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The Black Demon King 471

Chapter 24: The Battle of Holy Night

Fallen Heaven

 

 

“Haah… Haah…”

 

I was breathing miserably as I wandered in the woods.

 

The quiet, snow-white forest gave the illusion of going on forever. I wondered what would happen first, would my legs finally give in to exhaustion, or would I freeze to death? I believed I could endure this cold even though I had lost my coat.

 

“Damn it… The sun is almost gone…”

 

This silvery white landscape would soon be engulfed by the darkness of the night.

 

No matter how effective I was at night, I wouldn’t be able to see anything without a light source. I had so little magical power left in my body that even a small pseudo-fire attribute spell like Torch would be snuffed out before it could actually make a difference.

 

I wondered what to do. Should I sleep out here in the cold with the knowledge that I would probably freeze to death? My body would probably recover to some extent with a single night’s worth of sleep. Or would it succumb to exhaustion…? I really didn’t want to make such a gamble.

 

While I was thinking about that, a faint white light was lit in front of me.

 

“…Thanks, this helps a lot.”

“Hmm.”

 

Sariel had used a “Torch” spell in my stead.

 

Her body felt extremely light on my back, probably because she was missing a few limbs. Still, I could certainly feel the warmth of life on my back. My turtleneck sweater had excellent heat retention. Incidentally, by putting this oversized XL thing over a small Sariel, I managed to completely cover her pitifully underdressed body so that my eyes wouldn’t find themselves staring at her.

 

Even so, being able to use “Torch” meant that she still had some magical power in her. Using magic in itself seemed to be somewhat painful to her, but she had it better than me, whose magical power itself had hit the bottom. At least it was worth it to use my remaining Fairy Remedy on Sariel to close the wounds on her limbs.

 

Thanks to that, I didn’t have to worry about the light, but… I once again had mixed feelings about helping her.

 

That’s right. I couldn’t kill Sariel after all.

 

Sariel would have died if that memory of that day I saw through the “Back Door” had been delayed for another three seconds. Not by suffocation, but by a broken neck.

 

After seeing that, after knowing who Sariel really was… I couldn’t put any force onto my arms anymore.

 

Sariel is more than just a homunculus. Her soul belonged to someone from my original world. If I was summoned into this world, I guess I could say that she was reincarnated into this world.

 

Yuriko Shirasaki.

 

She had also suffered a headache and fainted shortly after I fell here, and the next time she woke up, she was already in Sariel’s body. Her flaxen hair and black eyes were no more, and she was reincarnated into the doll-like body of a homunculus.

 

At least that’s what happened, according to her memories.

 

The “Back Door” had completely closed by now. I was no longer able to look into Sariel’s… no, Shirasaki-san’s memories.

 

“…”

 

No conversation between me and Sariel took place. We remained completely silent as I rushed through the snowy forest without a clear destination, plus she was sighing with a certain regularity, as if she was sleeping.

 

I focused solely on walking ahead and didn’t think of anything else. No, I couldn’t think of anything else. What should I do in this strange situation? I couldn’t find the answer to that question.

 

The only thing that is certain is that I had already lost the will to kill Sariel. To be precise, it was more like I was rejecting the idea of doing it.

 

The truth is, I really should have killed Sariel.

 

It wasn’t about being stubborn about what I had originally set out to do. I knew well what it meant to leave the Apostle alive. That’s why I jumped into “Heaven’s Gate” knowing that it was unreasonable in the first place.

 

And more importantly, I knew that if Sariel were to regain even a small portion of her strength, she would kill me right then and there before anything else.

 

Killing Sariel would be my best bet, even if it would be just to save my guts.

 

I had to kill her, no matter who was in her past life, be it Shirasaki-san or anyone else, lest she kills me first… But the moment I tried to move my arms against her, they wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t even touch her neck, which I had nearly strangled to death before.

