Black Demon King
520 Silent Victory
“It’s been a long time, Kurono Maou. Congratulations, you’ve completed the Fifth Trial.”
The ancient Demon King who sat on the jet-black throne smiled.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
“…I have something I’d like to ask you.”
Actually, there were many things I wished to ask, but most importantly—
“—Is everything a set up?”
—That Sariel wasn’t killed.
—The appearance of Gluttony Octo.
Alternatively, I could also include Sariel’s awakening at the last minute.
“Haha, don’t you already know the answer?”
I did. I just wanted to direct the suspicion that it was all a set up to someone. By this time, I had understood the true nature behind the future that I chose and won.
“If, by any chance, I did arrange it, would you hate me? Or would you appreciate me?”
“Well, it isn’t that bad, so I won’t hate you.”
I was able to safely reunite with Lily and the others. I had also defeated the Gluttony Octo, restoring the peace to the village—at least for the time being.
I couldn’t blame anyone else for Reki’s death. It was a sin that I’d carry for the rest of my life.
“If that’s the case, then what’s the problem?”
“Is it really alright? The fact remains that Sariel was an apostle. Now that she has received divine protection, can you simply ignore that?”
“Whether to forgive or not, it isn’t for me to decide. At the end of the day, only people judge other people.”
…Hearing that answer made me somewhat relieved. I wondered if it was because I wanted to forgive Sariel.
Do I want to?
At this point, I should probably admit it. I, towards Sariel—
“—But, as an elder, I’d like to emphasize that you should worry about yourself rather than anyone else. It isn’t the kind of situation where you can simply rejoice with your friends, isn’t it?”
“It’s fine. I’ve prepared myself.”
I’d tell Lily and Fiona everything—what I’d been up to since we parted at Galahad Fortress that day.
“From the moment you depended on that girl, you already know this day would come.”
“You sound experienced.”
“Well, a lot happened in the past. But if your bond is real, you’ll surely be able to understand and forgive each other in the end.”
It’d be nice if that was true…
“By the way, I have one more—no, make it two, questions.”
“What is it?”
It was pathetic, but it couldn’t be helped.
“I didn’t do much in this trial, so can you really consider that I did accomplish it?”
I didn’t finish off the Gluttony Octo, nor did I do much damage to him. Moreover, just like with Laspen, I didn’t succeed in carving out part of the Trial.
In the previous battle, all I did was cut off a swarm of octopuses and wreaked havoc in the Gluttony Octo’s belly. In the end, I didn’t get the proof of the Trial. The fact that I was still alive, the fact that everyone was safe, or even the fact that I completed the Trial—I owed them all to Sariel, Lily, and Fiona.
…Is this really alright?
As such, I became skeptical.
“Ahaha, isn’t it already a norm for you to be saved by someone?”
That statement applied to every trial I’d undergone.
“However, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. If anything, you should be proud. Rather than relying on your own strength, it’s much more important to have someone to rely on”
“That’s—well, I think you’re right, but isn’t the Trial part of my mission? Then…”
“I’m going to say it now, but as long as you get the proof of your trials, anything’s fine. You can have someone else fetch it for you, or even buy it with money.”
Hey, wait a second… Isn’t that just cheating?
“It isn’t. Be it violence, power, wealth—they’re all necessary for a king. As such, I’ll have to consider that as well.”
Since Mia wasn’t a warrior goddess, did that mean she won’t decide solely based on strength alone? As expected, that alone failed to convince me…
“…I understand, from now on, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Anyway, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all the past trials without relying on others or money. From now on, I doubted I’d be able to complete it easily. Probably, next time too, I wouldn’t be able to overcome the Trial without at least vomiting blood.
“Then, what is the other question?”
Although, there was no way I could forget it.
After all, it was my main concern.
“Oh, uhm… Who is that?”
Since it was my fifth time to receive divine protection, I had become familiar with the black throne and its owner. However, this time around, there was a stranger in that room.
“…Don’t mind me.”
A female knight stood beside Mia, poised with a black trident.
She wore a jet-black armor, while her winged helmet was reminiscent of a Valkyrie. However, her dignified presence outshone her armor. She felt like a full-fledged battle maiden.
