The Black Demon King
506 The Balance Between Love and Friendship
That morning, I saw it.
“Ha, Ahaha… Haa… Haa… Priest Kuroe…”
A small figure wriggled on the bed.
The figure proceeded to lean over a certain sleeping figure, and like a beast scavenging for carrion, it drew its mouth close.
I couldn’t prevent it from happening.
Thus, their lips overlapped.
What in the…
I was so baffled, I forgot to breathe. My chest stung. Disgusting. Shock and nausea made my mind blank.
“Reki, w, what have you done?”
I wondered how long it took me to say those words. At the very least, long enough for me to understand the situation correctly.
Reki and Priest Kuroe slept in the same bed. Then, they kissed.
Ever since I began reading romance novels, I had always envisioned such a romantic scene many times. In order to turn it into reality, I took the plunge and took action—
Why isn’t it me who’s there?
Why is it you who’s kissing him?
My head, which had been pure white from shock, tinged with flames of hatred.
Unforgivable. Absolutely unforgivable. Such betrayal…
Aah, I hate her.
I hate the woman who stole my beloved.
“Ah, U-Ur—!? No, you’re misunderstanding—”
I honestly contemplated killing her right there and then. Certainly, I had almost summoned the White Yaksha Princess: Anastasia.
However, looking at Priest Kuroe, who was sound asleep, I regained a bit of self-control.
Before I knew it, I had left the room and returned to mine. Outside the door, Reki, who was chasing me, said something. As if I could bear to listen to her explanation…
“…Good morning, Ursula.”
Immediately, Sister Yuri woke up.
Why is she in my bed?
Such was my thought this morning. However, I soon understood that it was the result of my own blunder last night.
“Good morning, Sister Yuri.”
“Did something happen?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
I suppressed the flames of anger and hatred that seemed about to overflow from my body at any moment. Somehow, I managed to maintain a calm appearance. As I desperately tried to keep my composure, I moved to spend the morning as usual after the holidays were over.
Naturally, I’d soon meet with Reki. But I just couldn’t think of anything to say. I didn’t remember what kind of breakfast I made this morning, or how I ate.
The only saving grace was that Priest Kuroe acted like usual. If things went according to the romance novel I read and he’d proceed to marry Reki, I didn’t know what would happen. Maybe, there was nothing between them. However, Reki was kissing him on her own initiative—that fact remained the same.
After Priest Kuroe and Sister Yuri left together, I spoke to Reki. Surely, she said that she’d clean up after the festival. In any case, it was convenient to talk now that both of them had left.
Because from now on, I’d be showering my best friend with terrible and ugly words that I had never used since I was born.
“—What was that, Reki?”
After seeing that Priest Kuroe and Sister Yuri had left, I cut to the chase.
We were at the chapel. I confronted Reki before the altar where the cross of God was raised. Neither lies nor deception would be tolerated. Not by God, but by me.
“Ah, that was… yes, a coincidence! A coincidence! Priest Kuroe and Reki just happen to sleep together!”
“Don’t be silly.”
With an expression that looked as if she was about to cry at any moment, Reki desperately lined up some lame excuses, and I couldn’t help but get angry.
“I, it’s because if Ur drinks alcohol, she’ll collapse. Since Sister Yuri will be accompanying you, so Priest Kuroe and I—”
“—So you slept with him?”
“No! Reki didn’t intend to do that…”
“Despite knowing my feelings, you slept with Priest Kuroe! What is wrong with you!? You traitor—!”
Reki knew how I felt.
Because she was my best friend. Since it was Reki, I told her—
—that I loved Priest Kuroe.
That I never wanted to leave him.
That I wanted to spend more time with him, forever.
That I’d like to marry him someday.
It might sound forceful or reckless, but I could no longer contain this feeling.
I thought Reki would help me. I thought she’d understand. As long as it was Reki, and not anyone else, she’d surely bless me—
“Betrayer, traitor, traitor… Unforgivable, I’ll never forgive you—!”
I was betrayed. I truly thought so.
Why, why would she betray me?
