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The Black Demon King 470

Chapter 24: The Battle of Holy Night

Kurono VS Sariel

 

 

Time went back even further.

 

The large fortified city at sunset somehow resembled Spada. Was that Daedalus? Sariel was looking over it from a high balcony.

 

“On the 13th of First Flame Month, the oracle came to me, saying ‘The Demon King will soon be born’.”

 

Next to her was a tall silver-haired man. His face was blurry, and I couldn’t see it well.

 

“If the Demon King really ends up appearing, the first one he will come in contact with will be the commander of the Crusaders,  Lady Sariel. The Demon King may be as powerful as the oracle tells us. I had thought that the conquest of the Pandora continent would be by repelling the Daedalus army and crossing the mountain, but it seems that the situation has become uncertain, so please be careful.”

 

He probably was one of the big fish among the Crusaders. The conversation with that man was cut off right at that point.

 

 

“You learned through Misa that I would be here in Pandora, and thought you’d say hi, right?”

 

I knew that person’s face very well.

 

Eight Apostle Ai.

 

In that majestic place that seemed to be some sort of throne room, her new adventurer equipment looked completely out of place.

 

“Alright~! You’re the best, Sariel~!!”

 

With a slightly nasty-looking smile, Ai’s face started to get really close, and then everything went dark.

 

 

The momentary glimpses of Sariel’s everyday life became more and more sparse.

 

Everyone worshipped her as the Seventh Apostle. Everyone who came in contact with her would bow reverently while looking down, and refusing to make eye contact with her.

 

The only one who dared speak with her on equal terms was another Apostle. Maybe that was precisely because they were both Apostles…

 

 

“Of course Sariel would definitely dismiss a guy as dependent as you– Look! Even Sariel herself said that he didn’t like guys like you!!”

 

“Uhh… Lady Sariel… I… I…”

 

 

Only her conversations with other Apostles appeared more clearly in my mind.

 

But what had been engraved more vividly on Sariel were the memories of battles.

 

 

“Haha… Who misses a chance like this…? Sariel, I’ll kill you here, and stop the Crusaders!”

 

At the walls of Daedalus, I could see my own body trembling and my face pale as a sheet as I put on a bold front as hard as I could.

 

Of course, I wasn’t the only one she was fighting.

 

Orc Knights, Lizardfolk Warriors, Warcat Swordsmen, Lamia Witches… She fought and then killed every single one of them. Apparently, even after the occupation of Daedalus, rebellions were still happening in various places.

 

Sariel rode her Pegasus, travelling by herself through the villages, and annihilated them all. One-sidedly, overwhelmingly. They were completely trampled down.

 

In her memories, there were only a handful of opponents who could have been considered as a “close call” to her. One such opponent was…

 

 

“Sariel, you are the first one worthy of being called my opponent in a long time. From here onwards, I shall also use my full strength– Come, human with an Angel’s name!”

 

 

It was Dragon King Garvinal.

 

A huge dragon with a jet-black body and an ominous crimson glow such as him certainly had the dignified appearance needed to claim to be the king of dragons. Above all, the fact that a mere memory of him was enough to get goosebumps all over my body was an overwhelming sign of his fierceness.

 

His defeat couldn’t have been anything short of a miracle.

 

 

“I’m Kurono Mao. I wanna get out of here, could you tell me where’s the exit?”

 

 

Compared to him, what did I look like?

 

I was wearing a bloodied prison uniform, barefoot and bare handed.

 

Back when I escaped from the laboratory and met Sariel for the first time, I was a complete mess.

 

And not only in appearance, I was also weak at the time. Sariel had a very vivid memory of when I was a nobody.

 

 

“Welcome to the White Sacrament’s Third Research Institute, Cardinal Ars, Seventh Apostle Lady Sariel–”

 

 

And the memories beyond that appeared to be from a time before I was summoned into this world.

 

It was a series of memories of a battle far more fierce than the Pandora expedition.