 

It was no use. It was time I faced it. I didn’t want to kill Sariel. I didn’t want to kill Yuriko Shirasaki, a person whose face I knew too well.

 

It was funny, actually. I had killed so many people myself. So much for the Devil Berserker.

 

Being someone I knew from my original world. That was all someone needed to be for me not to be able to kill them. How stupid of me. How pathetic.

 

No matter how much I fretted about it, no matter how much I tortured myself with it, the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to kill her still remained.

 

So what was I supposed to do then?

 

After all, I couldn’t come up with anything else past this point. I couldn’t find an answer, and I was only going in circles.

 

“–Oh?.”

 

I continued to be trapped in such a whirlpool of fruitless thoughts, until suddenly I realized.

 

“I… I know this place…?”

 

Was this what people called a “Déjà Vu”?

 

I had also experienced walking in a wintery forest back when I was climbing the Asvel Mountains during the time I was about to face Lust-Rose. Even if it wasn’t the same place, forests in general are extremely familiar places to new adventurers. And it wasn’t exactly the time for me to be lost in reminiscence.

 

Speaking of which, the first quest I took as an adventurer, “Collection of Rixei Grass”, was in the Fairy Garden with Lily.

 

“I see… We’re in the Fairy Garden…”

 

It was completely covered in the veil of night, and the only source of light was Sariel’s little “Torch” which was about to go out. Still, I was sure I was familiar with this dimly lit forest scenery.

 

Even though it was snowing, there was no mistaking it. The Fairy Garden was a dungeon that I spent almost every day on, even though I spent only three months in Ils Village. And that was only about half a year ago. I hadn’t become so forgetful that my memory of those days had already faded.

 

“It should be not too far from here.”

 

My destination was decided immediately. I couldn’t think about anything else.

 

After so long, I would return to the shack Lily and I lived in.

 

 

“Ah… There it is!”

 

I couldn’t help but voice out my excitement after finding the really, really small hut, which was half-buried under the snow.

 

I wanted to bust inside without stopping, but there was just too much snow on the way. Of course, the snow was never cleared because no one lived there.

 

I had no choice but to go through the ordeal of shoveling snow without a shovel just so that I could open the door.

 

By the time I was finally able to push through the thick snow and open the door, I was almost out of breath. I was so exhausted that I felt I could drop down in front of the door right then and there.

 

It wasn’t until the very moment I grabbed the doorknob that I realized that it would’ve been much easier if I had put Sariel on the ground before going through that effort.

 

Oh well. At least the door wasn’t locked.

 

“Haah… Haah… We… we made it…”

 

Of course, there was no one else in that cold, dark room there to welcome us.

 

Still, in this nostalgic room, my heart became a little warmer.

 

“It’s a little dusty… Should I open a window? No, I should light the fireplace first…”

 

I wasn’t so sure about relaxing in a shack that hadn’t been cleaned for over 6 months.

 

For starters, I lighted the lamp hanging from the ceiling. There was still some oil left in it. The warm orange light that turned on without any incidents made me feel comfortable at last.

 

“Yeah, I’m gonna have to clean up before anything else.”

 

Having said that, I went towards the bed, grabbed the blanket and sheets that were folded there, and took them outside.

 

Using a little bit from the energy I had recovered from having returned home, I shook the dust out of the blanket and sheets. This would do for the time being.

 

Having secured a provisional clean bed, I managed to lay down the sheets and blankets as if I was some kind of hotel worker, and then I finally took Sariel down from my back.

 

“It might get a little noisy, so please bear with me for a moment.”

 

Just like how my mom would come with that noisy vacuum cleaner of hers whenever I was right in the middle of a videogame, I wouldn’t stop cleaning even if Sariel squinted at me.

 

Withstanding the cold, I fully opened the windows in the shack, and then unearthed a set of brooms, dustpans, and buckets that had been stowed in the back. With these, I was fully armed.

 

First of all, dusting and sweeping.