Anything else was fine. If it was something else instead of this, I could’ve laughed and forgiven anything. Even if she got hurt due to being reckless, or if she accidentally broke my precious item… I’d forgive her. Because it was Reki. If she got in any danger, I’d rescue her and even risk my own life in the process.
“Even though you know how much I love Priest Kuroe… I truly, truly, love him…”
I was about to burst into tears. Yet, there wasn’t a single drop—for anger outweighed my sadness.
“You’re the worst! Vile traitor, don’t take Priest Kuroe away from me!”
By the time I realized it, my hand had flown.
The crisp sound of a slap echoed through the chapel.
When Reki was hit on the cheek, she didn’t cry or apologize, but said so in a somewhat cold voice.
“The truth is, Reki is the one who fell in love with Priest Kuroe first!”
Before I could even comprehend the meaning of those words, a strong shock hit my body. My back had crashed into something. A hard, cold stone wall.
Did Reki just push me?
“W, what are you talking about…?”
Fortunately, the pain wasn’t that bad. I got on my butt and immediately stood up, before staring back at Reki.
Reki? Reki fell for him first?
…Don’t mess around!
After all, there’s no way—
“—Reki loves Priest Kuroe! More than Ur! Way more than Ur!”
“Lie, you’re lying…!”
“It’s not a lie—! Reki fell for Priest Kuroe first—! Ur is the one who took him away from me—!”
She had no intention of apologizing. Neither did she have any intention of letting him go. She didn’t have to say anything else.
I already understood everything.
Oh, I see.
Just like me, Reki had chosen love over friendship.
“W-well, isn’t that just to be expected? Reki is just a deadweight.”
“I’m more suitable for Priest Kuroe. The current me is stronger than you.”
I already had the power to serve him. In fact, I had enough power to keep up with him.
“I don’t need your protection anymore.”
Reki probably understood the difference, as well. But that didn’t mean she’d just accept it.
Thus, she raised her fist towards me—just like the time when she was about to beat those ugly and dirty orphans who were bullying me.
“Stop it, Reki. You can’t compete against me—the White Yaksha Princess: Anastasia!”
If I call—no, if I wished for it, my cursed power would manifest instantly.
Soundlessly, a pure white mist engulfed me, as if a dense fog had risen from nowhere.
As if to protect me from the approaching fists, the white, beautiful, and ruthless demon princess appeared.
As it was, Reki’s life force would be taken away instantly, resulting in her fainting on the spot. Such was the trait of Anastasia’s body.
With her beast-like intuition, Reki must have sensed the danger. Like a cat, Reki turned around and took some distance.
“What do you think? This is my true power—the White Yaksha Princess: Anastasia. Priest Kuroe named said power. It’s the power of love that I use to serve him.”
“Shit… Even though it’s the filthy curse of Ibraham—!”
“Hmph, it’s more elegant than the barbaric Barbados violence—!”
Reki and I glared at each other. It wouldn’t be strange if we start attempting to kill each other at any moment. In reality, both Reki and I had the power to kill each other.
But no matter how much I despised her, I wouldn’t kill her. After all, there was no point. If anything, that’d only kill my chance to be with Priest Kuroe in the future.
But if that was what Reki wanted, I’d at least cause her to lose consciousness. I’d drain her life force to the point that she was so weak, she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for a week.
“Give up, Reki. Priest Kuroe is mine.”
“Fuck off, I won’t give Priest Kuroe to Ur!”
Thus, we ended our friendship.
“But, but I never intended for her to die! I, I never even think about it, I’m so sorry, Reki, I’m so sorry…”
I had no choice but to listen to Ursula’s tearful confession.
A love triangle between ordinary girls. They thought of each other as rivals. From an adult’s point of view, it’d be a trivial quarrel.
However, if it ended like that, it’d be an irreconcilable tragedy. It had proven to be a burden that was too heavy and too deep for Ursula, who was only 12-years-old, to the point that it carved a scar on her heart.
