After seeing off Elle and Kyouya-kun at the door, I went back inside to get changed.
Today, we were called to gather in the meeting area by Oren the Village Chief for an important discussion about the village’s current situation. Or so Lode had told me yesterday after returning from the forest herb gathering.
Although, during the gathering, Elle somehow found a strange black-haired youth wearing strange clothes collapsed in the bushes, so I guess Lode had only told me the bare minimum of information, as to let me deal with the surprising problem of the unconscious youth who seemed as mysterious as the night sky.
He has always been kind to Elle, giving us ingredients free of charge from time to time. They were as close as if he was her grandfather. But what Elle doesn’t know is that Lode and I came from the same place of work, along with those two…
As I remembered the two people who had already left this world, I notice tears gathering in my eyes, and were slowly falling down my cheeks. It seems that I still could not get over what had happened to us at that time. I quickly wipe my falling teardrops with a piece of clean cloth, and hold back my emotions, as to quickly get ready for my departure.
After all, they had left their precious memento, that they loved, with me.
I hope that someday ‘she’ as well, would grow up as righteous and as kind-hearted as you both, Eleanore-ane, Raius-aniue. So for now, I shall be strong for ‘her’.
Hiding here in this village, with ‘her’ is a form of protecting her from those looking to do harm once they found ‘her’, so please watch over us both up there in the clouds, wherever you are. I say these silent prayers to the memories I had never forgotten, as I changed into clothing fit for a formal meeting.
After I made sure my appearance was in order, I locked the door to the house which me and Elle lived in for a year already, from the inside, and shut the door tight. I always had Elle carry a spare key to the house, so there is no problem if they get here first, in case the meeting drags on for a while. I would have preferred it not to happen though.
Heading towards the opposite direction as where Kyouya-kun and Elle had gone, I walk towards the meeting place, while checking the time by looking at the position of the ‘Luxia’ up above. It was standard knowledge to look at the floating star above our heads, which gave us heat and light, in contrast to its size, when you wanted to know the time of day.
Long ago, no one knew what to call it, but eventually someone who was dubbed as the ‘Godfather of Knowledge’ started naming many things, in the name of the ‘Seraph’ he had been worshiping. He called the large star of light, ‘Luxia’ while the large ball of pleasant and calming light during the nighttime was called ‘Lunia’.
Eventually, he had spread names over many things that were mysterious and had created countless ‘Magic Tools’ that more and more people use in daily life. But that was a story for another time. As I had already arrived at the meeting place where the discussion was going to be held. I wondered what the chief was going to talk about today.
As I looked around the familiar appearance of the venue, where only a little number of people had just arrived, like me, I think about the mysterious youth that woke up this morning. With the people’s chattering getting louder as time passed by as the background noise, I sink into my idle thoughts.
When I had first used <<Appraisal>> on him when he was unconscious, I was shocked. Not because it was rude to use this rare skill on someone I had just met, but because when I did use it, a severe headache had attacked my consciousness.
It was only for a moment, but I was scared. Scared of the dangerous potential strength that the black-haired youth had hidden within him. But, as Elle had said that there was nothing to be scared of, I calmed down. After all, she had the inherent skill, which countless beings could ever dream of.
The skill that only a select few possessed.
There wasn’t much known about it, but ancient text and scriptures had said that this skill had the power to see through the gods themselves. Second only to the legendary skill, <<Divine Perception>>.
In other words, the beings that had this skill, would instinctively know if a person was good or evil, strong or weak, kind or twisted, whatever you can think of.
It is said that the skill had other uses, which needed certain conditions to unlock, but no one alive knows what exactly were those hidden conditions needed.
Before, when I was still a fledgling along with my big brother, and my two other friends, this skill was one of the reasons why our ‘Famiglia’ was called the strongest.
But, that’s already an old story.
Putting the past aside, Elle’s skill was almost all-powerful. Since just this morning, when I had met Kyouya-kun properly, I could also tell that he was a kind-hearted young man. His hair was as dark as the night, and his skin was as pale as snow, but his features were alien to what the other people I had met, looked like.
But, at times when he is speaking towards Elle, he resembled the visage of my elder brother. ‘It must be nice to get doted on like that’ was what I thought.
