The air was thick with the splintered remains of a young tree. A certain dark demon sat among the fragments, cursing violently under his breath. Breathing in the thick, dusty air, he coughed roughly and, hissing with displeasure, yanked the jagged edge of a long piece of wood out of his arm. Blood slithered opaquely down his trembling limb.

The air echoed with the sound of his vexation.

Seething, Brago stood up and paced around the stump of the once fruitful tree. His scarlet irises were all but gone, mere pinpricks in stark contrast to the stormy whiteness of his eyes. Too late, he realized, to stop the assault of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Without noticing it, he was no longer able to function like he used to. Alone.

Only today had he fully realized what had happened to him. Sherry had gone off on an errand. Normally Brago would accompany her, but with an air of unwillingness. Of course, he really didn't mind being alone with her all day, but he couldn't admit to that. But today, Sherry had asked that he not come along with her.

To Brago, this request reeked of suspicion. Sherry had been acting odd lately, staying up later than usual, hunching over a notebook for hours, writing with feverish intent. Her royal blue eyes had developed a glazed look, a palpable difference from her usual sparkling gaze. And…she had left carrying something wrapped in protective oilcloth. I don't care where she is I don't care where she is I don't care was recited whenever his mind strayed to her whereabouts. Not to be denied, the unprecedented question set hooks in his heart and tugged viciously. Why does she desire to be alone?

It was too much. She had been gone for three days, and even though Jii assured him Sherry was fine, a black worm of doubt had burst in his heart. It seemed to him the Jii was in on this "errand," for there was a nervous air of deception about him. The deep gouges in the earth where Brago's clawed hands had raked his frustration were alongside the many scrapes of bark and leaf he had slashed his way through. Being new to an onslaught of curious and painful emotions struck a nervous chord within him. Nothing seemed more frightening and more significant then what he felt now. Having spent his supply of blind strength on the saplings along the grounds of Bellmond estate, he was left to wander, his growing frenzy of agitation and a sense of dread consuming his normally unruffled aura.

You are overreacting Brago begged himself to believe. Idiot, what is wrong with you? Can't you see she's different? Again and again, these conflicting arguments started an itch his clawed fingers couldn't quite reach.

Unbidden, a thought floated sluggishly through his mind, a memory. A memory of a day, when the rush of uncontrolled feelings was almost too much to bear. Sherry had been resting alongside a river, sleeping away her bruises after a recent, fierce mamono battle. Brago was a ways up the river, nursing his wounds in his own fashion, and all the while grumbling to himself about the inevitable, pathetic weakness in humans.

He happened to glance at Sherry's sleeping body, lying under a tree with his fur cloak wrapped around her elegant frame. Idly, Brago wondered what it would feel like to wrap his arms around her…

And suddenly, the urge to do just that nearly overtook his senses. A nervous sweat covered his neck at the mere thought. Stupid, Brago scolded himself, she's injured. You'll never become king if you accidently kill your own bookkeeper. He risked another glance.

Sherry unconsciously chose that particular moment to utter a low moan, apparently from turning in her sleep and hitting a bruise. Rendered speechless by this intoxicating sound, the mamono curled his claws painfully into his palms. Dammit. Does she know what she's doing?
He walked over to her, hesitantly crouching at her side. Studying her pale face, he moved his gaze to her aristocratic nose, two delicate cheekbones, her slender neck. His eyes paused at her collarbone. A faint blush crept across his face as he skipped over the curves of her breasts and went back to her face.

Brago slid one hand across the ground to a strand of her hair. Hovering above the golden locks, his nervousness increased, and he withdrew his hand. Calm down, you fool. Concentrate on being King! The goal of his Kingship sobered him up, and the mamono abruptly stood up and went back to his original resting spot.

The crown he rightfully deserved. Yes, King…Brago took a deep breath. Okay, calm…

As the memory sank back to the dark retreat of his mind, Brago grimaced in fresh agony. Why didn't he realize what he had felt for her back then? Why kid himself? And now, it felt too late to do anything. He wrapped his wound tightly in a piece of cloth Sherry had given him should he ever need it for something like this. Sherry…

The air crackled with static electricity as a cloud rolled gently by. The first virgin drops of rain alighted upon Brago's weary form, accentuating his distressed shivers. The hooks in his heart tugged cruelly. Where… is… she?