The Black Demon King 481
Chapter 25: Days of Lies
Edited by: Enki
In the slums of the Republic of Sinclair, there was a pair of young siblings, a brother and her younger sister, who had lost their parents. Without any other relatives to take care of them, they, like many other orphans, were taken under the wing of the Cross Church.
However, the place where they were greeted was not a regular orphanage for living a simple communal life.
It was a mysterious facility with a series of pure white walls without a single stain. The secret organization of the church called “White Sacrament” was an insane proving site for conducting horrific experiments on humans.
Since the brother and sister pair were loyal soldiers who served the White God, they would spend their days with harsh training, the killing of others like them, and undergoing inhuman remodeling surgeries.
By the time the two became adults, they were elite soldiers who had mastered both martial arts and magic.
However, the battlefield where the two were sent to fight their first campaign; that is, the Crusaders’ battle for the Galahad Fortress, had been a hell beyond imagination.
A huge wall stood before them along with the powerful Spada Army that protected it. And above all, the heroes who had amazing fighting ability; enough to compete with the Apostles on equal footing.
The Sword King Leonhart, who had cut down their secret weapon, the Taurus. The Devil of Alsace, who humiliated the Holy Girl of Helvetia in the middle of the battlefield… And not only them. There were many other powerful people fighting for Spada.
Then, the Crusaders finally found themselves cornered. The brother and his younger sister, despite having been trained as elite soldiers, would also suffer a terrible defeat.
As the Crusaders were instructed to withdraw, and in the turmoil of being chased by the Spada Army, the two siblings seized their chance to run for their lives.
No matter how strong they had become they couldn’t defeat Spada or their demons. Though they had escaped with their lives, their everyday life full of continuous inhuman remodeling and hellish training was the only thing waiting for them back “home”.
Because of that, they decided to run away from it all.
The older brother carried his injured sister on his back and escaped from the battlefield in Galahad. He turned his back on the God he was supposed to devote himself to, and began their escape into treason; an act the Church would never forgive.
Would there really be a way out for these two siblings…?
“–Let’s go with this story.”
Back in the cabin, which had lost its entire front wall and was now completely exposed to the wind coming from outside, I told Sariel a story that was half truth and half lies.
I had sat down by the crackling fireplace while holding Sariel’s broken body on my lap and covering it with a blanket. I could tolerate the cold, but I wanted to feel the warmth of a fireplace just like anyone else.
Incidentally, I was merely holding Sariel like that because there was no other place in this broken cabin for Sariel to lie down or sit down. I simply had no other choice. I would never forgive her, and I would never fall for her.
I was sure that the slight feeling of embarrassment I had by feeling Sariel’s warm body so close to mine was nothing but my own body playing tricks on me.
“I have already told them that my name was Kuroe. As for you, hmm…”
If possible, a false name that comes naturally to the mind would be best. If we were to spend too long reacting to each other’s names, people would start getting suspicious. We had to make sure our masquerade remained unbroken for as long as possible.
After several seconds of internal deliberation, I settled upon a single name.
“Call yourself Yuuri.”
“No, don’t call me by name.”
“Just ‘brother’ is fine.”
Perhaps this was Sariel’s idea of a joke? I didn’t understand why she first thought it appropriate to call me by name, only to then go full ‘little sister’ and call me ‘big bro’.
Her poker face made her look even more elusive than Fiona. Though I can’t say I could get along so easily with someone who had been my nemesis until yesterday.
Even if there was a speck of Shirasaki-san’s personality left in her, I wouldn’t be able to say the two of us would get along.
“But I wonder if this will be enough…”
“The villagers will most probably think it too dangerous to be snooping in our business. Giving them the impression that we’re hiding something that is too hard to talk about should be enough.”
“And it won’t matter to them as long as we can protect them.”
After leaving the village I came straight back to the cabin.
And then I found it in this state.
The cabin’s front had been cruelly torn apart, a ridiculous bear-like monster was lying dead inside, and Sariel was sleeping in a broken bed as if nothing had happened… Then I was somehow able to grasp the situation.
This monster must have been one of the armored bears who killed and ate three people from that village. It was a huge, scary man-eating bear, and yet the thing that terrified me the most was Sariel’s ability to kill it with her broken body. Even now that her blessing was gone, she was still more of a monster than that bear.
At any rate, another thing that got me thinking was that there had never been such monsters around here back when I was living here.
Perhaps because of the disappearance of Lily and the other fairies, this forest was now infested with monsters that have never lived here before. And now that I was thinking about it, this Fairy Garden had been kept safe as a level 1 dungeon because I had been timely eliminating dangerous monsters, just like Lily had been dealing with those goblins.
