When she became aware, Nephie was crouched in front of a deserted, dilapidated house, in a corner of the town.
Why… am I in this place…?
She couldn’t think well, as if her mind was shrouded in fog. She recognised her surroundings, this was Kianoides. The town where she had first met Zagan, and a place they had often visited to buy food and other things. She didn’t know how she had come to be here at all. What was she doing here in the first place? She remembered preparing dinner, but had Zagan eaten that?
She had made the same stew that she had first made for him, that had made his eyes, as unsociable as he normally was, light up in joy. She had wanted to see him rejoice like that again.
She had to get back to him quickly.
When she thought that, she noticed what she was clutching, a fragment of a broken collar. There was no longer any collar around her neck.
Ahh, that’s right, I…
“Was discarded by my master.”
Putting it into words, her thoughts were suddenly shattered. Her heart felt like it was stopping. Even if that wasn’t the case, Nephie may have already lost her mind.
Even though he said… to stay by his side…
It was the first time.
The first time that Nephie had been treated like a person, been spoken to. The first time she had been given a room and clothes, given a reason to live.
Zagan was the only one that had told her he needed her. Nephie had thought that she might be able to find a place to belong.
She held her knees and buried her face there.
“At times like this, you cry, right…?”
Being thrown away by Zagan didn’t feel real. Perhaps because of that, the feeling of sadness didn’t come forth. She thought that maybe if she closed her eyes and slept like that, she might be back at the castle when she awakened.
And yet despite this, that wasn’t the case at all, in some corner of her head, she understood this was real. And yet her emotions would not work. It was then.
“Is that you…? Mage Zagan’s servant from back then?”
She heard an unfamiliar voice. When she raised her head, there was a girl standing there, clad in knight’s armour, with a large sword on her back. Even if she didn’t recognise her voice, she felt she recognised her appearance, and surveyed her for a while, before finally remembering where she had seen it.
“One of those that fought master…?”
She was one of those knights. Come to think of it, this girl was the only one to withdraw with no wounds.
“Listen, Nephie. Stay away from holy knights.”
At some point, that was something Zagan had said to Nephie. They were the enemies of mages, professional killers that would judge all involved with mages as criminals. He was warning her to be careful, as they may aim for Nephie.
Zagan, who had said that, was no longer at her side. She didn’t understand in the slightest why it had turned out like this.
“So I will be killed.”
Nephie murmured, as if she had given up on everything. This girl had most likely seen Nephie’s ‘sorcery’, and people that decided even a mage with a heart like Zagan were evil, would not think to allow Nephie, who controlled sorcery, to live.
She no longer had a collar. With the magic Zagan had taught her, and her sorcery, she might be able to fight the girl before her, but she couldn’t even see any meaning in doing so.
There’s no meaning in living, without my master.
She didn’t think she would mind dying here… yet, the girl shook her head in a panic.
“W-wait! Don’t misunderstand, I don’t intend any harm on you at all.”
“…A holy knight kills mages do they not? I am master’s servant, and his student. Go ahead, decapitate me or do whatever you wish.”
“Q-quit talking like I’m some demon that kills people!”
For some reason, it was the girl that was moved to tears and denying this. Perhaps because that argument had started, they had drawn a crowd.
“Oi, what’s the ruckus. That’s Nephie-chan over there, ain’t it?”
“That’s a holy knight. They gotta have their eye on her ‘cause she’s a servant at the mage’s place.”
“Should someone help her? Nephie-chan seems weak-hearted at the best of times.”
The onlookers were talking among themselves, but for some reason, it seemed to be the girl that was being criticised.
“I-I already said I wasn’t, didn’t I?”
The girl shrank away, her voice shaking. And then, someone who hadn’t been visible dashed out of the crowd.
“Hah! Nephie-chan, are you okay?”
Dashing forwards as if to protect Nephie, was a familiar winged woman.
The store assistant that had picked out Nephie’s clothes in the clothes store, and even afterwards occasionally recommended her new clothes when they saw each other in town. The pyjamas she wore in the castle were picked out by her too.
When she saw Nephie’s face, Manuela was aghast.
“W-what happened? Did she do something to you? Are you injured? Where’s your master?”
“Nothing… at all. I’m not wounded… either.”
“That’s obviously not nothing!” Her voice grew harsh, and the winged woman glared harshly at the other girl. “Oi, you! You’re a holy knight of the church, don’t you have any shame? Tormenting a weak and kind-hearted girl like this!”
“Go back to the church!”
“We’ll give ya less tithe!”
A storm of criticism arose from the crowd.
“Yer standing there so calmly after makin’ Nephie-chan look like that!”
“That ain’t something people do!”
The girl rapidly paled and shrank to the floor under the angry roar that was essentially that of a mob. The commotion was getting larger on its own, but the holy knight girl hadn’t really done anything to Nephie. A soft voice of mediation came forth.
“Umm… please wait, everyone.”
“It’s okay, Nephie-chan, we’ll protect you.”
Nephie returned a dead-eyed gaze to Manuela’s resolute smile, and spoke.
“…No… this person, hasn’t done anything to me…”
Suddenly, the area fell silent.
“I said I wasn’t…” It seemed the knight girl had already burst into tears, seeing her tears and snot was a sorry sight. “Hich, I just… ech, saw a girl that looked hurt, guh, and was worried…”
It seemed that she really had just called out to Nephie because she looked like something awful had happened. Thinking that it might have been her fault she was driven away, she felt somewhat apologetic.
“Ehh…” Manuela had a bluntly troubled face. “Then why was Nephie-chan making that face? It didn’t look like something little.”
Lost for an answer, the holy knight gave no acknowledgement of her disgraceful behaviour, and burst into tears. Nephie stood, and bowed her head.
“I apologise for causing a nuisance… I also apologise for that knight. Well then, I shall take-”
As she went to stand, Manuela frantically stopped her.
“There’s no way we could just leave you be like this, is there?”
Nephie’s gaze found the crying holy knight. If she couldn’t leave someone alone, Nephie would have expected it to be the knight. Manuela was lost for words too, but with a cry of exasperation, patted her red hair.
“Both of you come with me!”
And thus, the strange trio of a mage’s student, a holy knight, and a shop assistant hurriedly left the area.
“…I’m sorry for showing such unsightly behaviour.”
The holy knight had finally stopped crying, and spoke with a still-red nose. Looking at her once again, she seemed to be about the same age as Nephie. The three had entered a bar, but there was an unavoidable gloom about them. Even though the bar wasn’t that large, the customers moved towards the walls. Nephie felt like she would have liked to have mingled with them, and become a decoration on the wall, but she was part of the cause.