“Oh, right… I’ve been wondering, too. What are you doing here, Shia?”
“How could there not be a single guard stationed in the throne room? What of the prestige of our empire? Therefore, it is up to me as the Commander of the Imperial Army to protect Her Majesty—”
“—Eh, how unnecessary, just go home.”
“No way! Your Majesty, that’s a terrible thing to say!”
Suddenly, as if waging a rebellion, the black female knight leaped towards Mia. But in the next moment, the lanky, heavy-armored woman proceeded to squeeze the Demon King’s petite body. From here, I could barely see the tips of her limbs as she writhed in pain.
“Then, it can’t be helped. Stay still in the corner.”
After giving a sweet reply that made me doubt her gallant presence, the female knight returned to her original position. She somewhat resembled Hitsugi.
However, once the female knight assumed her original position, her trident standing upright, she began to exude a solemn atmosphere.
“Hence I said you don’t need to mind about Shia.”
Mia spoke as if nothing had happened. Even though by that point, her cloak had fell off, her hair was disheveled—she looked like a ruffled kitten.
How can I not worry? The Demon King sure is unreasonable…
“…Shia, as in, Freesia?”
“Then, is she the Dark Knight Freesia?”
Should I thank her for bestowing divine protection upon Sariel? Or should I worry about the nature of said blessing?
“Then, let’s grant the fifth protection. This area is a bit unstable, if we don’t finish it quickly, you’ll wake up from your dreams.”
Whether or not she was aware of my slight hesitation, Mia quickly cut to the case.
By the way, it was unstable because I was still on the border between Daedalus and Spada. However, since Daedalus was occupied by the Crusaders, it was beyond the jurisdiction of the black gods.
In spite of that, I was arguing with Freesia.
“The Gluttony’s Stomach should be fine, right?”
I held out a beautiful jade sphere that seemed to have been polished. The sphere, which emitted a faint green glow, was coincidentally found by Fiona amongst the charred remains of the Gluttony Octo. Perhaps, she picked it up thinking that it could serve as the proof of the Trial. How considerate of her.
“Yes, it will. Actually, rather than a stomach, it’s a gastrolith. By using this, Gluttony Octo can compress substances in its stomach. It’s kind of similar to dimension magic.”
“So that’s why even if it swallows the whole village, its stomach won’t swell.”
“Even if it swallows a city, there won’t be a problem. In fact, during my time, it was able to destroy about five cities, haha.”
…Is that supposed to be funny?
But if so, then the damage this time around was miraculously light? Although, from the perspective of the villagers, it was still unbearable.
“—With this, only two more trials remain.”
As usual, in a fluid manner, the Gluttony’s Stomach dispersed into particles of light.
“I’m sure it’ll be tougher than ever, but you can make it.”
As she offered her testimony of the Trial, Mia’s voice and appearance faded…
…Am I waking up?
“When you overcome all the trials, at that time, you will—”
Enshrouded in bottomless darkness, my consciousness returned to the real world.
As if a switch had been flipped, my eyes fluttered open.
A mountain forest blanketed in thin snow jumped into my view, along with a witch in black and her silvery hair.
“Did you sleep well, Kurono?”
Fiona, the witch in front of me, asked.
“I was receiving a divine protection, so it didn’t feel like falling asleep.”
“Shouldn’t you sleep a bit longer?”
“No, I have enough stamina to cross the mountain, so it’s alright.”
Are we in the middle of the Galahad Mountains?
After departing from Alsace Fortress, we continued to move for a whole day in order to return quickly. While Sariel and I had no problem moving without rest, it’d be better if Lily and Fiona could rest like everyone else. As of the present, we hid in the forest to catch a short break.
With this, we were a bit closer to the Galahad Fortress. Once we left this place, we’d be able to push forward without rest. I’d only rest after arriving at the fortress.
“What about Lily?”
“She’s still asleep.”
Right next to me, stood a tent with different design than the one we’d been using until now. After the dimension magic was destroyed by Sariel, the new adventurer kit tent that I’d been using since my time in Irz Village vanished, so she must’ve made a new one.