“I understand, Ursula. It’s alright. It’s alright, so…”
For only being able to hug a little girl and give her convenient words of comfort, I was ashamed of myself.
“I’m sorry, I should’ve noticed sooner.”
“None of this is your fault, Priest Kuroe. We were the one who fought…”
“No, it is. Even after I’ve discovered your feelings, I couldn’t do anything—even today.”
In the end, I also dismissed it as a quarrel.
As for when I slept with Reki, I merely slept with her. There was no sexual meaning to it. At the very least, that was what I intended. To put it simply, it was the same feeling as sleeping with Lily every day until now.
That was right. To me, Reki and Ursula belonged to the same category as that little girl, Lily. I never saw them as romantic interests. Hence, I didn’t think much of their feelings.
However, that was selfish of me. In reality, their feelings were so much more than that.
In the first place, considering their age and circumstances, it shouldn’t be that strange. Until now, to protect herself from discrimination and prejudice, Ursula quietly lived as a crusade’s sister.
Then, an older man who could be relied on appeared. Not only did he respect them despite being second-class gods, he was also kind enough to treat them normally. That was probably enough for them to be attracted to him. Rather, the person himself didn’t have to be me. Had it been a gentle and refreshingly handsome guy, their love would’ve been burning even more.
However, such an assumption no longer made sense.
Because of their feelings, the two had a fight. As a result, Reki died.
“Ursula, it isn’t your fault.”
“It’s not Reki’s fault, either! Because I’ve grown stronger, Reki was in a hurry to prove herself to you, Priest Kuroe!”
Apparently, that was the real reason why Reki returned to the village.
Not to help her rival, Ursula, but just to show her good side to her crush. Although childish, it was a natural behavior for someone who had fallen in love.
“I know, it’s no one’s fault.”
Reki didn’t die due to someone’s malice, but because misfortune had piled up.
However, since I let Reki die in front of me, I felt the most responsible.
Regardless, even if I regretted it, it was already too late.
I had lost count as to how many times I had felt such a helpless regret.
“It’s alright, Ursula. You should rest for today. Tomorrow, we’ll leave before dawn. If you don’t go to bed early and recover both your physical strength and magic, you won’t last long.”
I couldn’t mourn the death all the time.
Gluttony Octo disappeared beyond the clouds, but it’d probably descend again in search of food. In the worst case, it might attack this place in the middle of the night.
Until recently, a village would be invaded at least once. The villages between Ils and Alsace were almost evenly spaced. Hence, they should attack the 204th Colony early in the morning, just like today.
Since we planned to evacuate from the beginning, it’d be best to depart earlier. That way, the monster wouldn’t be able to catch up with us. Even if there was a follow-up attack, there shouldn’t be that many.
Nevertheless, the enemy was creeping right up behind us. We had no time to spare. Despite being crushed by deep sorrow, we weren’t allowed time to stand still.
“For the time being, let’s not think about it and get some rest.”
“…Alright, Priest Kuroe.”
Ursula nodded obediently. However, she was still clinging to me. I couldn’t see her leaving at all.
“Uhm, Priest Kuroe…”
“Shall we sleep together today?”
“Huh!? Are you sure!?”
She looked happy, yet guilty. Her tearful expression was so pitiful, I couldn’t directly stare at her.
“At times like this, it’s better to be spoiled by someone.”
But do I have the right to comfort her?
The one who let Reki die—it was none other than me.
“Thank you, Priest Kuroe…”
The faint affection and trust Ursula gave me was the most painful thing for me now.
The 22nd of the Ice Crystal month. As planned, I left the village before dawn.
With the disappearance of three colonies, the villagers of the 204th Colony immediately decided to evacuate. Thus, the number of people suddenly increased.
“Allow me to be your leader.”
While looking at the villagers hurriedly leaving the gate in tow, I was fully armed with the same black, heavy, knight armor as yesterday. I was also equipped with a blackened sword that had been replenished in the modest size of the Shadow Gate.
Then, Ryan spoke up.
“Hey, hey, couldn’t we just leave the rest to the knights and vigilantes here? We already had enough trouble yesterday.”
