The Lazy King Part 2 Chapter 7: Fortis’ Courage
Part 1: I’ve not a Fragment of Courage
This is, perhaps, the oldest memory I possess.
“Congratulations, you have been chosen as a Hero.”
“…? W-what… is this, who are…”
That black robe that draped over her head, and covered even up to her eyes was the vestment of a magician. A robe you would occasionally see along the main street.
Those that covered their eyes would develop the ability to see ‘something’ unknown to an ordinary man. But it was a long time later that I came to know that fact.
Without a single harbinger, the magician that had appeared all too suddenly said that to me, who, sword alone, had never even held up a kitchen knife.
I’m not sure what she was seeing with her eyes, or what she had discovered with me, but in the end I never had the chance to find that out. If I were to refer to that encounter in a clichéd fashion, I’ll bet it was fate.
“… So… what is… a Hero?”
For the dubious mage that suddenly appeared, and the shady-as-hell voice she threw out, the reason I decided to take her seriously… no, the reason I even confronted her was just a coincidence… or maybe something else.
I’m sure that I just didn’t have the will to ignore one who had come to inform me of something of her own accord. If perhaps I had such a will at that time… I should have been able to settle it then and there. But in the end, as if thrown about by the tide, I ended up hearing her speech just like that.
The shady, suspicious magician spoke.
“A hero is one who lights up the darkness with their valor. Who crushes the strong, and saves the weak, the sword of hope to save the human race from the invaders of darkness. And you have the makings of one. I can… see it.”
Honestly, I was troubled.
By the magician who claimed to see something I couldn’t. No, of the magician who spoke as if she were looking at it the entire time.
For one without a single friend, with my only form of conversation being when I occasionally went out shopping, I had absolutely no idea how to deal with her, and I could only give a vague reply when it came down to it. I couldn’t help it.
Without even asking what quality she was seeing. Just thrown around by the waves.
“Um… becoming a Hero is… um…”
I don’t have a reason. I don’t have any reason to become one. I doubt I’ll be able become one, and up to that point, I never even imagined for that option to appear before me. I never thought I’d ever want to become one.
I was… what you find in any city out there, the lowest rank of the city’s middle class. Nothing more than a single child.
The magician smiled at my bewilderment.
“You will become a hero, Serge. If you do, then someday when the time comes that those dear to you, your parents, lover, friends’ lives are put at risk by the forces of evil, your power will surely come through to put a stop to it. In order not to come to regret it someday, your power is to become… the 『Sword』 of humanity.”
Those dear to me? Parents? Lover? Friends?
Huh? Um… I don’t really… have anyone like that.
My parents weren’t there from the time I gained awareness of my surroundings. I don’t know whether they’re dead or alive.
Even I had always hated my own hair and eyes, the dirty color of gray sewer rats. With my lack of sociability, there’s no way I would make any friends.
All that I have… are some whose faces I know of, and complete strangers.
I repeated the magician’s words to myself, and thought.
Surely, this magician had only ever seen heroes like that. Those with dear ones, parents, lovers, friends. Heroes with the courage and ability to fight the dark forces, or whatever, for their sake.
But I was always alone. Even when no tragedy out of a fairytale had befallen me, I was just alone.
None too smart, and quite weak physically. On my feet, I lost to children three years my junior, and I couldn’t even read or write decently. I never felt a sense of crisis from such a thing. There were more than enough of such people around me.
I could only look upon her with cold eyes.
For what purpose did this magician come before my eyes? Just what sort of talent does she see? Did something like that really exist? All these sorts of questions… I could care less about.
The mysterious atmosphere, and her hood that seemed to fit it. I didn’t even care whether she was a fake or the real deal.
Of the magician’s expression, all her robe allowed me to see was her mouth curved into a smile.
“Please think over it a night. Serge, you have the right to choose. To live as a hero to light up the dark, or… to waste your entire life as a normal civilian…”
“I’ll do it.”
I replied immediately.
“… And please decide it by your own will. Your fate is… huh… eh?”
“I will… become one.”
At that moment, I definitely sensed that her concealed eyes had opened wide.
Surprise. That was the first emotion I managed to give to the magician. It was somewhat enjoyable.
“… Are you sure you don’t have to think about it? If you do end up becoming a hero, you can never return to an ordinary life. Perhaps whatever happiness awaiting you in the future would disappear. Your dear ones, lover, parents, friends, you may be forced to part with them for eternity.”
And I’m telling you I don’t have anyone like that. Even whatever sort of worth was there having those four in my life was unknown… to me.
Seriously, what’s with this woman, and her obsession with dear ones, lovers, parents, and friends?
The magician’s mouth warped slightly. She let out a long sigh.
“Even if your resolve is of that level, I must call your choice to hero-hood to be premature. While I do commend that resolve of yours…”
“I’ll do it, dammit.”
The resolve to lose what didn’t exist?
Perhaps if I had but a single one close to me, than as weak as I was, I never would have been able to take that option.
But in all truth, I had no one. I had nothing I could call a dear one. With no one I needed to protect, I had no reason to hesitate. My present state was the worst, and as long as I can’t think of a life lower than that, then I might as well just press forward whenever the opportunity comes to me.
My ignorance was named as recklessness, and at that moment, it was misunderstood as courage.
“… Why? Why is it that you can be so strong? Even if I call you a hero, you’re still human. If you face defeat at the forces of darkness, and face a tragic demise… no, the probability of you facing a fate worse than death is nothing low.”
Why am I strong?
I’m not strong at all.
I’ve not a fragment of courage. I’m just… alone.
If you’re going to call me strong, me, with no knowledge or power to boast of… if that were to be reflected on this magician’s eyes as strength, then I’m sure…
If the strength of the heroes of the past lay in that they had people to protect, then I’m sure…
My strength is that… I don’t have a single thing to protect, and not even the need to defend my own life. I can permit any sort of sacrifice, and that’s all it was.
But the magician couldn’t understand that.
The reason I would become a hero.
I forcibly moved my facial expression I hadn’t changed in a long wile, and formed a stiff smile to the magician’s bewildered air.
“Because it’s… for the sake of the world.”
If I have the power to save it, if my own power can be of the least amount of use to something, if you’re going to give me a reason to exist, then I’ll sacrifice myself to it. That’s what my child’s mind thought. That’s all there was to it.
I’ll throw out my worthless self, throw out my vague standing in life, throw away the idleness I felt from my own ignorance… as if I was just tossing aside some trash on the side of the road, I was able to discard it all so easily. That’s all there was to it.
Even if I didn’t know how to read or write, I understood.
It wasn’t for my dear ones, or my parents, or lover, or friends, and of course, it wasn’t for the world. It was plain and simple… self-satisfaction.
From the eyes covered under the hood, water started to flow.
So even magicians weep. I ended up thinking something useless like that.
“… You will surely become a wonderful, and… tragic hero. Serge, I can do nothing but commend that courage of yours.”
What the magician gave name to was nothing like courage, but seeing that selfless smile on her face, I kept my mouth shut.
The magician’s hand gave off a faint light. To me, it was the first time I had ever seen magic, and it looked like the work of God.
The lights quietly poured down over my head. It was as she were covering me with a hat of it. And what existed in that flow was a power strong enough to stir up my existence.
“For your strong and noble will, I grant the Class of 『Hero』 onto you. Serge. I pray for light on… the path you are to travel.”
Her words stained the insides of my mind along with that power.
My senses understood. It was likely something powerful. Surpassing the bounds of humanity, a powerful Mana of light to overwhelm the Demon Race. My soul was written over. As one to light the dark.
If you were going to give out something like this, then anyone… even a civilian could be a Hero. Even I could do it.
What is this… so effort and talent… had nothing to do with it.
Compared to the power granted by the 『Hero』 Class, all the effort I had ever put in, and those classmate, upperclassmen, lowerclassmen I had always been jealous of equally… felt like nothing but rubbish.
And on that truth, I felt a great sense of guilt.
Power I gained by cheating. My heart gave a dull ache.
What a terrible tale it must be.
“Now, Serge. Please go forth. With that power… to clear away the darkness. To save the world. Here, from this moment forth… you are a Hero, Serge.”
Hero. Serge the Hero.
It doesn’t really feel real. No, I don’t need it to. I mean, it’s not like I actually wanted to become a Hero in the first place.
The inside of my head was incomparably clearer than ever before, and my body unbelievably light.
The power to clear the dark. I knew how to use my power by instinct.
Within my head floated the Brave Skilltree. The tree with all the powers of a hero loaded into it.
From one to one hundred, the Skilltree that had every slot on it opened from the start. I instinctively selected thhe final Skill on it.
A light descended from the sky, drawn to my left hand, before it began to take shape.
I felt no heat from it. It was a light that was only cold.
The 『Brave』 Skill Tree.
What existed at its depths, the weapon of a Hero. A Skill to bring forth a Holy Sword.
It was a slender long sword. Its pale blue body was about one meter in length, and its design-less boorish hilt rested in my hand.
The Holy Sword I produced by expending an amount of Mana I wouldn’t even have felt if I were as I was before obtaining the Hero Class was simply beautiful… and cold.
The Holy Sword. Its name surfaced in my mind… Solitus Argentum.
(TL: Latin, Solitary Silver)
Light reflected off the blade with a lonely name perfectly suited of me, making it shine silver.
In the center of it, light, wind gathered, and gave blessings to the sword. The magician merely stared up at that sword in a trance, and at that moment, I felt the truth of my role as a Hero for the first time.
I hung out the blade’s tip towards the heavens. A holy pillar of light rose from it.
In my new life, reborn as a Hero, I couldn’t help but think a little.
If I’m the Hero, I wonder if I can make any friends.
Part 2: What’s Necessary isn’t Power, but Courage
… I failed.
I had been too lacking in caution due to my place in the sky. When I manipulated the wings on my back to charge with all my might, I was easily dodged.
At the same time, I received an impact great enough to crush my skull.
Demons are strong. Especially in the miasma of the Demon World, they were able to gain extraordinary powers. It’s completely different from fighting them on the surface, or in the heavens.
Once they reached the highest rank… Demon Lord, I wonder how strong that would be.
I thought I had understood it.
I mean, it wasn’t my first time fighting a Demon or a Demon Lord.
I’ve defeated a number of them A number of them fell.
I never thought I could deceive the wide ranged perception abilities of a Demon Lord. The surprise attack I launched with the premise that they knew it would be coming was brilliantly evaded, and I was smashed.
Strong. Within my fading field of vision, I thought.
On top of it all, this enemy hadn’t gotten serious at all. As if it were a part of their daily life, they activated a Skill with natural movements, and without even any killing intent, they naturally intercepted me.
I can’t even imagine how many months and years they had placed into their strength. But there was quite a bit of menace packed into that single blow of theirs.
The moment I realized my failure, what flowed out from my heart wasn’t fear… an anxiety great enough to crush me.
With my vision smashed, and my five senses fading, my mind dripped out, and my soul well into darkness…
… And a Skill activated.
My memories flashed back through me.
My limits as a Hero. My defeat. Being picked up by God, and made a Valkyrie. The power I devoted my life to. The power I devoted myself to defeat Demons. The Power I devoted myself to destroy them.
On the 『Question』 that came up in my mind, I selected 『Yes』 without hesitation.
My breath returned. Light came back to my world. My smashed head, and burst brain, and my split body, and any and everything else returned to normal.
A rewind from death. No matter how many tens and hundreds and thousands of times I got a taste of it, it was an unfathomable sensation I could never accustom myself to.
Power reentered my body. I slowly stood up.
The large shadow looked down over me. Golden eyes observing me. That calm giant stood stagnant like a pillar of rock.