Even if the holy knight had once hurt Zagan, because Manuela had gone to protect Nephie, she was involved in this. Nephie wasn’t so lacking in feelings to abandon her and escape.
Though that said, she had no idea what kind of expression she should have now, so she could only remain there, silent and expressionless.
Manuela spoke with a forcibly bright voice.
“There’s a lot of my acquaintances here, so, for now, you’re safe. There’re rooms upstairs too…”
It seemed that she had inferred from Nephie’s current state and Zagan’s absence that she wouldn’t be returning home today. Gradually, Nephie, brought to the bar by Manuela, shook her head.
“I don’t currently… have any money.”
She had really come out with only the clothes on her back. She only had a note of the recipe for that night’s dinner in her pocket, and had nothing else with her. Seeing that scrap of paper, Manuela’s expression clouded too.
“Ah geez, tonight is my treat, so just sit down! You haven’t eaten yet, have you?”
She had no intention of replying, but the holy knight’s stomach let out a grumble from where she was standing next to Nephie. Manuela turned cold eyes on her.
Nephie, a mage’s student, and the girl, a holy knight were enemies… or so they should have been, yet for some reason, Nephie couldn’t feel an ounce of hostility from the unreliable girl. Manuela had Nephie sit, and then started ordering this and that… though the majority seemed to be alcohol. As they waited for their food, the holy knight opened her mouth.
“That’s right, I haven’t given you my name yet, I’m Chastel. As you can see, I work as a holy knight.”
“…I’m Manuela. You’re paying for your own, alright?”
“Why are you so cold to me!”
“Well, I don’t know if you really didn’t torment Nephie, do I?”
She had attacked the castle, the holy knight’s — Chastel’s body stiffened suddenly.
“See! You did do something, didn’t you?”
“B-but, that was my duty, so…”
“Huh? So you can harm people if it’s your duty?”
At any rate, it seemed that the town didn’t think well of holy knights. Then again, Kianoides was a mage’s territory, so that would have an influence on the inhabitants’ thinking. Nephie spoke to Chastel, who once again seemed on the verge of tears.
“No, it’s okay. You didn’t end up doing anything then.”
“Wounding master was a separate matter, and you made up for that.”
Perhaps remembering that ‘sorcery’, Chastel began to shiver.
“Then, what did she do?”
“I don’t really know. But she helped the others in their wish to retreat.”
“Ahh, like a bag carrier?”
“That’s not it!” Chastel exclaimed, hitting the table. “I’m the Maiden of the Holy Sword, you know? So one of only twelve captains of the holy knights? What’s with that phrasing!?”
“But, did I say anything incorrect?”
Chastel once again seemed to have been talked down.
Is she… faint of heart…?
As they talked like this, a bowl of soup was finally placed before Nephie.
“Um… I can’t accept this.”
“You’re going to sit there and not eat, even though I’m drinking? Then not even I will be able to enjoy getting drunk.”
She didn’t really get the logic, but Nephie nodded her head, overwhelmed.
Why is she being so kind to me…?
She took the spoon in her hand, and put the collar fragment she had been carrying so carefully onto the table.
“Your collar broke?”
“No… master removed it.”
Chastel looked steadily at Nephie’s face.
“You don’t seem awfully happy for th- ow!”
“…Read the mood a little, would you.”
Manuela had apparently kicked her. Her legs should have been protected by the armour, but it seemed to have been an attack aimed at a gap in that armour, and Chastel teared up.
Lost for a reply, Nephie gripped the spoon.
“…Thank you for the food.”
When she brought the spoon to her mouth, it was a somewhat nostalgic flavour. No, not nostalgic, it was the same flavour as the soup she had made for that night.
Something hot ran along her cheek.
It was a tear. She hadn’t been feeling even sadness, yet when the warm soup entered her mouth, she couldn’t stop the welling tears. Chastel nervously cried out.
“A-are you okay? Did I say something I shouldn’t have again?”
She couldn’t bear it, and let loose a sob.
Why, why… master…?
Manuela embraced Nephie in her large wings, as though she understood everything.
“Ahh, geez… you two can cry on your big sister as much as you need.”
“T-that’s not why I’m crying, you know?”
The world might be a kinder place than Nephie thought.
After a spell of tears, Nephie haltingly spoke of what had happened at the castle. Manuela listened silently, with a tankard of ale in one hand, and by the time Nephie had finished, there were five empty tankards lined up beside her. Chastel listened with her face showing her suspense. Even though she was a holy knight, she might not be a bad person.
Once she was done, Manuela roughly put her tankard on the table, with a flushed face.
“And then, he drove you out without you understanding why?”
Nephie gave a small nod.
“Perhaps I failed at something?”
It was too sudden, she couldn’t think of anything. Chastel nodded in resentment.
“And I thought he was worthy of note, what a guy. It’s like he just used you.”
“Master isn’t that kind of person.”
Chastel faltered at that instant reply.
“I-I know that much, but that’s exactly why I don’t get…”
“Do you know anything of master?”
“Hee, you don’t need to be that angry…”
“I’m not angry.”
She was tired from crying, and Nephie was normally expressionless. Chastel shuddered. Manuela got between them and calmed things down.
“Now now, it’s because you spoke ill of her beloved master.”
“I didn’t speak ill of him!”
Nephie looked at the two arguing, and Manuela returned the gaze.
“Then, what will you do from now, Nephie?”
“What… shall I do…?”
It was unavoidable, she was lost there. Chastel cleared her throat.
“Why don’t we holy knights protect you? Protecting victims of mages is also one of our duties.”
“Huh? If she goes with you, she’ll obviously be under the Inquisition, right? Do you really just want to torment Nephie?”
“I don’t! But she was just a servant, if we call her a victim, even the church would have to protect her…”
“And if she weren’t she’d be sent to trial. We can’t send her somewhere it would all be over if she were discovered, can we?”
“Then what do we do…?”
Nephie shook her head at Chastel, who had pursed her lips.
“I appreciate your feelings, but that would paint master as a villain. I cannot do that.”
Chastel’s shoulders dropped, and then, reluctantly, opened her mouth.
“There’s… something I’d like to ask you. Do you think the mage known as Zagan has ever been accompanied by several other mages, and performed kidnappings or sacrificial rituals?”
“I don’t think he has.” It was perhaps prejudice against mages, but Nephie could reply immediately. That kind of person, even if they held feelings towards Nephie, would have repeated the same thing. They wouldn’t have wanted her to have a personality. “Master cannot help but hold an uncanny amount of concern towards the weak. Even when he saved a carriage from bandits, he said he couldn’t stand the bandits.”
Though she thought that might have just been to put her at ease. When Nephie had paled, he had attacked the bandits.
