not. He figured that it had been a bad dream years ago that stuck for some strange reason, since he couldn’t even prove it happened, and even year after year the woman had not returned, even though now he was twenty.
His stomach growled. What he did remember from so long ago was that the church gave him food every day to eat, though he preferred to starve for a while rather than eat it; a habit that stuck with him for so long that he couldn’t break out of it, even after he began cooking for himself.
However, his thoughts were interrupted by a weird smell. A smell of smoke, which he didn’t even stop to analyze for he thought it was something burning. Perhaps he left the fire burning without remembering at all, but he didn’t want to take risks, and so jumped out his bed and rushed to the main room.
Nothing weird was happening. The smell was also dying down, yet still remained. He sniffed again, and realized that it didn’t smell of burning smoke, but of something else, something he had never smelled before yet felt awfully familiar, and so couldn’t understand the source. He glanced around at the entirety of the room to see if anything had happened, but soon his eyes fell upon something over the table. A paper, which he knew wasn’t there before; a paper also too good in quality for him to find anywhere in the town. He walked up to it and grabbed it, then saw how it was filled with text, covered in runic letters he didn’t understand. Yet, at the bottom, he found his name messily written.
The memory of him writing it back when he was twelve sprung to his mind almost like a flashback.
Before he could react properly at the memories flooding him, he heard a noise coming from his bedroom. Fearing an intruder, though questioning if it could be something else, and never ungluing his eyes from the doorway to his bedroom, he walked to the wall his sword rested against and grabbed it, then unsheathed it. He then slowly walked to his bedroom.
He immediately saw an intruder over his bed. A woman of roughly his height, though sharing the characteristics of Charlotte from his memories. She lied stomach-down on the bed, resting her head over her hands with elbows on the mattress, with her feet up and legs crossed, staring at him with a seductive gaze.
“Missed me?” She asked in a soft tone.
“D…Demon!” He yelled, readying his sword. Although he knew not back then, the church had taught him everything about monsters in time. He realized Charlotte was a demon.
“That’s no way to greet your wife, hubby…”
Marius stood unreacting, stupefied by her words, only staring as Charlotte slowly stood up. Yet, when she tried to take one step towards him, he stepped back with sword held high.
“Don’t you remember?” She asked, placing her hands on her waist and leaning forward with a smile. “Back when you confessed to me?”
“Tsk tsk tsk… You don’t even remember. How mean… I even cooked for you. You even signed our marriage contract.”
“…That thing? That was a marriage contract?!”
Marius stood silent, thinking.
“…You’re a demon. A monster. Even if you meant good, you abandoned me for eight years.”
“I had my own things to do.”
“You made me sign a contract when I was twelve, when I barely even knew how to write my name. I didn’t even understand that paper, and you told me to ignore what was written in it!”
“Ah, but you signed it nonetheless.”
Marius stepped back, then turned back and rushed to the table to find the paper, figuring he could tear it apart if all else failed. However, when he reached the table and left his sword over it, the paper was gone without a trace.
“What were you trying to do…?” Charlotte asked, placing and resting her head on his shoulder, though Marius soon stepped aside and created distance again, though not without accidentally pushing a chair hard enough to make it tilt and fall on its side. He ignored it, and stared at her.
“I should be the one asking you that. You were gone for eight years. What were you even thinking? I don’t get it. Even for a monster it doesn’t even make sense, because they’d just go around raping someone within a day of seeing a man, or even within an hour, not after eight years.”
“Doesn’t that differentiate me from the other types of monsters, darling? I was willing to wait for years until you became a grown up man. I want us to be happy, and if for that one needs to wait, then I won’t complain.”
“And why wait? You abandoned me, which I still don’t get. Ever since you left, everything returned to its miserable state. Church food, church studies, breaking my back at the farm I worked with what little money I had… and all alone. You could have stayed.”
“And yet, the church taught you how to cook by yourself because you hated the food, it taught you how to read and write, taught you many things in life, and you learned how to work. If I had been there, you’d not be half the man you are now, don’t you think? Deep down, I knew you wanted to be this strong, and so I followed your desire like a loving wife. You wanted to do these things more than anything in life at those points, am I not correct?” She answered, still with the permanent smile she always had. “Even then, I still had things to do. I couldn’t have returned even if I wanted to, but now I’m here. I kept my promise, didn’t I?”
Marius frowned confused, for all of her words couldn’t sink in properly. Still, before he could bring himself to think things over, someone knocked on the door. Charlotte winked at him before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Marius then walked to the door and opened it.
“Scribe Marius, I am the inquisition.” An armored man in chainmail and surcoat said, with his face obscured by a great helm. By his waist, his longsword hung on its sheath. “My name is Frigeridus. May I pass?”
“Yes, of course.” Marius answered, stepping aside and letting him in before closing the door. The inquisitor stared around the house just as he stepped in, though Marius figured that, with Charlotte and her contract gone, there was no fear of anything happening. At least, he trusted that Charlotte would stay wherever she went to until the inquisitor left. “Is there an issue?”