And of all else, he was greater than any Demon I had faced thus far, and his reaction as he looked at the scene surely wasn’t that of one seeing revival for the first time.
The Demon was a mountainous bald man, whose body height exceeded two meters. His brown skin was draped over a great armor of muscle coating his entire body. The way he held himself was closer to humanity than any other Demon K had seen before. I didn’t see him to be holding any weapons, but with that body of his, perhaps such a thing was unnecessary.
The greatest thing for me to focus on was that, despite us being a mere two meters apart, I couldn’t feel a single hint of power from him.
A Demon’s power is high. Originally, I could detect them instinctively from quite a distance. If that opponent was to be an exceptional Demon Lord, then I could even feel it kilometers away.
No matter which of the seven sins a Demon was to reign over, that should hold true.
But the Demon before my eyes was a type I’d never seen before. I had nothing in my knowledge to indicate the ability to completely erase one’s presence.
If I had acted without prior information, and without adequate caution, I wouldn’t have even noticed this man’s existence.
Is this man… what God had feared of… the calamity?
Before the unidentified man, I held up my Holy Sword.
That would have been a favorable chance for him to give a followup attack, but the man didn’t move his body at all. He folded his arms, and looked down on me, those golden eyes letting off a fiery radiance. A heavy pride clung to his mouth.
“… I see, that sword is… so you’re Serge Serenade… I never thought the real one would show up… why must everything always go astray.”
I have no words… to exchange with a Demon.
I sucked in a short breath, and gave the ground a strong kick
I poured power into the Holy Sword.
The blade was one imbued with high divinity. The strongest sword in the wor… no, perhaps just the strongest of the Human Race. But still, Demons that climbed up to the surface were one thing, but it wasn’t imbued with the power to kill a Demon in the Demon World with a single stroke.
That’s why I have to put power, Mana into it. In a time so far back I can’t even remember when it occurred, it was what I once laid hands on as a human, Hero’s power.
The pale blue edge was clad in a pale light. It was an armament to cut down darkness. The power that the frail human race had devoted itself to in order to stand against Demons. A sword of light to repell all sadness to befall them.
The Demon Lord didn’t move.
As I thrust the tip forward with the intent to rend him toward that Lord’s trunk of a body… towards the area with the highest probability of containing his Soul Core, the left of his chest, one of his log-like arms easily knocked the blade aside.
The blade lightly cut into his flesh.
Jet-black blood scattered, and before that could fall to the ground, he embedded his foot into my solar plexus.
My breath was knocked out. My internal organs were hollowed out. My brain let out a scream.
My body that had been strengthened as an Angel, the defensive barrier surrounding it was shattered in an instant, and an unpleasant creaking sound from my own bones reached my ears. My field of vision blinked on and off, before the pain tinted all before me pitch black.
For a few seconds, my body danced in the air, before I was thrown onto the ground. My entire body hurt from the pressure of the impact.
It hurts. I’m in pain. I’m scared. He’s strong. I ignored all those notions going through my mind, and thought.
I couldn’t see the instant he moved. Normally, in the moment an enemy made a move, I could see a small waver in their being, but I saw none of that at all. He was simply too fast.
He’s strong. The three Demon Lords I defeated were nothing compared to this.
I can’t even see where to start. The difference in power between us was hopeless. My dynamic vision was unable to follow him at all. And of all else, a Skill to erase his presence is… too abnormal.
I barely managed to swallow down the scream forming at the back of my throat.
I allocate the parts of my mind heading in a negative direction from the pain and power gap towards analyzing my resources on hand. That was, in all the years I’ve fought on, the method of fighting I’d cultivated to keep fighting without having my heart fold in on me.
Just as there were different types among Angels, the Skills a Demon could use varied by the Sins they governed. With pure physical abilities this high, speed beyond my perception, and the ability to pierce a barrier with his bare hands…
From that blow, there was but a single sin I could surmise that he held.
Among the various sorts of Demons around, it was the type that required the most caution.
I didn’t『Die』, so the pain won’t go away. The option isn’t coming up in my head.
He’s going easy on me. My magically strengthened body, and the barrier of an Angel, before this Demon, they were no more than walls of paper. I’ll bet he had enough power to turn me into a lump of meat in a single blow if he was up to it.
In that case, it would be a lot easier on me if he just killed me…
On the non-fatal damage assailing my body, I started to go through all options I had to preserve my continued existence, and at that moment, the man raised his voice.
Fitting his stature, it was a voice like a subterranean rumble. But opposed to that thunderous tone of his, the contents held some intelligence. That was one of the reasons Demons were something more than simple beasts.
“That authority is… 『Fortis』 I see… a troublesome one it is… no…”
The wrinkles on his brow smoothed out, and his frowning expression warped.
His voice wasn’t leaving him anymore, but he was quite clearly showing scorn.
What is he scoffing at? If he laughing at me for trying to attack knowing full well the gap between us?
No, there’s no way I’d ever understand a Demon’s thoughts.
I confirmed my damage. There was still some pain left across my body, but it won’t influence any offensive actions. In the first place, the option of retreat never existed.
I used my sword like a cane to lift myself.
My knees trembled. My arms shook. I stopped the quivering across my body, and stood up. I had no choice but to stand.
Hero was the general term to refer to those that opposed the dark. Therefore, as long as a darkness to oppose stands before me, and my own soul is undying, I must strongly impose myself on it.
… Because if I don’t… I won’t be able to fight on.
“It’s useless. Your power will never reach… me.”
I won’t reach. I know.
I could feel it from a single blow. Even if I didn’t measure his power by the disparity in our Mana, I knew well enough of the gap between us. Of all else, this Demon Lord is… simply too fast.
I remembered the days of battle I had spent.
There was never an enemy within them that wasn’t strong. I had always fought with my life at risk.
Since descending back into this Demon World, the three Lords I took on were all strong and troublesome existences holding desires strong enough to paint out all existence.
What’s necessary isn’t power, but courage. As long as that doesn’t run out, my defeat is… unthinkable.
I concentrated power to my eyes, and send malice and fighting spirit towards the Lord whose name I had yet to learn.
Black soil, dark emotions, and a miasma full of stagnant air, yet within that my blood and soul cried out. My spirit was excited.
On the edge of the horizon are three more great presences. They’re undoubtedly Demon Lord Class. I have no idea for what reason such a number of them have gathered.
I don’t know, but within my perpetual existence, within all the battle experience I had built up, I had a premonition that I was diving in to the longest battle I’ve ever faced.
Surprisingly enough, even when I directed my intent to kill at this Demon Lord, he still shows no will to fight. That reaction I had never witnessed from any Demon of Superbia thus far was too ominous to bear.
… I’m scared.
“… It doesn’t seem you understand, 『Fortis』. Courage and recklessness are… different things entirely.”
The Demon Lord sneered.
The name of the authority I gained the moment I became a Valkyrie after my death. One of the Virtues governed by Angels.
He saw through that just by locking blades with me twice!?
… No… that’s wrong. What’s to be feared the most is that, even after inferring it, the Lord had yet to lose his composure.
Still with a brilliant smile on his face, his figure leisurely swayed. That brown body, that large build started jiggling about like a Slime, before it dissolved away.
The sudden fear send shivers down my spine. While his head had already disappeared, that voice continued to ring out.
“No matter how you may try to prove that brave heart of yours, no matter how many tnousands of times you’re prevailed with it… it’s all… meaningless. Serge Serenade. Valkyrie, Valkyrie, is it… ah…”
I cannot comprehend. On the unknown that didn’t correspond with any of the experience I’d built up over my life, my hands shook.
That muddily oozing body flowed over onto the ground, and as if it were an illusion, it vanished entirely.
From top down, that large build surpassing two meters had melted, and within it… a body three times smaller revealed itself.
She was full of openings. I knew that, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the one who emerged from the giant.
“Eh… that can… ‘t be…”
My breath stopped.
Upon the destruction of that muscular mass, what came out was… a young girl.
Even when my own stature wasn’t that high, she was considerably smaller than me. Unbefitting her petite build, her features were quite mature. A sharp glare, and an excessively bulging chest.
White skin, and golden eyes. On her back grew five sets of dark wings, and from her head grew platinum blond hair that reached all the way to her feet.
What she wrapped around that body looked like nothing more than unornamented, colorless old rags, but while there were some differences here and there… that figure, and presence was something I could never mistake.
… In the distant past, it was an honorable form I had happened upon before.
I only saw her for an instant. A single short moment. In the depths of my memory, behind the haze of things forgotten, all that remained of my recollection of her was that brief scene.
In my life much longer than a normal human, where a majority of my memories had been long buried, what I could still remember was… when I was brought to the heavens by the Valkyries… the moment right after.
It’s likely that the other party never took me to sight. She likely doesn’t remember. It’s because we never even exchanged words. It’s because our statuses and powers were too far removed for something on the level of conversation to be permitted.
… But I remembered. From that single glance, a powerful charisma that burned itself into my soul.
Those ten wings of light.
Of all those that enforced Iustitia in all the heavens, she was one of the scarce Sacred Lords that could be counted on two fingers.
A Lord of Lords. One who was granted the fruit of glory by the supreme God of the celestial realm.
The jet black pointed tail she hadn’t grown back then slapped messily against the ground.
“How can this… why are… you…”
“As I thought, so you’ve scene this form of mine before… Ku ku ku, should I call it a strange twist of fate…”
There was a difference. The Angel I had looked up at back then had wings that glimmered as if they were light itself that had taken shape. Her eyes weren’t gold, but a clear emerald greed. She didn’t have a tail either.
But if you looked at it the other way, besides those traits, not a single thing had changed. Her face, her body, her height, tone, expression. That blazing power that could scorch one at a glance hadn’t faded at all, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of years had passed.
… No, that’s wrong.
There’s no way that’s true!
I shook my head, and mustered up my courage.
The girl before me is one blessed by the vice of a Demon. One who would creep unseen through the shadows of the hearts of man, to devour their souls.
Word by word, I asked as if I was posing the question to myself.
“That can’t… be. What trickery is this… Demon Lord. Why have you chosen to take up such a form at this point in time…?”
“Hmm… interesting. You’re an interesting one, Valkyrie. Having seen this form, and knowing my name, you still maintain the willpower to stand before me…”
Quite different from before the girl scoffed at me in a gentle voice like the ringing of sleigh bell. Her lips curved, and her right hand directed itself at me.
That was her activation nose. Without any warning, without a single movement of Mana, light poured out. Enough to cloud over my eyes, an untainted white light.
Forgetting the burning sensation in my eyes, I unintentionally opened them ever wider. It was a Skill I was accustomed to, but that’s exactly why I couldn’t believe it.
The meaning behind it caused my body to quiver.
The overflowing light took shape, and in her hand, a single sword was created.
With the hilt, the blade and all else forged of a shadowless white, a straight sword.
Among the authorities granted to Angels, it was the power most specialized in bringing ruin to Demons.
The 『Iustitia』 Authority.
A Skill to manifest a sword of light to dispel the dark.
The point of the sword that looked to have been delicately folded out of light itself was directed at me. Normally, it was a sword of justice that would never have found its way to be pointed there.
On the pressure that shortened my breath, I instinctively held my Holy Sword aloft.
By assuming a stance for battle, the shaking across my body came to a stop. But the sway of my emotions wasn’t so conveniently ceased.
I have the greater reach, but something like that… doesn’t matter if I can’t hit her.
“The real… deal?”
Still, even when confronting her, what formed at my mouth was a question.
In contrast, my opponent’s lips only returned a smile.
This is no good. Even if I found myself asking it, I already knew the answer.
This woman before my eyes was undoubtedly the genuine article. This pressure, that form. No matter what illusions she were to use, it would be impossible to replicate it to this extent.
