The Black Demon King 473
Chapter 25: Days of Lies
The End of the Fifth Galahad War
Beside the pure white wreckage that had become of the Taurus, Simon heard the victory cry of the Spada army echo throughout the Galahad Mountains.
They were going wild. The soldiers and adventurers there were so excited that they couldn’t help feeling the urge to express their enthusiasm.
Looking far away, there were still shrieks and angry roars amid the dense sprays of snow. Perhaps some of the withdrawing Crusaders were being relentlessly pursued by some soldiers of the Spada army.
How many more of those defenseless soldiers in white would meet their fate on Galahad ground as they turn tail? Wondering if he should keep concerning himself with such thoughts now that the battle was over, Simon stopped thinking.
“Hey, Simon, are you injured?”
He heard a refreshing voice coming from above as he sat on the snowy ground with a slightly vacant expression on his face.
As he looked up, he was met with Sophie’s plump brown body, which was a bit too exposed despite the cold weather. Her pure white dancer-like costume that enveloped her outstanding features would have normally been a delightful sight to behold, but it was currently covered with dust here and there.
Simon finally came to his senses when he noticed the huge sweat droplets over her bewitching brown skin and the pale light blue aura that was rising like steam from her body.
“Um, thank you, very much… How about you, Sophie? Any injuries?”
“I’m glad to see you’re worried about me. I’m fine, though. Just a little tired because I’ve used this Divine Protection for the first time in a while. As you can see, not a single scratch on my body.”
Simon used all of his reason to remain calm before the profuse cleavage that had been pushed in front of him, to which his eyes seemed to be nailed to.
“I-Is that so? That’s great to hear…”
From the bottom of his heart, he was glad that both she and him were able to survive the battle.
It must have happened a little while back, but mysteriously, there was a moment when Simon felt like a nostalgic distant memory. It brought him a feeling of tension. It was about the moment when he fired at the Apostle Sariel.
Unfortunately, with Sariel’s entry on stage, the Taurus he was piloting was destroyed in one shot. Fortunately, the area around the cockpit alone –which boasts the strongest defense of the entire Taurus– managed to avoid getting damaged.
Even so, Simon had suffered a terrible aftershock from Sariel’s attack which caused him to faint while still inside trapped in the cockpit, but was suddenly brought back to his senses by a telepathic wake-up call from that terrifying fairy echoing in his brain.
The strategy was the first thing to get into his head. After using Lily’s telepathy to tell her that he was safe and that there was no problem in continuing the operation, Simon faced the bout of his lifetime.
What he had in his hand wasn’t “Yatagarasu – Type 2”, but a new sniper rifle created specifically to defeat Sariel. It was the latest work by Stratos Blacksmith Workshop, and it had a magical mechanism that accelerated bullets with lightning attributes, similar to Kurono’s “The Greed”, by adding some of the remaining Sloth-Gil’s bones into its framework. Its name was “Thunderbird”.
Holding his new sniper rifle, Simon kept silent and waited patiently for the time to come. He held his breath and tried his best to hide his presence while praying to the Black Gods that he would not be found by the enemy.
“Your power is as dangerous as I thought. I will kill you and all of your companions.”
“Tsk, you stupid robot… You haven’t realized yet, have you?”
Then, Simon pulled the trigger. Even without their telepathic link, he felt as if Kurono’s feelings had been strangely conveyed to him.
It was a direct hit. The “Memory Burst” was fired precisely from the rifle’s muzzle at lightning speed, leaving behind a purple trail before striking Sariel’s temporal region.
It must have been reflexively blocked by her aura of blessing. The large caliber special bullet did not pierce her head, but Simon was convinced that the bullet’s effect to destroy the seal on her memories had been properly applied nonetheless.
I did it. I got her.
The moment that thought crossed his mind, he was surrounded by a pure white light and lost consciousness once again.
He now realized what had happened then. Immediately after his successful snipe, he had received a fierce counterattack from Sariel. And Sophie had put her life on the line to protect him from it.
There was no one on that snowfield where Kurono and Sariel had been fighting to the death a few moments ago. In other words, the battle was over. Kurono had defeated Sariel.
“…We really won.”
“Yeah, and that was a great shot.”
