Suzuki Iruma. Current resident of the Netherworld. Beloved grandson of Lord Sullivan. Precious friend of the fire-wielding prodigy Asmodeus Alice and the embodiment of a wrecking ball Valac Clara. Hero of Walter Park, current rank Gimel.
This would make a person sound intimidating and eye-catching, would it not? Yet, our hero is not a dashing figure with billowing cape as he is backlit by the setting sun. Instead, he is confined to his large bed, propped up by pillows, with a flush of fever across his checks, his eyes closed as he pants for breath around his stuffy nose.
“Oh, my precious Iruma-kun,” whined the great Lord Sullivan as he clasps one of Iruma’s hands tightly between his own. “All the stress from the park must have finally caught up to you! I’ve heard that humans are frail, but to think you too would succumb….”
“I’m alright, Grandpa. I think it’s just a cold. I got them back in the human world, and was always fine on my own,” Iruma reassured his grandfather before coughing and leaning even more heavily into the pillows. “But, I don’t think I can handle school. Do you think Kallego-sensei will be mad?”
On the other side of the bed, Opera wrung out a cloth, and gently laid it across Iruma’s brow. “If he is, just let me know, and I’ll sort out my Kohai.”
“Opera-san,” Iruma whined, but wasn’t able to do more than frown at the servant. “Please be nice to Kallego-sensei.”
“Don’t worry, Iruma-kun!” Sullivan assured as he gently laid Iruma’s hand back on the bed. “I’ll pick up some medicine on the way home from school. Although,” he trailed off and placed a hand on his chin in thought. “Will demon medicine work correctly on a human?”
“Try asking, Balam-sensei,” Iruma suggested, then stiffened as both Sullivan and Opera stared at him. “I-I mean, he wrote an amazing study guide on the human world, so he probably has the best idea of what would work best for a human.” He offered both of them a somewhat weakened smile, before coughing again.
“Hm, if you think so,” Sullivan replied. “Opera, please take care of Iruma-kun today. I’ll contact Balam-kun as well.” The servant bowed and confirmed his acceptance of the new orders.
“Grandpa, can you let Azz-kun and Clara know that I’m okay? I don’t want them to worry,” Iruma asked, a slight frown gracing his face.
“Don’t worry, Iruma-kun~! Just leave it all to Grandpa today!”
“Iruma-sama is unwell?” Asmodeus Alice repeated, his brow furrowed, as the normally cheerful Valac Clara also frowned.
“Yes, the stress from the park must have finally caught up to him. But he has a delicate constitution, so I’m going to consult with Balam to get the appropriate medicine for him,” Sullivan responded. “But he wanted me to tell you two specifically where he is. Opera is taking care of him today.”
“I see,” Azz responded, placing a hand on his chin in thought. “Thank you for letting us know, Sullivan-sama.”
Clara frowned and opened her mouth, but before anything could be said, Azz swiftly covered it with his hand. He offered a bow to the demon lord, forcing Clara to copy him. Sullivan smiled and went to the door of Balam’s lab, calling out, “Shichirou-kun!”
Clara finally shook Azz’s hand off her face and pouted at the taller demon. “What was that for, Azz-Azz?”
“We really need to teach you how to think before you speak,” Azz chided, and pulled Clara into an empty classroom. “Think about it. Why would Iruma-sama specifically ask Sullivan-sama to tell us that he is unwell?”
Clara frowned, and wrung her hands on the hem of her shirt. “Um…”
“Clearly, Iruma-sama has decided to trust us as ‘friends’ and is counting on us to guard him. Why else would he specifically ask Sullivan-sama to tell us of this moment of weakness?” Azz continued, his clenched hand trembling against his chest. “Oh, how foolish I was to not see the monumental honor Iruma-sama has provided us with! In olden times, only the most trusted of advisors and confidants were allowed near an ailing lord, to prevent interlopers from taking the throne. Iruma-sama must be acknowledging us as part of his inner circle!”