A true Angel… no, former Angel.
Holding the name of Glory, one of the heavenly messengers closest to God.
The glory that kneeled beside the throne.
“I’m also short on time, but, ku ku ku, how… pitiful. I’ll play with you just a bit. Think it an honor for your body to be receiving my blade.”
“You are… no, you should be dead…”
At the very least, that’s what I’d heard.
In a time an uncountable number of years passed, against the greatest army of the Demon World’s forces, she commanded all the forces under her command, and managed to repel them, but after confronting the enemy’s Demon Lord, her whereabouts were lost. As she never returned, she was proclaimed dead.
The death of a high class Lord made quite an echo through heaven. I remember it. No, there’s no way I could forget.
Due to the outcome of that battle, the war was brought to a temporary armistice.
I have no idea as to why she became a Demon.
In the first place, as I never associated with her, I only knew of her personality and bearing from hearsay. All I knew for sure was how extraordinary her power had been.
Do I have… any chances of victory?
… No, at the very least, I can’t go down before our blades have even locked once.
With all the power I could muster, I glared.
I built up my courage.
I remembered the reason I had been sent to the Demon World by God.
The appearance of a powerful Demon of prophecy. The birth of a calamity.
And… for some reason, the one with the highest possibility of being able to take care of it was me.
A Fallen Angel who once stood at the summit of all Angels. I doubt there’s a calamity greater than this.
I can’t leave this Lord to run free.
In that overwhelming pressure, I wrung out even more courage from the depths of my heart. I used it to coat over my fear.
The heroic power I cultivated in my battles as a Hero. That Fortis authority I laid hands on when I became a Valkyrie.
It’s fine, it’s fine.
As long as I have both of them, my defeat is… impossible.
I put power in my arms, the power of my soul. The Holy Sword was clad in an even greater light, and let off a silver blue glimmer.
And the moment I held that sword allot…
A familiar message came up in my mind.
『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Decapitation』
My vision suddenly went dark.
I couldn’t move myself in the slightest.
What had transpired, what did she do? I couldn’t understand any of it. I couldn’t even perceive it. There wasn’t even… any pain to be felt.
A followup window faded into view.
『Do you want to try again?』
『YES / NO』
I can’t move my body. My five senses have already gone out. Within that nothingness, the message alone was all I could perceive.
The answer was… already determined.
Light returned to my eyes again. The hands that had unconsciously began to predd down on my wounds… came to a stop.
Gloria’s Sin Breaker was artlessly smeared with a slight hint of red.
The message. I should have been cut. I should have been killed.
Even so… now, I can’t even tell what part of me was injured.
“So you revived… were you able to follow that attack? Fortis… truly troublesome, and a truly worthless authority.”
My body could move perfectly.
Not even the pain that had afflicted me before I was cut remained.
I swallowed some air. I narrowed my eyes, and observed every one of her movements. I held my sword, and took a step forward.
『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Blunt Force Trauma』
My eyes went pitch black again. It was a feeling of loss great enough to swallow my soul.
I instinctively gave my response to the message that came out.
And I felt the light again.
Gloria was a mere few meters away. If there was nothing to obstruct me, it was a space I could span in the blink of an eye.
“… Serge, what did you even come here for?”
Cause of Death: Decapitation.
I can’t see. I couldn’t see her sword. I couldn’t even see its afterimage.
No matter how much effort I put in, I wasn’t able to see any of it. The Gloria of my vision had always just been standing as she was. She hadn’t done a thing. That’s all it looked to me.
“Could it be that you’re under the delusion that as long as you keep having a go at it endlessly, you’ll eventually win?”
It went black. The speed was too fast.
My blackouts and revivals. It was like a flickering lantern.
And every time, I would spam YES whenever that question was to come up.
I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. I’m scared. My senses are going cold, and this feeling of nihility is much too great.
I compelled myself to keep reviving. Without permitting myself even a moment of waver, I forced myself to come back.
What’s necessary was never power, but a heart that couldn’t be crushed. Just as when I was human, no matter what fear, no matter what enemy I stood to face… courage. Brave Heart.
I rejected the deathful feeling of all my body’s heat being robbed away.
As long as that doesn’t break, my defeat is… impossible.
“Brave Heart. That only Skill granted to Angels that govern Fortis. With you power, no matter how many tens of thousands of times you’re to revive yourself, Heard aside, you’ll never even match up to Kanon or Zebul.”
I let her provocations slide passed.
The moment I revived I retreated a stem. But even then… black again.
It wasn’t just once, each time the Cause of Death was displayed as Decapitation. The red staining the jet black earth was gradually growing thicker.
There’s no doubt I’m being cut at. There’s no doubt about that, but…
My field of vision slowly swayed. I’m not sure if that was because I was on the verge or collapsing, or because of this crushing pressure I felt on myself.
Give up on life. Death is the inevitable result. That thought started growing in my head.
There was just one thing Gloria was wrong about.
Yes, the power bestowed upon Fortis Angels was unlimited resurrection. As long as the soul, as long as one’s courage doesn’t break, then the 『Brave Heart』 Skill was one that promised victory. And that’s all Fortis Angels were given.
Many months and years have passed since I became a Valkyrie, and attained that authority. I don’t have any fear of death left anywhere within me.
My hazy vision. As if I was being swept about by the waves, this unreliable sense or reality.
The speed at which I died was much too fast. It was so swift that I didn’t even have the time to feel any pain, and that was my only saving grace.
I revived, and in the slight moment before I died again, I poured some power into the sword in my right hand.
The Mana I could pour into it during that brief instant was truly small. But it was surely accumulating within my blade.
“… I guess you’re not going to die off so easily… If I had the time, I’d personally sing your requiem, but…”
Gloria stopped her hand. From the start, she seemed to be concerned about time. I wonder what she’s so worried about.
But it’s my chance. In that moment, I poured my all into my Holy Sword. The blade received my will, and cloaked itself in a greater light. It was no longer some faint glimmer, but a definite darkness-destroying Sword of Light.
I directed the tip towards Gloria, towards the Demon who was once the aspiration of all Angels.
Even if this body is to fall apart, the will imbued in my sword will never go out.
Regardless of what speed she may boast, what power she carries… she cannot avoid the light.
The energy gathered within my Holy Sword compressed in an instant, and converged at the end of the sword.
Without a single twitch of her brow, Gloria stared at the shimmering sword.
… And I let out my power as a Hero, the power that had taken down all darkness in my path.
Part 3: I won’t… Lose
Heroes are but weapons.
Once chosen, they were given an expansive amount of Mana, and the ability to turn that into pure destructive Energy. They were human-shaped weapons to turn all creation to ash.
They were the weapon the human race devised to destroy any enemy that stood before them. The Holy Sword was nothing more than one of their methods to carry that out.
By its pure simplicity, it held no weakness, and therefore it had the power to destroy both Light and Dark equally.
The light cleared.
The inside my mouth was parched. Even when I hadn’t died yet, I couldn’t breathe. My throat was blocked up.
“Well, well, well, it seems you’ve still yet to understand…”
After the light was dispelled, what was revealed was Gloria standing with the exact same expression as before.
Her body, and those tattered rags she wrapped around herself as clothes weren’t damaged at all.
That isn’t… possible.
I’m sure it was a direct hit. Gloria hadn’t moved a single step.
A decapitating blow at an unperceivable ungodly speed. That truly was fearsome. Bu this one… far surpassed my prior shock.
Of all a Demon’s Seven sins, it held a high offensive potential, and an overwhelming level of Speed.
If so, then what is with that defensive capability? If I had failed to kill her from too low an output, I could accept it, but…
A single blow with all the power of a Hero… the power that had brought ruin to three Demon Lords before. It’s surely impossible for her to be unscratched. Unthinkable.
… Like this, it’s as if she’s not a Superbia, but a…
『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Decapitation』
My mind went white. On the display that suddenly popped up, my response was a beat later than before, but I somehow managed to select YES again.
I revived. Around me spread a vast empty ground. I used my left hand to prop myself up, and rose. There aren’t any followup attacks coming gown on me.
“It looks like you want to ask ‘why,’ Valkyrie.”
Gloria’s expression, her features that had been put in place like a fine work, were slightly bent.
I’m not sure if the reason behind that face of hers was hatred, or perhaps compassion.
“If you had been placed under my charge, I would have trained you up from the ground again… but, you’re not bad, I guess.”
I had let out all the power stored in the sword. A second shot will take some time.
But without even jumping at that opportunity, she let out calm, and knowing words.
No, I doubt she even had to wait for a chance from the start. In the past few minutes, I don’t even know how many tens or hundreds or thousands of times I’ve been killed. That’s how big the difference in power was between us.
I gradually began replenishing my power. The time I need is around ten seconds.
There’s no way a former Angel didn’t know about that, but as I thought, her expression didn’t change.
“Hey, Valkyria. Do you not know of it? No, there’s no way you’re oblivious. The 『Superbia』 authority, the power to 『Overrule』 all things in creation.”
Recharge complete. I concentrated every nerve in my body to fire it off again.
As expected, Gloria showed no signs of dodging. The air distorted, and the destructive energy tore through the wind, as it swallowed up her small body.
But in response to that, all that returned were some disinterested words.
“… So you really don’t get it. There’s no way I’ll be defeated by you. No, it precisely because it’s me, that there’s no reason for me to lose. I don’t even have to dodge. Serge Serenade, why is it that you, a mere 『Valkyrie』, the lowest possible rank of Angel, believe that your attack can get through to a former Saint Lord Class like Gloria Seidthroan?”
I cannot listen. It’s all a fabrication. She’s just trying to break my heart.
But it’s not as if I had a chance to cover my ears, so those words jolted my brain.
But from the battle theory that I had forged over countless experience, I was quickly able to discern her meaning.
Of course, I knew of it. It was a Pride Demon’s prideful way of dealing with things.
… And it included the power to nullify powers they thought of as beneath them.
Certainly, if you go by that logic, then all of my attacks would… just be nullified by her Overrule.
“… Eh? Then…”
“Even if you repeated one hundred million attacks, that blade will never reach me.”
With eyes as if she was lecturing an incompetent student, Gloria declared as such.
It wasn’t a problem of output, but of principle.
It was law. Just as water was to flow towards the earth, my attacks were never to get through to this woman.
My vision went dark again.
It wasn’t just an illusion. The message displayed before my eyes was proof of that.
Within that darkness, the floating YES and NO.
All of my attacks will simply fall flat?
I definitely cannot win?
My base attack power, and speed. The effort I piled up, and the power I’d tempered. Our base statuses as Demons and Angels were too far apart. It was hopeless.
After staring at those words for several tens of seconds, I…
Slowly, timidly selected YES.
Light came to my eyes once more. With the same fed-up expression as before, she was there to greet me.
You won’t die? … How incorrigible. Is that courage, or thoughtlessness…“
That piercing glare, and the feelings of scorn contained in it.
I swallowed up the fear extending from my feet, and the basic fear I felt as a warrior.
… I won’t lose.
My defeat is unthinkable. Impossible. My inability to understand when to give up was the only thing that never lost out.
The moment I became a Hero, I had already resolved myself to swallow down all feelings of loss.
If something of this extent… were to make me accept defeat, I would never have been called to Heaven, nor would I have become a Hero.
My breathing had been cut off for a while. My own tension, and the intimidating air Gloria let out stiffened my body.
Even when I should have fully recovered, I felt it difficult to move.
Within my mouth, I wordlessly encouraged myself.
I had always been fighting alone. No matter how hopeless the challenge, I took them on.