 

Her enemies were the same. She would defeat monsters only when they got in her way. Sariel’s job was to eradicate the heathens that prevail in the Republic of Sinclair.

 

She would find and then kill them. Whenever she was rushed by a large number of enemies, she would meet them head-on. And she would leave no survivors behind.

 

Fight, fight, fight. Kill, kill, kill.

 

Then, Sariel would stand over the huge pile of bodies and mutter…

 

“–May God bless your souls.”

 

This was an Apostle. This was precisely why she was an Apostle, too.

 

She faithfully carried out God’s will. Nothing more. She indiscriminately killed her enemies. She was a killing machine.

 

 

“–From now on, Sariel will be the new Seventh Apostle. Since she hasn’t been officially appointed yet, she still has to be awarded her rightful title, so for now there’s no need to call her ‘Lady’ Sariel or anything like that.”

 

 

So that’s what it was.

 

Was it you who created Sariel, Judas…?

 

 

 

“–Bwaaahh!?”

 

A sudden suffocation quickly yanked me back from Sariel’s battle record.

 

It hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I felt as if I was about to drown in an endless ocean.

 

Though I was being assailed by a sense of impending danger, I was fortunately able to pull my head up and over the water’s surface, and succeeded in taking in some air.

 

“Haah, haah… Haah… Wh-Where am I…”

 

My soaked body felt extremely cold and heavy. I had to shake my head like a dog in order to flick away the water that had clung to my long bangs and face. Once that was done, I could finally see what was in front of me.

 

“I’m… in the middle of a forest…?”

 

I found myself standing in a deep forest where it was snowing gently. The coniferous trees that surrounded me all looked like undecorated snowy Christmas trees.

 

Then I realized that the sky was slightly dim, and powder snow was pouring quietly. Was it already dusk?

 

At the very least, this place didn’t look like Heaven. So where exactly did that “Heaven’s Gate” take us? That old geezer Judas and his transfer magic…”

 

Though I should have considered myself lucky about not being suddenly dropped in the middle of the enemy base.

 

More than a small pond, I had been thrown into a rather nice place which would be more appropriate to call a spring. It was actually rather shallow, close to a beach’s shore.

 

Upon closer examination, this spring was beautifully circular, almost too perfect to be made naturally. Still, it seemed to be strangely in harmony with the surrounding nature, enough to not make it seem out of place. There was a mysterious atmosphere about this place.

 

“Sariel!”

 

My mind went back to my top priority. I strained my eyes trying to find her in the dim environment to no avail.

 

However, I could hear some splashing behind me. The first was quiet, there was no wind, and no birds were singing. The sound I heard in the spring indicated that someone was moving there.

 

“You’re really persistent, I’ll give you that…”

 

Sariel had lost her right arm, her left leg had come off, and although she could no longer stand and walk normally, she was still dragging herself out of the spring by crawling her way out.

 

With her pure white skin and white underwear, she seemed to blend in with the snowy fields that surrounded the spring’s banks. However, the blood flowing from what once were her legs vividly flourished onto the white background. Looking at that, there was no losing Sariel among the snow anymore.

 

I made my way through the spring toward Sariel, who was so broken I couldn’t help but think that she looked like some kind of zombie, who was only able to move through some kind of supernatural power.

 

My already heavy feet were likely to stop completely at any moment due to the resistance of the water. Still, step by step, slowly and surely, I cornered Sariel.

 

“Haah… Haaah… Wait…”

 

I was running out of breath just by walking. Even so, I eventually caught up with Sariel, who kept on moving away on the snow, crawling like a worm.

 

Looking closely, her white aura seemed to have finally disappeared from her body. She probably was already at her limit… Though the wound on her right leg had closed faintly.

 

And not only that. The once open wounds on both Sariel’s right arm, which Fiona had burnt away with her magic, and her left leg, which had been cut off with my broadsword, were both slightly covered with a shining white mist and her usual aura.