“So, what should we do then?” Clara asked, startling Azz out of his worshipful tirade. “Should I try to make Iruma my family’s quicky-wicky fix-it-all soup?”
“No, we should let Sullivan-sama and Balam-Sensei handle that, if Iruma-sama’s constitution is that delicate. We should make sure that we have all of his assignments, and can adequately explain them to him. After school, we will need to join Opera in defending Iruma-sama.”
“Defending?” Clara asked with a tilt of her head. “But if Birdie-Sensei is handling the medicine, we won’t be able to make Irumachi feel better.”
“No, but we will be able to defend Iruma-sama in case someone tries to attack him! After all, since he’s Sullivan-sama’s grandson, anyone with a grudge against the chair-demon might try to enact revenge through Iruma-sama.”
“Hmm,” Clara considered, before pulling herself together and offering Azz a salute. “Don’t understand at all, but reporting for duty to help Irumachi!”
Azz just sighed before pulling Clara out of the classroom and heading off to Royal One.
Sullivan cautiously opened the door to Iruma’s room. It had taken a while to gently nudge Balam in the correct direction, but Iruma was correct in that the biology professor would have the best information available on how to help a human body deal with an illness. Unless he wanted to go back to the human world and kidnap a doctor to treat his beloved grandson. Given the hassle that Azazel Henri had given him, Sullivan wasn’t prepared to go quite that far just yet. Iruma had said that he had dealt with this before, and the boy had faced much harder trials in the Netherworld. So Sullivan would have to trust in his grandson.
Peeking his head through the door, Sullivan felt his eyes go wide at the scene. Seated next to the door, Opera silently held a finger to his mouth, also encouraging silence from his erratic employer. Sullivan put a hand to his own mouth to silence his mirth.
On the large bed, Iruma was still propped against his pillows with the sheets covering him, just as he had been that morning when Sullivan left. However, there were a few additions to the bed itself. Asmodeus Alice had positioned himself against the headboard, with Iruma securely held against his side. At Iruma’s feet, Valac Clara was sprawled across the huge bed, her arms flung wide with one hand holding Iruma’s ankle gently but securely. Books, notebooks, papers, and pens were scattered across the coverlet along with detritus from snacks that usually seemed to follow in Clara’s wake.
“They arrived after school and asked to be allowed to guard Iruma-sama. They were so sincere, I couldn’t turn them away,” Opera offered in a quiet voice. “They did study for a time, but Iruma-sama grew tired, so they encouraged him to rest. Within 30 minutes, they had joined him in sleep, but as you can see, I can’t separate them without potentially waking Iruma-sama.” Their eyes were calm, but the tall ears were flicking about, uncertain if they had made the correct choice. ”Was Shichirou able to offer any assistance?”
Sullivan chuckled softly. “I think this might just be what the human doctor ordered. Shichirou-kun prepared this herbal blend,” Sullivan held up a wrapped bundle the size of a dodgeball, “to serve to Iruma as a tea. He says it’s a combination of the most simple healing herbs available in the Netherworld, and they do seem to be similar to the herbs I’ve seen in the Human Realm in the past. I think it should be safe to give to Iruma. Please prepare the first serving to go with dinner. He included instructions for the proper dose.”
Opera stood and took the parcel, bowing to their master. “I’ll begin preparations right away.” With that, they left Iruma’s room, their tail swaying behind him.
Sullivan nodded to himself, and quietly approached the tallest figure on the bed. He gently prodded at Alice’s shoulder, attempting to rouse him. Instantly, fire appeared in the hand not clutching Iruma, and the boy glared as he prepared to throw it at the nearest target. He paused in the midst of throwing as he recognized Sullivan, and the fire quickly disappeared.
“Sullivan-sama,” the boy uttered quietly, before snapping his head around to check on Iruma. He visibly sighed in relief as he found Iruma still sleeping against his side. “My apologies, but when it comes to defending Iruma-sama, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
“I agree,” Sullivan concurred. “Thank you both for watching out for my grandson. Any issues spring up while I was away?”
