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Black Demon King

  1. What I Can Do

Although Reki was already dead, seeing Ursula shoot her own friend aroused indescribable, complex, emotions in Sariel’s heart.

However, before she could logically comprehend and register them to be a mixture of both sadness and regret, the situation took a drastic turn.

“Hurry and run to the depth of the castle! Something bad is going to happen!”

As soon as the Gluttony Octo’s roar echoed through the fortress, they began to retreat. Everyone already knew what it meant.

After attacking the village, the Gluttony Octo proceeded to inhale everything, leaving only barren land—

—the same was about to take place in the Alsace Fortress.

A turbulent wind gushed through the open main gate, accompanied by a bellowing roar. The reverberating sound of the wind, along with the faint wind pressure which shook the castle indicated that a huge storm was brewing outside. The force of wind was likely to increase, until it could lift the entire stone fortress into the air.

There was never a doubt as to whether or not the Gluttony Octo would be able to swallow the fortress. Even more so after she had boarded its colossal body. The swirling presence of tremendous magical power within convinced Sariel of its absolute predation.

In other words, even if they were to escape to the innermost part of the castle—or even underground—they had no chance of surviving. The Gluttony Octo would consume the Alsace Fortress along with all the men here.

…Kurono, who stayed within the enemy’s body, was the sole remaining hope.

“Sister Yuri, uhm, Priest Kuroe…?”

“He’s still inside the Gluttony Octo. I’ve returned to the ground in order to eliminate Reki from my brother’s sight.”

Sariel answered Ursula’s question while speeding through the passages of the castle—of course, not by her own. She was currently being held under Ryan’s right arm. Upon hearing the Gluttony Octo’s roar, he immediately discarded his weapon and picked up Sariel. All in all, it was an accurate judgment of the situation.

And then, as if by chance, Reki’s body was in his left arm.

Ursula’s White Breath was supposed to obliterate the hostile Reki.

However, in the end, the powerful drain only erased the monstrous squid that had been controlling her. Even though she should’ve been reduced into a skeleton and rags, her body somehow remained intact.

However, there was neither pulse nor breath, and the fact that she died stayed the same. Akin to a blessing in disguise, Ryan started to evacuate to the castle with Reki’s body.

“If Priest Kuroe is here, he’ll surely be able to do something.”

“Yeah, I sure hope that he’d defeat that giant thing quickly and finish it… Otherwise, I don’t know how long the castle will stand.”

The exchange between Ursula and Ryan bore no hint of despair.

Even Sariel could guess that the two still believed in his victory.

“…”

At the same time, Sariel knew—Kurono was no apostle. As such, he wasn’t an ultimate being with inexhaustible magic. Despite being remodeled by the White Sacrament, and a superhuman who received the protection of the black gods, his power was still within the realm of humans.

…Indeed, in that world, he was a human just like any other.

Sariel, who fought with all her might as the Seventh Apostle, knew the limits of Kurono’s power.

Kurono might not be able to defeat Gluttony Octo.

However, that was a mere guess. The path to subjugating the Gluttony Octo wasn’t an easy one, but rather one filled with many drawbacks.

Inadequate strength; poor preparation—the strategy itself was one of reckless assault that relied on the power of a single person.

Sariel, whose role was to fight against God’s enemies, wasn’t very bright when it came to leading soldiers and devising strategies. However, as a decorative commander, even she could understand that Kurono’s strategy wasn’t only full of holes, but also had a low chance of success. If anything, it’d be more appropriate to call it a ‘gamble.’

In the meantime, the Gluttony Octo had begun its final stage of predation.

“—Whoa!? Hey, they’re already dead!”

The castle suddenly shook violently, as if it had been hit by an earthquake. Ryan stumbled, but held on to the two bodies. However, about half of the soldiers gathered there had fell.

“…Ursula.”

“Mm, I’m okay…”

Ursula was also one of those who fell. Despite her exceptional magic, she was still a child, and had dull motor nerves. As a result, she toppled into the stone walkway, falling spectacularly and hitting her forehead in the process.

Still, suppressing her tears, she vehemently stood up.

Briefly, Sariel’s thin eyebrows witched. Perhaps, because she was physically unable to help the fallen child.

“Damn, will we be able to reach the basement!?”

Ryan cursed, visibly impatient. The solid, stone, passage once extended in a precise straight line. But as of the present, it had become askew. The wall could collapse at any time.

“There’s a chapel over there! Since it’s located at the center of the castle, it should be safer than here!”

The commander of the crusaders, Cliff, shouted that.

At the sight of the dilapidated passage, no one objected to the suggestion.

“Follow me! The tremor is terrible, be careful not to fall!”

As tremors struck intermittently, everyone proceeded through the dusty corridor with their hands pressed to the walls.

Is it because fear overwhelms all emotions?

Nevertheless, the line of crusaders advancing quietly in a solemn manner was reminiscent of the Saint’s March depicted in the bible, and felt somewhat sacred to Sariel.

…Did God bless them? But considering that God had turned His back on them, it had to be pure luck. In the end, they safely arrived at the chapel, where the white double doors awaited.