Sophie smiled devilishly behind the veil that partially covered her face, and Simon was truly pleased with her compliment. At the same time, his heart seemed to be beating a little faster than usual, which made him feel a bit embarrassed.
“Ah, that’s right, I have to get Gardan out of the cockpit.”
“It should be okay to leave him there for the time being.”
He remembered the big golem knight who was still left behind inside that cramped cockpit.
Gardan looked like a rude, almost vulgar adventurer in a sense, but as opposed to Sophie, Simon had a feeling of kinship towards him, probably because Gardan was as interested as him about the Taurus –if not more. That feeling was especially deeper back when they were piloting the Taurus together and making a mess out of the Crusaders with it.
“The hatch was broken, so how are we going to get him out…?”
Rescuing him would take time and effort.
While still thinking about that, Simon once again took a look around.
Most seemed to be pleased with the victory of the battle, but some others were standing near the dead bodies of their fallen companions as tears ran down their faces.
Almost everyone who fell in this area had been killed by Sariel. She was able to do so much damage in such a brief period of time. If Kurono hadn’t dealt with her sooner, Spada’s victory would have cost a lot more lives, if it happened at all.
“Hm, those over there… Whoa, they’re still alive…?”
Suddenly, Simon’s eyes were on a group of rugged giants that made him wonder from which dungeon they had come from. They were an Orc, a Minotaur, and a Cyclops, all three of them members of the Iron Demon Brigade.
“Oh, those guys are really tough. And they have the Divine Protection of monsters. You’ll have to make sure you’ve definitely finished them off, or they’ll just keep getting back on their feet over and over again.”
Certainly, all of them still had their heads attached to their necks, and their hearts hadn’t been pierced through. Though that kind of damage wasn’t something anyone would be able to recover from either way.
“Whoa, I’m beat! That was really close.”
“Yeah, I thought I’d bite the dust for a moment there, that was scary!”
“M-My head… still hurts…”
Even so, the fact that they could still stand up and have such a friendly conversation like that after all that had happened was proof that they were still Rank 5 adventurers.
“Wow… They really are a tough bunch.”
“Well, not everyone was so lucky in general. Look, things weren’t so bright for the ‘Blade Rangers’…”
The colorful gear of the members of “Blade Rangers” was particularly conspicuous against the white snowy field. Simon could immediately see what Sophie was trying to show him.
“Ugh… Damn it… I’m sorry, guys… I swear… I’m going to avenge you all…”
The leader of the “Blade Rangers”, Pink Arrow, was standing before the lifeless bodies of Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. Though she was wearing a dazzling shocking pink suit, which gave her a playful appearance, she was feeling the pain of losing her companions all the same.
“She really was a frightening opponent. It was the first time I ever saw someone display such a level of skill. I’m glad Lily and the others were able to defeat her…”
Even though she would always keep an aloof attitude, Sophie couldn’t help but put her honest thoughts into words. Even more so because although she had managed to block a single one of her attacks, she knew firsthand just how powerful Sariel really was.
“Oh, now that I think of it, where is he? He won, right? So he should be turning up soon enough…”
For Simon, the joy of having the dream of defeating the Apostle become a reality was something he wanted to share with Kurono, as a close friend who he managed to survive that hellish defensive battle in Alsace together.
“Ah, that’s right, you had blacked out, so you didn’t see that.”
An unpleasant premonition rushed through his mind following Sophie’s suggestive way of speaking.
“Huh? Wait, what… What happened to him!?”
“Calm down and listen, he’s–”
“–What do you mean he’s missing, Lily?”
Though she hadn’t raised her voice, a clear bloodthirst was adrift Fiona’s expressionless face as she grabbed Lily by her torn dress. The fact that she was doing that to Lily in her child form made her look all the more menacing and abusive.
However, Lily looked down for a moment and then immediately stared straight back at her angry golden eyes.
“It’s just as I said. Both Kurono and Sariel were swallowed by a transfer spell and disappeared.”
Fiona didn’t remember anything that happened after Sariel’s right arm was blown off with her “Ignis Fortis Sagita”. Her attack caused her to finally reach the limits of her body and faint. By the time she woke up, she was already in the medical quarters of Galahad Fortress.