 

I had tidied this place back when I left, so there was no trash on the floor or anything like that. The shack itself didn’t seem to have been invaded by animals or monsters.

 

I was really glad that this place that held so many good memories hadn’t been disturbed after all this time.

 

After that, I managed to procure some water from the frozen stream just behind the shack, and scrubbed the spots that needed it the most. It was surprisingly effective, though. Thankfully, it had been only half a year. I wasn’t sure I would’ve had the motivation to clean this place had it been an entire year or two.

 

“Phew… Well, that should do for now.”

 

It wasn’t smooth and shiny, but it was clean enough for me not to mind spending the night there. The next day, when I had recovered my strength, I would leave this place sparkling. Lily loved this place to be all nice and tidy, and to leave it like this felt like I was disrespecting her big time.

 

With that in mind, I sat down on the bed, letting out a tired sigh.

 

“…Kurono Mao.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Please kill me.”

 

“Phew, it’s getting cold, I should close the window.”

 

I was done cleaning already, so I had to close it so that we wouldn’t freeze to death despite being covered by blankets. I mustered up some strength and stood back up.

 

“…Please… Kill me.”

 

“Oh, and I’ll have to light the fireplace now, looks like I have my work cut out for me, huh…”

 

I didn’t want to light a dirty fireplace, who knew what kinds of stuff could get burnt. I didn’t want to be exposed to any strange smells and black smoke that could come out of a dirty fireplace. I had to clean it thoroughly in order to avoid making a mess out of the shack. What would I say to Lily if I did?

 

“…And how do you even use this thing?”

 

Lily and I lived here in peace only from spring to summer. I never had the chance to use a fireplace as small as the one this shack had. Of course, in modern Japan, even lighting a normal fireplace was a rare experience.

 

I wondered about what to do for a moment, then–

 

“–’Ignis Sagitta’.”

 

A bright red fire lit up in the pitch-black fireplace that I was looking into.

 

“I have regained enough magical power to cast low level spells.”

 

Amazing. As expected from an Apostle. To think she would be able to light up a fireplace using her magic…

 

“At this rate, by tomorrow it might be no longer possible for you to kill me.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

“Yes. That’s why, please kill me now, while you still can.”

 

I couldn’t escape from the red gaze that was staring straight at me. It was like a curse. I couldn’t ignore it nor deceive it any longer.

 

“Say, Sariel… What are you?”

 

As I asked that vague question, I returned to the bed.

 

“I am Sariel, the Seventh Apostle. I am not Yuriko Shirasaki, the one from another world.”

 

I knew that already.

 

She wasn’t just Shirasaki-san being brainwashed and manipulated by an “Angel Ring”. Once overthrown, there could be no such thing as convenient as having her regain her true personality.

 

I knew how “Angel Rings” worked better than anyone from personal experience. Yuriko Shirasaki’s personality disappeared long ago, and it was overwritten with Sariel’s personality, which was as poor as a third-rate android personality could get.

 

If they had finished their experiments on me, I would have probably ended up finding myself turned into a doll with no expression on my face and no emotion in my heart, just like Sariel. What was the difference between that and a “Living Dead”?

 

But that’s why Sariel was an Apostle. No other random girl would have been good enough, it had to be Shirasaki-san. The most suitable for the role as an Apostle –the ultimate piece on the White God’s side of the board– is someone who had been turned into a combat machine that has no emotions and just kills enemies.

 

“So why do you want to die, then?”

 

Therefore, I arrived at that big question.

 

“When your memory seal was broken, you didn’t go back to being Shirasaki-san. If you truly remain to be nothing but the Seventh Apostle, how come you want to die? Why won’t you kill me instead?”

 

Sariel could have killed me whenever she wanted to. Back when I was walking in the forest, she could have shot me down with a single “Sagitta”.

 

I had been carrying Sariel on my back with barely anything to protect my body. She could have easily pierced my heart at point-blank range.

