「…Aur, you came.」
Yunis greeted Aur in a thin grove that was a short distance from the entrance of the dungeon. Lilu and Spina had come too and stood by Aur’s side. But Yunis sensed that there were others hiding among the trees as well. When a dark elf hides in the shadows of the trees, no one in the world would be able to find them.
「You didn’t have to go through the trouble of sending a letter to call me here.」
Aur removed the letter from his pocket and burned it in his hand. The magical flames engulfed the letter in an instant. The letter had been mixed in with tribute from the village.
It was a plain note that asked Aur to come to this place and to bring Lilu and Spina with him.
「Would you believe me if I said that I have no intention of fighting you?」
「Yes, I would.」
Aur nodded at Yunis’ question. She was more surprised than he, as she had not expected an affirmative answer.
「Because there would be no point in killing me here. As you well know, this body is just a substitute. Lilu and Spina as well. Your best option would be to pretend you are an ally and enter the dungeon, where you could kill us without a fight. 」
「Ah, I see now.」
Yunis laughed bitterly. It seemed that she had underestimated Aur. She, who had an impulsive nature, had not even considered such a plan.
「Vaguely. I had started to realize…though it wasn’t until the curses and suggestions were removed that I knew for certain. That you were deceiving me in many ways, I somehow knew. …That you were also trying to make me fall off the back of the dragon.」
Yunis said as she turned her back towards Aur. But even as she did so, she did not leave them an opening to attack. Aur and the others moved at a speed that would allow her to evade an attack just by sensing it, even with her eyes closed. So of course, she had sensed Aur’s menacing presence at Figuria castle as well.
「Aur. I know that you don’t trust humans, but I don’t think you hate them either.」
Yunis said suddenly as she turned around to face him.
「There are many people who don’t have faith in humans. Many of the evil sorcerers that I have killed up until now have been that way. They were betrayed, slandered and had stones thrown their way. They grew bitter against the world, against humans, against everything, so they tried to destroy it all. They use captives as slaves, and the deaths and pain of their slaves mean nothing to them. Those are the real, evil sorcerers. But, you were different.」
「You’ve overrated me significantly. …Those sorcerers were fools. Slaves or not, if you want them to work sufficiently, a degree of privilege will make them much more efficient. That is all it was.」
Yunis nodded as Aur answered as if it was obvious.
「Yes. I believe that is how you truly feel. But still, I don’t think that you actually hate humans. You don’t enjoy hurting them and making them suffer without purpose.」
The Hero stared into the Demon Lord’s eyes as if looking into the depths of his heart.
「Aur. Why is it that you don’t trust anyone? Humans, monsters, subjects, friends—not even yourself.」
「…What are you saying?」
Yunis chuckled as Aur groaned the reply. She had the same smile that she had when she used to stand next to him.
「I just want to know. How you came to be like this. The past of a person I was once fond of.」
She said straightforwardly.
「Tell me, Aur. Are you an evil that must be destroyed, or a king to be served? Tell me….and the people that love you.」
Unthinking, Lilu called out her name. Yunis had asked Aur to bring Lilu and Spina here, just to hear this.
「You don’t think that I would just lie? That I would fabricate a sob story to tell you?」
「That is something I will have to determine for myself. …But, I don’t think you would have brought that up if it was your intention to begin with.」
Aur sighed at her answer.
「Very well then. …Stand back, Ellen.」
「…As you command.」
Out of nowhere the voice echoed through the trees and faded into the darkness. Aur used magic to detect her presence and make sure there was no one else present before he began to speak.
「This is… the truth, what I am about to say. The mundane truth that this world is full of, the normal way that things occur. It is not a story of a poor child or a wounded heart. It’s as simple in principle as a stone rolling down a hill, as water falling from a high place.」
Aur prefaced before he began his story.