As I drowned in pleasant memories, I had thought that maybe it was not impossible for Kyouya-kun to have an age close to mine. A slight expectation that elated me was born in my thoughts, as I unconsciously broke into a smile without knowing.
“Ah, that hurts!”
Suddenly, I felt the back of my head hurt as if I was hit by a rock. No, to be honest, I can almost hear the cracking sounds of my skull breaking. Somehow this pain was familiar…
There was only one person who would smack me in the back of the head like that.
When I turned around to see the man I was expecting to show up, I flared up in rage. I was right. Standing behind me was the towering height of a man with darkish-brown skin that looked as if it was burnt by the heat rays of the ‘Luxia’.
“What are you doing, Lode!”
That’s right. It was Lode, a former party member, that was sitting down besides me.
“I could ask you the same question, you look like you’re having too much fun. What were you thinking of? Something that made the always calm you grin like an idiot, is a sign that there must be something big going on. Go on, share your happiness with this old man.”
“In the first place, what kind of old man hits a woman like that! Take this you gigantic muscle-bound gorilla! ……..<<Barrage of Blows>>.”
I invoke one of my unarmed skills and rain punch after punch, kick after kick, and jab after jab towards the dark-skinned man that seemed as if he wasn’t taking any damage at all.
“Hou, is this measly skill the extent of the one who was once known as ‘Heavy Hitter Marielle’? Your past self would cry if she saw you like this you know?”
I immediately stop using the skill, reorganize my appearance, and sit down.
Before, I had promised myself to only use my higher than average strength, to protect Elle in times of emergency, but it seemed that whenever this irritable old man who was only half-human came, I’d instinctively forget to keep my calm.
It has always been like this, so I try to get used to it nowadays, but I know that my dark past isn’t something so easily forgotten. That’s why this gorilla can’t help but tease me every time we meet. Ah, I wish he would just be buried in a hole somewhere.
I doubt that he’ll die, since he has that absurd stamina of his.
“Tch, you’re not falling for it again eh.”
“Naturally. I would at least get used to your provocations after all this time.”
“I see. Leaving your easily-angered attitude aside, I met that boy you brought from the forest earlier. He went inside my store with little Elle and bought some clothes.”
I feel my temper rising whenever he talks but I decide to let it go for now.
“Of course he did, I recommended him to your store after all. And…what else?”
“You can tell huh. He also bought a sword.”
A sword huh. Was Kyouya-kun always a sword-user? He didn’t strike me as one though.
Or maybe he was just good at hiding it?
Well, maybe next time I’ll ask him about it.
“Although I don’t know what he’s using a sword for, that’s not what I was asking about.”
“Ah, of course. Just like you, I couldn’t see through him. But I’ve already made countermeasures in case he’s one of the spies sent from ‘that’ place.”
“I really don’t think he is since Elle already approved of him, but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure. I would like you to get along with him though, but that’s only my opinion.”
“Hou….I see how it is now…..You, you’ve started to like him, didn’t you?”
“W-wh-what are you talking about you muscle gorilla!?!?”
I could feel my head was heating up while my outstretched hand, unconsciously turned into a fist and struck a blow into the muscle-bound gorilla’s abdomen.
“That hurts….so it seems I was right. That absurd strength of yours only comes out when your emotions are in disarray. Wait, wait, don’t get mad now, the whole village will fall if you try to kill me here!”
My eyes were starting to become vacant as I stared into my current target’s eyes with a large amount of blood lust coming out from my expression as I heard his futile pleas, but just as I was about to begin my attack…
A loud sound suddenly rang out.
“Okay, it seems that everyone is accounted for. Let’s begin today’s discussion.”
Snapping me out from my predicament, inadvertently saving the gorilla’s life from being extinguished into nothingness, was the chief’s way of gathering attention.
Oren, the middle-aged man with a large beard, was the leader of this village at the edge of ‘Edoria’ on the eastern side. Standing beside him was a little boy with short stature wearing leather shorts, a white shirt, and a dark green vest.
If I remember correctly, his name was…
“My son, Ed is here today to explain about the incident that happened two days prior.”
Oren, the village chief said to us who were wondering about the little boy’s identity.
That’s right. The chief had a son named…..Ed? Eh, something feels awfully strange.
As if my head was starting to hurt slightly when I repeated the name ‘Ed’ over and over again inside my thoughts, the chief’s son suddenly stepped forward and spoke loudly…
“Good afternoon everyone, my name is Ed, and I’m here to tell you about what happened to a few kids that went missing in the forest two days ago.”