The order of the evacuation line was the villagers of our 202nd Colony, followed by the survivors of the 203rd supply bases, and at last—the people of this village. Well, since they were still preparing to escape, their departure would be slightly delayed.
“Ryan and the others may proceed. I’m the only one who’ll stay behind, so don’t worry.”
“I know, but…”
I knew what Ryan was implying.
“Either way, if they catch up with us, we’ll have no choice but to fight. I want to be at the scene before it becomes irreversible. If it isn’t a big number, Grenade Burst should be enough to deal with it.”
“However, most of the sorcerers were killed… If Priest Kuroe were to support us, we’d be saved.”
The wizard unit stationed at the 203rd Colony supply base was almost wiped out. Only several fire and wind mages, along with some healers remained. Therefore, we couldn’t expect a very organized support. Of course, even the 204th Colony corps, which was similar in scale to ours, shouldn’t have many wizards.
“I’m going to be the rear guard this time.”
“Well, that should be alright, but what about Ursula?”
“That’s the real issue.” Said Ryan. At the end of his line of sight, Ursula was reflected. She was clinging to my waist.
Since I woke up this morning, she had been like that.
She wouldn’t leave my side no matter what, even when I got changed.
However, it couldn’t be helped that such a change would occur. On top of feeling guilty over the loss of her best friend, she found herself in a potentially deadly situation. She had to be scared.
“Ursula, go with everyone else—”
“No, I want to stay with Priest Kuroe.”
From Ursula’s words, stubborn, yet unyielding resolve could be heard.
It wasn’t just a mere child’s selfishness.
Surely, both I and Ryan, who knew of her loss, were aware of that.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
The reason why Ryan didn’t force Ursula was because he understood her strength. As for me, I personally experienced how useful Ursula’s Anastasia was in yesterday’s battle.
I could just let her not participate to prevent her from suffering the same fate as Reki. However, if the line was destroyed due to her lack of support, everyone would eventually die. Although of course, her support didn’t necessarily guarantee total safety.
“Ursula, can you fight?”
“…As long as I’m with Priest Kuroe.”
In the end, I couldn’t change her mind.
Then, leave everything to me.
I’ll protect them all.
As much as I’d like to say that, I wasn’t strong enough.
“Ryan, if things get dangerous, escort Ursula and return to the frontline. In the worst-case scenario, we’re going to escape on our own—even if it means sacrificing the refugees from the other villages. Prepare yourself.”
I whispered to Ryan so that no one else could hear us.
As of the present, all I could do was to resolve myself.
I concluded that both Reki and Ursula had a chance at safety if they weren’t so eager to help others yesterday.
Between hundreds of strangers and a girl I was close with—when I weighed them, I chose her without hesitation.
After all, if I didn’t throw away my sense of justice, I’d lose what I truly want to protect.
“There’s no point in blaming yourself all the time, Priest.”
After giving me a pat on the shoulder, Ryan left those words and went back to his unit.
“…I wish I could blame someone.”
For example, I could just get mad at Sariel for not stopping Reki.
However, I couldn’t do that to her. As a man, I had at least a small amount of pride.
I’d reflect on my sins on my own.
“We still have time before we depart. You can sleep a little longer, Ursula.”
I sat down in front of the gate, while Ursula leaned against me to rest.
My armor must be hard, but as soon as Ursula closed her eyes, she began to sleep peacefully.
“…I hope no one dies today.”
I didn’t know if my prayer reached the heavens, but I never saw that hideous white fog that day.
Then, we arrived at the 205th Colony without incident. The crusaders, who finally sensed that something was amiss, were waiting for the escort and transport unit dispatched from Alsace Fortress.
To be honest, hundreds of soldiers would be useless against the huge, flying mountain that was the Gluttony Octo. Even so, the sight of them comforted the frightened villages. Above all, thanks to the transport unit consisting of large carriages and dragons, we were able to evacuate more quickly and efficiently.
And so, on the 24th of the Ice Crystal Month, we finally arrived at the Alsace Fortress.