I can win. I won’t lose. There’s no such thing as absolute. Yeah, that’s right. If giving up means death, then I am immortal. I’ll come back no matter how many tens or hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of times it takes. I’ll destroy you.
Serge, you’re strong. Strong. Strong. Stronger than anyone.
That surely is powerful. At Demon Lord Level, overcoming that is close to impossible by normal means.
But there should be some way around it.
No, the very fact that she needs to use Overrule to render my attacks useless means that if she didn’t use it, it would be possible for me to inflict damage on her. That fact I was able to give her a slight cut on my first attack is proof of that.
… With all things taken into account, it’s not like she has defensive capabilities to get out of everything without a scratch.
I’ve a countless number of experiences of having defeated Demons of Pride. I even know their weaknesses.
The countermeasures for Superbia.
The greatest one is… having them feel fear.
As Gloria recognizes me as an existence below her own, I need to give a Skill with an output enough to threaten her, and make her wary.
I licked my dry lips, and got my breath in order. I calmed my pulse, and sharpened my awareness.
Gloria’s unbelievable beautiful eyes of gold continued jeering intently at me.
The emotion within them was contempt. The way one with absolute strength would look down on a lesser being.
I bit my lip, and shut off the incessant ringing of my instincts not to fight the one before me.
I pretended not to notice my fright. I fooled my own heart. All the way to now, that’s how I always fought. Back when I was human, and there henceforth. Fear was my enemy, and my friend.
I clenched the hand holding my sword. What I need is my attack with the highest firepower. An attack with the sword itself would be best.
I stored all my energy into it, and instead of emitting it, I collected it around the edge… I’ll cut her up directly.
Normally, actually hitting her with a swing of this sword would be the most difficult option, but right now, this woman is being negligent.
And in that, there was a small, ridiculously small chance for my victory. And as long as there’s a chance… I won’t break.
But at that moment, the moment where I stepped forward for the sake of that slim piece of hope, Gloria curled her face into a smile.
“Still… that power… even if it isn’t to get through to me, perhaps it may work on that man… but I’ve no time to paint her my colors…”
Gloria’s wings opened up wide.
Those ten appendages were likely the vestiges of back when she was an Angel. Something one wouldn’t find on any ordinary Demon.
They fluttered a little, and her body gently rose into the sky.
“Struggle all you want… just how far will that power of yours go… how far can you prove your recklessness on these lands…”
My thoughts took a turn.
She’s running away. Can my wings catch up?
It’s no good. She’s running away. If I want to kill her, this is my last chance. There’s a high probability the speed of those wings of hers exceeds mine.
There’s no way I can catch her if she takes flight.
Those spread wings of darkness. Unlike when she was an Angel, their form and color had become much more sinister.
I took a step forward. I took to the sky. I kicked the air. I brandished my sword. Gloria’s body moved. My target vanished from my sight. She appeared again ten meters to my side.
It’s no good, I still can’t see her. Even in the air, those movements of hers were still in good health. I have no means to give chase.
She’s running away. No, perhaps I’m the one being spared? They’re both the same.
By the time I noticed it, the words were coming out of my mouth. It wasn’t to buy some time, but out of honest curiosity.
Always alone, I barely let my voice out since coming to the Demon World. The sound I let out after all this time was terribly cracked.
“Wait, Gloria! Please, answer me one thing!”
That Angel was surely one of the brightest stars in the sky.
A single holy Angel, who embraced strong trust from God.
A woman who earned much reverence from her brethren. Enough that, when we never even talked, she remained firm in my memory, a woman whose names wrung across the Heavens.
“Why are you alive!? I’m certain that you were…”
Without waiting for me to finish, she climbed up higher and higher.
I didn’t follow, but simply looked up, and shouted.
“… felled in a battle against a mighty Demon Lord.”
In a brief moment, her expression underwent a complete change.
Her eyes were directed at me once more.
… From a crooked smile, to an expressionless face. An expression I had never seen before.
“Demon… Lord…? Felled in… a battle with… a Demon Lord…?”
Her frightened voice rung out higher than the heavens. Her small form blurred.
My breath became short. Those golden eyes appeared before my eyes, and finally, I realized I was being clasped up by the neck.
But the one who had lost their composure wasn’t me… but the woman before me.
Black emotions swirled in the depths of her pupils. Disorder, or perhaps hatred.
“A Demon Lord, you say!? What nonsense, at the time, Heard Lauder was…”
The bones of my neck let out a creaking sound. I can’t breathe at all.
I’m going to die. I’m going to be killed. My neck’s going to be wrung out to death. My field of vision flickered on and off, and my soul raised a wail.
Within that uncollected consciousness, I thought about the meaning of those words.
It was a name I had some recollection of.
A name on that list of powerful Demons that had been circulating about heaven.
A Superbia Demon who held the epithet of the Prideful Kaiser. He stood at the forefront of the army, and slayed a number of Angels. An infamous Demon.
But that’s wrong. That’s not how it is. It’s different from the rumors I’ve heard.
In the first place, there’s too much a difference between a General Class Demon, and a Saint Lord Angel. Even more so with the Angel commander being the greatest anti-Demon Iustitia Angel. Even if they came with an army of Demons, such a difference wasn’t so easily overturned in a head-on battle.
But at the same time, it was the talk of the town back in heaven. That’s why I remember it well.
Gloria Seidthroan engaged in battle with the army of the Lord of Depravity.
She was able to repel the General Demon leading their main forces, but…
“What does this… mean? I lost to… a Demon Lord? I. Was. Defeated!?”
My body was swung around. It was as if she was a child throwing a tantrum.
More than me, the woman herself was much more confused.
She was letting out the presence I couldn’t sense at all before. That smothering atrocious presence of a Demon Lord saddened me, in proving well enough that the woman before me was no longer a Lord of Angels.
If I were to attack right now, wouldn’t the damage get through? I tried to lift the hand clasped around my sword, but I couldn’t put any power into it. Angels and Demons didn’t require respiration all too much, but even so, the throat was still a single vital point.
With all my might, I glared at her. But while Gloria’s eyes seemed poised in my direction, she wasn’t looking at me.
It was a hollow glance as if she were staring into a world of dreams.
Why… just what is it that she’s seeing…?
Suddenly, the crushing feeling about my neck disappeared. Power returned to my body.
Losing my support, I began to plummet, but before I hit the ground, I managed to move my wings, and raise myself.
I took a deep breath, and corrected my posture. When I had gotten myself in order, a bizarre spectacle entered my eyes.
“Ah… no, nonsense… wha… this power is…”
Frozen in midair, Gloria’s eyes were wide open.
But that position of hers was my chance.
Her wings weren’t moving at all. No, more than that, it looked like her entire body had been glued fast to space. As if there was something locking her to the air.
But the strangest thing of all was… her face.
Without surprise, without scorn, her expression was surely… what one would call impatient.
The words flowing out of her mouth were the emotions of rage she had never directed at me, even as I held a blade against her.
Her golden irises seemed to be searching for something, as they made large swaying motions.
And Gloria’s body shot off.
Without even moving her wings, she started gliding down diagonally with fearsome momentum, collided with the ground head-on, and bounced a couple of times before coming to a halt.
No, rather than gliding, she crashed and burned.
Raising a cloud of dust, she crashed, but she immediately corrected her stance, and landed properly, before lifting herself into the air again.
The hair that reached all the way to her feet was standing on end, and as if something had grasped her, she floated aimlessly around space.
It was a scene I had never seen before. An unknown phenomenon.
I mean, for a Demon who could easily brush off all attacks, and moved at ungodly speeds unperceivable by the eye, who would think she would let herself be grasped like that?
Gloria’s eyes were locked on empty space. There was absolutely nothing in that direction, but her gaze was surely seeing something.
“I see… so it was you who…”
Without finishing her sentence, her body began to rotate with her hair at the fulcrum, before she flew off again. This time, it wasn’t to the ground, but parallel to it. As if that small frame of hers was a bullet leaving its chamber, she shot forth, and raised a tuft of smoke at the horizon.
What was that phenomenon… wait, phenomenon?
No, that’s wrong. Gloria was definitely directing her words at someone.
It was without a doubt that her actions held intent. She was trying to attack something.
I remained vigilant. But within the web of my perception, I could only capture the three large swaying powers a few kilometers away, and a number of smaller forces, a flock of Demons coming closer.
Even at the moment Gloria flew off, I couldn’t see anyone around me.
An invisible enemy… no, a long distanced assault?
An enemy launched an attack on Gloria, but nothing on me. I don’t get their standards.
I can’t see. I can’t see anything. It wasn’t something like Gloria’s speed that exceeded my dynamic vision.
Built on a different principle than Pride, a power of invisibility.
… That power didn’t align with any of the abilities I had learned about in Heaven.
And to the one who took it on… even Gloria herself seemed to be in an abnormal state.
GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!! WHAAATT’S THE MEANING OF THIS YOU BAAAAAASSSSTTTTTAAAAAAAAAARD!!!”
That voice of resentment that seemed to come straight from the depths of hell made the air shake.
Like the howling of a beast. Despite having been blown across the horizon, Gloria returned before my sight in an instant, and a following her, a delayed strong wing swept over the scenery.
While there was some black dirt staining her joints, there weren’t any notable wounds on her body.
But her eyes had completely snapped.
The face of a devil. Her pupils had opened completely, as she glared in every direction to find this unseeable enemy.
Her power had completely been freed from its previous concealment, and her idiotically high Mana stirred up the miasma, scattering pebbles left and right.
As if a curtain had been lowered over it, the world grew darker.
Perhaps noticing this abnormality, the three large clashing forces put their movements on hold.
My thoughts haven’t caught up the present situation. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I’ve too little information.
There’s no doubt it’s the work of some third party. But I can’t see their form. There must be a meaning to it. That’s what Gloria, who’s swinging around her malice left and right goes to prove.
It must be…
Sensing something Gloria gave her wings a large flap, and drew a spiral in the air, as she ascended higher and higher.
At just about the same time, the ground began to shake violently. If my legs had been on the land, I would have felt an unbearable earthquake.
Along with the tremors, some parts of the ground were projected up, and cracks began to spread.
After a few seconds, a strong wind began to blow. From up to down.
I struggled to fight against the bizarre wind flowing towards the land.
I looked up at the sky, kicked the air below, and moved my wings.
In my widened vision, the blood red blinding sun. A wide-open sky. Not a single cloud to be found.
I soared through the sky. To Angels, that was a natural action akin to breathing. After a few seconds, the wind ceased, and I looked back at the ground to understand the intent of the attack.
… No, the ground hadn’t risen at all, it had caved.
Spreading many meters, indented soil as if it had been crushed underfoot.
I wonder what sort of Skill would have to be used to bring about such a result.
No, it it’s just boring into the earth, then Gloria, and likely a majority of the other Demon Lords could do it. I’m sure I could as well.
The problem was, that I couldn’t discern the means ot attack, and I couldn’t see the form of the third party that had accomplished it anywhere.
A mysterious attack. A power to control the wind? No, if you think about the nature of the attack Gloria took on…
Right below me, Gloria stood on the land. Her attention was completely removed from me.
“S-show yourself… Leigie! Why, are you…!? All of this is your…”
Bloodshot eyes. Her expression held no disdain, and what it displayed was an anger close to madness. The Sin Breaker that had manifested in her hand was recklessly cutting countless lines in the air.
Out raced countless shockwaves of light. The air pressure senselessly rended the earth, and as if it were crying out, the wind played out a high pitched sound.
Those slashes flew out. A few of them came at me, but passed by my sides.
The reason they didn’t hit was because they weren’t something aimed at me. But if one of them had shifted just a little, I would have likely had my wings ripped off.
I was no longer in Gloria’s eyes. No, there wasn’t anything reflected in them.