And now, as she returned to the room at the inn where they had been staying, she asked Lily to update her on the current situation. Fiona had already been a little worried about not being able to see Kurono after she woke up, but what Lily told her in response was more than enough to have her lose her temper and impulsively grab Lily by the dress.
“Kurono wouldn’t give up on killing Sariel even until the very end. He couldn’t give up on it.”
“Kurono… He’s like that, yes. But… You were with him, Lily.”
“I’m sorry. I should have tried to stop him at that time…”
Fiona knew that Lily already felt responsible for Kurono’s disappearance, so she saw no need to denounce her any further. Lily wasn’t crying or getting angry about being told off, but instead calmly admitted her fault.
Seeing that, Fiona finally calmed down enough to take her hands off Lily.
Besides, she knew that once their “Exelion” had expired, Lily would have her magical power so exhausted that even she would find it difficult to even stand and walk, let alone continue fighting. In that sense, it wasn’t much different from herself, who had also fainted due to exhaustion. There was probably nothing Lily could have done at that time.
But even though she could come to terms with that fact, the resentment that smoldered inside her chest had not subsided. Instead, it had turned into frustration at their own powerlessness.
“Where in the world is Kurono then…?”
“I don’t know.”
“Any idea in what direction that transfer spell sent him?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the magical formula for that transfer spell? Weren’t you able to read even a portion of it?”
“I couldn’t see a thing.”
It wasn’t clear which of them had sighed the loudest. Probably both of them did.
After a brief moment of silence, Fiona began to move. With heavy footsteps that evidenced that she was still too tired, she walked across the room and reached the doorknob.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to look for Kurono.”
“And do you have any idea where to start looking?”
“How could I?”
“Please don’t try to stop me.”
Fiona turned around and glared at Lily as if the golden sun itself was burning in them.
Even she herself knew that her words made no sense.
“Please calm down for a bit, Fiona.”
“How can you be so calm at a time like this, Lily?”
Instead of replying to Fiona’s piercing words, Lily took out a gemstone from her pocket and showed it to her.
The spherical gemstone rolled on Lily’s small palm, glowing with a pitch-black light and a terrifying red aura. It looked like a human eye, but it was an artifact called “Evil Eye”, created after Kurono’s eyeball.”
“Kurono is safe. Looking at this, I know… that he’s still alive.”
That’s how she could remain calm about it.
The anger that rose up from Fiona’s heart like lava from an active volcano wasn’t precisely because Lily could afford to remain calm despite Kurono’s disappearance. She simply couldn’t help but be jealous of her existence as someone who can have such a solid connection with Kurono even when apart from each other.
“If Kurono’s well-being is really in your thoughts, please refrain from doing anything selfish like that. We should do our best to make sure we can get Kurono back to us as soon as possible.”
Fiona knew that. She knew, but the inexorable feelings of frustration still burned wildly inside Fiona’s chest, and all she could see was the black smoke of anxiety.
“Listen, the fact that Kurono is still alive means that he hasn’t been taken prisoner by the Crusaders.”
It was extremely unlikely that the Crusaders would take Kurono prisoner.
His results, the damage he had done to the Crusades, and above all, his extremely violent way to fight, were simply too dangerous for him to be kept alive.
And above all, Kurono was but a mere adventurer. He had no political power in Spada, and thus had no value as a hostage.
There was no doubt that killing Kurono as soon as he’s found would be the safest and best way to maintain morale for the Crusaders.
“You already know this, but Sariel had lost the power to fight back. Kurono was tremendously exhausted as well, but he had enough strength left in him to finish her off.”
There was no way that Sariel had the chance to turn the tables on Kurono after they were transferred away. At worst, even if Sariel had somehow managed to escape, she wouldn’t pose much of a problem to Lily and Fiona now that they knew that Kurono was safe.
“An entire night has passed since the battle. Kurono must have recovered enough to be able to move.”
It was the 25th of the month of Gloom. Dawn had already passed, and noon was approaching.
Just like Lily said, with Kurono’s tough body, a single night of sleep would allow him to regain enough physical strength to move and walk around without problems. After recovering by that much, Kurono wouldn’t be fooled by the enemy anytime soon.
And with Kurono’s power, he could keep himself alive even in the middle of a dangerous dungeon without any problems. Even if Kurono had been sent to an area controlled by the Crusaders, he would have no need to take the risk to go to a nearby village.