 

Her wounds seemed to be in the process of recovering. Although her left leg had been amputated from the middle of her thigh –which was the next biggest part of her body after her torso– the amount of blood leaking from it was clearly small. The wound was already closing.

 

“Damn you, you monster– Gah!?”

 

Once again, the scenery in front of me changed completely. Apparently, the influence of the “Back Door” hadn’t subsided yet. On the contrary, it seemed that the further backwards I went with these memories, the more intense and vivid they became.

 

And what I saw was a place I never wanted to see again.

 

 

“–We shall now begin the final maneuvering experiment. Prototypes No. 6, No. 13, and No. 24, get in.”

 

A circular hall spread out beyond a white passage.

 

This was the same place where they did their human experimenting on me.

 

“Begin.”

 

There were two opponents in front of her. They were wearing the same thing, a white prison uniform. Sariel was probably wearing one too. They were the same as the one I once wore, but the difference was that these three were wearing masks, similar to the ones those researchers were wearing. Given the narrow field of vision I had, Sariel was probably covering her face with one of those white masks.

 

Then, the final maneuvering experiment, that is, a three-way battle royale, started.

 

Despite the lack of weapons, the battle was fierce. The unchanted attack magic flew all over the place, and whenever two of them would get in close quarters with each other, the fight would turn into a near-invisible flurry of techniques.

 

“No. 6 has died.”

 

Sariel tore the neck of the experimental subject with a strike of her hand as if it was a sharp blade, and defeated them by herself.

 

“No. 24 has died.”

 

After dodging a barrage of advanced spells, Sariel pierced No. 24’s heart with her “Stinger”.

 

No. 24’s body fell on their back, drawing an arc of fresh blood from his chest as they fell. The impact against the floor caused their mask to come off…

 

The face behind the mask, which I could only see for a moment, was an exact copy of Sariel’s face–

 

 

“…Haah, haah… Damn it… So it’s just as Lily said…?”

 

Sariel was actually a homunculus. An artificial Apostle created by the White Sacrament.

 

The prediction of Sariel’s true identity that Lily once told me about was proved true at this very moment.

 

Had Sariel turned a blind eye towards me twice out of sympathy for me, knowing that I was an experimental subject just like her? Though I didn’t think she had that kind of human emotion.

 

“Still… I’ll kill you.”

 

My heart trembled. It was as if she had begged me to let her live.

 

It was the same as with Lust-Rose. But as long as I didn’t hesitate, I would be able to do it.

 

“I’ll definitely… kill you…”

 

Sariel was still trying to crawl away from me. So I started by grabbing her right ankle.

 

It would be a big problem if another miracle were to conveniently get her out of this again. Even though she had only one leg and it was barely attached to her body, I didn’t doubt that Sariel could still use it to jump and disappear into the depths of the forest. And if I were to lose sight of her in such a place, I would never find her again.

 

I would have to take care of that first.

 

My hand tightly grabbed hold of her right ankle, while my foot pinned her round but small right buttock, which was still wrapped in white bloomers that had been tainted by several droplets of blood.

 

“Haaah!”

 

In one go, I pulled her leg out.

 

Even though her wound was closing, the leg had been connected only by skin and flesh. Since the bone had already been cut, I was able to tear the leg apart without much trouble.

 

The creepy sound of tearing flesh strangely stuck around at the back of my ears.

 

The blood that rushes from the torn flesh dyed the surface of the snowy field at my feet completely red in the blink of an eye.

 

I had no intention to hold onto Sariel’s leg forever, plus it looked like something taken from a mannequin, so I simply threw it away without showing the slightest hint of emotion.

 

“Ah… Ahhh… Uhh, aahh…”

 

Sariel started to groan.

 

Was that because of the pain of having her leg torn away? Or was it because of the days of human experimentation in that hellish laboratory coming back to her mind?

 

“Guh… Uhh… D-Damn… Damn it…”

 

I once felt that agony as well.

 

That dark-colored drug they injected me with, over and over and over again. My body, chopped up like fish as much as they wanted toAnd the body that is chopped as you like. How many times had they opened my stomach?

