< Evade the Hero and Flee! 171 #19. Life is a continuous escape (12)>

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#13 Their circumstances: a certain demon’s circumstance.

 

Screams. Despairing. Lamentations. Chaos. And then, screaming again.

Scorching flames began burning down everything in the surroundings. At the same time, screams of despair and horror rang around everywhere.

One by one…

A life was being extinguished with every passing hour, minute, no, second.

“Aggreart…!”

In this burning battlefield was a young girl with black bob-cut hair. She was gritting her teeth while glaring murderously at a man with a humongous physique.

“Don’t tell me, oh Princess Belegrea, that you failed to anticipate this outcome?”

“No one could have guessed that you’d make a move like this! Do you wish to wage war so badly that you are actually willing to start a civil war among the demons first?!”

Unlike the man’s laid-back voice, the girl referred to as Belegrea roared out hoarsely like a beast’s howling.

“But, you were the first one to make a move, so you shouldn’t be saying that to me, right?”

“What? Are you talking about my search for the descendants of the Succubus race? Did something so minor warrant this much bloodshed?! Do you really wish for a throne of blood built over the piles of corpses!?”

Kaa-aaahng!

An ultra-sharp sword aura slashing out of the girl’s hand tried to attack the man, but too bad, her opponent far too easily defended against that strike.

“Minor? Did you say minor?”

“…What?”

The man momentarily tilted his head, and the girl didn’t miss that.

They both thought of similar things at the same time.

‘Something is wrong here.’

‘It was a misunderstanding!’

That man was the leader of a powerful faction. In other words, he was not a moron who’d fail to read the true intentions behind the words and actions of his opponent.

And that’s why he realised right away that the girl was merely searching for the Succubus race. The culprit behind the attacks against his underlings was someone else, instead.

The girl also realised that this man standing before her eyes was attacking her because of a tragic misunderstanding.

But the consequence of his misunderstanding had already gone way past the point of sweeping it under the rug as just an unfortunate accident.

There were three factions, and one of them had attacked another one. That’s what had happened here.

The moment the man realised his mistake and stopped the massacre, he’d have to take responsibility for killing all these people until now.

And even if he did stop, the girl still had to kill him as a price for all this bloodshed.

Even if the man apologised at this stage, she’d never accept it.

No, wait… She would accept his apology, yes. An apology paid for with death! Not just his, but every single underling under him, too!

“Well, it seems I’ve made a mistake, then.”

“It’s not too late to stop now.”

“And that will lead to all of us to losing our lives.”

“You did something wrong, so it’s only correct that you get punished, isn’t it?”

“Indeed. Certainly, we are at fault this time. Unfortunately…”

An incredible amount of energy began gathering in the man’s greatsword.

The girl was reminded of the fact that the man before her eyes was not only the leader of the radical faction but also the strongest warrior among the demon race and the ruler of the entire demon army.

He was none other than Aggreart, the great general of ‘In-ma’ race, and the entire demon race, too! [1]

“My apologies, Princess Belegrea, but for the sake of demon race’s unification, I must take your life here today.”

“Someone like you becoming the king of demons will cause countless more deaths! I cannot and will not accept it!”

A lump of powerful magical energy began gathering in the sword gripped tightly in the girl’s hands.

The fabled sword light!

The girl also possessed enough power befitting her status as the leader of the moderates, the strongest faction in the demon race!

“…Sever.”

The first one to make a move was Aggreart’s massive greatsword. A powerful strike that came down from above, a clean but unstoppable attack!

Belegrea stood her ground and watched the incoming attack until the end. Then she used the tip of her sword to deflect the greatsword’s trajectory.

“…Keuk.”

“Hmm. As expected of a girl who has inherited the blood of the previous demon king. Amazing, indeed.”

Aggreart’s greatsword ended up swinging down in the empty space. Belegrea had succeeded in altering the trajectory of his attack in the nick of time with her own sword.

“What a nonsensical level of power…!”

Unfortunately for her, though, the tip of her sword broke apart as the price for her success.

She stared at her weapon, now missing about one-third of its blade, and began biting her lower lip. She then tried to focus even more demonic energy on her sword but compared to Aggreart’s truly ginormous greatsword, hers looked so shabby and inconsequential.

“Princess Belegrea, I commend you for fighting so well until now.”

“No, not yet!”

Aggreart was the only one in the room with her.

Princess Belegrea instinctively realised that this was her defeat, but that didn’t mean she’d give up so easily like this.

“Haaaaa-aaahph!”

The demonic energy gushing out from her at that moment was so strong that it’d not lose out to Aggreart’s!

“Indeed, you are strong, Princess.” Even Aggreart had to nod his head in acceptance at her incredible demonic energy output. “However, you don’t win wars simply by being strong.”

“Ah…”

Unfortunately for her, Aggreart oh-so easily destroyed Belegrea’s powerful gust of demonic energy as if it was nothing to him.