“No, sir. We provided Iruma-sama with the notes from today’s lesson and have gone over the details with him to the best of our ability. I do not believe he will fall behind in class once he has recovered. Was Balam-Sensei able to assist with healing Iruma-sama?”
Sullivan nodded cheerfully. “Opera’s preparing it now. Will you and Miss Valac be joining us for dinner?”
“If it’s not a bother. If need be, we can provide for ourselves. Our main goal is protecting Iruma-sama in his weakened state.”
A voice drowsily echoed from the foot of the bed. “Irumachi says Opera-chi makes good food. I want to have dinner with Irumachi.”
“And just how long have you been awake?” Azz hissed quietly at his companion. Iruma groaned, and Azz froze, a look of panic on his face. However, Iruma just nuzzled further into Azz’s side, before settling with a soft expression.
“Since you made the fire go ‘fwush’,” Clara answered, sitting up and letting go of Iruma’s leg. “Will Irumachi be better with Birdie-Sensei’ s medicine?”
Sullivan nodded again. “He should be just fine. Iruma’s been sick before, but it’s been a while since his last episode, so I was worried. Thank you for looking out for him.”
Clara and Azz shared a look for a moment, before turning back to Sullivan. “Irumachi is really important to us,” Clara explained, an unusually serious expression on her face. “He played with me when no one else would, and he said friends are important to each other. I don’t know if friend is the right word, but I would do anything for him!”
“It is the same for me,” Azz agreed, his occupied arm tightening around his companion. “I told Iruma-sama that I would serve him forever after he proved his strength to me. He has never given me a reason to doubt him.”
“Hmm,” Sullivan hummed. “Would you say the same, if I told you that Iruma isn’t my grandson by blood? That he has no bond to me other than what we have forged ourselves?”
The two were quiet, and shared another look, their brows furrowed with an unspecified emotion. “It doesn’t matter to me from whose bloodline Iruma-sama descends,” Azz stated with conviction. “He is precious to me because he is Iruma, not because he is your grandson.” Clara nodded her confirmation.
“Irumachi is Irumachi, and that’s what’s important. Isn’t it the same for you?” She questioned with a knowing look on her face. Sullivan couldn’t help but smile brightly at her.
“You’re right. As expected of Iruma’s precious friends.” The two beamed brightly at Sullivan and each other, with just a hint of smugness entering as their friendly rivalry started to flare up.
“Now, why don’t you two go help Opera with preparing Iruma’s dinner. I’m sure he could use the help, considering how much food will be needed.” Sullivan gently instructed. The two young demons exchanged another look before gently extracting themselves from the bed and padding out the door. Both of them gave a final look at the bed, ensuring that Iruma was safe, before striding down the hall. Once the door was closed, Sullivan sat himself down on the edge of the bed.
“You really did make some amazing friends, Iruma-kun,” Sullivan acknowledged before offering a smile to his grandson. Iruma’s eyes gently opened, tears unshed at the corners. “Most demons would take advantage of any perceived weakness to try and better themselves. But not those two. And they do seem to care for you deeply.”
Iruma sat up and rubbed at his eyes to try and dispel the tears, but all he accomplished was shedding more. He threw himself at Sullivan, who caught him with open arms and hugged the small human. Sobs gently echoed around the room.
“Grandpa, I’m really glad that you adopted me,” Iruma said into Sullivan’s chest. “Really, really glad.”
“And I can say the same thing, Iruma-kun.” The chair-demon responded. Iruma finally raised his head and gave Sullivan a watery smile.
“Now, let’s get you cleaned up and go join your friends, hm?”
“Yeah,” Iruma agreed, and began the process of extracting himself from the bed. He had two special demons to thank for being his friends, and two more for family. He could hardly believe his luck. From scrounging every day to provide for his worthless parents, to being a beloved grandson and friend. There were days where Iruma could hardly believe his luck.
He couldn’t wait for their next adventure together.