However, as soon as the cute guardian deity of the forest disappeared, various monsters flowed in from other areas and started to live in this forest. In the near future, this dungeon’s risk level could rise to as high as 3.
Those were the things I could infer as the sun was about to set, and after the initial shock of finding the cabin in this state had subsided.
As I couldn’t go back to the village, I had no choice but to camp in the cabin for the night.
“But still… Are we really sure this will be okay?”
After discussing it with Sariel, we decided that we’d accept Randolph’s offer to let us stay in their village in exchange for me acting as their defender.
Of course, we had our anxieties about it.
However, considering our current situation once again, we realized that it was actually safer and more reliable to hide in the village and gather as much information while preparing to return to Spada. Considering the danger of traversing the snowy mountains, we would have to stay until the snow melts in early spring.
“If we are found by the Crusaders, all we have to do is escape on the spot. With those legs of yours, once you get into this forest, you’ll be able to lose any pursuers easily.”
“Well, if that happens, I’ll have to be ready to force my way through.”
Even if they decide to cross Galahad in their current state, they would most likely be found by the Alsace-based Crusader soldiers positioned as border guards. In preparation for Spada’s counterattack, those soldiers would be building a surveillance network with their Pegasus Knights to ensure that not even a single fly crossed over the mountains, forests, or roads.
Even assuming they could escape into the forest, their best choice was still to wait patiently.
“Well, the villagers have already seen my true face, so if the Crusaders start placing wanted signs in the village, it’ll all be over, won’t it?”
“Let’s start hiding our faces tomorrow.”
Sariel said that while looking up at my face as I continued to hold her in my arms. She didn’t seem to blame me for doing something as stupid as showing my true face to the villagers, but she naturally felt it had been a shame. After all, I should have worn a mask that completely covered my face instead of a simple hood, just in case.
“…Isn’t it too late for me already?”
“Let’s pray they haven’t noticed yet.”
“Who are you going to pray to?”
“Don’t Japanese people pray even if they don’t believe in God?”
“Ah, I see.”
Before I realized it, I was laughing.
Truly, us Japanese only say things like “Help me, God!” when it’s convenient to us. And the next day, we’d turn away from God and quickly pray to a different, unknown god; which I found to be absurd.
“W-What is it?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
I noticed that Sariel was staring at me. She told me that it was nothing, but she seemed to be staring at me too intently for it to be nothing.
It felt really uncomfortable. Was it some kind of new mental attack?
“Let’s call it for today.”
I couldn’t stand being silently stared at anymore. Besides, it was already getting late. It was a good time to sleep, though I would be staying up to keep watch.
“…Is it really okay?”
“Is what really okay?”
“To… Not do it today?”
I didn’t even feel like asking “do what?”.
I stared into her lifeless eyes and declared:
I couldn’t do that anymore. Even I had some pride left after all that happened between us.
“Alright? Now sleep.”
“Okay… Good night.”
Then we spent the night just like that; with me hugging her motionless body as if I had flicked her off-switch.
“Ah, thank you very much!”
After a slightly awkward laugh, Randolph expressed his gratitude.
I reluctantly left the broken cabin behind. With only Sariel, the luggage I could carry on my back, and while dragging the corpse of the armored bear over the snowy road with the Bind Arts’ black chains, I once again headed for the 202nd colony.
The villagers didn’t cheer at the sight of the corpse of the man-eating armored bear that had plunged the village into the depths of horror, but instead were left speechless as they stared at me with eyes full of terror. Randolph was once again forced to stand as an acting leader for the village, which had the same atmosphere as when I made a triumphant return to Spada from the old castle of Iskia.
After that, he called me into the same room we had met the day before to have another talk.
“I’m really glad you’re back… With someone as strong as you in our village, our people can safely work outside again.”
After a brief greeting, I went straight to the point and told him that I would accept his request to defend the village in exchange for letting us stay for a while. I couldn’t afford getting involved in small talk, as Randolph could start getting anxious.
“I’ll help you in any way I can.”
“Once again, thank you very much. We’re counting on you.”
After a firm handshake, our deal was sealed. However, there were still some details left to discuss.
“…By the way, Sir Kuroe, who is she?”
This is the first question that Randolph asked me as we sat face to face at the table, just like yesterday. I wondered if he wasn’t forcing himself to ask that, though.
“She’s my sister.”
“My name is Yuuri. Thanks for taking care of my brother and I.”
Sariel introduced herself without hesitation and exactly how we had rehearsed it.
