「Only one here has to die – such admirable intentions you have.」
That alluring voice reached Agedilus’s ears. That strange creature, with beauty not of a man or a woman. If you were to call it ‘androgynous’, that was the same as Agedilus’ beauty too, but this creature’s beauty was full of poison, making one sense the stench of blood.
Its long pitch black hair went against the freezing north wind, wriggling midair as if it had a mind of its own. Agedilus’s jet black hair on the other hand blew in the strong wind as he adjusted his strong grip on his wand.
‘To think this thing would show up here,’ Agedilus internally spat out the words, disgusted, but still glared at the demon with his sunrise-colored eyes. His gaze was like a sharp blade, but the demon receiving it still looked like it was in a good mood. This demon’s rank was next to the demon king, one of the recently revived demon king’s close aides.
Who would’ve thought that such a creature would attack them by itself? Did the demon king unexpectedly think the hero was dangerous? From the perspective of a demon, even if he was chosen by a holy sword, he was still a human, after all, so they thought the demon king would let him go free – but it seemed that wasn’t going to happen.
The hero chosen by the holy sword, Yurifalet Lila Schtorenvihein. The shrine princess who’d received divine protection from the goddesses, Clementine. The head knight of the kingdom’s chivalric order of knights, Alhelm Lix. And then, the palace’s head magician, himself. Could they win if they fought, the four of them? No, could they even make it out alive, let alone win? That’s how dangerous their present opponent was.
That’s precisely why Agedilus chose to teleport away everyone but himself. The memory of his comrades’ shouts just before he cast the teleportation magic rang in his ears again. Yes, comrades. Before he knew it, he had started thinking of the three of them as certainly his comrades.
The hero who always smiled had thrown away his refreshing smile. The princess who valued planning things out composedly had had her silver hair disheveled. The head of the knights who was always joking around had raised his fist up in the air. All three of them said together, 「Don’t mess around!」 just before being teleported, shouting until the final second. They urged him not to, their faces desperate. Just seeing those expressions of theirs made him realize his choice wasn’t a mistake.
「What are you laughing at? Have you gone mad at the face of death?」
「No. I remembered their faces, that’s all.」
In response to the creature’s question, asked as it laughed throatily, he replied with a smile. The demon widened its eyes, tilting its head in confusion. Its doll-like actions and abyss-like eyes, so deep no light reached them, made it very clear that this creature certainly was not a human. He hadn’t ever expected a day would come where such a creature would look at him with fascinated eyes. It crossed his mind that, no joke, he couldn’t decide if he preferred to be looked at with the fearful gazes of his fellow humans over this look.
「Oh? They did look desperate, but what’s so funny about that?」
「It’s because since we left the capital, they’ve caused me nothing but complete trouble. To be honest, I felt like saying, ‘Serves you right!’」
Yes, that’s right. That hero who only knew how to plough fields, that self-important high and mighty queen-like princess, that head knight who only had a thin line between his jokes and serious moments.
When he tried looking back, it really had been nothing but trouble. […] He felt so satisfied at having outwitted them. ‘Serves you right,’ he internally whispered once again. He’d teleported them to the nearest inn town from this primeval forest in the north. While it was the nearest one, it was still far enough that struggling to get back here would take a lot of time. No matter how angry they were, they couldn’t do anything about it.
「So I don’t have any admirable intentions. They’d just cause a lot of trouble if they were here, that’s all.」
「Hmm. You’re rather interesting, huh. That power of yours, too much for any human to hold, do you not wish to offer it to our lord?」
「……What do you mean?」
「Just what I said. Living in the world of humans must surely be difficult with that jet black hair of yours.」
In other words, it seemed to be saying to surrender to the demons. ‘That’s a pretty late offer to receive after so long,’ he thought. If the demons had held a hand out to him while he was in that darkness, no doubt he would have clung to it. But now, he had already broken out of that darkness long ago. The hand that had saved him was not this pale hand.