As if a wave of relaxing feelings surrounded us all, my head stopped hurting abruptly.
I could sense a certain amount of magic being used, but it must have been my imagination.
Leaving that aside, the case about children missing in the forest seems important, so I listen closely to his next words while thinking of the scary thought that Elle might be the next victim in the future. I will make sure that doesn’t happen though.
To summarize what Ed had talked about, along with chief Oren, it seemed that the monsters in the forest were growing awry and were taking unsuspecting children who strayed from the village, into the depths of the forest.
Realistically, they should have been already eaten or worse by now, but Oren surmised that we should inspect it today ourselves as to what really happened. It sounded a bit sketchy, but for some reason, I had no problem going along with it.
Lode even agreed with the plan as well, so even if monsters attacked, we could protect the village leaders along with the guards. By guards I was talking about the village guards. Only about four or five would be coming with us for an inspection, so its not much.
In spite of the danger that the expedition, under the guise of an inspection entailed, none of the leaders voiced their opposition towards it. They were either brave or stupid.
We quickly dismissed the meeting, and prepared to depart towards the direction of the ‘Izajes Rainforest’ while taking along some of the village guards…
Either way, we have some leeway if it came to a fight with monsters as long as the others stand back and let me and Lode deal with whatever comes.
But oh, how terribly wrong I was…
The careless thoughts I had at that time, which was induced by some kind of strange magic, were thoughts I wish I took back.
Right now, we were dealing with something a hundred, no a thousand times stronger than monsters. A being that could be called a ‘disaster’ itself…
We tried to protect most of the village leaders, but only succeeded in letting Roy, one of the officials get away with major wounds. I sincerely hoped they were not fatal.
Among the scattered corpses with limbs amputated and missing torsos, spraying blood everywhere, dying the grass and leaves with a metallic red color, a lone boy surrounded by large amounts of demonic energy stood haughtily in front of us.
The innocent little boy which had a confident air during the meeting, had just finished ‘devouring’ Oren, the village chief’s corpse.
Yes, he literally ate the dead body of Oren, his supposed father. Which me and Lode had already known by now, that this boy really wasn’t his son, albeit too late.
Now that my mind and thoughts were cleared when the enemy dispelled his demonic magic, I finally remember that the real name of the chief’s son was Pal-kun. He was a cute brown-haired child, and liked to play around with the village kids most of the time.
Just thinking of that innocent Pal-kun suffering at the hands of this monster…
“Ed, no, Demon King, what did you do to Pal-kun?”
Instead of the flaxen hair and innocent eyes and smile of Pal-kun, the Demon King pretending to be him finally released his disguise, and his appearance immediately changed into someone else.
Dark, murky hair that seemed like it would suck you in, eyes that looked down on everyone was permanently embedded in his gaze, and a condescending grin, completely unlike a child was revealed as the large amount of demonic energy had swirled into forming countless tentacles with eyeballs and jaws with sharp teeth. The fear brought down towards me and Lode was heavy. He still looked like a kid though.
Finally, the Demon King opened his mouth…
“….Pal-kun? Who’s tha…Ah, did you mean the kid I swallowed yesterday? He didn’t have any taste but he wasn’t bad for a snack. What about him?”
Instantly, my anger surged.
“Marielle, no don’t fall for his provocation!”
Lode seemed to have been shouting something, but I didn’t have time to listen. Even if I did, I couldn’t forgive the enemy in front of me. Even if he was one of the ‘Demon Kings’.
Suddenly, one of the tentacles shot out and wrapped around my outstretched fist. In the next moment, it lifted me up in the air as if I had no weight at all. Finally, it threw me onto the ground as if I was trash. The pain from hitting the ground was stinging.
“…If only I had my equipment from before…”
I remember my former equipment that could bring down large beasts in one blow, but regret the fact that its divine power had already been exhausted about a year ago. It was like swallowing a bitter pill, seeing as I had no fighting strength in front of this enemy.
In the corner of my eye, I could see the large gorilla-like figure of Lode rushing towards my location, but I could tell it was futile, even with both our strengths combined.
“Like hell I’d just leave you here! Elle is going to cry without you there!”