“I’m sure Kurono is coming back to Spada. If we’re not here waiting for him when that happens, we’ll most likely end up missing each other along the way.”
“So you’d have us wait patiently for him here?”
“That’s no use. Neither you nor I can just sit here and do nothing but wait for him to return.”
For a brief moment, a cynical smile appeared on Lily’s young face. She then immediately returned to her more serious expression and reassured Fiona.”
“I have no idea where exactly Kurono has been sent by the transfer spell, but at the very least, I know that he’s in the Pandora continent.”
Just as she was about to ask her how she was so sure about that, the answer briefly revealed itself before Fiona.
“Is it because of the power of the Divine Protection that is connected to Kurono?”
“Evil Eye” was created by the Fairy Queen Iris, just as the divine spell “Exelion”, which allowed Lily to merge her mind and body with Kurono’s, was also given by her.
Conversely, it wouldn’t work in places that the power of the Fairy Queen Iris couldn’t reach. As long as there was influence from even a single one of the Black Gods, their Divine Protection could basically be manifested throughout the entire Pandora continent.
If the “Evil Eye” were to show no reaction, then there could be only two possibilities; either Kurono was dead, or he was somewhere far away from the Divine Protection’s reach.
The moment Lily could feel Kurono’s presence with it, she was able to safely confirm that Kurono was alive and still in the Pandora continent.
“We have to consider ourselves lucky that he’s in a relatively close territory in which we can actually go look for him, though…”
“The Pandora continent is too big to find a single person, huh?”
Most adventurers would have seen a map of the entire Pandora continent. From its permafrost lands in the north, which had been completely shut in with ice and snow for thousands of years, to its southern islands of everlasting summer, where the sun shines all year round, the continent has every kind of climate known to the world. There was no telling how long it would take to just go from one the continent’s ends to the other.
“But if Kurono were to need help, he would only be able to rely on Daedalus.”
Needless to say, the Daedalus territory was currently surrounded by enemy territory controlled by the Crusaders. Had he been in any other region, Kurono wouldn’t have had any problem in returning to Spada. There could be some danger along the way, but only the Crusaders would be clearly hostile towards him.
“If we were to go to Daedalus, we’d need to be prepared. We can’t just throw ourselves out there without a plan.”
At the very least, Lily would have to disguise herself as a human, just like when they went to Avalon. Even Fiona had a high risk of taking some kind of action that could expose her true nature.
“So I’ll briefly go back to Spada and start getting ready to go to look for Kurono in Daedalus. You should stay here at Galahad Fortress and wait for him, because he could return here before I make it back here myself.”
Considering such a possibility could only be called wishful thinking, but it still could not be said to be zero chances of it happening. Kurono could have been sent somewhere closer than expected, after all.
“Simon will remain in Spada, and Prince Wilhart will be there as well. We can get in touch regularly so I can know how things are going here as well. Then, if Kurono hasn’t returned by that time our preparations are ready, we can go to Daedalus together and look for him.”
“Sounds good, Lily. …And I’m sorry for earlier.”
Fiona’s face looked as if she was about to cry. Lily softly took her hand.
“It’s okay, I’m about to lose it as well.”
The Spada army managed to withstand the Crusaders’ third attack, which started on the 24th of the month of Gloom, and finally succeeded in repelling it.
The Crusaders vacated their position in front of the Galahad Fortress and withdrew their entire army. Spada’s second unit “Tempest” set out to pursue them, but the enemy’s rear unit showed tremendous tenacity, making it possible for them to escape total annihilation. Their battle marked the end of the Galahad War.
The gigantic walls of the Galahad Fortress had been partially destroyed by the enemy’s ancient weapons. The fierce struggle had caused a serious number of casualties, ranging in the tens of thousands. However, the leaders of the Spada army, including His Majesty King Leonhart, Prince Eisenhart, General Emelia, General Gesenburg, and so on, had managed to survive the war.
Thus, the Fifth Galahad War ended in what could be called Spada’s victory.
“…If you look at it from the outside, that is.”
A slightly heavy sigh escaped from the mouth of the second prince, Wilhart, as he said that with a vexing expression on his face.