The only thing that her act lacked was a cute smile, but asking this lifeless doll to do that without looking fake would have been a bit of a stretch.
“Ah, how do you do? My name is Randolph and I’m the new head of this village. If there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to let me know.”
I had so casually learned from this greeting that Randolph had officially become the new village mayor. It looked like there was no one better qualified for the job than him.
“I was told that I had to prepare a trip for two people, so I thought you had another member of your squadron with you… I see, so you’re brother and sister?”
“Yes, Yuuri and I are Crusader soldiers who went to fight in the battle at Galahad Fortress. As you can probably imagine, we’re deserters–“
And so I set the foundation to gradually begin telling the story I had created.
The two of us joined the special forces after hellish training. And once we took part in the war, we were faced with a disaster far worse than any training we’d ever had, and ultimately escaped. We had no method of returning to our original unit, and had no intention to do so either.
When reciting this story, I tried to speak as if I was trying to conceal my sorrow. I wasn’t sure I did a good job, though. Back in high school, I hadn’t been part of the drama club but the literary club. And incidentally, Sariel too.
“I somehow managed to escape safely, but as you can see, my sister… A terrifyingly strong Spada knight cut off both of her legs and right arm.”
“O-Oh dear… It seems that the battle at Galahad Fortress was even fiercer than was rumored…”
Aside from my acting ability, Sariel’s mutilated body was probably the most convincing factor in my story.
I could see Randolph’s teardrops shining as they overflowed on the edges of his black-rimmed glasses against his wishes.
“Well, we’re glad the battle is over.”
I hid my true intentions with a coating so feeble it could come off at any moment, implying I would be grateful if we didn’t talk about such sad things any further and continued with our story.
“Ah, yes, right, umm… About your faces…?”
“The masks were a bad idea after all, huh?”
So far, I had talked with Randolph with my face completely revealed, but today, Sariel and I were covering our faces with makeshift masks.
My white winter robe had a hood, so I managed to hide my face by simply wearing it and wrapping a towel around my mouth. It would have looked a bit better if it had been a muffler instead of a towel, but I couldn’t really ask for much luxury at the moment.
But Sariel’s mask looked even worse than mine. She had covered her entire face with a bandage, giving the impression that she had sustained major burns. And of course, her trademark silver hair was also rolled in a large bun and covered completely with a towel, which made it look like she was wearing some kind of turban.
“Well, if you cover your faces like that, the villagers are going to be… scared of you. Besides, if you’re constantly wearing a mask, people are going to start growing suspicious of you both.”
He had a point. But at the moment, we had no other way to hide our faces.
I should have bought that cursed stone mask at the tool shop when I was living in Ils Village, even if it was a fake. Wait, no, that mask would have made me look even more suspicious.
“Do you know any better way?”
“Ah, yes, I do… Actually, I have prepared it right here…”
I couldn’t believe this guy! I was surprised to see that he had considered we might want to hide our faces and actually prepared something in advance to aid us in that endeavor. Perhaps this trait of his was one of the things that had allowed him to become the new head of this village.
“Please, feel free to use these Magic Items to disguise yourselves.”
He quickly placed two items on the table. A pair of black-rimmed glasses similar to those worn by Randolph himself, and a pair of small, unadorned hairpins that would be easily lost if dropped on the floor.
“‘Coloring Eyes’ and ‘Prismatic Hairpins.”
“Oh, so you know about these.”
Sariel casually called those items by their names. I supposed I could infer what their effects would be based on their names.
“Thank you very much. We’ll use these.”
I quickly took the glasses for myself while giving the hairpins to Sariel.
“…So, how do I look?”
“Yes, they’ve changed alright. Are you okay with having blue eyes?”
So these glasses had made my eyes look blue.
Considering that having blue eyes was a common trait of the people of the Republic of Sinclair, this color would make me blend in much better. So I nodded.
Then I turned to Sariel, thinking that I should have actually helped her put on the hairpins instead of just giving them to her. But then…
The turban and bandages had all been undone as if some unseen force had pushed them out of her head. But more importantly, I was captivated by her long, fluttering hair.
It too had changed into a shiny beige color.
“How does this look, brother?”
I was too close to unconsciously say “Hey, Sariel!” and destroy the story we had rehearsed on in a single stroke.
I had to calm down. Any color would do. Even the shiny beige color that reminded me so much of Shirasaki Yuriko.
“Yeah, it looks good.”
At any rate, this completed our disguise.
“Uh, next, I’d like to talk about remuneration–”
Randolph cut to the most important matter for the village, but my attention was suddenly shifted to the outside, that is, to the room right next to the one we were in.