“Those kind of people are trash.”
He had said that, and not sought recompense from anyone, or even praise from Nephie. Chastel gave a nod as she groaned.
“So I was right…”
“Right, about what?”
“Ah, I just thought it was just like you said. Even when we crossed swords, he went easy on me because I’m a woman. It’s shameful, but, um, how do I put it…?”
Manuela, who had just emptied another tankard, leered at Chastel as she started to mumble.
“My, my? What’s that face, miss holy knight? A maiden in loooove?”
“W-wha- Don’t be so rude!”
Chastel yelled, and then her shoulders drooped. And then, she murmured.
“The first time I met him… he looked like he needed help.”
At those words, Nephie’s heart pounded.
“Sometimes, master looks awfully lonely.”
It was particularly when he spoke of the path that he would have such an expression. She didn’t know where else Zagan and Chastel had met, but she felt a slight jealousy that someone other than her knew those expressions of his, but at the same time, she was a little glad.
I’m sure… the master I knew, wasn’t a lie.
The night they had met, she had been able to once more see the moon, that she thought she would never see again, and had been unable to bear it, and reached her hand towards it. Next to her, Zagan had gazed at the moon with her.
“I didn’t catch anything.” He had murmured, troubled.
That couldn’t have been fake. And then, she thought this.
Does master not need help even now…?
His face when he told her to leave was more heartbroken than Nephie.
She put her hand to her chest.
Perhaps it was because Manuela and Chastel had listened to her, but she had been able to regain her calm enough to remember Zagan properly. Was the master she knew someone who would abandon her just because of his whims or because she had fulfilled her purpose?
There must have been some kind of circumstances around it. Thinking like that, she remembered Zagan saying a word that was on his mind.
“Umm, what kind of thing is a ‘Demon Lord’, do you know?”
Even when she was explaining the particulars of what had happened, Nephie had forgotten to say that phrase. Manuela and Chastel looked at each other.
“They’re the best among mages, aren’t they? The Demon Lord Marchosias was this town’s boss, but the public order was good, and he didn’t really seem that scary, you know?” And she then continued, “Apparently, that Demon Lord died recently, and then there’s been some awful things happening.”
“…The kidnappings by mages?”
“Yeah, that. Though it seems the culprit was subjugated by the church.”
Manuela nodded at Chastel’s question. Nephie hadn’t heard the specifics, but even she had heard the rumours. It sounded like it had been the holy knights that had solved that incident, and hearing that, Nephie tilted her head.
“The townspeople don’t seem to think too kindly of you for that…”
“And then afterwards they asked for a crazy amount of money for it. ‘Course we can’t honestly thank them for that.”
“They levied it, even though it’s a donation?”
“Tha- I don’t get it.”
Chastel slumped in sadness at the steady glare.
“Um, they didn’t directly collect it, did they? Then I don’t think blaming her will help.”
Chastel once more looked at Nephie through tears.
“You’re so kind, I can understand why he had you by his side.”
It was the first time something like that had been said to Nephie, and she blinked blankly. Then, Chastel shook her head.
“We’re drifting off the point. Demon Lords are things the church speak of as symbols of evil, that must be defeated. There are thirteen Demon Lords and only twelve holy swords, even if all of us clashed, we would be one short.”
The church’s greatest enemies — it seemed that Zagan had become that kind of existence.
“Would becoming a Demon Lord mean you had to fight with the church?”
“I guess so. Currently, with one of the Demon Lords dead, the church… it’s not like I personally think this you know? Anyway, the church’s fervour towards defeating mages has increased.” At Manuela’s glare, Chastel hurriedly rephrased herself. “If a new Demon Lord were born, the church would judge that it was a good opportunity to defeat them. I couldn’t even imagine just how terrifying a mage they could become if not taken down. Or there might even be mages after their position.”
Zagan had said that he had become one of those Demon Lords.
It would… develop into a conflict?
That was probably why he had tried to keep Nephie away. She gazed at the palm of her hand. In the past week, Zagan had taught her the basics of magic. So that she would have magic to protect herself, and to one day be able to control her ‘sorcery’.
But that was wrong.
I wanted to be of use to master, and I learnt magic.
Even if she returned, she might be nothing more than a hindrance. But even so—
“I’m… returning to master.”
“A-are you sure? Weren’t you sent away?”
Nephie shook her head at Manuela and Chastel’s expressions of surprise.
“Master is strong, I’m sure he’s already strong enough he wouldn’t lose to anyone. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be hurt.”
“That the strong could not understand the weak’s feelings.”
It was a phrase Zagan had said frankly. He certainly hadn’t said he was hurt. But even so, he had looked awfully sad. Just that wouldn’t lead him to despair about people, even so, she wondered if that had been when he gave up on connecting with people. Seeing him like that, Nephie had wanted to embrace him
“I may not be able to help master. But I’m sure he won’t always remain unhurt.” So, Nephie spoke.
“I want to be master’s support.”
It might be conceited, she might be sent away again, even if she returned. But regardless, Nephie thought that she, who had wanted to embrace Zagan then, would be accepted by him.
That’s why, I want to be by his side like that.
It may have only been half a month, but she wanted to trust in the memories she had with Zagan. No man was an island, and even Nephie was the same.
“I see. Then, I’ll do what I can too.”
“Do you… intend to challenge master once more?”
“That’s not it!”, shouted Chastel, as her face went bright red. “That’s not it… I can’t plead his case, but I think I can erase the stain on his honour.”
“On his honour…?”
Chastel nodded at Nephie’s question.
“It seems a mage used Zagan’s name and committed crimes.”
Nephie didn’t know that that was the one who committed the kidnappings.
Chastel then spoke secretively.
“It might have been to frame him, so I’ll try and capture those mages.”
“Aren’t holy knights and mages opposed?”
“Well, they are, but…” Chastel murmured uncomfortably, “Isn’t not being able to repay your life being saved twice awful?”
It seemed that she was considerate in her own way.
Manuela was gazing at them with a smile.
“Now then, seeing as you two are back on your feet, let’s call it a night. Ah, the bill’s on this knight if you would!”
“Wha- I didn’t even order anything!”
Seeing Chastel’s disturbance, put Nephie at ease for some reason.
What is this feeling?
Manuela wrapped an arm around a confused Nephie.
“Well, if anything ever happens again, come to me. I’ll even listen to your grumbling. Though I’ll have you dress up in the store’s products, ahaha.”
Nephie blankly tilted her head.
“Manuela-san, why are you so kind to me?”
It was a different feeling than Zagan’s kindness. Manuela’s eyes widened as if she didn’t understand it either.
“Well, we’re friends aren’t we?”
“Eh, we’re not?”