「It was 70 years ago. This happened in Praeti, a small country which no longer has any traces of ever existing. At that time, Praeti and Figuria were waging a terrible war. I lost my own family through that war and had to become a beggar. It was Raz…who then found me, she was my instructor in sorcery. She gave me everything. Wisdom, education, chores, sorcery, the warmth of a household and love. The love of a parent, the love of a family, and the love between a man and a woman…all of it. She was my mother, my older sister, my best friend and my lover. …Why, Lilu, why are you making that face?」
Aur could not help but remonstrate as Lilu stood speechless with her mouth agape.
「…Uh, I, I’m sorry. I did not expect that word, love, to come from your lips…」
「Be quiet and listen.」
Perhaps knowing that it was indeed, not like him, Aur cleared his throat and continued.
「Raz had been developing a new weapon. Her skills with enchantments were without equal, she was a genius. The weapon that she developed had the power to destroy a thousand soldiers, it allowed the small kingdom of Praeti to rival even Figuria. …However, she changed after she took me in. I don’t know what she thought upon seeing a child who was orphaned by war. In all honesty, I have never once blamed her, I never wished that she would stop developing weapons of war. But Raz had ceased developing weapons, which made her an enemy of her country. She was suspected of not only leaving Praeti in a difficult place, but secretly communicating with Figuria.」
Aur paused there for a moment. This was the point where Aur was able to keep calm even during Cass’ report. That rage was something that even he could not predict. He controlled his breathing and continued.
「The tower where we were living was surrounded by the soldiers of Praeti, we could do nothing but wait for our deaths. And so Raz cast a curse on me and gave me an order. 『Take my head to the soldiers and beg for clemency』she said. I did as she commanded. With my own hand, I killed the person that I loved more than any in this world, just to curry favor with the soldiers and be allowed to live my miserable life. And it had nothing to do with my own will.」
Aur was surprised at how clearly and smoothly he was able to relate it.
「It is a simple fact. I have no wish to deny the wonders of love. I won’t even say that trust has no value. However, these things are all overcome by power. Military strength. Wisdom. Magic. Fortune. Authority. There is no kind of love or bond that is not powerless against real, almighty power. No matter how much you love a person, people will always betray you. By a power that exceeds that love.」
Aur had loved Raz more than anyone. He was confident in his love. He would have done anything for her. No matter what happened to himself, he would protect her through anything. The boy who was pure, with no knowledge of the world, had believed this.
「I am not sulking at the world. Neither do I fear communion with others due to a debilitating trauma. I was able to overcome such things in my twenties and thirties. Yunis. Just as you loved me through the curse I cast on you. And as it was trampled into the dust by your brother. As Demons and even Gods are subject to fall with time. People, and all that live in this world, none have a way to overcome violence.」
And so Aur pursued power. He pursued it with an unhealthy obsession, the means to solve everything. And once he had attained that power, he tore away trust, killed friendships, severed bonds and seized love by force.
「…That is, true.」
Yunis knew it more than anyone. She, who had been born a hero and saved many, but had also left thousands dead in her wake.
Though one may be able to attain inhuman power and be hailed a Hero, there are uncountable lives that cannot be saved. People will always have to die, and when they die, even their memory will fade.
「But, even so, I still believe. You, Aur. You, that I love.」
Yunis said in a clear voice, she looked forward with unwavering eyes.
An evil that must be destroyed, or a king to be served? She had been certain of the answer even before he had told his tale. She was satisfied with just knowing that the love and trust that she had felt from Aur had not been a lie. Even if it was just a fleeting thing against real power, it was something that still existed.
「It is not something that was just planted through curses or suggestions. I love the Aur that I felt within my own heart. So, please. …Even just a little, please believe in me too.」
Yunis wrapped Aur in an embrace and kissed him. Aur had instinctively moved to stop her, but his hands stopped after a moment of hesitation. And at that moment, Yunis pulled herself away from him, smiled and said:
An outrageous fountain of blood shot up; her smile turned upside down.
Yunis’ head rolled on the ground. Behind was the figure of Zaitlead, his face bore no expression as he held the bloodied sword.