Her screams and malice were certainly directed at something, but I couldn’t see what.
There was only one thing I knew.
More calmly than even in this chaos. The theory I had always been reminded of made me issue my judgement. It’s not like I haven’t seen it play through enough times.
That was what Demons were. I felt an illusion of all the blood in my body freezing over, and shook my arms.
… There’s always someone greater.
Without a doubt, there’s someone higher.
One called Gloria, of the highest Rank of Angels, and now Gloria Seidthroan, one who held the authority of both an Angel and a Demon. There was someone much greater than she.
Otherwise, there’s no way Gloria would display so much rage.
I’ll run. I have to run. I have to report this.
Even if her characteristic may be Pride, with me falling so far behind her, the chances that I won’t be a match for this new challenger are exceedingly high.
While that power has yet to be directed at me, I’ll return to heaven, and report…
I moved my wings with all my might, and started rising up to the sky. The spiraling chaotic miasma to my back, I rapidly closed in on the sun. The wind I felt all over my body instantly dried off my cold sweat.
The point to connect the Demon World and Heaven wasn’t a specific place.
I stopped one high in the air, and looked back down at the ground.
The small speck that was likely Gloria. The three Demon Lords I had been sensing for a while.
As I thought, even when I look from up high, I can’t see any new enemy. I can’t feel anything.
… But there was one thing I figured out.
“… This is…”
The attack’s… identity.
No, I still don’t know that. I have no idea where the attacker’s authority lay.
But the marks left in the earth by coincidence or inevitability, had taken on a form I was familiar with.
Five long trenches, with a wide area connecting them… right, that center. There was one large cavity at the base of all of them. The hollowed out ground, and the slight differentiation of color made it all too clear. From the ground it was something too big to make out, but that form I hadn’t expected was…
“… The palm… of a hand…!?”
An absurdly large palm.
It was as if I was seeing a dream. I widened my eyes, and climbed higher.
Its scale was off the charts, but I’m sure that’s… the shape of a human hand. That caving I had been a witness to, that denting of the ground had… only been but a single finger. I can’t think any of this is without meaning.
As I stared in a daze at the unexpected situation, the ground raised a tremor.
The remains of that attack dotted that black wasteland again and again. An intense sound, as if to indicate the end of the world, made me forget the thunderous wail of the wind racing past my ears.
If this truly is the work of a single lifeform’s hand, then there’s no doubt its weilder is large enough to reach for the heavens. Greater than any lifeform I’ve ever happened on before…
Compared to the marks left behind by it, both me and Gloria, with our statures of less than two meters, were nothing more than ants. The scale was too extreme.
Gloria’s body was picked up, and was sent flying again. As she was shot off, she used her wings to correct her posture.
Now I can understand it. She truly was being thrown about. By invisible hands.
And taking the attacks, Gloria herself realized as well.
The blade she swung around absurdly was to counteract those hands.
And she wasn’t doing that good of a job at it.
Whether it was possible or not to do anything about it was another story. Gloria should withdraw. She should flee. Whether there’s a means or not, the way she flailed about meaninglessly no longer had any of the level-headed thought she displayed when taking me on.
I concentrated my eyes. It seems Gloria has yet to take any actual damage.
She was in distress trying to evade those unseeable, and wide-scoped attacks, but the blows from those hands didn’t boast too much firepower. Regardless of how many times she took those attacks, there weren’t any notable injuries on her body, and as a Demon Lord, her light wounds would heal in no time at all. It would likely take quite a long time for an end to be drawn to this.
A small waver was produced in my mindset for retreat.
What should I do?
Its identity was one thing, but I didn’t know its objective.
With the size of that hand, unless there was a specific intent to avoid me, I should have been crushed as well.
The master of that power… is Gloria its only target?
Should I observe for a little longer?
Gloria and the hand’s master. At the very least, there are two out there outside the recognition of heaven. A little, just a little is enough. I need as much information as possible.
I flapped my wings, and made it so I could run at any time.
At that moment, the responses from my perception disappeared.
For a brief while, the presences of the three Demon Lords that I always kept wary of in a corner of my mind went out, before appearing again. No, it wasn’t just those three that had disappeared.
It had been but a short flicker. Just the blink of an eye, but the scenery before my eyes had, in the pause it took to go over a single comma, changed entirely.
What had made its abrupt appearance was a countless number of Demons. Besides Gloria, and those three Demon Lords, a flock of Demons below Demon Lord Level had gathered before I realized it.
I looked over them with my enhanced vision. I could even make out the expressions on those Demons that were like specks of dust from up here. Perhaps they hadn’t expected it either, as they all seemed to be dumbfounded.
The situation just kept on changing.
I couldn’t move. I hadn’t the time to avert my eyes.
I hadn’t the time to feel the stir of the wind, or that repulsive and wild miasma act up. I hadn’t even the chance to determine whether or not a Skill had been used.
My field of vision was filled by darkness. Within it, I was finally able to regain my self-awareness.
My feet shook, and my soul froze over.
I grasped my situation. I looked over my surroundings in a daze. I made my decision.
It’s not like what I saw had changed. It’s not that those Demons had disappeared.
Gloria and the others hadn’t gone away… but I myself had been transported.
A horridly gloomy corridor constructed of jet black stone. As if placed to measure its depth, the candlesticks stationed at regular intervals. This heavy and cold air.
The dim light put out by the candles contrarily made the places that remained unlit- the nooks of the corridor, and the corners of the ceiling- give off a deeper sense of darkness.
What I had definitely sensed before, the presences of Gloria and the other Demons were no longer there. In their place… I felt a somewhat nostalgic aura.
As if pierced by an icy sword, the inside of my brain gave a cold pain.
In a past beyond memory, it was a presence I’d felt twice before.
My hand creaked.
Without my notice of it, I had begun clenching my sword with all my might. I was putting in enough power for my knuckles to turn white.
Ah, there’s no way I could forget it. I didn’t even have to try to remember.
No matter how long ago it may have been, even if it was in my time of humanity, my era as a Hero that I had almost completely lost my recollection of to the flow of time, ‘That’ was something I could never forget.
It was a bitter memory.
What I fought as a Hero, my final enemy.
At that moment, I forgot about Gloria and the other Demons, and even the prophecy, as I thought back to a time passed.
If I had been a true Hero, then the bards’ songs would have ended with a triumph, or perhaps a noble sacrifice, yet this tale only ever found its close in one-sided defeat.
The Hero and the Demon Lord.
That pairing that I’m sure every human in the world thought of as equal was, in truth, not equivalent at all. I knew that more than anyone.
As a hero, my sworn enemy was the Demon Lord, but that was the one who had climbed to the surface. The one of the Demon World wasn’t something to be dealt with by human hands.
The Under Ground.
It was a sort of taboo. In order to avoid mayhem, there were barely any who even knew of its existence, the world’s greatest haunt of evil.
A hell that only existed in bed-time stories. A hell bad kids were sent to for disobeying their mothers.
It was an abyss of a world, where the highest class of Evil Spirits, Demons stood at the summit.
Those fields with miasma swirling about incomparable to what one would find on the surface gave the Demons that already boasted strong powers unsurmountable enhancements. The powers of whatever ones you could find on the surface were something like scraps. When compared to Demons of the Demon world, they wouldn’t even reach their feet.
That fact was one that I, as a hero having devoted my life to forging an enormous power, and having racked up my achievements of dispelling any and all evil I could find, learned after finally being permitted to set foot into that world.
Heroes were hope. Against ones who sided with the powers of darkness, defeat was not permitted.
Among the world’s few Heroes, the reason that information was passed to me was likely because I was the Hero who threw myself into and triumphed over hopeless situations at a rate incomparable to the others, but still, in the end, I was nothing.
Just as the words implies. Nothing.
I closed my eyes.
What I grasped in my perception was a Mana gloomier, and quieter than all.
As if to show it off, that power pulsed.
I’m being watched. This Demon Lord should already know of my presence. Even so, he doesn’t move. It was as if he were telling me to come over to him.
There was no malicious intent, and that power held no impurities, but in size it was larger than anything.
Perhaps… it was even greater than the piercing Mana Gloria displayed at the end.
It wasn’t sharp at all. That power merely hung heavily over me. I finally noticed. The identity of what had been stirring my blood and soul when I confronted the Fallen Angel. The presence I didn’t notice because of all the Demon Lords mixed in.
I felt a meaningless pressure. Within that, I went forward, step by step.
My memories pumped up, one after another. The power I felt when I fought him as a Hero. It had far exceeded that now.
But my heart was frighteningly calm.
I had conviction that he hadn’t been killed off yet. But at the same time, I doubt I would find it strange if he was.
The Demon Lord followed the law of the jungle. Unlike the Angels, that generally never waged wars among themselves, the faces of powerful Demons changed too often. No matter the case, the probability of a Demon that offered absolutely no resistance living such a long life can’t be too high.
The passages branched off like a labyrinth. Black walls. The systematic markings carved into them. Perhaps I’m in a Demon Lord’s castle.
Within myself, I continued to hone my power, as I disinterestedly walked forward.
They’re not here. The overflowing amount of subordinate Demons one would usually find in a Lord’s Castle were nowhere to be found.
But even that felt natural to me.
I refined my power.
It was perhaps the only regret I still held for my past life.
For one who cut down all manners of Evil Spirits, all manners of Humans, all manner of sinners, the girl who continued to save the world for her own sake alone, the only lingering attachment to this world.
The reason why, even when I didn’t actually like to fight, I chose to continue down this path, even after death.
There wasn’t a single one before me to hinder my advance.
What I arrived at was the deepest chamber. A giant set of doors.
The power I felt by putting myself against one of them made me close my eyes. I took some short breaths.
I see… it’s on another level.
I finally began to grasp why Heaven dispatched me here.
This must be fate… no, destiny.
I am a hero, and he is a Demon Lord. I’ll risk every bit of life I have left in me as a Hero, to take back the defeat I suffered long ago.
In a split second, I had finished mustering up all my resolve, and opened up those doors. Just as I did once, long ago.
Part 4: Until We Meet Again
The Demon Lord was there.
Atop the boorish pitch-black throne. The chamber without a sound.
His hair a deeper shade than black, and those slovenly eyes. A jet-black coat draped over his entire bocy. With shadows stuck to his face, and an irritating look to his eyes, a delicate-looking man.
Compared to any other Demon Lord I had chanced upon before, his appearance was lacking in majesty, and on that, my memories of the past played back. Nothing had changed in his figure since the last we locked blades.
There wasn’t another Demon to be found. Even when he was supposed to be a Lord, he had no one to follow him.
There was only one point that differed from my last memory of him. Simply the fact that the man was not asleep.
It seems he truly was waiting for me.
Without saying a word, without any preparations for attack, only his eyes followed me, and those pupils of his were stagnated with an unfamiliar darkness. They didn’t even take in the glint of the Holy Sword gripped in my right hand, and all they met with were my own eyes.
… I’m scared.
I took a step forward.
The gap between this pressure pushing down on my entire body, and that dignity that equated close to nothing.
The fact that I felt no fear from looking at him was all the more scary. If it was my first meeting, then I would likely have been caught off guard.
As if I were walking through a bog, my feet were heavy.
The moment I thought to let out my voice, the Demon Lord opened his mouth.
Befitting his appearance, it was a depressing and dark voice. A voice I was hearing for the first time.
What was he to say to me? I tensed up my shoulders, and waited, but his words made me forget my very situation.
“Back hip circle.”
Back hip… circle?
What is he talking about…? I sought out meaning from his expression, but the Demon Lord’s face didn’t change at all.
The man before me continued to look in my direction, with eyes that didn’t seem to be focused on me, as he talked on.