“…I don’t know… no one has said anything like that to me before.”
Zagan’s relationship with the mage that had visited him — Barbarus she thought his name was — suddenly came to mind. Zagan bad-mouthed him, but it was with an odd easy feeling, and she was honestly slightly jealous. Surely, that was the kind of relationship friends had.
Manuela was taken aback for an instant, but soon smiled.
“Then I’m your first friend, right? Let’s get along!”
“Uwah, you’re bright red, are you okay?”
Then, Chastel timidly raised a hand.
“Um, can you think of me like that too?”
“Uuhhhh, can you think of me like a friend!?”
“Eehhh? You’re a holy knight, right? Can you be friends with a mage?”
Manuela covered a tearful Chastel with her prized wings and began stroking through the knight’s red hair as if there was no helping it.
“If we weren’t friends, I couldn’t tease you like this, could I?”
“…Teasing is friendship?”
Even though she seemed awfully dissatisfied, Chastel let out a sigh of relief.
They then left the bar and went to split up.
A rough voice came from across the street. Looking in that direction, three men dressed in holy knight’s armour were running towards them. Nephie remembered their somewhat uneven shapes, and narrowed her eyes.
“Hee, Y-you’re from back then!”
The lanky man amongst them shot up, perhaps feeling the glare. And then, Nephie remembered.
“The one that injured master then…?”
“Eh, what? They hurt your master too? So they’re members of the church…”
“Why do you view the church as so hostile!?”
The knights readied their weapons and Chastel forced her way in between them to arbitrate. And then.
“Heeheehee, friendship is such a wonderful thing.”
An unpleasant voice came from right behind them. And then immediately, a marsh-like darkness spread out beneath their feet.
Without the time to realise what was happening, Nephie was swallowed up to her waist by the darkness.
Chastel was stopped by the black, mud-like substance as well. It pinned her arms, and she was dragged into the darkness, not even able to draw her sword.
The knights ran, but they would never make it in time. And even so, Chastel was a knight.
“Ru…n… Manuela.” Even as she was being swallowed by the mud, she pushed Manuela, the furthest from it, away. The winged woman spread her wings and escaped into the sky. Even so, a tendril of the mud-like thing followed her as she frantically rose to escape. “Kuh, protect the townspeople!”
Finally, the approaching knights mowed down the tendril with their blades.
“Tch, one escaped. Well, whatever — I am known as Zagan! If you wish to save these people, come to my castle.”
The owner of the darkness said in a voice which both resembled and did not resemble Zagan’s. Nephie had heard that voice before.
“Why… would you…”
A familiar face floated in the darkness.
It was several hours later. The moon floated in the sky above the ruined castle. Zagan was looking up at the night sky at the castle’s entrance.
The night he had first met Nephie, she had stretched her arms towards the moon. He had wondered what the meaning behind it was, and now, there was no way to find out. Zagan once again reached out to the moon, but of course, couldn’t catch anything.
No, maybe I caught it back then.
The girl that had first stolen his heart, was beside him then.
“To think this was such a quiet place alone.”
It was too quiet, so much that his ears hurt. Nephie wasn’t a girl that spoke a lot, but the sounds of her bustling about doing the cleaning, or preparing dinner had certainly livened the place up. Zagan was standing stock still, in that deserted forest. From underfoot, a groan resounded.
“Guoh, impossible… We three Knights of the Azure Sky, even together, couldn’t even scratch…”
The three idiots… no, the three knights, that had intruded a while ago had come to attack, seething with anger for some reason, so, for now, he’d gone to face them.
Did they already hear about me becoming a Demon Lord?
He felt it was too quick, but it didn’t matter anymore. Nephie wasn’t here. He’d never forget her face when he told her to get out.
It was hurt.
Of course it was, solitude was painful. It hurt as much as Nephie telling Zagan that she hated him would. Even though they were opening their hearts, and showing their feelings. Being thrust away by someone that was accepting you like that was much worse than any wound.
But I’m sure the townspeople will do good by her.
He knew that the townspeople of Kianoides had happily accepted her when she went shopping. They should even distract the church. In the first place, they had only been connected for a mere half a month. Once the heat died down, there shouldn’t be anyone that would look for the connection.
Unrelated to mages and the church, she should be able to live in a peaceful warmth.
That was fine. Everything worked out. Everything had returned to how it was before they met. And then, Zagan went to return to the castle.
One of the knights on the floor, their baptised armour broken, their famed longsword smashed, reached out and grabbed Zagan’s leg. He let out a tired sigh.
“I’m in a bad mood right now. Do you think I’ll go easy on you like I did before.”
The reason they were on the floor and still alive was that they had been defeated by traps that Zagan had already made, when he was going easy on intruders.
That’s right, Nephie made this trap.
As one of their experiments to control her ‘sorcery’, they had used it to create a sorcery that would be enacted when a fixed condition was met. These knights were more or less powerful enough to intrude up to the castle itself, because they had been brought down this easily, they could probably call this experiment a success. Though he now had no way to tell Nephie that. As Zagan went to kick his hand off, the knight pleaded in a voice that made him seem to be about to cough up blood.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to us! But, at least… at least save Lady Chastel.”
That was a point, that holy sword wielder was nowhere to be seen. He’d thought that these knights had ran ahead, but…
“She… searched for the true culprit of those kidnappings, so much so that she fought with the Cardinal that you were not the culprit. If you are not, then you shouldn’t be able to overlook that, right?”
“…I don’t quite follow?” He knew that he had been made out to be the perpetrator of the kidnappings in Kianoides, and most likely this culprit too. But he didn’t think it was likely the knights would just say so on a mere assumption. “Has she been kidnapped?”
“Don’t play dumb! You were the one that swallowed lady Chastel in shadow and said to come here, weren’t you!?”
He was right on the mark, they had attacked thinking that he had kidnapped Chastel. They had been taken in by some kind of deception, but Zagan had fought with Chastel, and gone easy on her, then now wanted to fight on even footing. That was an awfully credible line of thought.
Or perhaps he had wanted to provoke these guys?
If he had killed Chastel then, after killing a holy knight captain, the church would have put all the more effort into his subjugation. Even if he’d let her live and leave, kidnapping her like this did hold a basis. That attack itself might have been devised for exactly that reasoning.
“It’s awfully well prepared in that case.”
And then he thought.
I see, she was kidnapped.
The holy knights were trying to risk themselves to help her. It seemed that they had a lot of worries, and he couldn’t actually hate them.
“Give back lady Chast-”
He didn’t even feel like pointlessly criticising them. Letting someone die might leave a bad aftertaste, but when he was asked for help, he wanted to help, that was the contradictory personality that Zagan had. He might not be evil, but he certainly wasn’t good either. It was just as he was worrying what to do.