 

“…I cannot go against Yuriko Shirasaki’s will.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I don’t quite understand it myself either. But I feel like you won’t kill me either.”

 

That was an extremely vague answer from someone like Sariel. I didn’t really understand the reason for her change of heart. I didn’t understand, but it seemed that she didn’t want to kill me, that is, she didn’t want to carry out her mission as an Apostle.

 

“She doesn’t want your death, and even less to kill you with her own hands.”

 

“I don’t know. If it was to save her own life, maybe she wouldn’t mind having to kill someone like me… No, Shirasaki-san was kind, so she would at least hesitate a little.”

 

“No, she wouldn’t be able to make that choice. If anything, she would prefer to forfeit her own life if it would save yours.”

 

“What do you know about Shirasaki-san anyway?”

 

“Yuriko Shirasaki loved you.”

 

It felt like the continuation of Lust-Rose’s dream.

 

But this was no dream or illusion. I had heard her words in her memory loud and clear.

 

 

“Kurono-kun, I– I like you.”

 

 

I wasn’t so dull that I could misunderstand the meaning of her words, and I hadn’t become so twisted so as to doubt their truthfulness. Besides, they were consistent with our conversation on that day.

 

Friday the 14th of May. In order to confess to me, Shirasaki-san lied about a club activity meeting being held and had me go to the Literary Club room alone. She must have asked all other members to leave in advance in order to set up the perfect scenario. Perhaps everyone else had been waiting right outside the club room, holding their breath.

 

Anyway, there was no doubt that Shirasaki-san was kind enough to confess to me.

 

“She loved you. She was always looking at you.”

 

“Stop!”

 

She had no right to speak about her love.

 

I had no idea why Shirasaki-san liked someone like me. I was curious, so curious, but that answer shouldn’t be told by anyone other than Shirasaki-san herself. And what’s more, I definitely didn’t want to hear it from Sariel’s mouth.

 

Before I even realized, I was grabbing Sariel by the collar with anger, and glaring at her apathetic crimson eyes with my forehead making contact with hers.

 

“Now, don’t get me wrong, Sariel. The only reason why I’m not killing you is because her soul is in your body!”

 

I know that her personality wasn’t there anymore. In fact, her very essence might have completely disappeared from her as well.

 

However, even so, the God’s doll before my eyes was once Yuriko Shirasaki. For that reason alone, I… I couldn’t kill Sariel.

 

“I want to kill you right now. I want to break that little neck of yours and burn your corpse to ashes so that you’ll never come back again. Just like you Crusaders did to my friends!”

 

I threw Sariel away. Even so, I was even more frustrated with myself, who couldn’t even hit the floor with all my might.

 

Sariel didn’t seem to have been put through too much pain from it, and even less scared of my menacing attitude. She just lay flopping on the bed in a way that reminded me of Lily sleeping all sprawled up.

 

“…You really should kill me then.”

 

“And I keep telling you that I can’t.”

 

“She wants that too.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Please kill me.”

 

“Shut up!”

 

With that, the naively honest Sariel finally stopped talking.

 

Never before had I experienced such a heavy silence. I was the one who was screaming in anger, but I felt like I wanted to start crying.

 

“…What should I do?”

 

What was I supposed to do? That’s what I wanted to know.

 

“I have no intention of killing you anymore. But God will not have that.”

 

“Does that mean that you could still end up killing me even if you don’t want to?”

 

“Yes. The Divine Blessing that dwells inside my body can fight against my will.”

 

It wasn’t an entirely wild idea. It was actually quite plausible that by receiving a Divine Blessing powerful enough to become an Apostle they would also become strongly influenced by the will of God, their creator.

 

And even if that wasn’t the case, back when she jumped into the “Heaven’s Gate”, Sariel was moving unconsciously. That could have been part of Judas’ spell, but I could still imagine the danger of Sariel suddenly attacking like that.

 

And a single night was all she needed to regain enough magical power to be able to kill me. I couldn’t even afford to hold onto my worries for just one night.