“Yes, in fact… I’ve heard that something weird has been happening around. Specifically, in this house. Is there something I should know about?”
“I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s been normal here as far as I’m concerned.”
“I’ve been told that one man heard you yelling something along the lines of ‘Demon’.”
“Demon? No, he was mistaken. I screamed ‘dammit’ after getting into an accident.”
“And what could that accident have been?”
Marius extended his hand pointing elsewhere, which the inquisitor followed with his sight. Frigeridus soon saw the chair that had fallen over.
“I hit my foot with it accidentally. A stupid act, which is why I got pissed off, since I can’t even blame it on anyone.”
“I see… What about the unsheathed sword on the table?”
“I was going to sharpen it. I unsheathed it and left it there, but as I was going to get the grinding stone, I hit myself with the chair.”
Marius waited, but the inquisitor did not leave, nor even move. Instead, the inquisitor kept examining the house with his eyes, obscured under the eyes of his helmet.
“You wouldn’t mind if I inspect your house, right?” Frigeridus asked. “There’s no telling when a monster could leave some corrupted object without you knowing.”
“When did you come here, Marius?” He asked, moving about in slow steps, looking at whatever was in sight, carefully inspecting every nook and cranny of the house with his hand holding the hilt of his longsword.
“I don’t understand the question.”
“Father, mother, any siblings? What brought you here? What happened to your parents for them to not be here even though you’re still fairly young? Don’t take those questions the wrong way. There have been many unfortunate cases where merely asking them could have avoided losses.”
“I was born here. Used to live in another part of town, but eventually my mother sold the house and bought this one. Used the leftover money to prepare the land around for a small farm.”
“And your father?”
“Levied off when I was five. Didn’t return. My mother died by the plague when I was seven. The church took me in and fed me in exchange of studying and working for them as a scribe.”
“And after that?”
“Kept working as a scribe while working the farm in my spare time. Not much. Boring life, I guess.”
Frigeridus did not say a word afterwards, but instead kept looking seemingly nowhere while taking a deep breath. Then, after a few seconds in silence, he walked to the door.
“There’s nothing around. I guess that old fool really is going deaf if he misheard you that badly.”
“I’m sorry that you had to waste your time like this, inquisitor.” Marius said as he opened the door, which Frigeridus crossed.
“The church is boring enough as it is, since it’s purely waiting ready for situations like this one. Still, I better return quick in case something else popped up while I was gone. Farewell, Marius, and remember to report anything to the church.”
Frigeridus left, and Marius closed the door.
“Is this the cute boy you told me about…?” A voice not belonging to Charlotte spoke. When Marius turned around, he found yet another demon, but blonde instead and with a few differences here and there. Her hairstyle differed, as her hair covered one of her eyes, and the color of her eyes seemed golden rather than red.
“Is he gone already?” Charlotte said, sneaking up on him and hugging him from behind, startling him.
“My, my…” The blonde demon said as she stepped closer to Marius, fascinated. “If I wasn’t engaged already, I’d steal him from you.”
“Back off.” Charlotte said in a deeper, annoyed tone, hugging Marius tighter and moving him away from her.
“Oh come on, you know I would never do that.”
“Who is she?” Marius asked.
“She’s my sister.” Charlotte answered. “You shouldn’t look at her, you have me already, don’t you, darling?”
“My name is Louise.” The blonde succubus presented herself, bowing and extending her arm aside while bringing the other to her chest. “I am Charlotte’s sister. She always talked to me about you, though always got jealous when I said I’d love to meet you.”
“Well, now that you met her,” Charlotte said, walking forward while pushing Marius to go with him to the bedroom, “I guess we should-“
“Hey, hey, at least let me get good view of him.” Louise interrupted, crossing their path. “Or would you want me to visit him when you’re not around?”
Charlotte frowned while blushing, with Louise growing a smug smile wider and wider with every passing moment.
Before their conversation could develop, however, the door swung wide open with a kick that broke the lock. Charlotte, as if by reaction alone, disappeared in a puff of smoke, though Louise remained. Marius and Louise turned their head to the door, and saw Inquisitor Frigeridus charge in with longsword drawn. In fright, Marius stepped back, though the inquisitor completely ignored him as he charged at Louise with a yell, only for her to return a smile at the inquisitor. Frigeridus soon cut distance and swung his longsword, but just as it was about to hit, Louise disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving the longsword to cut through the dark cloud.
“Yoohoo~” Louise called in a taunting manner from the door, where she reappeared. Frigeridus turned and saw her, then ran to her again, but she disappeared before he even reached half the way. The chase led Frigeridus out the house as he ran to where he suspected she would be.
“He doesn’t give up, does he…?” Charlotte asked, arriving in a puff of smoke next to Marius, startling him by pure virtue of him never getting used to her ability. Then, she turned her eyes to him, smiling, before holding onto his hands. “I’ve been waiting for you for eight years, Marius. I have so many things I want to do with you. I even remember the times I cooked for you, yearning to come back and make you happy like a good, loving wife.”