A voice came from the sky. With the holy knights having invaded this far, the bounded fields up to this point were meaningless.
“What is it this time?”
He asked, as he took a step back. Immediately, a woman fell from the sky.
The woman had landed on the holy knight’s head. Zagan frowned as he saw her.
The woman that fell from the sky was a winged woman with golden hair. He remembered her, the saleswoman from when they bought Nephie’s clothes. The knight that had been landed on cursed.
“Damn you, bird woman, why are you interfering!?”
“We said he wasn’t the one to blame, didn’t we?”
“What are you saying! You came here too did you not!?”
“It was to look for help! Yet you’re attacking him!?”
Zagan let out a sigh at the woman and knights who seemed to be having some kind of argument.
This is annoying, I guess I’ll just kick them out.
As Zagan went to use a magic circle, the woman clung to him.
“Mr mage, help. They… Nephie and Chastel were kidnapped!”
He didn’t know why Nephie’s name had come up there, but Zagan groaned. The knights on the floor had spoken of a kidnapping, that the spate of them in Kianoides hadn’t ended. Nephie had probably been caught up in that.
No, that’s not it.
If Zagan was right about the culprit, this was to provoke him. She had been targeted because she was his attendant and student.
So keeping her at a distance made me too slow?
As he groaned, Manuela shook his shoulders.
“Please, you can save them, right?”
If Zagan were to publicly help her, then she would definitely be known as one of his followers. She would be completely thought of as one of his allies, and be unable to escape from the church. Of course, he had no intention to abandon her, but he had to find some way to hide his involvement. He couldn’t just race off now.
Manuela shouted at his conflict.
“What are you worrying about! She’ll come back to you no matter what you do, right!?”
Manuela pleaded tearfully to a wide-eyed Zagan.
“I heard you sent her away, even so, she said she wanted to be with you, to support you, so no matter how many times you push her away, she’ll come back.”
Manuela clutched at his chest.
“You mages don’t feel nothing when you’re seen like that, do you? If you did, why were you kind to her!?”
She beat at his chest. She wasn’t a holy knight, nor a mage, just a normal woman. And yet, it hurt, it hurt more than any attack he’d taken until now.
Nephie tried to return. To me, even though I said such awful things to her…
He didn’t wonder why. He had watched over her for this half a month. He knew full well why she had done so, even without seeing her emotive ears. She had feelings for him. For Zagan, as villainous as he was. If she was to have feelings for someone, he’d have wanted them to be a more upright person. He was already past the point of no return. Zagan heaved a deep sigh.
“…You’re right, you’re completely right.” Zagan laughed. “Mages are complete scum, they only think of themselves, and think of others as mere tools, and take the life from all around them as they please.”
“W-what are you…”
“How on earth did I come to sympathise with others when I’m like that?”
It may have been a momentary delusion, but it was a completely foolish thought.
That’s right, mages only need to think to their own benefit.
There was no need to have such painful thoughts. They could just do as they pleased. Just as he had done, unhesitatingly, before he met her. Just as he had gotten rid of the torture implements and bandits because she was afraid. Just like he had protected her from that spear from the holy knight without thinking. Zagan spoke to the bewildered, winged woman.
“I give you my thanks. My mind is clear now.”
What he should do was obvious from the start, so Zagan stepped forward.
“Nephie is mine. Any moron that lays a hand on her must be slaughtered.”
His hands would be stained, but he knew magicians were a corrupt existence. Even if all the authority and mana of the Demon Lords was brought to bear, he just needed to protect Nephie from all of it.
And yet I was seized with fear.
He had lost his vigour, when faced with the twelve Demon Lords, overwhelmingly above him. So he’d capitulated, and hurt Nephie.
Can I still undo it?
He didn’t know. But there was only one thing he needed to do now. He then remembered the dumbfounded knights.
I guess I’ll save Chastel while I’m at it.
If she was taken with Nephie, he’d come across her anyway. As his foot hit the floor, a huge magic circle spread out from it. The transfer magic circle that he had used to remove Chastel from his territory at some point. This time, it was connected to a certain mage’s base.
The culprit is obvious.
Then, he looked to the winged woman.
“You were angry for Nephie, why?”
“Well, because we’re friends, obviously…”
Manuela answered timidly, and Zagan offered a hand to her.
“Then, will you come with me? To save Nephie.”
At his feet, the knights groaned out.
“W-wait, take us…”
They were already so beaten that they couldn’t stand, but the knights clung to Zagan’s legs as they spoke.
“…Yeah, I get it. I’ll take you, so get your filthy hands off me.”
And thus, the strange combination of a mage, holy knights, and a saleswoman disappeared into the magic circle.
“Nephie, are you hurt?”
When she awakened, she was in a gloomy cell. It had probably been remodelled from a cave or something, all of the walls were made of rock, and there was pointed stone hanging from the ceiling, stalactites. Judging by the lack of stalagmites on the floor, the floor had been flattened. There were no bars, but in their place, chains hung from the walls.
Looking towards the light, the cavern was huge. It was a magic circle that was giving off the light, but it was unusually large. Nephie could only see a part of it from her location, but she thought it might be even larger than one of the halls in Zagan’s castle.
A chain clinked, Nephie once more had a collar around her neck, and her limbs were shackled, she knew that they each had the power to suppress magic as well. Chastel was bound next to her, but she had been stripped of her sword and armour. She looked so normal in her skirt and shirt that you wouldn’t believe she was a holy knight. The pair’s chains were connected to the wall, and even if they pulled with all their might, didn’t seem like they would come away.
Before, Nephie would have probably given up on everything again, she’d have been killed either way after all. But it was different now.
I decided… I would return to master.
She had to escape from here. However, with the collar and shackles, she couldn’t use magic, and ‘sorcery’ was not enough. Sorcery was not the limitless power that mages thought of it as.
After a bought of squirming, Nephie looked around her.
“I don’t know, but I think it’s the hideout of the one that captured us.”
Then, footsteps approached. Chastel stood as if to protect Nephie, but she was chained to the wall too, so just showed her defencelessness. The face that appeared, was of course, one that Nephie knew.
“Weren’t you master’s friend, Barbarus-sama?”
It was the mage that had visited as Zagan’s friend. She couldn’t say they had a good relationship, but they seemed close. A smile appeared on his thin face.
“Friends! My, what a surprise. I didn’t think there was anyone that thought that kind of thing when they saw mages.” Laughing, Barbarus gripped her cheek. “One of the mages he killed was Andras of Resentment. He was the first mage that Zagan killed. I was his student.” Nephie’s eyes opened wide. “Oh, don’t get me wrong. Getting revenge for their teacher isn’t what mages do. Even if Zagan hadn’t killed him, I would have eventually.” There was no resentment of deceit in his words, it was probably his true feelings, not a bluff. “But that castle he lords over, the money he used to buy you, and even that knowledge should have been mine. There’s no way I could live with him cheating his way to it, is there?”