 

“…You really are designed to be my enemy.”

 

“Yes, as long as I have this Divine Blessing inside me, I will continue to be your enemy.”

 

“Haha, so if that blessing of yours were to disappear, you’d become my ally?”

 

“I no longer have a desire to harm you.”

 

“Well, that would be great… It would certainly make things much easier if I didn’t have to fight you anymore…”

 

But there was no way to do something so convenient as simply stripping her of her Divine Blessing–

 

 

“However, you could take her purity away too with force. After all, it seems purity is the most important condition for a sister.”

 

 

The devil whispered into my ear.

 

What came to my mind suddenly was Fiona’s face, who was chatting with me with her usual sleepy face. It certainly seemed like when we were talking on the way to Galahad Fortress.

 

That’s when I asked Fiona about blessings.

 

 

“But, if there are commandments in their religion like in the Pandora shrine, won’t the Apostles’ blessing disappear with a single breach to the commandment?”

 

 

I had asked her if it was possible for an Apostle’s blessing to disappear.

 

And her answer was that… that… robbing them of their chastity, could do the trick. The act of losing their virginity.

 

“Sariel, are you a virgin?”

 

I had blurted that out before even realizing what I was doing. That’s one of the worst things a man can ask a woman about.

 

Still, I couldn’t help asking that. Without looking away, I looked straight down at Sariel’s face as she lay on the bed so as to not mishear her answer.

 

“Yes.”

 

Sariel replied honestly, without asking why I was asking her such a question, or even being remotely angry at my lack of common sense, let alone tact.

 

There was no sway in the crimson eyes that looked back at me. There was no embarrassment. She simply answered the question.

 

And there was no need to doubt her answer.

 

Because I was already peeking into her memory. Sariel had never shared a bed with anyone, man or woman.

 

“If you’re no longer a virgin, would your Divine Blessing disappear?”

 

“…I don’t know.”

 

This time, her answer didn’t come out immediately. Of course, she wouldn’t have thought about it until now. Moreover, a situation in which her chastity was at stake was highly unlikely. There was no man in this world who could push her down by force, after all.

 

“I don’t know, but it’s possible.”

 

“Has there been any Apostle who has lost their Divine Blessing before?”

 

“There has not. At least, not that I’m aware of.”

 

So there was a slight chance.

 

But she wouldn’t say that “it’s possible” just to suit the mood. There had to be some reason.

 

“I have been created to be an Apostle. I wasn’t blessed solely on the will of the White God.”

 

I didn’t know exactly how that old geezer Judas gave Sariel her Divine Blessing. What I could understand from her memories was that she was able to improve her fighting ability through human experimentation just like me, and that she was living a systematically simple life like I would imagine a priest regularly would.

 

Sariel would basically be on the battlefield, but she still prayed every day. I didn’t see anything else special about it. The only thing worthy of note was she would bring abnormal results to any battle she would participate in. So much that she would overshadow my feats during the Galahad War.

 

“Therefore, if I were to do something that goes against the doctrine of the Cross, it is very likely that my blessing will disappear immediately.”

 

“Sounds similar to what would happen to us as well.”

 

After all, the Apostles, like the Black Gods, could lose their blessings under certain circumstances.

 

“For me, the loss of chastity is the most serious act against my God. And if I were to lose it to someone like you, who has the protection of the Evil God, the White God will never forgive me.”

 

“Far from being benevolent, your God seems to be quite narrow-minded and ill-tempered, if you ask me.”

 

If His Apostles were to lose their virginity, would He just grab another random virgin girl to replace them? The idea of it made me want to throw up, but considering that there were also male Apostles, the Apostles was probably not just God’s collection of beautiful girls.

 

The conditions for awakening as an Apostle were still unknown.

 

“…Should we try that?”

 

The fact that I actually turned my eyes away from that question seemed to show that I was still within the boundaries of humanhood.