“I still don’t get why you left me… You could’ve stayed, or taken me somewhere. Nobody cared about me around here, so I had no ties to break.”
“Maybe, but that happened long ago already. Even if I wanted to, I can’t change the past, can I? I won’t abandon you anymore. We’ll stay together, forever. I will make up for all the time I wasn’t there for you. I promise.”
The house sunk into silence. Charlotte and Marius stared at each other for a few seconds, staring at each other’s lips, until, by pure desire alone, they slowly moved closer to eachother. Soon, their lips touched each other in a kiss, but his stomach growling interrupted the moment. Marius blushed as his own body killed the atmosphere, but Charlotte chuckled to herself instead.
“Marius, I know it’s too much to ask after eight years of disappearance, but… Can you do me a favor?”
“Let me cook for you just like back then. Please?”
“…I’d be delighted.” He answered, closing in and resuming the kiss.
“Where the fuck are you?!” Frigeridus yelled in pure fury as he ran around the corner of the house to the back, where Marius’ farm was. However, as he arrived, he could see nothing but the crops, with no sign of her.
“Up here, honey~” Louise called out, with the voice coming from behind him. Frigeridus quickly turned around with longsword ready, but could not see her. Then, he found her on the rooftop. “Are you having fun?”
Frigeridus looked for a way to climb to the roof, but there was none. No ladder, no structural formation to cling on, nothing, but Louise did not move.
“Get down here!”
He sighed, wondering what her plan was, though soon realized that she was just plainly delaying him. For what purpose, though, he did not know, but since he couldn’t take risks, he ran back the way he came from, ignoring her. He ran around the house and rushed past the main door. Everywhere he looked, Marius was nowhere to be seen. He ran to the bedroom, and still no signs of him were present. He had disappeared. Frigeridus soon understood that there had been a second demon, one he didn’t know about, and grunted while hitting the wall with his fist. He then sighed and sheathed his longsword, then walked to the table and sat down on a chair. He took off his helmet, put his elbows over the table, and sunk his face into his palms, before dragging them till they combed his hair, at which point he rested his head on his hands, staring at the table blankly.
“I didn’t expect you to find us, just then after you left.” Louise said, walking in. “How did you guess?”
“I smelled that weird smoke that gets left when you or one of those things you teleport in appear or disappear. I stood outside after pretending to leave, eavesdropping. I got too carried away in chasing you, after figuring the other had escaped, and didn’t realize it returned to take him away.”
“I see… You are improving.”
Frigeridus sighed and rubbed his eyes.
“You saw something in him, right?” She asked, grabbing a chair and sitting in front of him at the table.
“He was like me. Almost down to the tiniest details. Parents, house, church, food, and…” he paused, though then continued with a voice that showed agony and hatred, “…you.”
“Still upset over that night years ago…? Honey, I love you the most in this world. It pains me to see you like this every time.”
“You don’t make a kid sign something like that when they barely learned how to spell their own name. You just don’t.”
“Because you lied to me. I don’t like being lied to, not when I still had the slightest bit of trust in this world still intact.”
“And what has that lie caused to you?”
Frigeridus kept silent, staring at Louise while frowning, putting one hand resting over the table and the other in front of his mouth.
“There are evil people in this world, and you know that better than anyone.” She continued, moving her hand to hold his. “But tell me, what would a kid say if you told him everything that was involved in it? Anything but good things. We might be evil for lying, but we’re not stealing lives nor fortunes with contracts. Plus, look at you now, such a great man still chasing his dreams. Wouldn’t a wife love his husband no matter what he does?”
“What does that even mean? You love me because you made me sign a contract? Because I started hunting your kind afterwards because I didn’t want this happening to anyone else? You love me because I hate you? What’s with the sudden surge of demons anyways… If I didn’t know better, I’d imagine you’re intentionally bringing them here for me to hunt them, though I never succeeded once.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Who is to say? Still, I know you’re happy doing this. It’s why I let you hunt us, even though you know you won’t get even one of us. You like the hunt. You like running after us, running after me, and I love seeing you so involved in what you do. In fact… I’ve never seen you so eager and energetic whenever you do anything else, even though I’ve been watching you for over thirty years.”
“Thirty years of nothing but trying to kill you, and you still don’t get tired of me. You demons are so strong and crafty that you take this as a plaything, since you know as much as I do that I’ll never even hurt one of you no matter how much I tried.”
Louise chuckled to herself, then stood up, walked up to him, lowered herself, and hugged him before kissing him on the cheek.
“I love you, Frigeridus. I love to see you happy, even if you don’t show it, and if I have to be your enemy for you to be so eager and full of life and determination… I’ll love every single second of it.” She said, before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Frigeridus kept silent at the table, staring into the nothingness, thinking, though soon sighed aloud and put his helmet back on. Then, he stood up and walked out the house, heading for the church to report on how Marius was the third person to go this month.