Now, he looked at Chastel.
“I tried to stir up the church first, but it didn’t go too well. My subordinates were too easily tracked, and the lot I sent against Zagan were easily repelled. I’d hoped that with a holy sword, you could have at least taken one of his arms.”
Nephie understood. It was soon after the attack that Barbarus had visited, and he was curious about Zagan’s wounds. Without Nephie’s ‘sorcery’, he probably would have been stuck fighting him single-handed. Chastel glared fiercely at him.
“Are you the one behind the kidnappings!?”
“What, you only just realised?”
She remembered Zagan stating that the kidnapping was ‘like they were showing it to the church’.
Could master already know who is behind it?
He hadn’t given a name, but he had a rather defeated expression when he was talking about it.
Chastel yelled in a shaking voice.
“You did such a horrific thing just to frame Zagan!?”
“Of course not?” Barbarus smiled unpleasantly. “It was Face Skinner that brought up sacrifices, but we had to demonstrate a big ritual.”
“Demonstrate… to who?”
“Isn’t that obvious? The twelve Demon Lords!” Barbarus spread his arms wide. “I‘ll show them that I am worthy of becoming the next Demon Lord, and the only way to do so, is to defeat the other candidates.”
Then, he approached Nephie’s face.
“Honestly, I was worried about how to get the sacrifices, but then I got you. With a white-haired elf, I can open the ‘Door’.”
Nephie gazed back at him, expressionless.
“I apologise, but that is most likely pointless.”
“Heeh, you don’t say? Do you think I won’t kill you? Or possibly, do you think Zagan will come to save you?”
“Zagan will come to save you?”
At those words, her chest ached.
Would… master come for me?
In the first place, Zagan didn’t even know that she had been captured, and for some reason, he was distancing himself from her. From the bottom of her heart, she felt that he wouldn’t just abandon her, that kind of person wouldn’t look so pained. Even so, there might be a reason he wouldn’t save her. Nephie shook her head.
That’s not it.
She once more thought she was weak.
I wanted to help master, yet I’m just pulling him down.
She wouldn’t be able to return to him if she couldn’t do something about this level of a problem. With her expression still unchanging, she looked at Barbarus.
“No, I have no intention to cause problems for master with this. That’s not what I’m saying.”
“Ohh, then what?”
“It’s pointless because master inherited that position of Demon Lord.”
The expression slipped from Barbarus’ face.
“It is the truth. That is why I was dismissed.”
Barbarus staggered back.
“Impossible. Him, a Demon Lord!?” He scratched his hand through his hair. “He wasn’t content with just stealing Andras’ legacy from me, but the Demon Lord’s throne as well!?”
Then, he looked at Nephie with a somewhat ill gaze.
A shiver wracked her body and she was yanked by the collar around her neck.
Her hands and feet were shackled, so Nephie sprawled onto the ground without even being able to brace herself.
“Come!” Barbarus was heading towards the wide open space. “He’s a Demon Lord? That’s just fine, I’ll just take it by brute force. If I can complete this, it won’t matter if he’s a Demon Lord or not.”
There was an ominous magic circle drawn out there. The huge circle that she could even see when bound to the wall. There was a gigantic symbol engraved in the centre, surrounded by dozens of layers of ‘circuits’ drawn in minuscule symbols. Nephie knew that the entire circle was drawn in blood. Just how many sacrifices had been needed to draw out such a complex magic circle?
She knew that she was to be the ‘finishing touch’.
Chastel shouted angrily.
“S-stop it! Use me as the sacrifice, I have that much resolve as a knight!”
Barbarus gave a suspicious looking glare.
“Even if you didn’t demand it, I’ll find something else to use you for, so don’t you worry. This ritual needs the best tools.”
Nephie ground her teeth.
That was exactly it. That was what Nephie had been called for her entire life.
But master never once called me a tool.
She hadn’t repaid that yet. So she couldn’t die without meaning here.
I want to live.
For the first time, Nephie wished for that for herself.
“…I will live… and return… to my master.”
She might be turned away, she might be scolded. But even so, she would stubbornly stay in the castle. She would make breakfast in the morning, and wait patiently until Zagan ate it. If she cooking all three meals wasn’t enough, she’d give him another lap pillow. She’d do everything to make Zagan happy.
If it’s a test of endurance, I won’t lose, even to master.
She had withstood days of persecution, like a corpse. Compared to back then, when there wasn’t even a hint of warmth, she’d withstand being in the warmth of Zagan.
Nephie might not be necessary, the day might come where he had someone other than Nephie that he treasured.
But you won’t be alone, master.
Solitude killed the heart, took all feelings, and made the world seem like ash. That couldn’t be called living. The one who had given colour to the world again for Nephie, who was just surviving, was none other than Zagan. So she wanted to be at his side, supporting him, until the day came that his solitude was gone. She twisted and resisted.
“…Let… me go.”
“Tch, you little!”
Barbarus pulled irritatedly on the chain, and she fell once more. She was pulled along the ground, and blood spilt from her arms and legs. She welled up with tears of pain, but Nephie grit her teeth and glared at Barbarus.
This isn’t even slightly painful.
It was nothing compared to being told to get out by Zagan. Compared to his sad expression then, it didn’t even hurt.
So Nephie yelled.
“I am my master’s, I don’t want to be touched by the likes of you!”
Barbarus’ face warped in pleasure.
“Slaves, should know their place!”
Barbarus raised his hand. If she was beaten by magic, Nephie’s delicate body wouldn’t offer the slightest resistance. Yet, even so, her eyes didn’t leave his. And then it happened. With a thunderous roar, the stone wall was pulverised.
“W-what on earth!?”
A man slowly appeared from the dust clouds, in front of a flustered Barbarus. A voice came from him with an appreciative sound.
“Well said, Nephie. That’s exactly why you’re my student.”
Her master, the one she wanted to see more than anyone, was standing there.
“Yo, Barbarus, it’s been about a week, right?”
Zagan spoke friendlily, just like always. Barbarus’ face stiffened instantly. After Manuela had arrived, Zagan had come straight here. He knew all of Barbarus’ safe houses, and then restricted them to the ones he could escape to from Kianoides. There were several candidates, but he’d intended to go through all of them, it was his good luck that he found Nephie in the first one he checked.
“U-umm, Mr mage, are you okay? I heard that it was a stupidly bad idea to invade another mage’s territory.”