In her new tent, Lily—in her child form, slept peacefully.
Let’s leave her for another hour or so.
“By receiving blessing, do you mean that you came into contact with the black gods?”
In my arms, Sariel squirmed slightly and asked me. Since she was motionless, I thought she was asleep, but was she awake? Did being held against my heavy knight armor robbed her of her sleep?
“That’s right. I always receive my blessing through a dream.”
“Then, that child must be the ancient Demon King, Mia—”
“—Won’t you shut up?”
Suddenly, a sharp voice flew in, and the whole place became silent.
The owner of said cold voice was none other than Fiona. She was in a foul mood—no, it was far worse than that. Exuding murderous intent, Fiona conjured her long staff—Ainz Bloom—the same cane that reduced the Gluttony Octo to ashes.
“…I’m sorry, Fiona.”
“Kurono, you don’t need to apologize. As for you, next time you speak as you please, I’ll crush your throat.”
It wasn’t a joke or a threat—Fiona was serious. Her golden eyes, reflecting endless cruelty, shone mysteriously.
I couldn’t reprimand Fiona’s attitude as cruel or harsh, as she had valid concerns.
“Being able to speak also means being able to chant freely. Don’t forget the danger.”
“I’m sorry for being careless.”
Yes, to Fiona, Sariel was an enemy that we should be wary of the most. If anything, it was me who was too careless.
Even if Sariel was no longer an apostle, and had received the divine protection of Dark Knight Freesia, that didn’t mean her innocence had been proven. The world wasn’t that sweet. While Fiona’s attitude was natural, it was still sweet of her to respect my intentions to such an extent.
The surroundings were really quiet. To conceal our whereabouts, not a single bonfire was lit. Even though spring had arrived, the mountain animals hadn’t yet awakened from their hibernation, so not a single cry could be heard.
The sky was covered with thick clouds, as if yesterday’s fine weather was a lie. Snow was about to start, and it felt as if I had returned to the cold winter.
Both the weather and the atmosphere weren’t clear.
Well, no wonder. I hadn’t had the conversation with either Fiona or Lily.
At that time, I even began to doubt if Lily came to aid me.
“—Kurono, what is Sariel doing here?”
I thought I’d be killed. If I hadn’t stopped Lily, she’d probably go in for the kill.
Therefore, I had no choice but to lie.
“Wait, Lily, she’s… a prisoner of war.”
Perhaps, Lily knew I was lying. No, since it was Lily, that much should be obvious. There was no way she couldn’t see through my pathetic lie.
Even so, Lily didn’t attack Sariel. For now, anyway. I was sure she’d forcibly rein her unimaginable rage.
“Sariel isn’t an apostle anymore, so I want to take her to Spada, is that okay…?”
I considered it a miracle that the two relented.
“Our top priority right now is to return to Galahad Fortress. I’ll definitely explain the details later. So for now, please don’t ask me anything.”
There was no way they’d be convinced with that. Still, they both agreed. We’d be bringing Sariel to Spada together.
Although Sariel’s physical strength remained, she had depleted her magic during the battle against Gluttony Octo. As such, she couldn’t walk independently using blackening. In the end, I had to carry her on my back just like before.
Then, when I was resting, I’d hold her in my arms. I couldn’t possibly let her go.
It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the two, but in the unlikely event that they killed Sariel under the notion that she was acting suspiciously… That could absolutely happen.
Well, the two had the right to do so. Even if they did, I wouldn’t blame them. After all, I didn’t want Sariel to die due to my personal feelings.
“Fiona, I’m truly sorry…”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“This is unforgivable, isn’t it?”
It wouldn’t be—at least to me.
After all, Sariel was once our sworn enemy. To defeat her, we had to put our lives on the line. Now, I was pleading for her life like this…
…If I was in Fiona’s position, I’d probably unsheathe my sword and called me a traitor.
“Whether to forgive her or not, it’s not up for me to decide.”
I had definitely heard something similar.
However, unlike before, the reply was extremely ruthless, without the slightest hint of compassion.
“I see… That’s right.”
By apologizing, I’d only be making an excuse.
I thought I was prepared. But suddenly, I found my heart breaking.