“…What’s with all that racket?”
I heard the voice of a man screaming so clearly that I didn’t even have to try to hear it. And Randolph heard it as well.
It sounded like some kind of dispute. My curiosity almost got the best of me; I was about to get out of my chair to see what was going on, but…
“Hey! You, you’re that suspicious bastard who’s trying to get into our village!!”
The door was kicked open with such force that the hinges came off, causing the door to make an even louder noise as it slammed itself onto the floor.
Behind such a violent display, I gazed upon a man that exuded an aura of abundant hostility.
He was quite large, maybe taller than me. I could even see that he was quite brawny, despite his thick fur coat. At first glance, he looked like a hunter, but judging from the large battle ax he was carrying, he was better equipped for fighting monsters.
He looked like a rugged amateur, which by now seemed to be a common trait among the people of this world. He reminded me of the typical jock in superhero movies that would bully the protagonist before they become the hero. He also didn’t seem to be much older or younger than me.
He was blond and had blue eyes, just like any other person from the Republic of Sinclair. However, what stood out the most was his hairstyle, which was basically swept back hair with long bangs that looked as if they had been hardened with wax. His hair made me wonder if there were really enough wax and hair styling products to sustain such a style in a rural village like this.
“Yeah, you seem to be the one everyone’s talking about… Hey, don’t you dare look at me like that, you bastard!”
I was sure I was looking at him with eyes like two sharp daggers, but no one had ever called me out on that so bluntly.
“W-Wait, Ryan, stop! This is our benefactor–”
“Benefactor? Come on, uncle, are you really sure about this?”
The young man called Ryan seemed to be Randolph’s nephew. And he also seemed to distrust me with a passion.
“Come on, uncle! Look at this guy! He’s as wicked as one can get! Even the boss of the gang that rules over the slums of Elysion doesn’t look as bad as this guy!”
I couldn’t say for sure that I’ve never had a worse first meeting than this one.
But thinking about it, I was just a stranger that Randolph wanted to bring into the village as a defender. Even if Ryan knew the advantages of it, looking at how I had slaughtered those knights and getting a glimpse of my face was certainly enough to feel a strong aversion towards me.
“Okay, you’re going to have to leave now, Ryan. The village has agreed that we’d be welcoming them here. It’s decided.”
“I didn’t agree to this! I can’t accept this suspicious guy here! Who knows what his true intention is… Look! He’s even brought a dead armored bear with him! He’s stealing our game from us! Even worse, he’s probably the one behind the bears’ attacks! His timing is too convenient!”
It seemed that the corpse of the armored bear that I brought as a gift actually backfired and made me seem suspicious. I could understand why Ryan would think that the timing of my arrival was a little too convenient.
“I won’t stand for this any further, Ryan, not even from you.”
“I’m sorry, uncle, but I’m against allowing them into our village. This guy, and this girl…–!?”
Then, when Ryan turned his attention to Sariel sitting next to me for the first time, their eyes met. Maybe…
Although she now had beige hair, her eyes –which were still brighter than rubies–- were directed straight toward Ryan. She said nothing.
And Ryan didn’t say a word either. He didn’t complain about the way she was looking at him. A mysterious silence engulfed the entire room.
This went on for several seconds, until Sariel finally turned away from his gaze, as if she had completely lost interest.
Then Ryan finally broke the silence.
“So pretty… You’re an angel, you have to be…”
It was love at first sight.
Well, Sariel’s face was as cute as Lily’s when she’s in her little girl form. It wouldn’t be strange to think that there was some kind of charm to it, and even if there wasn’t, she was still an extremely beautiful girl.
“…Sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
As the visibly annoyed Randolph said that, two young men appeared and grabbed the befuddled Ryan from each side. They had the same fur-coated hunter look as Ryan.
“Come on, bro! Let me go!”
“Stop getting on Randolph’s nerves already!”
“Huh!? Hey, you bastards! Let me go!”
The two young men then dragged the savage Ryan out of the room while desperately trying to calm him with words.
“I’m not done talking yet!”
The moment the two young men managed to drag Ryan out of the room, four more people appeared, and lifted Ryan’s big body over their shoulders. I then witnessed in shock how they all took him out of the church as he kicked and grunted.
At any rate, the invader had been dealt with, and peace returned to our room.
“I’m terribly sorry for his rudeness…”
“Oh no, I understand that some people are going to oppose this.”
Randolph bowed apologetically before the two of us, to which I replied that he shouldn’t worry about it.
“Ryan is my nephew… As you can see, he’s a troublemaker who happens to be much stronger than most people.”