“Alright, the octopuses won’t get inside, so let’s get in!”

With Ryan and Cliff as the leads, the evacuation to the chapel soon reached its completion. A heavy knight who boasted of his strength went to bar the door.

“It’s somewhat better than the aisle.”

Being in the completely shut chapel certainly made it feel as if the sound of the wind had receded. The tremors had subsided, and closing one’s eyes gave the illusion of it being another stormy night.

“Let’s pray to God that we’ll overcome this storm.”

Involuntarily, the crusaders had gathered at the House of God. How much faith do they have, when half of them were village vigilantes? It went without a question that they weren’t faithful enough to the point that they’d wholeheartedly carry out martyrdom.

Even so, at this very moment, they recalled the teachings of the cross that were akin to common sense in the country—no, in the world, since the age of gods.

“…Our Father, who art in heaven.”

A person muttered to no one in particular.

“…Forgive us our trespasses—”

The men began to let go of their weapons, and joined their hands in prayer.

“Deliver us from evil.”

Before long, everyone who’d gathered in the chapel chanted the sacred prayer—except for a single infidel, who didn’t pray.

“God, bless—muu!

As if that wasn’t enough, the infidel even interfered with a devout believer who prayed beside her.

Ursula’s petite mouth was overlaid with a force akin to slapping a mosquito.

Hm—!? What are you doing, Sister Yuri!?”

Due to the unexpected action from the even more unexpected person, Ursula’s eyes went wide.

The one who hadn’t offered a prayer, and even disturbed a believer—the aforementioned infidel, was none other than Sariel.

As surprised as Ursula was towards the slap, she was aware of how emotionless Sister Yuri was after living for three months with her.

As such, it’d be impossible for someone who had never uttered a single joke to prank her.

Like a hissing cat, Ursula glowered at Sariel. However, Sariel was as expressionless as ever.

“…It’s useless to pray.”

After staring at each other for 30 seconds, Sariel remarked.

“Eh…?”

“Even if you pray, God won’t lend you His strength.”

She was given power she never asked for, only to lose it in times of need. She couldn’t think of it as anything but being toyed with.

Unreasonable—yes, everything was absurd.

For that Yuriko Shirasaki to be reincarnated, and began fulfilling her mission as an apostle. For her to be an existence that worried and tormented Kurono. For those who treated her like a friend despite not knowing her circumstances to be on the verge of a merciless death…

However, Sariel couldn’t overcome any of that.

In short, she was helpless.

Her heart stirred in agitation.

I can’t do anything on my own.

…This situation is beyond me.

Back when she was still an apostle, she’d analyze and come to terms with the difference in ability, and wouldn’t think about it any further.

But what is this urge swirling in the depths of my chest…?

She couldn’t comprehend people’s emotions, so she didn’t know. However, if this feeling was the very essence of human emotion—I see… Even if slightly, she felt like she could understand why Kurono was always risking his life in battle.

“God never helps people.”

“That, that kind of thing, I already know… But in this situation, we can do nothing but pray.”

Ursula—who once was despised for being a ‘filthy’ Ibrahim second-class god, understood that Sariel was outright denying the teachings of the cross. At the same time, she knew of her own limitations.

Even with Anastasia’s power, it’d be impossible to offset the storm of the Gluttony Octo.

“Until now, I’ve lived in accordance with God’s will. If I were to brush death in battle due to my lack of strength, I’d never hesitate to pray.”

The notion itself was probably not limited to Sariel, but also to most crusaders. It was only natural for humans to pray to God when faced with fear and despair beyond their comprehension—even more so for the Sinclairs.

“Then why doesn’t Sister Yuri pray?”

“Because I remember.”

However, Yuriko Shirasaki was different.

Despite her vanishing self, she never gave up. While she understood that it’d be impossible for her to maintain her ego, she nevertheless did something…

Thus, Yuriko Shirasaki’s ego and her newly-born self co-existed in one body. Although Sariel’s memory of that time was unclear, she could feel Yuriko’s strong determination. The girl didn’t sit idly and wait for death to arrive, but instead fought until the very end.

It was unknown what went through her mind, or what she attempted to do during her final moments, since none of them existed in Sariel’s memory.

However, what mattered to Sariel now was the final appearance of Yuriko Shirasaki, who seemed to shine brighter than any saint in the Bible.

“Even when death comes, people can keep fighting until the bitter end. That’s what I wish to do.”

Why am I so obsessed with Yuriko Shirasaki’s thoughts?

Sariel still couldn’t figure out why.

Perhaps, even that feeling in itself was an imitation.

Nevertheless, at that moment, she certainly wished that.

“I want to help everyone. I want to make his wish come true. That’s why I don’t want to give up until the end,”

“—Is that so? As for the answer—well, I guess it’s fine. You passed.”

But instead of Ursula’s voice, the voice of a total stranger reached her.

With her sense of hearing, Sariel could accurately distinguish between human voices. The concept of mishearing didn’t exist in her book, and that applied to all the men here—both crusaders and vigilantes alike.

Therefore, the voice definitely belonged to someone else entirely—

—a third party that couldn’t exist in that chapel at that very moment.

