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A Young Man Makes His Choice

 

 

Now over and done with her somewhat long-winded explanation, Latina sunk back with a somewhat despondent expression, almost as if she had just gotten an earful of a scolding.

“To tell the truth… I didn’t even think you’d catch on to me, Dale. I thought I could just take my time and… just tell you about it whenever I was ready…”

Even as a ‘beginner’ Demon King, she seemed to suffer from a lack of preparation. Even now she couldn’t stop fidgeting; being found out as she had been left her in quite the pickle.

Dale couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

“I may be a Demon King now, but… But I’m the kind that operates outside of reason. The powers I got aren’t really that powerful to begin with… But I do have what all Demon Kings do. The power that only a Demon King is allowed to possess…”

She took her time with what she said next.

“Demon Kings can create their own Retainers.”

… Demons, she meant.

Retainers of the Demon Kings who served them to the end. They were made from every species imaginable – not only humans, but even mythical beasts and demi-humans could be found among their ranks. As long as the creature in question was of a sufficient intellect… then one could be created.

Even if there was no visible change to their appearance, the power they gained presented an inconceivable gap.

“That’s just…”

That was when Latina stumbled on her words again.

As if meaning to urge her on, Dale softly rubbed her head. Her eyes wet with tears, Latina turns up to face him.

“It was the only way I… It was the only thing that had the power to grant my wish.”

“Your… wish?”

Latina grabbed on to Dale’s clothes and squeezed. More than familiar with this habit she’d fostered since childhood, Dale could feel the anxiety she hid.

“Demons… For a demon… The ‘reason’ behind their time in world could be extended. That’s why, I… I… I knew it wasn’t the right thing, but… But I still…  I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

Her tears falling down like rivers once again, the poor girl repeated the same apology over and over.

Dale let out a small sigh before he held her closer.

“So basically… It’s all my fault, huh?”

He was well aware that she had spent ample time brooding over the vastly different life-spans of humans and demon-kind, of him and her. But believing it to be something out of their hands… he had long since decided to leave things to the flow of time, until that one decisive moment arrived…

He had simply chosen to abandon all hope.

But now the girl had been presented with a method of settling it all without needing to give up on anything. She had found a way to avoid what had once been an unquestionable fact; their unchangeable, eternal separation along with her own impending solitude.

She had held on to the hope that that possibility alone would appear in front of her, and that she would not be forced to resign the happiness she had come to gain.

Demons, with their powers that far exceeded whatever creature they had once been, were given a life span that would allow them to serve their Demon King for as long as was needed.

If he were to become one himself… then it wouldn’t matter that he was born a human. He would live for as long as he was servant to a Demon King.

“It’s all my fault…”

He murmured as he shook his head.

“You became a Demon King for me…”

“I… I’m sorry. Dale, I’m sorry…”

“You… don’t have anything to be sorry about. You really don’t…”

He held her even closer. He searched for the proper words as they hid inside his wavering heart.

“Latina… You… You want to turn me into your Retainer, right?”

“…!”

Latina’s eyes went round at his words.

“Latina…?”

The girl in question shook her head from side to side, trembling all the while, and Dale’s expression turned to one of surprise.

“I can’t… I can’t ask you to stop being human, Dale. Telling you to leave the world of reason… I just can’t do it.”

“…”

“I was just faced with the possibility and… I was weak. I took the chance. But still… I can’t just ask the man I love to… to turn into something completely different.”

For whatever reason, her answer was met by peals of laughter. It greeted her with a whack, as if that was the only response.

Dale held her even closer. He buried his face into her golden white hair and took in her sweet fragrance.

“Dale…?”

“You really didn’t change, Latina.”

She really hadn’t. She was still his very own precious little Latina. And that meant that he didn’t have to change either.

“Okay, it’s all good.”

“…Huh?”

“If you turn me into your Retainer… If you turn me into a demon, I won’t mind.”

He could finally give her a natural smile. It was a smile without a hint of falsehood, one that he could make from the bottom of his heart.

“I don’t want to leave you all on your own, either.”

And that was that. That was the choice he knew he had to pick.

“N… No, Dale. You can’t…”

“Why not?”

“Well, I mean… I mean…”

The poor Latina turned pallid at the idea of having outright rejecting their own humanity like this. Confused and befuddled, she did her best to convince him against the idea.

The idea that in any other situation their positions would be reversed made him laugh even harder. Even though she had just acknowledged that she was the one who had chosen this power, she still couldn’t help but consider his own plights. This girl, this kind and gentle girl, was irreplaceable to him.

“I want to live as long as you do, Latina.”

It was why Dale could only wish the same for her, on his own terms.

“You keep telling me that you accept me for who I am… and you’re just as important to me, Latina.”

Once Dale had spoken, Latina couldn’t do anything to stop the tears from dripping down from her ashen eyes. All she could do was lean into him and start sobbing loudly. At the kindness behind his words. At being forgiven. And at the joy she felt from having her wish come true.

“You’re all I need, Dale. Just you.”

The newly-crowned Demon King looked up at him, smiling through her own tears.

She had plenty of people close to her heart. But among those people, none of them she wished to live together with for the rest of eternity. That kind of thing could not come to pass.

While Demon Kings had received a portion of a god’s power, they were far from omnipotent.

That was why she could only accept him in her life.

She only wished to live together with the one she loved the most.

“I promised, didn’t I? I already told you I’d stay with you until the day I kick the bucket. So all of this? That’s just me keeping that promise.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be. You don’t have to. I’m the one who made that choice.”

“Dale… Thank you…”

Slowly, Latina stretched out her hands, clasping onto his much larger one.

She held his hand to her cheek and closed her eyes.

This was the hand that had once reached out to save her, both in mind and spirit.

“You know, being saved by you is the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.”

If she hadn’t met him back then… if she had met anyone else, then she wouldn’t be the way she was now. The happiness she had now was all thanks to meeting him.

All of her happiness, all of her joy… all of it was thanks to him.

This warm feeling in his hands… it had saved her more times than she could count. Every time she had walked together with him, hand-in-hand, made for a memory that she would treasure for the rest of her life.

That’s why it was… that’s why this spot that connected the two of them should be…

That’s why she, holder of the Eighth Crown – or perhaps the zeroth, come to think of it – of the Demon Kings that existed beyond the reasoning of this world…

That’s why she would engrave his name as her Retainer, his name as a demon, right there.

Chapters are split into pages.