Side Story: Morning
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
Nell awoke from her slumber right as the morning sun began peeking through the curtains. Her eyelids, still heavy from drowsiness, slowly fluttered open and closed as she raised herself to a seated position. With one last yawn, she shook off the last bit of lethargy that clouded her mind and readied herself for the day ahead.
The first place she cast her gaze upon regaining her sentience was the bed beside her’s. In it lay a man, one with a rare, dark shade of hair not often seen in Allysia or any of its surrounding territories.
Realizing that this was a rare opportunity to observe him in his sleep, Nell got off the soft, heavenly piece of furniture she had spent the night on and quietly approached him. She slowly, silently stepped across the room, stopping only to carefully climb onto his bed so she could sit herself down near the upper half of his body. The close proximity in which the two had lived over the course of the past month had not presented her with many chances to catch him before he awoke. And that was in spite of the fact that he was a night owl; he played board games with Lefi into the dead of the night every single day. And yet, he would always be awake before her. Even though she thought herself an early riser.
This bizarre phenomenon stemmed from Yuki’s identity as a demon lord, a creature overflowing with an unimaginable surplus of power relative to any run of the mill member of the races. On his home turf, the dungeon supplied him with a surplus of energy and reduced his need for sleep. Only Lyuu, who happened to be in the habit of getting up incredibly early, would rise before him. This had, on multiple occasions, led Nell to wake up and head over to the kitchen to help with breakfast only to find it already sitting on the dining room table.
Being outside the dungeon’s territory, however, threw a wrench into the cogs of Yuki’s biorhythm. With his stamina well gone, the demon lord required energy. This led him to do many things he normally didn’t, such as consuming alarming amounts of food. He would eat so much, in fact, that Nell had begun to feel as if dinner time served as a demonstration of the extent of his might. He had a lot of strength to restore, after all. Another way he cut down on calorie consumption was by remaining in sleep mode. Resting for longer than usual—and therefore providing Nell with ample opportunity to stare at his face while he remained none the wiser—was merely another aspect of the same energy-based complication.
Upon getting a good look at him, she realized that, in his sleep, he looked much more boyish than he did while he was up and about. He wasn’t exactly babyfaced, but he definitely looked younger than the rest of his frame suggested. In fact, she almost felt as if he seemed her age. Seeing the innocent, near angelic expression that adorned his face in his sleep made it difficult for her to picture him as the monster-slaying powerhouse he was. That, however, was nothing new. The mischievous, whimsical way in which he conducted himself while he was awake made it equally hard, if not impossible, for an innocent, unknowing bystander to mark him as a demon lord.
She had, ever since the day the two first met, thought that he was almost like a friendly neighbor, one with a few more years than her under his belt. And she continued to feel that way, even now. It was like he was the childhood friend she never had. Almost like they’d grown up together. Even though she’d only known him for a year.
That was just how much he meant to her.
With a giggle, one that resulted from imagining him in his early childhood, she put the thought aside and refocused herself on observing him. His hair was a mess of spikes. Tufts of it stuck out of literally everywhere and pointed off in random directions. But much to Nell’s surprise, it was soft and even surprisingly silky to the touch. She felt, as she gently combed her fingers through his quills, put at ease by his warmth.
As the comfort of his proximity permeated through her fingertips and melted into her body, her heart slowly began to accelerate. Each beat came a fraction of a second faster than the last. Because she knew that touching him the way she was now was something that she would never do under any normal circumstance. There were always far too many eyes on her, and it was too embarrassing to perform such a public display of affection.
But now, it was okay.
It was just him and her.
And no one else.
Warmth filled her chest. Her heart began to sing with such vigour it pained her. Still, she continued to smile as she took his hair in her fingers.
But before long, their alone time came to an end. She heard a quiet, waking groan, one that came not from him, but rather, the couch that served as the guest room’s centrepiece.
Looking towards it, she found a young girl whose hair matched Yuki’s own. Not in terms of how messy it was, but rather, in terms of its rare, elusive colour. Her garments, which looked to be some sort of traditional garb belonging to a people not indigenous to the region, swayed to and fro as she rubbed her eyes.
“Good morning, Enne,” said the brunette.
“Mmmnnn… Morning…” yawned the sword.
She was to the demon lord what Durandal was to the hero, the trusted companion he dubbed his primary armament. Thus, she had naturally been taken along for the journey. As she was aware that this was, for Nell, a rare chance to spend some time alone with her beloved, the blade had chosen to spend most of her time sleeping inside the spatial tear in which Yuki stored all of the things he carried around. Nell truly appreciated the gesture, as she knew that the sword was doing something that it otherwise would have preferred not to—and that she was sure to be either bored or lonely despite claiming that it was fair given that she was typically allowed to spend all the time she ever wanted at her master’s side.
There was, of course, no reason to keep her locked up while everyone was asleep, so Yuki had retrieved her and placed her against the sofa, where she had slept until morning. Upon waking up, she had used Personification skill and taken on a human form so she could better communicate with her wielder’s bride-to-be.
“What are you doing?” Zaien tilted her head at an angle as if in hopes that a new perspective would allow her to glean additional insight on Nell’s actions.
“I don’t get very many opportunities to watch him sleep,” replied the hero. “So I thought that I might as well stare while I’ve got the chance. Want to join me?”
Enne walked over, climbed onto the bed, and sat herself down right next to her human companion.
“Master is… still asleep.”
“How rare,” said Enne. “…It makes him seem cute. I don’t know why.”
“I was just about to say the same thing,” giggled Nell.
The air about him was calm, virtuous even. It differed greatly from the atmosphere often created by the actions undertaken by him in expressing his larger-than-life personality. Yuki always claimed that he wasn’t anywhere near as exaggerated as Lefi, but Nell disagreed. In her eyes, his eccentricity could be perfectly summarized by one of his favorite phrases, “Fuck logic. Just use brute force.”
“He kind of looks like Rir,” said Enne, suddenly.
“Uhm… A-are you sure…?”
“Mhm,” nodded Enne.
Before long, the pair’s conversation caused the demon lord whose bedside they sat by to stir. He blinked a few times, sat up, and turned towards the two girls, whom he had spotted out of the corner of his eye.
“Good morning Yuki. I’m sorry, did we wake you up?”
“Mornin’…” groaned the demon lord. “So, mind telling me why you two are on my bed?”
“Oh, you know, no reason.”
At first, Nell had managed to stifle her laughter, but soon, she ended up breaking into an uncontrollable giggling fit. The way he’d looked at her, with his eyes sleepy and half closed, made it so he really did resemble Rir.
“Told you.” Enne immediately picked up on the cause of the other girl’s laughter. And though her expression didn’t change, she began giving off an aura of triumph.
Yuki, who was completely left out of the loop, stared in confusion as the two girls shared a moment of bliss.