“Even a treasure sword would begin to rust if you don’t polish it often. The reason why the moderates are losing to us the radicals is simple. You have individuals who can fight, but no one who has experienced the actual fight.”

Aggreart had experienced waging war against humans and, to his eyes, Belegrea’s attacks came across as far too simple and predictable.

“Princess, I hope that you don’t resent me too much for this. Think about the demon race’s impending domination of heaven and earth as you pass on from this life.”

“Is this… really over for me?”

Belegrea watched the greatsword falling on top of her once more, and in these brief moments, she imagined her death while closing her eyes.

But then…!

“The moderates don’t only have demons with no experience in real wars. Wouldn’t you say, Aggreart?”

Right before Aggreart’s greatsword could cleave Belegrea in half, a voice belonging to another individual suddenly rang out within the room where only two demons should have been in.

“Old man?”

“Mekel…”

Aggreart glanced at the barrier made out of demonic energy blocking his greatsword. While pulling back his weapon, he shifted his gaze over to the owner of the voice.

“If you wish to talk about combat experiences, then well, I also have some.”

“Indeed, Mekel. You were still around.”

Aggreart didn’t lower his guard despite staring at a lizardman full of injuries.

This lizardman happened to be his colleague once upon a time, after all. A colleague that served the previous demon king alongside Aggreart to wage war against humans. In other words, a trustworthy comrade in arms.

Such an individual had become an enemy. And Aggreart was certainly no idiot to lower his guard against someone like that.

“You’ve grown old, Mekel.”

“You’re the abnormal one here, Aggreart. Because I’m old now, you think I should act like an old age pensioner in a care home? Even if I’m a bit older than you due to the difference in our races, that’s a bit mean, isn’t it?”

“No, that’s not what I’m meant.”

Aggreart’s greatsword began moving once more, prompting Mekel to create yet another barrier of demonic energy in front of Belegrea.

Shatter!

“Kkyaaahk!”

However, unlike before, the demonic energy barrier ended up shattering so easily.

“Your Highness!”

“No, I’m fine, old man! I did evade it!”

Indeed, Belegrea had evaded the greatsword in the nick of time. But her complexion was poor, perhaps as a penalty for forcibly circulating her demonic energy.

“Mekel, it seems that your abilities have become too dull with age. The past you would have easily blocked an attack of this level, after all. Is it because you’ve been enjoying the time of peace for far too long?”

“Hah? You punk. You’re only saying that since you summon your underlings to do all the dirty work for you while you sit back and relax. Meanwhile, I had to break through their ranks with force and get here to protect Her Highness. Between a tired combatant and a punk with not a hair out of place after not even lifting a finger, who do you think will fight better?”

“At least your glib tongue hasn’t dulled, Mekel.”

Aggreart smirked a little, but that only made Mekel frown deeply. “Bloody hell, why couldn’t you get a bit pissed off after that much provocation?”

“I should be celebrating that my old comrade in arms hasn’t lost his edge yet. As such, Mekel… Do you have any thoughts of working together with me like the good old times?”

“None at all. So get lost.” Mekel replied without a shred of hesitation.

Aggreart nodded in acceptance. “Indeed. We’ve already grown too distant by now.”

He then began swinging his greatsword in Mekel’s direction in utter silence.

Mekel, too, returned fire with various different magic spells while dodging Aggreart’s attacks.

A sword and magic.

This was a battle between the two individuals who used to serve the previous demon king as his right and left hands.

And such a battle… concluded far too easily.

“Keuh-heok!”

“Old man!”

…As a victory for Aggreart.

“Old man, are you alright?!”

“I’m, I’m fine… Cough!”

“Oh, no! Old man!”

Belegrea watched on as Mekel crash-landed near her position, tears quickly filling up her eyes.

The old lizardman was inflicted with grave injuries. Unless he got medical treatment right this instant, Mekel might die simply from all the blood loss.

Mekel was someone who accompanied her since she was a young child and spent more time with her than her own father, the previous demon king. The thought of such a person dying in front of her caused tears to automatically stream down Belegrea’s face.

“It sure has been a long time since I last saw you crying, Your Highness.”

“Mekel, now is not the time to care about that!”

“Ku-hahaha… The sight of our adorable princess crying… cough! …is one of my life’s pleasures, after all.”

Belegrea couldn’t rebuke Mekel after seeing the latter cough out a mouthful of blood.

Aggreart butted in just then. “You’ve become too weak, Mekel. And the amount of demonic energy you’ve been wasting during your casting is also too much. As I thought, peace has dulled your edge, Mekel.”

“And you… are the same as in the past.”

Mekel smirked a little while staring right back at Aggreart looking down on him.

“That’s right. Because I never allowed peace to stain my existence.”

“Right. It’s as you say. You are exactly the same as back when our lives were still filled with conflicts. Nothing has changed for you. Your incredible strength, your cheaty techniques that are at odds with your strength, and then… Your tendency of being strangely lenient towards those who fought by your side!”