“In the past, I couldn’t do a back hip circle. Do you know of it? Back hip circle? You use a metal horizontal bar, and you do this sort of spinning motion around it.”
“W-what are… you even…”
“I think it was around elementary school… they tried to make us do it in gym class, but I just couldn’t do it. I never even thought of trying to be able to do it. Because I never thought myself capable, I didn’t even put in the effort. In the end, up to the very last moment, I couldn’t do it. In the first place, I was never the best at physical activity.”
I couldn’t understand any of the words he was letting out at length.
No, besides a small portion of it, I could comprehend the vocabulary. However, I cannot understand the reason of such a talk unfolding here.
I can’t read his intent.
Leaving me to the wayside, the Demon Lord went one.
He was full of openings, but I didn’t even have the will to attack him.
The only thing I could understand was that this meaningless banter wasn’t the sort of thing to occur before the world’s decisive battle.
“And so, naturally, even when I went graduated to middle school and graduated to high school, and even after I entered college, I could never do it. Well, I’ve never seen anyone in college doing a back hip circle on a horizontal bar, but… I guess that doesn’t really matter. What I’m trying to say is that, in the end, even when I went out and became a working adult, I never became able to do a back hip circle. Even when most of my past memory’s faded away, I wonder why that’s the only thing I can remember.”
Fuuuh. The Demon Lord let out what was clearly a sigh, before his lips curved.
“… But it seems that right now, I can do pretty much anything.”
I had never even imagined this Lord as one to laugh, but what had dimly grazed his face was surely… a smile. It wasn’t one of ridicule like Gloria’s, and it wasn’t anything like an honest smile of joy. I’m sure it was his self derision.
The Demon Lord’s words didn’t stop. It was as if he was a completely different person from the one I met before.
His words came out disinterestedly, but I could feel an emotion I couldn’t understand behind them.
The topic changed quite suddenly.
“Then have you ever heard of the Magic Lamp?”
Listening to his words is a waste of time. I should initiate an attack. But my hands won’t move.
These words without meaning, without intent, were binding my movement. It wasn’t something like a Skill.
I knew. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to move. I wanted to listen.
I had the feeling that the reason for both of my defeats lay somewhere in there.
“Yeah. It’s in the One Thousand and One Stores… A fairy tale from the Arabian Nights. A tale of a genie that came out from rubbing a musty oil lamp.”
“I don’t… know it.”
It’s a story I’ve never heard of before, and I’m not sure what he’s trying to say. Perhaps there nothing I should say here.
I couldn’t see an atrocious nature in him, and yet my shoulders trembled.
In this case, having him direct killing intent at me would be… much easier.
I had forgotten about it. The cold feeling running up from my navel. Fear.
The Demon Lord raised his voice into a laugh. It was a dry chuckle.
Looking upon the scene, I doubt there’s a single one who’d call this man a Demon Lord.
I finally noticed the reason. He was much to lacking in anything one could see as desire.
“Just by brushing up against a lamp, all sorts of wishes could be granted. That sort of story. Having lost any and all restrictions, a magic tool to grant any prayer. I sometimes thing. Of lucky Aladdin whose hands it happened to fall into… just what sort of thoughts went through his mind.”
I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
With an aloof attitude, he avoided my wary eyes. And the Demon Lord’s face changed.
A sigh, and a sinking voice.
It was a word I hadn’t heard from another in a long time.
There’s barely anyone left in this world to call me by that name. It had truly been a long time since anyone named me as such, that it took a moment for me to realize he was calling out to me.
Perhaps this man is all that’s left to call me by that name. The final enemy I failed to kill. The final enemy to know me as a Hero.
“Hero… I’m… surely a 『Cheat』.”
He folded over his legs, sent those abyssal eyes at me, and sighed.
I couldn’t tell the motives behind that word. But it had been the one with the single most emotion packed into it.
A voice that sounded as if it was tired of everything. Back when I was a human, when I had lived as a Hero, the voice used by those with things they should have protected. A child who’d lost his parents, a young man who’d lost their lover, a soldier who’d gone up against the forces of evil, and survived their own defeat.
“Even without doing anything, I’ve become able to accomplish anything. Without any of the effort, I’ve become able to do anything. I’m sure there’s no worth left in any of it. That’s why, to me, you’re the only lingering attachment I have to this world.”
I couldn’t possibly understand the words from this Demon Lord.
But it’s not like I didn’t have anything left to think.
Still, more than that, I understood that the die had been cast. That the formalities had been gone and done with.
Demon Lord and Hero. What we had to do had been determined long ago. I was already resolved. I wasn’t negligent.
That was something my opponent was well aware of.
“Now, it sure has been a while, Hero. You, who may be the one to kill me. You, who may be the one to be killed by me. My arch nemesis. The only one I’ve ever recognized as an enemy of my own volition. Have you trained yourself enough? Do you remember our last battle?”
Our last battle. The blows from my Holy Sword that were unable to leave a single scratch on him flashed back in my mind.
The Demon Lord who barely moved.
After tens of hundreds of thousands of years, just what has changed in this man? His face held a gentle spot of delight.
The fact that I was to meet him the first I stepped foot into the Demon World was just a coincidence.
The second time, I sought him out, and demanded a battle.
And surely, this third confrontation is fate.
That’s why, no matter the numbers that Demon Lords exist in, thie man is the one that must be killed by me.
As a Hero.
I put more light, more soul into the Holy Sword.
My past retreat. Where even in his normal state, he boasted immense defensive power to render any blade inept. The Demon Lord who broke my blade.
And I didn’t know his name. The man introduced himself for the first time.
“… Right, my name is Leigie. The Lazy King governing the sin of 『Sloth』, and your… enemy. I’ve already taken care of anyone to interfere. Now, Hero, come and…”
The Demon Lord’s fingers mover ever so slightly. My senses were honed to a level higher than ever before.
I immediately jumped to the side to evade. The door behind me was blown off its hinges.
『I’ve already taken care of anyone to interfere.』
As I thought the one who launched an attack on Gloria was this man!
The Lazy King who named himself as Leigie muttered in a slovenly tone without any intonation.
I kicked the ground, and used my wings to accelerate.
Leigie’s gaze intersected with the killing intent in my eyes.
Without letting out any words, the Demon Lord’s lips moved to themselves.
『… try to kill me.』
What I was given as a Hero, and honed as an Angel were all directed towards battle.
The shaking of my hands, and the shaking of my body had ceased.
I stepped in. The floor shattered before my feet. The strongest concentration. The strongest condition. There wasn’t any space left in my soul for me to feel fear against this Demon Lord. The greatest, and most powerful enemy of all was before me, and the all the experience I had ever gotten over my life was whispering for me to defeat him.
My awareness was suddenly delayed. I could clearly see the bags that had formed under his eyes.
Leigie. Leigie the Depraved.
The name rolled around my tongue.
Without his name, there was never a way to look into him.
Even if I may have been a human, I wielded the foremost power of the Surface World, and his ability to block that without anything to guard himself meant there was no way he wasn’t a long lived Demon.
But I think I was just running away. With that power before me, I had broken. I was running from his existence. Because if I was to learn of him again, I would have no choice but to fight him.
But at times, I did wonder whether I would see him again. Even if I didn’t as one on the vanguard of heaven, most information about Demons naturally entered my ears. As natural as it may be, I did have knowledge of that name.
Leigie. Leigie the Depraved.
One who pulled their bowstring against the Heavens, one of oldest Demon of them all. Leigie Slaughterdolls.
I already knew his characteristics. The characteristics of an Acedia Demon.
It was an absolute defense. That was all.
That enhancement was separate from his base specs, but there’s no way his offensive power or speed is anything too high. At the very least, he should be less than Gloria in that aspect.
The threat of his invisible attacks lay in that he sent them out from a distance impossible to detect. If Leigie and Gloria had directly confronted one another, then she would likely have been able to employ some form of tactic.
What I need is a destructive power great enough to destroy his soul, and that was my… reason for defeat.
Have I trained myself? … There’s no need to ask. At the start, it was just something that had been handed to me, but I surely trained that power. As a Valkyrie, so as not to face defeat a second time. In the years since I was reborn, there’s no way I was just playing around.
Regret, regret, regret.
There was no way I could fill it in with my human body… the sheer difference between us.
The magician’s words of pity repeated within my head.
I don’t need to think of defense. The power I have now, what I never had before. The Fortis Authority. My heart will never break.
“The truth is… I did feel a little sorry for it.”
The moment my sword was about to reach him, before my eyes, Leigie, who should have been but a step away, grew farther.
My sense of distance was upturned. My suppositions, and the disparity of truth. I used the momentum that was causing me to topple over, and took another step. With all my power, I gripped the sword in both hands, and aimed for his heart.
… And at that moment, he became farther again.
It’s not my imagination. It’s not an illusion.
… Farther? No, that’s wrong. Leigie was still sitting on the throne.
The one moving away was… me.
The throne was just a few meters in front of me. I put more power into my feet, and dove in. the moment before the blade reached him, my field of vision shifted.
It wasn’t my eyes playing tricks on me. It wasn’t that my body was being manipulated.
“I’m sorry for not taking you on earnestly last time. Well, I was sleepy, so there really was no helping it, but… if I had been a little more serious back then, perhaps I wouldn’t have to go through these regrets. The thought alone kept me up at ni… oh, wait, well, um…”
While talking on, Leigie’s arm gave a small movement.
An impact sent my entire body flying.
By the time I noticed it, it was too late. My body crashed into the wall, and was pressed against it. By an invisible feeling of pressure.
It was a force that made my body feel it would be ripped apart. My creaking body and the wall both let out their screams.
Leigie presented out the palm of his hand. He started turning his hand in a circle. Accompanying that motion that looked like a joke, the points of pressure twisted.
While looking upon that scene carelessly, Leigie politely, as if he was trying to buy time for something, began to explain.
What foolishness is this… no, it would be strange for me to think that he only had a single power.
I’m fine, the damage is within expectations. My bones aren’t broken, and I haven’t suffered anything fatal.
And more than that, I was impressed. On the fact that Leigie initiated an attack on his own.
Turning my blade on a being without resistance, yet having it fall flat.
It was a situation as if my everything had all been meaningless, and that had been the greatest fear I held.
The Demon Lord is to attack me, and I’m to counteract. In that case, I can still be a Hero.
Even if that Lord had yet to even rise from his throne.
“『Teleportation』 and 『Psychokinesis』. Of course, here, they have different names, but… it seems that all the powers I ever wished for have come into my hands.”
While he went on about his own Skills, his face held no scorn, or anger, or sorrow.
The Demon Lord stood. Even when there was no need to stand, he rose. The past two times, he had laid sprawled out the entire battle, and yet he stood.
“Hero, I will pay respect to you as a Demon Lord, by killing you. You will kill me, and I will kill you. Even if it felt like a pain, I’m sure that’s what I should have done.”
Even when all he did was stand, even when it’s not like his power rose at all, a premonition of my entire body being swallowed up made my arms tremble.
I frantically moved my crushed body, and touched whatever was pressing down on me with the Holy Sword.
An invisible something was ripped through, and vanished. My body was released. I landed over the carpet. I had a slight hope, but it doesn’t look like Leigie took any damage.
I let out a short breath. My head hurt so much it felt it would split. I didn’t have enough oxygen. I didn’t have enough Mana.
I’m sure my heart felt fear. Before the existence who defeated me without me having any means to resist. It was a form of trauma.
But I’ll ignore that. I had confidence. I had always fought on. A majority of my enemies had been above me.
The reason I won against them was simply… because I never gave up.
First, I’ll have to land an attack. A blow with all my might.
