The Black Demon King 476

Chapter 25: Days of Lies

The Morning After (1)

 

 

It was a pleasant awakening.

 

The dazzling morning light rushed into my slightly opened eyes, but my head regained consciousness at an accelerated pace, choosing to wake me up.

 

Then, I fully opened my eyes.

 

“Haah…”

 

A refreshing sense of fatigue wrapped around my entire body, the same I would feel after having enjoyed practicing sports to the fullest. The breath that I had just exhaled was pure white.

 

It seemed that it was very cold, but I wasn’t feeling it.

 

Apparently, my body had already recovered enough of its strength to block the cold of midwinter. Sure enough, my regeneration rate, physical strength, magical power, and energy hadn’t been completely restored, but it was still completely different from yesterday, when I was so exhausted from all of the wounds all over my body that I could barely move. I felt so rejuvenated that I could have easily gone to a dungeon to do a quest to defeat low-ranked monsters.

 

After noticing how well I was feeling, I sat upright on the bed.

 

Next to me, I saw Sariel’s face, who was sleeping as quietly as if she were dead. The only indication that she was not a doll was the breathing that gently escaped her little nose at regular intervals.

 

I gently touched her pure white cheeks as if I was touching a porcelain doll, and approached her pale pink lips–

 

“!?”

 

Just before my lips touched hers, I suddenly regained my sanity.

 

“W-What am I doing…?”

 

I was about to kiss Sariel in a terrifyingly natural way, and realizing that made me feel an immense disgust with myself.

 

I assumed that, rather than still being half-asleep, I was still under the influence of the fourth blessing.

 

After having regained my senses, I grasped the situation once again.

 

“T-This is the worst…”

 

 

 

“Anyway, I’m gonna need some water.”

 

I wouldn’t be able to get started without it.

 

Since I knew where everything was, I dug through a chest of drawers in the room for some bath towels, then wrapped one of them around my waist before heading out of the room. Its purpose was, of course, to allow me to wash my face and body in the stream flowing behind the hut. Back when I was living in Ils Village, I would also come here to tend to my morning grooming.

 

However, the moment when I came here to take my extremely dirty prison uniform off and clean my body after finishing defeating those goblins with Lily had left a deep impression in my memory. But this time, I felt like my soul was dirty as well as my body.

 

My naked body could bear the flesh-tearing wintery air and the freezing water of the river only so much, and so I quickly finished my morning pseudo-bath.  Thinking it necessary, I filled a wooden bucket with water from the river and took it back with me to the room.

 

After that, I once again rummaged through the chest of drawers –I knew exactly what was in there and how everything was organized– and got myself a clean set of warm clothes for me to change into. The reason why there were such convenient winter clothes stored in the chest of drawers was Lily and I bought them for cheap from a peddler that had visited the village during the summer. The clothes I put on were black leather trousers and a thick gray sweater, similar to what I had been wearing until recently.

 

Back then, I couldn’t help but believe that winter would come, then spring, then a year would pass, then another, and time would keep flowing gently without any major events happening. Knowing the Crusaders’ invasion of Pandora and the horror they brought along, I should have been more vigilant, more prepared… I still had that regret.

 

The fact that I had returned to this house by mere chance was making me all sentimental as well. And to make things worse, what I did with Sariel…

 

Then, as I absentmindedly finished getting dressed, Sariel opened her eyes.

 

“Oh, you’re up.”

 

Her wide open red eyes stared straight at me.

 

“Good morning.”

 

“Morning.”

 

Ignoring my mixed feelings about our carefree, almost casual morning greeting, Sariel used her remaining left hand to sit herself upright on the bed.

 

I couldn’t help but admire her glittering silver hair flowing smoothly on her shoulders and back as it reflected the light of the morning sun shining through the window. Then I stared at it, and finally realized that it wasn’t tied up in a ponytail as it normally would.