 

To deflower Sariel. Though I had proposed to do such a thing, the act itself was completely unrealistic to me, as if it was part of one of Lust-Rose’s illusions.

 

After all, I didn’t have any experience… Well, that maybe was one of the reasons, but the biggest problem was that it was Sariel I would be doing that with.

 

“I have become strong in order to defeat you Apostles.”

 

And we had accomplished that goal. We tried our hardest and finally managed to drive Sariel to a corner.

 

“I hate you so much that even tearing you apart with my own hands wouldn’t be enough for me.”

 

And I actually had torn her apart. It wasn’t until the very last moment, after she had lost most of her limbs and had severe injuries all over her body, that I could stop my relentless pursuit of Sariel. My grudge was real.

 

“And yet you have been my greatest adversary, Sariel.”

 

Sariel, who had already overwhelmed me twice in the past, was my number one goal. It could be said that I had been chasing after her shadow all this time, as if she was some kind of rival.

 

“To think… That I’d do that with someone like you…”

 

“You’re too kind. Just like Yuriko Shirasaki thought you would be.”

 

Sariel coldly opened her mouth as if she was pretending not to know what I was going through.

 

“What did you…?”

 

“She doesn’t want your heart to be hurt either. If it’s going to put you through that much suffering, then you should kill me right now–”

 

“Shut up! Don’t talk like you know people’s feelings, you damned doll!”

 

Oh, that’s right, Sariel. I was so plagued by worry and suffering that I didn’t know what to do. To lay hands on someone like you was most likely going to traumatize me for the rest of my life.

 

But you weren’t wrong. Both you and Shirasaki-san had often seen how much of a weakling I actually was.

 

What made me so angry it caused me to yell against my best judgment wasn’t the fact that Sariel had hit the mark with her comment, but nothing more than me feeling ashamed of myself.

 

“Don’t you dare treat me with contempt, Sariel. Listen, I won’t kill you because you used to be Shirasaki-san. And you won’t kill me either. I’ll keep both of us alive. I won’t yield to you, no matter what–”

 

Both my eyes, which had turned away from her, and my feelings, which had fled from my heart, were once again pointed at Sariel.

 

“–And that’s why I’ll take you away from God.”

 

I couldn’t bring myself to want to do this. But it was still me. There was something only I could do.

 

It was impossible to feel that way towards Sariel. No matter how much I try, my body wasn’t “inspired” enough to do that with her.

 

That’s why this power was given to me, of all people, by the former Demon King Mia Elrod.

 

“I see.”

 

I reached for Sariel, who continued to be cold and expressionless. I lifted her lightly with my left hand and took off the sweater that completely covered her body with my right hand.

 

Sariel’s whiter-than-snow body was once again totally exposed before my eyes.

 

Until just a while ago, we were fighting each other to the death with all our strength. Her right arm was gone, burned away by Fiona, and both her legs had been cut by my blade. Her body was very dirty with mud and blood. Her bloomers looked particularly bad, being almost completely dyed in dark red due to the blood she had lost after losing both of her legs.

 

I, on the other hand, hadn’t lost any parts of my body, but I was just as smeared with blood all over. The stab wounds on my stomach and left shoulder done by her spear were particularly deep.

 

Even so, thanks to the “Fairy Remedy”, in some way or another all of our wounds were closed and the bleeding had stopped.

 

I should probably thank Lily for that.

 

Though I was overwhelmed by the fact that I felt so guilty that I probably would never be able to look at Lily straight in the eye again.

 

Although the time I spent here with Lily was short, it was full of fond memories. And in this meaningful place for us, I was embracing the enemy I was supposed to kill. Instead of Lily, Sariel was now lying in this bed, the same one where Lily and I had slept together every day.

 

“I give all of myself to you.”

 

Then I stared into her crimson eyes and chanted a single word. It was the fourth blessing I obtained after overcoming the trials of lust. A magical spell to make things happen.

 

“–’Over-Ecstasy’.”

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