It hurt…..that only at these moments, he was right. Well, I guess most of the time, he was right about most things. It was just me that refused to listen.
“Sorry, it’s impossible to beat this guy without my equipment. Please…run”
Lode stopped about 2 meters away from where the ‘Demon King’ stood, and seemed to have been thinking hard about something, but I had no time to watch him be troubled.
“Hou, is the one known as Elle, the one who released the gigantic amount of power last night? I came here for that reason after all. I really would like to taste the human capable of that kind of strength. By all means, lead me to her.”
“..I’d ra..ther..die than do that, Demon!”
I somehow muster up the courage and strength to talk back, if only to buy time for Elle to escape. I hope Lode makes his decision soon…
“Oh, how rude of me. Even for measly humans, I have to introduce myself or I would be looked down upon. This one’s name is Edacitas Von Beelzebub, the Demon King chosen by Gluttony. A pleasure to meat, I mean meet a delicious-looking human such as you both.”
One of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.
The sin’s ultimate goal which was devouring the entire world.
Signifying endless hunger.
One of the things I know about demons is that each demon was born with a sin, and only the strongest among them that follow their desires the most, can rise up into higher ranks. Especially, a Demon King which was the highest rank only second to the ‘Demon God’ who was their creator.
So it wasn’t here for Elle? He was looking for someone else?
That fills me with a slight sense of relief. But I didn’t sense any large magic power last night. Still, I doubt a ‘Demon King’ would come here for nothing.
There was a slight tremor in the middle of the night, but that was it. Most of the people would be asleep at that time. So I really didn’t know what this Demon was talking about.
“I have no idea, who you’re talking about. So, let me go!”
“No, no, please do not lie. Hmm? Oh, it seems you really didn’t know anything, amusing.”
“But…too bad, I wouldn’t be a [Gluttony] Demon if I let go of a delicious meal right in front of my eyes, would I? No matter, I’ll find that human myself and have him as the main course. While you two…”
Suddenly, Lode had brandished a giant hammer from somewhere and tried to flatten the ‘Demon King’ but he just nimbly dodged the blow, as if he was expecting it.
Naturally, the hammer had missed its target, and landed heavily onto the ground, crushing the grass and earth below it.
“….will be my appetizers.”
With a playful grin, he extended his other tentacle feelers made out of demonic energy and wrapped Lode’s humongous body in darkness.
Suddenly, I felt as if the feelers wrapped around me more tightly as I kept struggling, and I seem to have been losing my strength the more I was stuck here.
As expected of [Gluttony], it was sapping my energy as if it was a delicious drink. I could feel my consciousness slowly dimming…
“Umu, you humans are strong aren’t you. Although, it’s a pity I couldn’t devour you at your peak form. Weakened humans dull the flavor a bit, but it doesn’t change the general taste. In fact, you should be glad to be eaten by one of the ‘Demon Kings’. Truly an intriguing taste, your companion with the overly large body has ‘Titan Blood’ flowing through his veins, does he not? A rare meal has made its way to myself. I am overjoyed at my luck of eating one of a titan’s descendants.”
Yes, he was right. Lode’s abnormal body strength was because he had 1/18 of blood from a ‘Titan’. I’m amazed he could tell that much from a taste. It just goes to show you that ‘Demon Kings’ weren’t to be underestimated.
Ah, my strength has reached into a critical state. I doubt I can recover from this even with a month if I escape now. I started to escape the cruel reality in front of me while thinking of what would happen to Elle without me and Lode.
Suddenly, I recall the bright smile of Kyouya-kun in my darkest moments…
‘I see. Then, I’ll make it up to both of you. Deal?’
That kindheartedness put me at ease. If you still want to repay me by the time I’m gone, please take care of Elle for me…
“Hou, you found the strength to move your lips even under my <<Overeat>> skill? Truly-“
“Guh-what happened!? Who’s there!? Reveal thyself!”
I couldn’t see that clearly with my darkening vision, but I could make out the fact that I had fallen to the ground along with Lode, along with a severed arm that looked like it belonged to a child…..and something else…
“….Little boy, or should I say, ‘Demon King’….Get your filthy hands off of her!”
An incarnation of rage, with hair of shining silver.
Wielding a sword adorned with the blackest of colors, a contrast of beauty.
Was the last image I had seen before I drifted into slumber.