“I guess that I can’t help the fact that some people aren’t going to trust me. But more importantly, I don’t remember seeing him or any of his friends in the village yesterday.”
“Ah, yes, they work as our vigilante corps, if you will. They spent the entire day yesterday in the woods hunting down those armored bears.”
Incidentally, during my visit yesterday, I heard that most of this ‘vigilante corps’ was in the woods when the Crusaders attacked. They were absolutely absorbed in their task of hunting the armored bears that had been terrorizing the villagers.
“They must feel it was too bad that they weren’t here yesterday.”
“No, it was actually a good thing… There are many impulsive folks in the vigilante corps, and had they been here, they would have fought recklessly, and we could be here lamenting a lot of losses today.”
I could easily picture that by looking at Ryan’s threatening attitude. Even I, who wouldn’t normally get so carried away, was so enraged by the Crusaders’ acts of violence towards this village that I couldn’t help myself. I had to jump in and do something about it. And I was sure Ryan was the same.
“Please be assured that I’ll speak with the vigilante corps again and ensure we all agree to you staying here.”
I had no choice but to leave that task to Mayor Randolph here.
I also figured it would be possible to use Sariel’s beauty to persuade Ryan into understanding our situation and sympathize with us, but expecting Sariel to pull off that kind of performance would probably be too much of a long shot.
“We’d also like to avoid as much friction with the other villagers as possible.”
“Yes, yes, of course. I’ll do my best to ensure you feel at home here.”
However, I was sure that if I were to ask him if he had any concrete idea about how to do that, he’d tell me that he didn’t have one yet.
Leaving aside Ryan and the other vigilantes, it was hard to say that even the other villagers would be completely in favor of us living here. In fact, given the horrified look they all gave us when we got back today, I’d say it would be impossible for them to accept us.
And by the way, the idea of being this village’s defender sounded good on paper, but when there were no emergencies, I would be nothing more than a freeloader. And I was technically going to be paid for it as well. So I had to make sure I got myself busy around here, otherwise I would just be giving the villagers even more reasons to despise me.
Hiding in this village could end up being much harder than I had originally anticipated…
At that time, Sariel –who had completely turned into a figurine by now– called out to me. My first thought was “Who are you calling brother?”, before remembering it had been none other than myself who created her younger sister persona.
Trying to see her as anyone but her actual self was very difficult for me indeed.
“What is it?”
After a brief silence, I finally replied.
“I have a suggestion.”
My surprise at hearing Sariel –who would normally never speak unless addressed– say something like that was not small.
I had no intention to shut her up. Sariel was no fool, and if she had something to suggest, she must have definitely given it a lot of thought.
So I urged her to talk. Randolph seemed to be a little curious about it as well.
“It’s about becoming this village’s new priest.”
I had to swallow the words that were about to come out of my mind. Reacting too much to this would have been no good at all.
“Ah, well, that…”
Though I had chosen to remain silent, Randolph couldn’t avoid expressing his confusion.
“The chances of finding an immediate successor to the deceased priest are zero as a result of this 202nd colony’s size, location and importance. I believe that the position of priest would not be occupied for at least another year.”
“W-Well, certainly, I’m sure we won’t have a new priest coming to this village anytime soon, so I’m really grateful that you’d be willing to occupy such a position, but…”
“We have the education required to serve as this village’s priest.”
Well, more than a priest, she used to be an Apostle. I’d say she’s actually overqualified.
“I-I see… But, still… Umm… Are you really sure about this?”
With visible concern in his eyes, Randolph turned to me instead of looking at Sariel despite the idea having come out of her mouth. And in reality, I was as confused as him, but I couldn’t afford to make feeble complaints about this.
“Wouldn’t it be better for the village to have a new priest?”
“W-Well, I’m sure there won’t be a single villager who wouldn’t rejoice at the arrival of a new priest…”
Of course, the White God had immense authority in the territories under the Cross Church’s jurisdiction. Even the shadiest character would be taken in with open arms if they introduced themselves as a priest.
And as Sariel said, there would be nothing wrong about her taking up the job. In fact, it was well within her area of expertise.
Besides, it would be more natural for her to serve as a priest than to sit around doing nothing as a defender of this village. Especially if it could help her gain the villager’s approval.
Above all, since the idea had come from Sariel herself, she seemed to be ready to act once again as a servant of God.
In that case, go ahead, Sariel! Do your best at playing the part of the fake priest!
“Alright, let’s do that.”
“Oh, really? Thank you very much! Then we’ll be in your capable hands, Priest Kuroe!”
Don’t tell me I was the one becoming the priest instead of Sariel…