「What if I refuse?」
「I’ll have you die, of course. Ah, but that’s right. You have fine looks for a human. It would be best to turn you into our plaything to have a good time with.」
「Once again, that’s very appreciated.」
Agedilus smiled. That gorgeous, violent smile.「Tempting offer, but I’ll have to turn it down.」
「That’s my line.」
The magic jewel on his staff shone. He was interrupted again and again, but he continued, the end of his chant near. The demon furrowed its beautiful eyebrows suspiciously, but it was too late.
His magical power charged the magic jewel through the hand he held his cane with. It felt like his body was about to burn off. The magic overflowing from his body felt like it would scrape off his body, his thoughts, his heart, everything of him away. The pain tortured his entire body but his mind was strangely calm. ‘Ah, so this is what it’s like to die,’ he thought, as if he was watching someone else go through it.
That was when it happened. A voice calling out to him replayed in his ears, 「Edi!」 There was only one person he’d allow to call him that name.
What came to his mind was the face of his fiancée – Filmina, about to cry any second.
That night he had an audience with the king, his body headed towards her room in the Adina Estate before he could think. She had worn nothing but a gown over her nightclothes – a sight that would normally have been tempting, but at that moment he was much more concerned about her expression.
Even though she was always smiling calmly, this time the smile had vanished from her face.
She gasped at first, her expression gaping with surprise before looking like she might start crying any second. Though it seemed she herself didn’t realize that. But even so, Agedilus certainly saw her face close to tears. That was most certainly not his imagination, even though he had hoped for it.
Why did he remember that face at this time? He thought, mystified. But he immediately realized the reason. It was because he was happy then.
「Don’t go.」 She’d said that then, just once. She’d said that, for him.
He’d told her he was going to depart for the journey the day after tomorrow, and was about to take his leave when she’d grabbed the hem of his clothes. Said that in a fragile voice, just once. That one sentence had made him unbearably happy. He was unable to do anything but say he had to go. She’d told him she understood, to somehow stay safe. She’d said that, smiling like usual. But he had certainly seen that her smile was trembling, crooked.
Now that he thought about it, she had never told him anything she wanted from him. Things like asking him to make some tea for her, lend her book, they were all insignificant.
Then he too couldn’t wish for anything from her. Neither of them could ever ask for anything. But in that moment, he thought. Somehow, somehow, he begged her.
——Somehow, please don’t be happy.
I’m begging you, please don’t be happy in a world without me.
In his memory, none other than Filmina appeared. Just imagining her happily smiling beside a man that wasn’t him made him feel like he’d go crazy. Would she smile that gentle smile for another man? Would she speak to another man with her tender voice? It was no joke. That smile and that voice were just for him. He wouldn’t let there be a world without him where she’d be happy with someone other than him. She certainly didn’t know about these violent emotions of his, where he prayed for her to be unhappy rather than be happy without him. He still hadn’t told her about these feelings.
‘Hah,’ a smile instinctively escaped onto his face. What the hell? In the end, he really hadn’t changed at all. Since the time he’d given her a scar that would never fade, when they were young. But what had she told him? She’d told him she liked someone like him. There was nothing else to do but give up, her luck had run out. Because now, he had absolutely no intentions of letting her go.
Agedilus’s magical power was concentrated in the magic jewel. His overflowing magical power had created a magic square, threads knit from his magical power coiled around the demon’s feet so it couldn’t escape. The demon seemed to finally stop being suspicious, realizing Agedilus had the upper hand, its face changing color.
「You……! Are you planning to commit a lovers’ double suicide?!」
「Ha, now that’s not a joke.」
As if he’d die. As if he’d allow himself to die. If, for example, he had to take someone down with him, then Filmina would be enough by herself. This demon comparing itself to her was so ridiculous.
「You’re the bastard that said only one has to die, right?」
The magic jewel glittered vividly. And then, everything was covered in white. The demon’s scream reached his ears. The light seemed to engulf even his teleportation chants. But even as he felt like he was being crushed by the torrent of light, Agedilus swore. That he’d survive, and go home. And this time, he’d tell her. He’d tell her what he couldn’t tell her ever since he came back from the Academy of Magic: 『I’m home.』