He threw a bunch of reports onto the desk and lifted the monocle on his right eye –a motion that had become a habit for him by now–, and then raised his head.
“But at least we can have some peace of mind for now.”
In the direction of the gaze of those golden eyes that were characteristic to the Spada royal family, there was a maid who, as a matter of course, was standing there quietly like a shadow. Of course, she is Wilhard’s “super maid” who handled everything from personal care to escort and intelligence, Celia, who he took pride in having at his service.
“That’s right, it’s an outcome that allows us to save some face before both our people and our allies.”
“It has been reported that the Crusaders’ numbers far exceeded those of the Fourth Daedalus army. Isn’t the damage we’ve sustained reasonable for facing such a large army?”
“If you look only at the numbers… but what about the actual fighting? This was full of bizarre developments unlike anything seen before from the Fourth… no, from any of the armies in any country in Pandora.”
Wilhard was sitting in a dormitory for male students at the Royal Spada Seminary exclusively dedicated to prospective leaders. Basically all of those rooms were single rooms because to be used by those royal aristocrats who were regarded as the future leaders of the nation.
However, in the end Wilhart was only a student, and yet he had managed to gather information such as battle details of the Galahad War and reports on the war’s results, which should have been delivered only to the Royal Castle of Spada.
He hadn’t taken out confidential documents without permission. Wilhart, using his position as second prince, went to the royal castle and was allowed to read said documents to an extent, so after memorizing those reports all the way to the detailed numbers, he put together a memo detailing only the main points. It was basically the same as doing homework.
It was less than the amount of information available at the local headquarters, but it was more than enough to get a rough idea of the course of the Fifth Galahad War.
Therefore, Wilhard already knew what kind of battle had taken place at that fortress.
Using the ancient weapon “Taurus” to launch a pincer maneuver via Dimension Magic. The Apostle… the military strength of the Crusaders, their tactics… The list goes on and on. We couldn’t allow ourselves to take any small victory for granted because each subsequent battle was even more dangerous than the previous one.”
The pride of his father, King Leonhart, was not the thing he had to worry about. He knew that his father had personally assumed command on the battlefield, and there were reports of him crossing blades with an Apostle. No one else could have experienced the power of the Crusaders any more than him.
Therefore, the problem was their allies’ reaction.
Now that they had been able to successfully repel the enemy, it was quite likely that their allies would be reluctant to send support for future confrontations, thinking that “they ought to be easier to deal with than the Crusaders”. Even more than dispatching troops, to support an allied nation with money and goods during a war was a tremendous expense, after all.
Money and goods were still preferable over soldiers because there was no bloodshed involved, but it was financially better for a country to keep them within limits.
For Spada, eliciting more support was a matter of diplomacy.
However, though King Leonhart was quite skilled in the battlefield, diplomacy was not his forte. Spada would have to refer to the enemy’s might with a slight amount of exaggeration, but having such expectations from the taciturn Leonhart would have been a little too much.
“By the way, Nero and the others also took part in the battle… Hmm, should I add a line here so that we can appeal to Avalon?”
Since he was still just a student, Wilhart wondered if this was all he could do.
Although his father expected him to be a prodigy, he still hadn’t obtained any official position or status. However, Kurono, who was the same age as him, had been active enough to make a difference in the battlefield, and even that weakling Simon had resolved himself to join him on the battlefield as well.
“And now that the battle is over, it’s my turn to get to work…”
Dealing with the postwar would help them be ready for the next battle. He had the status to enter the field of diplomatic strategy, in which soldiers and knights on the battlefield had no say. However, how many years would it actually take him to be in the field of activity? At the very least, he would still have to wait another year before graduating from the seminary.
Wilhart thought that his life was like a minecart going down the rails inside a mine. His father, Leonhart, wasn’t bound by his status as a scholar, and even though he had gone to the battlefield by himself, Wilhart knew he didn’t have as much energy and ability to take initiative as his father.
“You don’t have to rush things, Master Will.”
“Hmph, I know that, Celia. I’m not a kid. I’m not trying to make myself look like an impatient fool.”
“I was starting to get worried about you trying to run away with a stolen horse…”
“How long has it been since I’ve last heard that nursery rhyme… You’re giving away your age, Celia.”