Manuela timidly opened her mouth from behind Zagan, but he just shrugged his shoulders. Incidentally, the three knights were in no fit state to fight, so he had left them outside. As if that had given him some of his calm back, Barbarus focused on Zagan.
“…When… did you realise?”
Barbarus had probably resolved not to ask anything like ‘why are you here’. Zagan scratched the back of his neck and answered.
“It was more or less because I thought Face Skinner showing up was strange I guess?”
That was the mage that had attacked Chastel.
That reminds me, is she around here too?
He looked around for her and found her bound to the wall… He pitied her a little, because she was a holy knight always losing to mages. That aside, he returned his gaze to Barbarus.
“When I went to go send her outside, you came along as if to check the bounded fields. It’d be bizarre not to doubt that, wouldn’t it?
He was sure when they talked about the Demon Lords, but he’d had doubts for a long time. He just hadn’t put it into words because he didn’t care. It wasn’t that Barbarus didn’t feel friendship, but that had nothing to do with not betraying Zagan. Barbarus had an expression of surprise.
“But you still accepted the invitation to the auction?”
“I was curious what you were planning. Plus, I was interested in the Demon Lord’s legacy anyway.”
Looking at the results, it was because of him that Zagan had met Nephie, so from that point of view, he was grateful even now.
Zagan gave a tight smile and said. “Before that.” And then continued.
“You hurt Nephie, didn’t you?”
The ground broke. Zagan’s simple step forwards broke the bedrock.
By the time Barbarus had put himself on guard, Zagan was standing right in front of him.
“First, an arm.”
Zagan swung Barbarus’ arm, that he had raised, perhaps to cast some kind of magic. With an unpleasant wrenching noise, it bent in the wrong direction.
“Next, a leg.”
This time, he mercilessly swept at Barbarus’ knee as he let out a strangled cry. No, it wasn’t quite right to call it a sweep. He had kicked diagonally down into his knee, and that single attack had pulverised the joint.
Barbarus swooned, foaming at the mouth. It was a scant few seconds since Zagan had stepped forward. With a backwards glance at his buddy, who had fallen on the floor like a caterpillar, his limbs shattered, Zagan fell to his knees in front of Nephie. He tore off the cuffs with brute strength, and next went to remove the collar. This collar was different than her previous one, it was nothing special and he could just rip it off. Confirming that there was nothing restraining her anymore, Zagan finally looked at her face. Her snow white hair was dirtied, and her eyes swam with tears.
“Ahh… Did it… hurt?”
“I guess so… Sorry.”
She gently hit his chest.
“It seemed you… were hurt more than me, master.”
Tears spilt from her eyes.
“I didn’t know if anything happened to you, and if you said I wasn’t necessary, I thought I should accept that. But…”
Nephie tightly gripped at his chest.
“I couldn’t stay calm when you were hurting, master!”
It was the first time he had heard Nephie shout so loudly.
“I looked like I was hurt?”
“If I had to say, I was the one doing the hurting, but…”
“That’s a separate thing than if I was hurt by you.”
“…So you were… hurt?”
“Don’t change the subject please.”
Nephie was rather relentless today. Not letting go of him, Nephie looked up at his face.
“Don’t leave yourself alone, master.”
Slowly, a warmth filled his chest.
I left you alone though?
And yet, rather than resent him, she said that. The feelings of wanting to hug her back, seemed too good for him now.
There was something he had to tell her more than anything, and it was when he opened his mouth to put it into words that it happened.
“You bastard, you think you’ve won without finishing it!?”
Barbarus stood, he had probably healed his limbs. At his feet, a blood red magic circle spread out.
Nephie screamed, but Zagan calmly stroked her head.
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen.”
Just like Zagan had said, the magic circle did nothing. It wasn’t that Barbarus’ magic hadn’t activated, but nothing happened despite that.
Zagan spoke to Nephie, who had a puzzled expression.
“Before, we talked about a theoretically strongest mage, right?” Adding circuits to the inside of a magic circle would break the laws of magic. It existed in theory, but it was just academic gossip, impossible to enact. “There’s actually some kind of trick that makes it possible.” He ran his finger through the air, drawing the same circle that was at their feet. “If it’s the exact same circle as someone else, you can add to it from the inside. If you do that, something like resonance occurs to the magic.”
The first time he used magic was when he was eight-years-old. At the time, the vagrant Zagan had been captured as a sacrifice by Resentment Andras. Zagan had already known what it would mean to be captured by a mage when he didn’t even know his own identity. So he remembered the magic circle when he was captured, and stealthily drawn it on his arm. Because he had nothing to draw with, he had used his own blood. Thinking back on it, it was a child’s shallow wit. An amateur imitating the form shouldn’t have been able to use magic.
And yet, Zagan’s magic had worked. He had ran, and was found by Andras, who tried to kill him. Against the oncoming lightning, Zagan had used the same magic. It was probably a coincidence. Using the same magic with only a slight delay had made the resonating magic rebound on Andras.
It wasn’t as simple as it sounded. Simply using the same magic would cause them both to go off and rebound, and in the first place, you wouldn’t activate it in time. Being able to use the same magic in a fraction of a second was a miracle. Zagan had killed Andras like that. That was Zagan’s unique magic — the power that the twelve Demon Lords chose for their sworn friend.
Barbarus fell back.
“I-impossible… Is that, the legacy of Andras?”
“Andras…? Ahh, yeah, he did exist. He could pull this stunt off too?”
He had died unexpectedly easily for that. Barbarus probably knew that was wrong, as he went pale.
“W-what the hell are youuuu!?”
Barbarus fired magic at random, half-crazed. They were within his bounded fields, Barbarus’ power was raised to its utmost limits, and Zagan’s power was conversely weakened considerably. Regardless, not a single piece of Barbarus’ magic reached Zagan, they disappeared just before him. He repeatedly drew the same magic circles as Barbarus and ‘resonated’ them. He did so in an instant, even for magic he was seeing for the first time. If there were talents, this would be Zagan’s talent with magic.
Nephie murmured in shock.
“But, why does nothing happen then? Overlaying the same magic would cause the magic itself to be activated…”
“Well spotted, Nephie.”
Zagan honestly praised his student, who showed her superior insight.
“What I just said is something even a beginner can do if their timing is there. You need to develop magic, don’t you?”
The ‘resonance’ that Zagan first learnt was the reflection of magic. It was when he had wondered whether that magic could be sublimated into something else rather than reflected that Zagan’s research as a mage had begun. Finally, he succeeded in converting the magic that he had resonated into his own mana. Zagan spread his robe out over his arms. On his right arm, there were many magic circles in rows. They were all active, with mana circling through them.