Right at that moment, Aggreart’s sword made a move. Rather than his reason, his instinct had told him to act first.

If he doesn’t kill them now, something unexpected might happen… that’s what his instinct had realised first!

“Hahaha. It’s too late, Aggreart.”

“O-old man?”

It was also at that moment that Belegrea’s body began emitting white light.

“…Teleportation magic?”

“I had it prepared a long time ago just in case. We were cutting it real close this time.”

“No, old man!”

Belegrea’s figure began disappearing in the flood of white light. Aggreart tried to strike with his greatsword, but Mekel threw himself forward to block the attack with his own body.

The lizardman watched her teleport away and smiled warmly at her for the last time. “Your Highness. You’re a strong person.”

“Old man, what are you doing?!”

“Even though your inborn demonic energy pool is enormous, your heart is even greater, Your Highness. That’s why I pray that you will survive this. As long as you survive, the Demon God will never forsake you, princess.”

“O-old man? Old man! Hurry and undo this spell! I said, undo it right now!”

Belegrea couldn’t do anything as she watched Mekel slowly die. She began cursing her powerlessness and continued to cry out to him.

“Mere trickery like this…!”

“Aggreart, these trickeries have kept me alive all these years. Our enemies back then must’ve felt the same as you do now.”

“Dammit. I forgot that there are a lot more bastards who wanted you dead than me.”

“Ku-hahahaha! Despite what you said earlier, you seemed to have been stained by peace as well, Aggreart!”

Mekel continued to mock Aggreart even as blood continued to gush out of his mouth.

“You think the tides will turn just because some little princess managed to escape from here? Maybe, if it was you who escaped to gather other forces to rise against me! Most of the moderates joined your faction because of you, not the princess. Meaning, the centre of the faction was you, Mekel, not Princess Belegrea!”

“That might have been true in the beginning. But things are different now. That’s what our princess is like, after all. Her powerful demonic energy isn’t everything about her. No, her heart and her beliefs are even stronger! That is her charm, her true strength. Now, behold. Witness with your own two eyes, Aggreart! This will be the moment where you have let slip your final chance!”

CLANG!

“Tsk.”

Aggreart swung his greatsword after listening to what Mekel said but his weapon couldn’t chop down on Belegrea’s figure, now almost transparent midst the flood of white light.

“Is this ancient sorcery?”

“Well, a little bit of that is mixed in, sure. Thanks to you, we have plenty of blood around here to use as sacrifice, too. As you can see, it’s been very effective.”

“Old man…”

Belegrea’s figure had almost disappeared from the spot, only her face was somewhat still visible. She stared helplessly at Mekel, her expression belonging to someone who had given up on everything.

“Your highness. Remember that this fool can never become the next demon king as long as you don’t give up. That’s why you must hold on, princess. Your heart… your heart is the hope of all demon race.”

“Ng. Got it.”

This would probably be Mekel’s last words.

Belegrea, not wanting to forget his dying words, kept nodding away.

And the moment her figure completely vanished from the room, Mekel finally collapsed to the floor. All Aggreart could do then was just stand there in a daze, staring at where the princess used to be.

“My liege!”

“Princess has managed to escape. Find her, even if you have to search the entire demon continent!”

Aggreart’s underlings began showing up next to him one by one. They had finished subduing most of the moderates near the princess by now.

He issued new orders to them in a calm, flat voice. “And make sure to keep this punk alive. No matter what. It’s the only way to capture the princess.”

“Yes, sir!”

Aggreart watched his underlings quickly carry out his orders, then began mulling on the things Mekel said towards the end.

“As long as the princess doesn’t give up, I can never become the demon king, is it? In that case, I shall personally make her kneel before me and give up.”

Aggreart, now only a single step away from claiming the throne of the demon king for himself, swore to himself over and over again.

 

***

 

Around the same time as the great general of the demon race, Aggreart, was pledging to himself to make the princess give up…

The daughter of the previous demon king and the princess of the demon race, Belegrea, was thinking about what Mekel told her. Thinking about those words that must’ve been his dying will. Those words from a loyal retainer who sacrificed himself to ensure her safe escape…

Your highness. Remember that this fool can never become the next demon king as long as you don’t give up. That’s why you must hold on, princess. Your heart… your heart is the hope of all demon race.

Belegrea closed her eyes while thinking about those words.

She made a truly pitiful expression, then whispered at the image of Mekel smiling affectionately in her mind. “I’m sorry, Mekel. But I think it’s too late for me now.”

“Whatcha talking about? Didn’t I tell yah to just answer the questions, nah?!”

“Kkuwaaaaahk!”

Belegrea gave up on everything as she stared at a silver-haired demon girl busy beating her up while making ‘toushi-toushi’ noises with her mouth.

 

[1]: The author didn’t provide the Hanja for ‘In-ma’, thus I can’t be sure what he intended to say. Will leave it as is until I get clarification later.

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