 

Then I remembered. Last night, I had taken her silver hair clip –which looked like Ai’s sealed vessel–, setting her silver hair free. The look of her long silver hair was a somewhat refreshing sight… But how much longer was I going to keep staring at it? I had to pull myself together.

 

“Ah, umm… Is everything alright?”

 

“Yes, I cannot sense any white magic on my body any more. The blessing seems to have completely disappeared.”

 

“A-Ahh… I see.”

 

Speaking of which, remembering that that was the reason why we ended up doing that in the first place made me feel utterly disgusted with my own stupidity.

 

When I asked her if everything was alright, I wasn’t asking if her blessing had disappeared and I was safe. I was genuinely asking about her health. But to worry about Sariel’s condition in the first place was something wrong.

 

I knew I was the one who had left her in that sorry state in the first place, but Sariel was still Sariel, even if her blessing had disappeared. She wasn’t Shirasaki Yuriko.

 

“Right now, I only have the power of an average homunculus. You should be able to kill me easily.”

 

“If your blessing is really gone, then I no longer have any reason to kill you.”

 

I could no longer feel the presence of an Apostle emanating from Sariel anymore. And upon closer examination, there was an aura similar to the one her automatic regeneration had the night before covering each of her wounds, but I felt no purity from it.

 

However, the surfaces where her limbs had been amputated had healed to a point where their bleeding had stopped completely. After all, she had undergone the same experiments I had been put through, so her body was quite tough. Perhaps she already had superhuman physical strength, resilience, and vitality even without her blessing.

 

“Listen, I’m letting you live. Don’t talk to me about you dying or anything like that.”

 

“…Then, as you wish, I will not die.”

 

“But that still doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you. Don’t you ever forget that.”

 

I might have said too much, but I couldn’t help but do it. I had no idea what to do about Sariel, or how to deal with her, from now on. I hadn’t even thought about it.

 

All I could do for the time being was to put it on hold.

 

“For now, just get yourself dressed. I can’t have you stay naked forever.”

 

 

 

“…This should be good for now.”

 

Paying no attention to Sariel’s thank-you words, I stood up after wiping Sariel’s body clean.

 

I went back to the chest of drawers where I found the clothes I was wearing, but this time around I had to check a different drawer; one that would have been completely off-limits under normal circumstances. In other words, Lily’s underwear drawer.

 

While being assaulted by feelings of guilt towards Lily for who knows how many times by that point, I searched around for some panties.

 

Whoa, no way… Lily really had panties like these stashed in here? They’re completely see-through…

 

“–Alright, these ones should be a perfect fit.”

 

While once again believing that had come back to my senses, I desperately contain my anxieties and finish changing Sariel’s clothes. Of course, I didn’t put the see-through panties on her. These were plain, run-of-the-mill panties.

 

Lily’s clothing came in two sizes. She had her usual little-girl size, and the size that would fit her grown-up form, though back then she would transform only once a month.

 

Of course, I dressed Sariel with Lily’s little-girl-sized clothes. After all, Sariel and Lily had a similar physical appearance. Both of them were fragile, delicate beautiful girls who could crumble at any second when you hugged them.

 

The plain pale pink underwear was indeed a perfect fit on both her top and her bottom. Had it been Fiona’s underwear, her bra would have been way too big for Sariel.

 

Leaving my nonsensical delusions aside, I finished getting her dressed without any complications.

 

There weren’t any small-Lily-sized winter clothes to be found, so I ended up dressing her up with some of my own clothes. Specifically, I gave her a dark blue cardigan made of a seemingly warm, thick fabric. I had bought this cardigan on impulse out of nostalgia, since it looked a bit like part of a school uniform.

 

It was an XL-sized man’s piece of clothing meant for me, so of course, when Sariel wore it, it was ridiculously oversized for her. Though that made things simple, since there was no need for her to wear any pants. Since her legs had been severed around her thighs, that single cardigan was enough to cover her entire body.

 

“Haah… Finally, all set.”