That old phrase brought a smile to Wilhart’s face while Celia pretended not to know what he was talking about, creating a slightly sullen atmosphere. It helped relieve the tension a little, though.
“By the way, Master Will, there are planse to make a parade to celebrate our victory tomorrow.”
“Ah, so he’ll be returning here soon.”
The news of Spada’s victory was already widely known among the people. All of Spada was enthusiastic about winning the war.
They would certainly be waiting for the return of the great king who led Spada to victory.
“As soon as Father returns, I’ll try asking him… I’d also like you to investigate this for me, Celia.”
“Are you talking about the whereabouts of Master Kurono, who disappeared from the battlefield?”
The news of Kurono’s disappearance had already reached Wilhart’s ears.
He had been wondering if he had gone missing as opposed to being injured or killed from the beginning. However, he then learned that at the end of the battle with his nemesis, the Apostle, Kurono had been sucked in by the same transfer spell that the enemy had used to escape.
If that spell had sent him to the enemy’s base, there was no hope for Kurono’s survival. It was impossible not to be worried about him.
“No, that’s not it.”
However, Wilhart wasn’t talking about that.
“Kurono’s situation should be left to Lily and Fiona. Of course, they will have my full support.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Hmph, Kurono is my sworn brother. A real man would shut up and trust he will return safely.”
Kurono would surely brave through any situation. And he would definitely survive and return safely to Spada. Wilhart believed this wholeheartedly, though he had no basis for doing so.
“Our priority now is this Apostle that Father captured, this so-called ‘Eight Apostle Ai’.”
The Fifth Galahad War had seen the appearance of not one, but two Apostles.
One of them was Sariel, the Seventh Apostle.
It was said that when the battlefield was already decided and the Crusaders began to rout, she suddenly appeared from heaven, bringing her white light to protect those who fled.
Then, in the blink of an eye, she killed a Rank 5 adventurer and decimated nearly a thousand of Spada soldiers.
The details of the battle from that point on were unknown, but there was no doubt that “Element Masters” fought to the end, and as a result, both Kurono and Sariel disappeared from the battlefield due to the Apostle’s transfer spell. The circumstances around them were unclear, but what was certain was that the Seventh Apostle Sariel had thus been removed from the Galahad War.
The Seventh Apostle Sariel had been the one who caused noticeable damage to the Spada army, but another Apostle appeared as if to help her after the battle with the “Element Masters” got a little out of hand.
That was the Eight Apostle Ai.
The name was familiar to him. It was the same person who appeared near the end of the hellish battle of Alsace where Kurono was fighting and brought about the annihilation of their allies.
With her appearance in this battle, Kurono’s fate seemed to have been sealed, but King Leonhart felt her unusual presence and rushed to his aid.
Wilhart’s father, who was quite the battle enthusiast, did not face the Apostle one-to-one, but instead formed a temporary party with Prince Eisenhart, General Emelia, and General Gesenburg, the strongest members of the Spada army, as he understood just how powerful the Apostle was.
Perhaps he felt that he would have lost had he fought face to face. But as a king, he couldn’t let himself be killed that easily. He still had to lead others to victory.
And sure enough, King Leonhard had fulfilled his responsibilities.
“It says here that the Eighth Apostle Ai has surrendered after a fierce battle, and was arrested using several layers of strong magic seals. She will probably be transferred to Spada in the near future.”
“Should we really be bringing such a dangerous person to Spada?”
“Any regular atrocious criminal can be just thrown into the South Galahad prison… But with that monster that has such a powerful blessing, it would be better to seal her in the lowest stratum of our castle, ‘Cocytus Ravine’.”
“And we will keep her as a prisoner of war instead of outright executing her?”
“According to reports, Apostles are not only powerful soldiers, but also key figures among the religious, and are more respected than royalty and titled nobility. She will not be released under any conditions, but her worth as a hostage is immeasurable. Besides, Father is very interested in the secrets their powers hold. There is simply too much information we can get out of her.”
However, while Wilhart knew that keeping the Apostle prisoner was entirely justified, he still couldn’t dispel his anxiety about it.
He couldn’t stop thinking about what could be the worst thing to happen regarding keeping that dreadful monster called “Apostle” in the very heart of Spada.