My target is the Demon’s heart… his soul core. As long as Leigie is taking up human form, its location should be in his left chest… where a heart was supposed to bear.
I can’t release energy at him. I’ll have to slash at him directly…
I put my breathing in order. My sword was already fully loaded with power.
Teleport, Aport. It will be next to impossible to approach him, but if I fail the first time, then perhaps I can close in the second.
I wanted an opening. I chanted magic.
Leigie’s movements were slow. That psychokinesis thing was linked to the Demon Lord’s movements. I saw that clearly.
I cut away the palm shot at me. It’s difficult to dodge, but as I thought, it’s fragile. As long as I inflict an attack on it, it’ll disappear.
White light flickered on and off as it gathered in my left hand.
With depressing eyes, Leigie looked at me.
“… Ah. You’re really looking the part there.”
Leigie’s slovenly posture was swallowed up by the white thunder I released.
It was a lightning attribute offensive magic possessed by Heroes.
The carpet caught fire, and the throne was taken in by it. Imbued with a holy element, that lightning was originally supposed to deal heavy damage to dark forces. But General Class was one thing, and I didn’t think that it would have any effect on this Lord.
The moment I fired it, I let my body dance through the sky. I took flight. The ceiling was high, and I was able to soar about.
I took a great spin, and swooped down to try and behead him from behind. At that moment, the scene before me changed.
Leigie, who was supposed to be before my eyes, disappeared, and the blade’s edge cut through the air.
I had predicted it before hand, so I didn’t stiffen up.
I carefully examined the power of my foe. Aport. There’s no forewarning of it. I can’t go against it. From before Leigie’s eyes, I had been transported to the end of the room. A wall close in up to my nose.
I was able to tell the Demon Lord’s positioning in an instant. When I’m this close, then I can tell every one of his actions, even without looking at him. I hit down the invisible hand lowered on me with my sword, and ripped through it.
I kicked the wall, and moved my wings again, as I accelerated towards him. Ours eyes met. Those eyes of his were certainly keeping up with my movements.
I put power into the sword, and simultaneously sent out an incantation-less 『Cresent Thunder』. Leigie’s befuddled expression disappeared into the light.
I continued to raise my speed even further, and dived straight into the light. The moment I entered it, I heard a voice from within.
“AS I thought, I’m not suited to killing… hah… it was something I already knew, but…”
Leigie’s presence disappeared. No, it moved.
From in front of my eyes, to behind. This time, it wasn’t that I had moved, but Leigie.
A few meters to my rear.
Mater transportation. It truly is a fearsome power. But sometimes, such fearsome power comes with restrictions.
Is it effective time? Distance? Or perhaps limited uses?
I won’t give him the time. Can he use it consecutively? Various thoughts flew through my head.
I began moving a speed that felt it would make my heart burst. It doesn’t really matter if I die. My body creaked as it displayed abilities beyond my limits.
My consciousness accelerated. I turned around, and shot lightning again. Speed and power. I want an opening. Just a small gap, a space of a single breath is enough. Without him avoiding, a small space without him using a Skill.
I shortened the few meters in an instant. I instinctively cut off the invisible power lowered on my right arm.
I kicked the ground. My step was too powerful, and my right ley let out an ominous sound. It’s likely broken. I don’t feel any pain. I don’t really care.
Having had Mana poured into it past its limit, the blade of the Holy Sword expanded. A materialization of pure energy, a sword of light.
Just one step. One more step, and I’ll reach him. Leigie turned his eyes from my blade, and directed his gaze on my hand.
At that moment, my field of vision fell.
As If I were falling, I approached the ground. My mind went blank for an instant.
I tried to move my arms, but they wouldn’t move. What I should have had held up before me, the sword that should have been in my grasp, was falling alongside me.
An impact. My chin hit against the carpet. My arms won’t move. My legs won’t move. As if I were watching a long dream, my body lacked a sense of reality.
And it was there, that I finally noticed my arms weren’t connected to my body.
A heat as if to burn through my body broke out through my torso. It was, as if to corrode away my body, moving up.
I didn’t feel any pain. The arms that casually rolled on the ground before me. Still clutched around the Holy sword, their cross section, as if finally remembering their original form, began to spurt out blood.
My conscious became distant at once. I somehow withstood that with will power, and glared at my arms.
It was a slash. My disembodied arms. It was something that I had seen time and again on the battlefield, the traces left behind by a blade.
… That can’t be… when did he…
Leigie wasn’t holding a sword. When I had just been a step away from reaching him, the Demon Lords hands were surely empty.
This is bad. It isn’t such a bad thing to die, but it’s bad for an incomprehensible attack to assail me now.
I don’t have any more time. Having lost its weilder, the Holy Sword’s power would dwindle the more time passed.
Right before my consciousness was to go out, Leigie looked down over me, and muttered.
“… Do you know of dolls? Hah…”
… Human… form…
My flickering sight. On those words, I finally realized that a power besides that of Leigie had been close.
Human… form. Leigie Slaughterdolls. The last name was one’s way of life, and his way was Slaughterdolls.
“It was a nice match, Hero. My regrets have, more or less… died down, perhaps.”
“Don’t… screw with… me.”
Regrets have… died down?
Not yet. I’ve yet to lose.
I had stepped in more than enough. The distance to Leigie was already less than a single Meter.
There was still power left in the Holy Sword.
“Don’t… look down on a 『Hero』!!”
The form of the Demon Lord turning his back to me right above. A clear gap.
I wrung out my remaining power, and yelled.
A new 『Cause of Death: Blood Loss』 message came up, and I revived. Jumping up, I moved forward.
In concert with my will, the sword sparkled.
The strongest blow. With all my Mana, with all my existence backing it, that blow closed in on the Demon Lord’s back.
At around the same time, the heat ran up my chest again, but it’s too late.
The tip of the sword pierced into his left chest from behind.
“… So you were… still alive…?”
This can’t be…
The sword I had wrung out all my power into. The strike that should have pierced through his flesh, and then his Soul Core, had come to a stop.
My hand felt numb. I felt a hart response all over my arm.
The heat and pain encroaching on me, bit by bit. I ignored whatever response was sent by my sense of pain, and rotated the holy sword.
It’s no good… he’s too hard. I got through his flest, but I couldn’t inflict anything on his core.
I have… no chance of winning.
Just like before. No matter how much courage I wring out of myself, no matter how much Mana I have, no matter how many Skills I learn, no matter how far I withdraw, if I can’t even damage him, my victory is… impossible.
My knees buckled, and the ground closed in on me. Power was leaving my body. What was pierced was my own left breast… the aim was my soul core. It’s a fatal wound.
It’s… alright. I’m not scared. I won’t lose. I’ll beat him. I have to beat him. If I don’t stand here… then who will?
I’m sure that my heart… has yet to break.
If Leigie’s regrets were to be me, then the final regrets left in me… the reason I, reluctantly enough, fought on half by habit, yet still chost to stand on the battlefield after death… That reason must be… none other than this Demon Lord.
A scene like a revolving lantern passed through my head.
Without being able to move a single eyelid, I died.
If I wasn’t able to find any particular reason, then I’m sure that was the reason that I had no choice but to live in solitude.
My grey rat-colored hair was constantly bathed in a highly concentrated Mana of light, and at some point, it had changed to a vivid silver color.
It wasn’t just an ordinary silver, but a silver close to blue.
No matter how many times I looked at it, the silver blue hair reflected at me never truly felt like my own.
Even though, by now, I should have been accompanied by that silver a far longer time than my association with that gray.
The form reflected in the water’s surface, smoothed over lie a mirror.
All that was there was a single Hero.
An aloof hero. Having obtained the epithet of 『Silver Blue』by others before she noticed it, a lone Hero.
Serge of the Silver Blue. Serge Serenade.
Not taking about a single comrade, the one who continued to fight against the enemies of humanity. The sword of hope.
My laughing voice was shaking.
The Hero Class was powerful. It was to force a single human to live the life of a single sword.
It improved the human body to fight against those of evil. It enhanced physical strength, inflated one’s Mana, and granted powerful Skills. Enough that a village girl who had yet to even come of age, could fell monsters by her hand.
The only thing that one couldn’t obtain with the Class itself, was the all important 『Courage』. That alone was something one had to make do with their own efforts.
Strong. Its power was certainly strong. But even so, I was scared.
My breath was rough. My hands shook, and my heart gave a heavy beat.
I looked at the palm of my hand. Having overcome hundreds of thousands of dark forces, yet come out without a single wound, those white and elegant fingers, as if to reflect the inside of my heart, were shaking.
I clenched my fist.
It was a fear I’d tasted countless times, and nothing to me at this point.
To those cut down by me, they must have felt a fear much greater than this.
As if to encourage me on, the Holy Sword gripped in my right hand gave a small pulse.
I wonder when it was that I noticed whispering to myself would more or less calm me down. Perhaps it was in that distant time when I first started fighting against abnormal monsters. If that wasn’t the case, then surely I would have… broken long ago.
“I’m not scared. I’m not scared. I’m not scared. I’m not scared. I won’t lose. I won’t lost. I won’t lose. I won’t lose. There’s no way I can… lose.”
Even if I never had anything precious.
Even if I never had any comrades to fight alongside me.
I just looked ahead.
There was no one to listen to me. No, there never should have been.
As if to read off a line to myself alone, I whispered.
“I mean, I’m… a Hero.”
I strongly gripped the sword.
The smell of blood and iron and death. The presence of war, and the abnormal cries.
A battlefield where, if a normal man were to happen upon it, he would all but fall to madness.
Even if I was bad at talking with people, I could cut down monsters.
No matter how helpless I may be, as long as I don’t let it reach my face, no one will notice.
That’s why, no matter how far I went, I accomplished my role as a Hero.
I packed power below my navel, concentrated my attention on my heart, and excited the Mana over my entire body. Concentration great enough for it to take on tangible form, silvery blue Mana blew over as a wind, and drew spirals as it circled up around me.
The wails of the magic beasts ceased. The spirits invisible to my eyes trembled, the world stopped.
Within that noisy world, I was alone.
“See, aren’t I… strong?”
Having I gained the Hero Class, and rushed across a countless number of battlefields, there was something I came to understand.
Heroes were weapons. Even if there was no technique in their arms, and no good in their hearts, they were envoys of light that could cut down anything with their pure volume of Mana. Those needlessly powerful Skills, and the Holy Sword that inflicted enormous damage on the vassals of darkness were merely a byproduct of that.
I remember the words once imparted on me by the king of a country I stopped by long ago.
… Hero Serge, never forget that the lives of tens of thousands of civilians rest on your back. Every time you hesitate, human lives will perish. Every time you retreat, human lives will perish. If you’re to ever face defeat, then… a countless number of lives that could have been saved will be lost forever.
Back then, I had thought it a horribly selfish thing to impart such a burden on a simple little girl But it’s also a truth that I found solace in it.
A light like an aurora emitted from my sword.
That beautiful spectrum that had entranced me the first time I emitted it, after tens and hundreds of uses, was only something I had grown accustomed to.
The grotesque eyes gathered on me.
All sorts of seeds to become the enemies of humanity. Against the forms of various monsters, I smiled with my face alone, and let a light that was nothing but bright flow out from my Holy Sword.
The first time, I let out an unsightly cry. Because if I didn’t, my mind would have been paralyzed by fear.
But now, I don’t even have to raise a single word.
I inhaled in a shallow breath of air. I exhaled. With just that, I could divert my fear. I overwrote it with fighting spirit.
The point I became a Hero was the point I cast away my tears.
From a hill overlooking a vast land, I ran as if intending to tumble. No matter how steep the slope, I was never tripped up.