 

Those words leaked from my mouth after having finished getting Sariel dressed, then cleaning up our scattered dirty clothes and making the bed.

 

Sariel was unable to help, so she remained tucked in a now clean bed. It was understandable that she would be bedridden for some time, so there was no way she could have helped.

 

“There are many things that I want to ask you about, but let me tell you something first.”

 

I sat down on the bed next to Sariel, who despite having gone back to a horizontal position had her red eyes wide open, indicating that she had no intention of going back to sleep.

 

“I’m taking you back to Spada with me.”

 

“You seem to be quite familiar with this place.”

 

“We’re in a dungeon called ‘Fairy Garden’ located at the western end of Daedalus. If you go through the forest here, you can see the Galahad Mountains in the distance. Alsace is about three days away from here by horse.”

 

“That is very detailed.”

 

“That’s because I used to live here. At least until you guys showed up.”

 

Though telling her that would make no difference at all at this point.

 

“We’re lucky we were sent here of all places. From here, we should be able to return to Spada fairly easily.”

 

Back when I jumped into the “Heaven’s Gate”, I was terribly worried about where in the world I would be sent to. I was sure that a future father, anxiously walking in circles, eager to hear news of his child’s birth and his significant others’ wellbeing, wouldn’t have been as worried as I had been back then.

 

Perhaps the “Heaven’s Door” was set to lead to the “Fountain of Light”. Back when we appeared in this forest, I thought it was just a regular pond, but come to think of it, it matched Lily’s description of what he called the “Fountain of Light”. It had an unmistakably beautiful circular shape, and I was sure that the snowy field surrounding it would turn into a beautifully colorful flower field as winter gave way to spring.

 

However, since “Queen Beryl”, who carried the protection of the fairy queen, had already been lost to us, it looked like a regular pond, and fairies wouldn’t gather around it or be born near it. Was “Fairy Garden” just a name now?

 

Anyway, I wasn’t sure exactly why we had been sent to the “Fountain of Light”, but the fact that going back to Spada wouldn’t be too much of a big deal was definitely a small mercy from this whole unfortunate situation. If we went straight along the highway, we should be back there in a little over a week.

 

“The problem is that the way is probably going to be full of Crusaders, but we should be okay for now.”

 

However, the specifics about our return to Spada would have to wait. The way ahead would be much easier for someone who could walk on their own.

 

“For the time being, until we’ve safely returned to Spada, you and I are going to be spending time together. I’m asking just in case, but is there any way to regrow your lost limbs?”

 

“It is possible to regenerate them, but it would require healing magic of a very high level, and considerable time. The natural recovery of my body is not powerful enough to regrow my limbs on its own.”

 

Well, that made sense. No matter how impressive a homunculus’ body was, it couldn’t regenerate its lost limbs as easily as a lizard could regrow its tail. Of course, not even my enhanced body can do it on its own. That’s precisely why the eye of a god was inserted into my left eye socket in the first place.

 

“You won’t be able to live a normal life as long as you’re still missing your legs and right arm. I’ll be taking care of you for the time being. So, um, please bear with me.”

 

“Yes, I’ll do as you say.”

 

Her robot-like reply made me pull myself together.

 

“Like I said earlier, I haven’t forgiven you. I will take care of you, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be nice to you.”

 

I wasn’t exactly letting her live, but I wasn’t going to kill her either. As long as I hadn’t decided how to deal with Sariel, that was the only thing I could do.

 

I simply couldn’t see myself having a normal conversation with Sariel like I would with Lily or Fiona. It wasn’t going to happen.

 

But there was no point thinking about that. Rather than dwelling in an uncertain future, I had to focus on my immediate goal. I had to return to Spada. That was all that mattered.

 

“That’s all I wanted to say to you. Do you have any questions?”

 

“Only one.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“…Where is the toilet?”

 

“You… You have to be kidding me…”

 

I’ll take care of you. Only then I realized how much weight those words carried.

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