 

The mere memory of it all made me want to vomit.

 

A maneuver experiment that started as soon as you woke up. Experimental subjects with the same fate as that of a rampaging monster ahead of them.

 

The endless days dedicated purely to killing each. A routine colored by death and suffering.

 

After all, Sariel was just like me.

 

“Damn it! Dieee!!”

 

To escape the nightmare, to look away from the reality in front of me, I screamed like crazy and attacked the near-limbless Sariel.

 

I didn’t need reasoning. I simply had to forget everything I had seen so far, and remember the smoldering hatred in my heart.

 

I kicked Sariel away as if she was a pebble on the road, drawing a painful moan out of her mouth.

 

“Ah… Ugh…”

 

The tip of my boot dug deeply into her belly. Vomit spewed from her mouth as she bounced and rolled on the snowy ground once, twice, and then a third time.

 

The appearance of her lying on her back on the ground was a terrible and tragic sight to behold. Her body was smeared with blood, her face was soiled with vomit, and the only limb she had left was her left hand. She looked like she would bleed to death in less than five minutes if left alone. It was rather strange that she hadn’t died already, though.

 

But I would finish her off myself. I had made up my mind.

 

“…Die.”

 

I leaned over Sariel as if I was pinning her down on a bed –though I had no experience doing such a thing.

 

I extended both of my arms towards her as if to gently embrace her. My two big hands wrapped themselves around her tiny, frail neck.

 

“Die.”

 

I pressed hard.

 

Though I was the one squeezing her neck, I felt my own consciousness fading away. I had finally reached my limit. I was so exhausted I could barely move a single finger.

 

But we had reached this far. I needed all of them to be able to move for a little bit longer.

 

“Diiie.”

 

“Kah… Hah… Ahh… S… S-Stop..”

 

No, she wasn’t begging me to stop. Sariel’s red eyes were staring straight at me, but what they saw was a picture of the distant past.

 

That was from a time when she still had human emotions.

 

More than seeing it, I could hear it.

 

Sariel’s voice screaming in pain.

 

“Stop!”

 

“It hurts!”

 

“I want to go back!”

 

“I want to see him again–”

 

Was this really another one of Sariel’s sealed memories?

 

She used to have feelings. She hadn’t always been like a doll. This Sariel, who cried out in constant suffering, was a normal girl.

 

But sealing these memories made sense. How else could she have fought as an Apostle if she could still remember those things?

 

Perhaps she had retained her human emotions until the very early days of her experimenting. Before long, she would have lost all of her emotions, as evidenced by the memory I had just seen.

 

But it was too late for compassion. She had already caused too many deaths as an Apostle. She had killed way too many people for her God’s sake.

 

That’s why…

 

“Die!”

 

I had to kill her.

 

“Diiie!”

 

I had to end this, once and for all–

 

“Diiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

 

“–I-It was a lie.”

 

Suddenly, the scenery before my eyes completely changed once again.

 

What I began to see was Sariel’s dying face, and something that vaguely resembles a room.

 

“Actually, that was not what I wanted to say.”

 

What was what she was trying to say, then?

 

And more importantly, who was she talking to?

 

 

“Ah, is that so?”

 

 

Said that guy. That guy was wearing a high school uniform, and had a terribly sharp look in his eyes, though he had a stupid expression on his face. In the middle of an empty classroom, that guy… I… was staring at her with the biggest dumb face ever.

 

“W-What…”

 

What was I doing in Sariel’s memories? The “me” that was still only a high school student.

 

But more importantly, I… I remembered this scene too.

 

“N-No way… that’s…”

 

These were undoubtedly my last moments in Earth’s Japan, the world I came from.

 

Back then, there was only one other person aside from me in that classroom.

 

“Kurono-kun, I– I like you.”

 

I finally got to hear the end of what she was trying to say that day in that almost empty Literary Club room.

 

“Shirasaki-san…?”

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