If it was just for a short time… I could even soar through the sky. I trampled over all the obstacles. Enhanced by my power as a Hero, my physical abilities didn’t fall short of a magic beast’s.
Every time I swung the Holy Sword, the monsters would be bisected in a flash, and the lightning would strike through them. My visual and auditory senses and all else were taken in by blood. The feel of cutting into meat, repelling the survivors.
Normal beings of the monster race held dreadful figures, but to me, they were nothing more than scraps of paper. In just one swing of the sword, the monster that would have taken hundreds of human lives was killed.
My objective was always… the ones clad in the greatest miasma. The enemies of humanity.
On the battlefield, in the center of a wasteland, I found them. Among piles of corpses.
The greatest for of Evil Spirit to appear on the Surface World. With numbers countable on a single hand, they could take down an entire country. And before those strongest Evil Spirits, I alone brandished my sword.
My own foolishness no longer produced anything from me but a quivering laugh.
Friends? Comrades? Something like that… there’s no way I could have anything like that.
A Hero’s power was something extraordinary.
Even among those that held the Hero class, the one heralded as the strongest was me… there’s no way there was anyone in humanity who could keep up.
My consciousness returned.
“… So you can still stand… that’s strange… I’m sure you should be dead by now…”
By the time I realized it, I had already stood up again.
What raced through my head were the battlefields I once ran across. The lantern turn itself for but an instant.
I knew. What’s left in me is… not courage, but just my dignity as a Hero.
“I’m… not… scared.”
The Holy Sword was the same as before. As if to cheer me up, it let out a glimmer.
I followed my experience, and at the presence I sensed behind, I turned my body, and let the Holy Sword come down.
The weight I felt on my arms. The sharp sound of metal colliding.
What had appeared at some point in time, something with its entire body shrouded in black armor, locked blades with me. If it was just in physical strength, the other side had the advantage. It was a fearsome force, and a fearsome speed, but in technique, I’m… the greater.
Two strikes, three strikes, our blades met one another, but on the third time, what it should have blocked with its sword, it took with its body. Caring not for the flesh it bisected, the Holy Sword cut through that trunk of a body from left to right.
There was a tough resistance, but I was certain of my target’s destruction.
The body close to two meters in size vanished, and on top of the bloodstained carpet, what took its place was a black chess piece divided in two.
The Fortis Authority could return light to my eyes. But the rolling piece wasn’t to become my threat again.
I overcame my shaking body with fighting spirit, and confronted the Demon Lord again.
I pretended not to notice the hopeless chances of victory swirling about my head.
“… What is… with that…”
“… I won’t… lose…”
The Demon Lord quietly sat back on the throne. While furrowing his brow, there was no sign of him initiating another attack.
If I can’t pierce through his core, I’ll have to aim for his neck. If not the neck, then an arm or a leg. Anyways, I’ll have to inflict just a little damage…
I gripped the Holy Sword in both hands. I can’t hear anything. I can’t see anything. I can’t understand anything. I stepped in, and swung to take his neck. The muscles of my arms cramped up, and let off creaking sounds. I paid no mind to my own damage.
Leigie wasn’t even looking at me. He let out a sigh, and opened his right hand.
The space before my eyes turned pitch black. But the kinetic energy I had given my body did not die down. My sword was definitely coming towards Leigie’s head, and…
There was so much resistance, it felt like my heart was painted out.
Wh… y… his skin is…
I couldn’t let out my voice. I frantically tried to scream.
I was able to pierce him before. I was definitely able to pierce all the way to his soul core, and yet now my blade… won’t enter his flesh!
What!? How!? Why!?
The character string appeared again. I didn’t even give the 『Cause of Death: Destruction of Soul Core』 a second glance.
I can’t move at all. Only my field of vision turned left and right. Within my stagnant time, I thought.
Is it that I can’t rend his bones? No. I didn’t make it to the bone. It stopped on his first layer of skin.
If it was metal armor, I would have sliced through with ease, and I could just as easily cut through the barrier of any high class magic barrier, yet a hard sensation remained in the Holy Blade.
It was, strangely enough, the… same as the last thing that had been left in my hands in my final battle as a hero.
Until just now, until this moment… it definitely got through!!
My heart shuddered like never before.
Having obtained 『Fortis』, there was a great unrest I felt when I experienced death for the first time. This was an impact surpassing that.
『Brave Heart』 shook. I’m sure it was a Skill that was supposed to be peerless. The path that I never lost sight of, despite my fear and my shivers, was starting to feel unsteady.
Before the selections laid out before me, my will to stand whispered quietly to me.
The simple 『YES』 and 『NO』gained greater meaning that ever before, as they pressed down on my choice.
『Do you still have the will to fight on?』
『Before a great darkness, before an existence much greater than your own, do you have the reason to stand and face him?』
『Do you have the courage?』
The magician’s old words echoed with them.
『Serge, you have the right to choose. To live as a hero to light up the dark, or… to waste your entire life as a normal civilian…』
I would think back to that question from time to time.
If perhaps I had chosen the path of a normal person, then would it truly have been so useless?
Perhaps it was my life as a hero, and my afterlife as a Valkyrie, descended to repeat endless battles day after day after day that was the wasted one?
The answer had yet to come. That’s why, just once more…
By the phenomenon brought about by my Fortis Skill, my extracted Soul Core was brought back to life. Light blessed my eyes once more, and from the depths of my body gushed up the heat of life. It was an uplifting feeling as if to blow away my fears.I’m sure that for all this time, Fortis Angels have fought on with nothing but that courage as their weapon.
My hazy vision came into focus. At some point in time, Leigie’s gaze from his seat on the throne had quietly directed itself down on me.
“Ye s… I’ll fight…”
“Hero, could it be… you can’t die? Even if your heart is destroyed, you’ll revive?”
As I thought, unlike Gloria, this Demon Lord knowns not of my authority.
In Leigie’s right hand, that should have been empty, a transparent crystal appeared. That item that was basked in the glimmer of a finally cut diamond, was promptly crushed in his palm.
Light was extracted from my eyes again. Of course, I had never seen it in my eyes before, but I understood by instinct. That was… my heard.
It couldn’t be… no, there’s nothing… else I can think of. Matter transportation from within my body.
『Cause of Death: Destruction of Soul Core』. The words danced before my eyes.
A ridiculous power. A peerless… ability. Be it Angel or Demon, no matter how strong they may be, there wasn’t a single one who could live without their heart.
… Besides me.
I no longer have any hesitation. My spirit blazed up.
In order to clear away all the darkness. In order for my existence to hold meaning. That’s why I became a Hero!
Death distanced itself. The feeling of nihility assailing my body was overwritten with the reality of life.
I clenched my teeth, and stood up again. Again and again. I’ll stand as many times it takes. You’ll see.
“I won’t… lose…”
“Hero… I… see… Hero.”
The blade I put my might behind, my wishes behind, was brought to a halt by Leigie standing still.
He stopped the Holy Sword that, if he were a Demon, if he was one in cahoots with darkness, it should have burned through his entirety. It wasn’t his neck. The blade came into contact with his unhealthy-looking face, and stooped as if I was living a nightmare.
My hopes were smashed. Not a single drop of Leigie’s blood flowed. He took it head-on, and without even making preparations to defend, he took on the power of a Hero, and the light to destroy all darkness without a scratch.
I let out a piercing yell, and thrust again. Leigie didn’t dodge.
But what I aimed at his left chest was stopped without even piercing the flesh.
It’s no good… he’s hard… he’s too hard. The skin I was able to get through once, I couldn’t pierce again.
“Hey, please tell me one thing, Serge.”
Should I retreat? Should I pull back once, and face him again? Can I even face him? Is there… an existence that can triumph over this Lord?
There is. There has to be… In the heavens, there were plenty of those wielding powers greater than mine. If it’s them, then…
… Right, the Demon World… if I pull him out of the Demon World, perhaps I can win. But am I… capable of such a feat?
“Hey, Serge Serenade.”
I thrust the blade, and receiving an additional attack, Leigie didn’t direct the slightest hostility at me.
I struck my lightning into him. The world was filled with light, and the intense discharge caused an echoing sound, but the voice reverberating from within it didn’t stop.
“Can you… not die? Is your valor, your courage… a result of your lack of death?”
The lightning disappeared.
The abyss was peering into me.
The abyss was questioning me.
A black to suck in all sorts of light. Those darkness colored irises were examining me.
“Courage born of an inability to die. Could that truly… be called the work of a 『Hero』?”
I’m sure it was an honest query. There was no good or bad intent behind it.
But I cannot listen to him. I can’t deal with him head-on.
I can’t be brought in by the darkness. Rather than my heart shattering, I was much more afraid of my will falling apart.
The question lasted a few seconds. There was no answer. But I didn’t remove my eyes from him.
The Demon Lord moved. Separating from the throne, one step forward. The slash I released in desperation, Leigie received with the palm of his hand.
The Holy sword slid through and cut off half his hand frighteningly easily.
“… Ah, I see. So you were a 『Cheat』, same as me…”
I never thought an attack would get through.
For an instant, my thoughts froze. Like a separate lifeform, his fingers flew off, and rolled along the carpet.
Without paying any attention to them, Leigie’s face continued to approach me. The bags stuck under his eyes. The mediocre face of a man one couldn’t see as anyone strong.
His breath hit an area around my ear.
“It’s fine. You’ve no need to despair… if it’s me, I can issue an end to your life without death.”
Differing from before, a cold Mana started welling up.
I instinctively tried to retreat back, only to notice my legs would no longer move.
Leigie’s face had approached to a few centimeters before me. In his eyes, reflected the scene of my features freezing over.
The chill gradually rising up from my feet. I tried wringing out my power, but my lower body wouldn’t budge in the slightest.
“… Sleep for the rest of your days. I won’t forget you.”
The tips of my fingers were iced over. The area below my navel lost its power, and my face was suspended.
I didn’t feel any pain. Only my heat was being robbed away. A cold something was passing over my spine. It wasn’t just a hallucination.
Leigie raised a quiet voice like one of a parent to their child.
“I think I’ll… wait for the next Hero, whom I’m not even sure exists.”
The nature of Leigie’s power had changed. From one the was simply heavy, to one heavy and cold.
His finger was fixed on my chin. I didn’t look down. I can’t see what’s becoming of my body. But I know.
My time is stoping. My Soul Core is freezing.
Everythign I have in me is losing its heat. My body, my will.
Is this… death?
The ice came up to my chest. Slowly, and as if to harass me, oh so quiet. But it was certain.
Contrary to my desire, my lips began to move.
“Am I… going to… die?”
“No, you’re not going to die. You’re going to end. Thank you for staying as my enemy. You can… rest now.”
A one-sided verdict. His calm words, and his dark eyes.
My chest was frozen over, and it continued up my collar to cover my throat.
Yeah, I already knew. I’m sure… this is… the end.
The Holy Sword lost its light. My arm had frozen through long ago, and it wouldn’t move in the slightest. Even if that blade had still been clad in light, I no longer had the hands to move it.
From the core of my body, I was frozen. No, this must be just as the Demon Lord said… suspension.
Even with my breast frozen over, the selection didn’t appear to me.
It was a phenomenon I had never seen before. No, if you count the time I felt it when I lost my human body, this was my second… end.
My voice would no longer come out.
Unrest. My emotions were rocked by an incomprehensible wave.
Regrets? Hesitations? Anger? Grief? Or perhaps… Relief?
I don’t know anymore. I don’t know anything.
What I heard at the end was, differing completely from the rewards of foreign kings, and the ovations of the people I saved, and the oracles given to me by the Angels, uncalculated, and honest commendation.
“Until we meet again, my old friend.”