“…Who, are you?”

In an instant, Sariel drew a spare rapier from her pouch—but the moment she took it out, the situation—no, the world itself had transformed.

The once white chapel turned into black.

The width and the height didn’t change. The pews were still lined on the left and the right, as lantern lights illuminated the room. However, the light emitted by the red flame was gray for some reason, as if the entire world had become monochrome.

In such a colorless space, Ursula—with whom she’d been speaking until then, was nowhere to be seen. The same went for the soldiers.

She was left alone.

No, as an apostle, Sariel—who knew a part of expert magic, could immediately conclude that she was in an isolated space.

To put it simply, it was dimension magic. Instead of hiding her appearance, the perpetrator stood majestically in front of Sariel.

“I’m Freesia Baldiel, the commander of the Imperial Guard of the glorious Elrod Imperial Army, commonly referred to as the Dark Knight Freesia.”

Her outfit certainly lived up to that title.

The black, full-plate armor that she wore contrasted that of the crusaders, sharp and thorny in a way that could be said to be demonic. Above all, the crimson, glowing lines of light that ran along the edge of her armor flickered—akin to a pulsating blood that coursed through the body of black steel.

Sariel’s keen sixth sense perceived an equivalent of magical density as to when a blast blade exploded—if not more. One that’d erupt at a touch, with an explosion that’d turn a thousand miles into scorched earth.

However, the person donning the jet-black armor—which exuded an overwhelming presence, was neither a burly man nor a horned devil.

Instead, she was a woman with a dignified and beautiful voice.

Due to the black helmet that covered her eyes, her face was hard to discern. But the contours that were exposed from below her eyes were sharp. Her high nose and red lips were a testament to her beauty.

Even though she was a female, her height almost matched Kurono. Furthermore, she also wore heavy armor. Perhaps from being polished, the lustrous black iron and the crimson streaks gave off a brilliance as good as new. Somehow, she could infer that the woman had been fighting in that armor for an impossibly long time.

No—as a matter of fact, Sariel had already guessed that the Dark Knight Freesia had a long history of battle—one that surpassed the allocated time for humans.

“…A black god.”

“Yes, I’m one of the goddesses who’s given the honor of serving the great emperor Elrod.”

Kurono had only given Sariel a rough idea of the “black gods” of the Pandora continent.

Unlike the monotheistic crusaders, it was a polytheistic continent with many gods. As such, it was possible to receive different divine protection from each god. While her understanding was general at best, it was enough for her to determine the identity of the jet-black female knight who suddenly appeared.

“…Why did you decide to appear in front of me?”

“I intend to bestow my divine protection upon you.”

Impossible.

Instinctively, she thought so.

Logically, she could only think so.

“While you’re a loathsome messenger of the White God who persisted in this world, you’ve since betrayed God. Therefore, I deem you to be appropriate to receive my divine protection. Obey, and I shall bestow you with power.”

“I’m unqualified to receive yet another blessing. Dark Knight Freesia, I’ve never offered a single prayer to you, nor attempted your trial.”

“If you don’t remember, ask that girl once again. You should know it in your heart—”

—In an instant, Freesia’s right arm moved.

In her hand, was a three-pronged spear trident. The black trident, consisting of large blades, couldn’t possibly escape her sight—

—But Sariel couldn’t see it at all.

Before she knew it, the jet-black tip was pointed at her chest.

“—The love carved into it makes you qualified to gain my power.”

“It isn’t mine.”

If there was even a trace of love or any other emotions in this body, it must’ve belonged to Yuriko Shirasaki.

“But you’re in pain whenever you recall that night.”

The 24th of the Dark Moon. The holy night of destiny.

The expression of Kurono on that day, during that time, as he suppressed all his suffering and sorrow—Sariel certainly remembered it. Three months later, the memory was still vivid and hadn’t yet faded.

Yes, Sariel remembered.

She always remembered the night she laid with Kurono, and the moment when their lips overlapped—

—and every time she thought about it, her chest ached. As if bound by an invisible chain, an indescribable pang constricted her chest—her heart.

“…It is but a sense of guilt. I merely understood it as an act of redemption. Therefore, I have no love, and if there is, it is but a remnant of Yuriko Shirasaki’s ego.”

“While it may be so, what has summoned me was definitely love—take it. You desire power, don’t you?”

“If… that can help me save them…”

…I want power.

If it could help her attain such an unexpected wish, then she had no reason to hesitate. Regardless of how wicked it may be, Sariel had no reason to doubt herself anymore.

“Then, conquer it. You’ve already found a master to whom you could devote this spear.”

At that moment, a faint smile appeared on Freesia’s lips, and the black tip of her spear pierced Sariel’s thin chest.

“—!?”

She spewed the fresh blood that rose to the back of her throat.

She was accustomed to pain. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean she was immune to it. The impact that hit her on the chest was real—and from the feel of it, her heart had been crushed in one hit.

“Listen, love is devotion. In other words, loyalty, in itself, is love. Do your best to not forget that—”

—Sariel, who suffered instant death-level damage, lost consciousness without the chance to think of anything else.

 

 

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