“Can you see it? These are all converting the magic that Barbarus is throwing around.” In other words, they were magic absorbers. Casting magic itself gave Zagan power. Even the Demon Lords couldn’t kill Zagan with magic. This was the magic that had made him into a Demon Lord. “Though that said, I still can’t convert it into anything other than my speciality. I still need to develop it so I can use it for anything.”
It was still too unrefined to be called complete. That was why the Demon Lords had called him weak.
Barbarus’ face twisted in surprise.
“You’re feasting on my magic?”
He was a first class mage too, realising that at a glance. The magic that Zagan specialised in was strengthening his body. He ‘resonated’ other magic and turned it into his own body’s strength. It was certainly reasonable to call it feasting.
Then, he suddenly remembered something.
“Oh yeah, Barbarus, I was finally given a title.
He clenched his right fist. The magic circles coiled around his arm glowed and spun.
“The Mage Killer, that’s my title.”
And then, he punched him.
Barbarus probably did something to defend against it. However, having all magic absorbed by Zagan, even if they strengthened their body, there wasn’t a mage that could beat Zagan in doing so. In other words, there wasn’t a mage that could block a punch from Zagan. Not even the Demon Lords.
Zagan’s fist sank into Barbarus’ stomach, and he felt his organs rupture, and even his spine being crushed. Barbarus doubled over and was flung backwards, rolling twice, three times through the magic circle in the wide open space. He heaved blood and twitched on the floor.
“W-wait. It’s my… loss. I can’t fight. I won’t show myself… in front of you… again… I swear. I’ll give you all my knowledge.” Zagan clenched his fist at Barbarus begging for his life. The number of circles coiled around his arm had decreased for some reason, but some still remained. Barbarus’ face paled. “Zagan, we’re… friends… right?”
At those pitiful words, Zagan tilted his head with a serious expression.
“Do mages have the concept of friendship?”
And then, swung his fist down.
The bedrock shattered, the magic circle vanished without a trace. The destruction didn’t stop at the floor, and spread to the stone walls and ceiling. The cracks encroached around the chains holding Chastel, and unfastened them. That attack would completely obliterate Barbarus… or so it should have.
Barbarus had his eyes completely wide and reached out. Zagan’s fist had hit the ground right next to his face. Zagan broke out into laughter at his buddy’s expression.
“Hahaha, I’m joking. Don’t be so scared.”
“W-wha…? What are you doing?”
“Well, I don’t really need to kill you, and if I do, I won’t be able to get any tasty booze, I’m not exactly knowledgeable on that.”
“Are you pitying me… ugh.”
“I can afford something like this with no trouble.”
Barbarus glared at Zagan.
“Don’t mess around… If you let me live, I’ll definitely kill you. I will! I won’t give up until you’re dead.”
“I don’t mind. Each time you lose, I’ll have you tribute some tasty booze.”
Barbarus’ eyes opened wide, uncomprehending.
“What the hell are you on about? What gain does letting an enemy live give you.”
“Ahh, about that…” Zagan clapped his hands as if he’d forgotten. “Barbarus, I became a Demon Lord.” Barbarus grit his teeth in anger, and Zagan continued when he saw that. “Don’t you think a Demon Lord worrying about the customs and rules is ridiculous?”
The twelve Demon Lords were terrifyingly strong. He could keenly feel that they were the destination of all mages when he faced them. He had thought it fear.
It’s no joke.
Why had he made that mistake? Had Zagan not grown stronger because he wanted to live? Had he not sought strength because he disliked being persecuted? Using that strength to overpower others was nothing less than a betrayal of himself.
And I even hurt Nephie like that.
Zagan wasn’t perceptive enough to be able to remain the sore loser. So he grandly proclaimed.
“I’ll behave how I like. If Nephie wants to live under the sun’s light, then I just need to control that too.”
He once more looked down at Barbarus.
“So I won’t kill even you. That’s what I decided, if I dislike something, I’ll show my strength by just subduing it.”
Exhausted, Barbarus collapsed completely. It wasn’t just his strength, he mentally accepted his defeat. That was, in its true meaning, the deciding moment.
“You cocky bastard.”
“Yeah, damn right. What’s the point in being a Demon Lord with no pride?”
He replied with a smile.
The huge magic circle that should have been destroyed began to glow weakly.
“…Oi, are you going to carry on, Barbarus?”
With a shocked face as you might expect, Barbarus shook his head.
“N-no, this isn’t me.”
Zagan looked at where he had punched. It was right in the centre of the circle, and Zagan’s magic resonated with others, he might have unconsciously interfered with this circle.
What? It’s gathering a strange mana?
It was an amount that even Zagan couldn’t absorb. It was hard to admit, but it was more than a person could stand.
“…What were you trying to do?”
Barbarus’ face had stiffened.
“It should have been to summon real demons.”
There was a theory that the symbols used for magic and by the church were left in ancient times by the gods and demons.
Can you even call forth those ‘real’ ones?
It was an abyss of magic, that Zagan, young as he was, didn’t know.
“Nephie, run! Manuela, you lot too!”
But he knew it was an impossible demand. The cave was shaking so much it might collapse, rather than the cracks from Zagan’s attack, it was the power of this circle. The ceiling started to collapse, and it was hard to even stand, let alone run.
“Kuh, what’s happening?”
Even so, Chastel had managed to crawl to Nephie, and covered her as if to protect her. She definitely was a knight. Even with her wings, Manuela couldn’t fly in such an enclosed space, and was unable to move.
There’s nothing else for it.
He didn’t know what would appear, but he would have to face it.
And thus, it appeared in the centre of the circle.
Zagan instantly understood his own conceit.
Perhaps it was because the circle was incomplete, or sheer coincidence, but a ‘shadow’, with no definite, form appeared. Zagan was terrified of that shadow.
It’s impossible. Humans can’t stand against that.
His breath caught. Even standing before the twelve Demon Lords, he hadn’t felt this overwhelmed. Nephie paled and shook, Chastel blacked out, unable to take it, and Manuela covered her face and cowered.
This… is a demon…!?
Zagan had been given the title of Mage Killer, but in the end, did this monster wield magic? Even if it did, Zagan probably wouldn’t be able to match its throughput.
It was impossible.
However much power they gained, humans couldn’t become gods. It was just as he resolved himself to his death. The monster suddenly knelt. Almost as if it were waiting upon Zagan. And then it spoke.
“My King, give your orders.”
For some reason, a monster beyond human comprehension was serving him. He noticed a symbol upon his fist.
The Carved Seal of the Demon Lord that he had inherited, the monster was waiting upon it.
What the hell have I obtained?
The name of Demon Lord held far too much power to be called a mere title.