30 – Demon Lord Route – [ _____ ___ ]
I completed my objective. Both Alvheim and Yggdrasil were now protected from any surprises that the Emperor and the Demon Lord might be able to pull out. Even so, while walking out of Yggdrasil’s heart, I couldn’t help but frown.
“So you obtained Yggdrasil’s favor.” Hraesvelgr’s cold voice drifted towards me.
I stared at him and nodded. “It… seems that way.”
The guardian’s yellow eagle eyes narrowed, scanning me up and down. After a moment he nodded. “Do not disappoint her. That blessing is not one given on a whim.”
“I won’t.” And I wouldn’t. What Iggy… what Yggdrasil had done for me was something I wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
“Good.” After that word, Hraesvelgr fell silent and walked past me to stand guard once more.
When he did that, I suddenly remembered that there should have been someone else waiting there. “Where’s the king?”
“Hm? Ah, Aultry boy left a few minutes ago.”
“He left?” I frowned. “Why?”
“Something about an anomaly occurring within Yggdrasil. Curious, but nothing serious enough for me to warrant more attention than that.”
“An anomaly? Why would-“
My eyes widened as a possibility came to mind and I started running.
Behind me, Hraesvelgr called out. “May you forever hold light in your heart.”
When I was at a safe enough distance from Yggdrasil’s heart, I focused on the spatial coordinates of my house and then jumped to them.
There was the chill of non-existence, the warmth of reemerging in reality… and then I was falling through the air.
“Master!” A female voice called out to me, one that I felt I hadn’t heard in ages.
Turning towards it, I saw Saphira flying towards me. Her crystal blue eyes were wide with worry and her pristine white hair billowed wildly as silver dragon wings propelled her through the air.
My heart raced, and then I remembered that I was falling. Recalling what I had done before with Titania, I gathered my mana around me and used it to float.
Saphira slowed her flight and came to a stop in front of me. For a moment, she simply stared, not saying a single word.
I smiled. “What? Did you miss me, Fi?”
“…Of course not.” Saphira shook her head. “I am… simply glad that you are safe, my Master.” Despite saying those words, her arms twitched, as if she wanted to reach out but consciously suppressed the act.
I sighed and patted her head. “Good work.”
Saphira tensed and then smiled, a small blush forming on her cheeks.
Huh. That expression was actually kind of-
Something bulldozed into my side and sent me veering off course, almost falling back to the ground.
“What the-?” I quickly stabilized myself and then glanced down.
An adorable young woman stared back at me. Bright green eyes, dazzling blond hair, a pure smile… Aria nuzzled her head into my side and said, “Nowun! I missed you! A lot!”
“…Right.” I placed my hands on her shoulders and tried to pull her away, but she hung on tighter.
“Aria. Let go.”
She shook her head. “No! Not until you promise me you won’t leave again.”
I frowned. “What’s wrong with you?”
It was odd. Why was Aria so insistent about me staying?
I glanced over to Saphira for help, but she averted her eyes.
Seeing that I was alone in the matter, I sighed and said, “I promise. I won’t be leaving anytime soon. Now, could you let go, Aria?”
Aria clung to me for a few more moments before nodding and letting go.
Then she abruptly started falling since she didn’t have wings like Saphira and had forgotten to use magic to stay afloat.
I sighed and pulled her into my arms. “Idiot.”
Aria flushed and snuggled against my chest.
I shook my head and turned back towards my house. Our house… or rather what remained of it. “So… would either of you care to tell me what happened to our living space?”
The elegantly grown house was gone, along with the giant branch that served as its foundation. If that was all, I wouldn’t have been concerned, but I could sense traces of darkness and chaos in the air.
“…Did you and Fi have a fight?”
Hraesvelgr said that there was an anomaly, but it wasn’t one serious enough to move him. Aultry ran off, but that could have been because he was anxious to meet Aria.
That left a fight between Aria and Saphira.
At least, I hoped it was just a fight. If not, then-
Aria laughed. “Maybe a little bit?”
I glanced towards Saphira.
She blushed and looked away. “It was an accident.”
“Sure it was.” I sighed, partially in relief, mostly in exasperation. “But did you think about what we’re going to do now? It’s not like Yggdrasil is just going to build us another house.”
As I spoke those words, Yggdrasil shuddered. Spindly tendrils shot out from the remnants of the branch before rapidly growing and weaving together.
“I stand corrected.”
Aria giggled. “Yggdrasil must be happy for us.”
I nodded. “Well, I did place down important protection around her heart. But come on, we can’t stay floating around in the sky forever.”
Aria leaned her head on my chest. “I wouldn’t mind that.”
My heartbeat sped up.
I coughed and looked around. “Where’s Titania? Is she safe?”
“…Hmph. I just got back from scary and dangerous training, but the person you’re concerned about is my sister?”
I tapped her on the head. “Dummy. You’re strong enough to fend for yourself, especially if you’ve been properly training with Fi. Your sister, on the otherhand, is not.”
Aria pouted and crossed her arms, turning her head away from me.
Saphira finally flew closer, taking a spot at my right side, and said, “She is with the king, my Master. It would appear to be something about organizing a feast in your honor.”
“A feast?” I slowly made my way back towards our house. “Why a feast?”
Saphira shook her head. “I do not know, my Master. I believe the king mentioned something about the birth of a new champion?”
“A new champion, huh?” Why did I get the feeling that life was suddenly going to get a lot more troublesome in the near future?
“There is one other thing, my Master.”
“What is it, Fi?”
Saphira stared at me for a moment and then said, “Why do you have a white aura?”
…Well there went my image as a Demon Lord.
Time flew by in a blur. Whether it was from the aftermath of my exhaustion having to essentially regrow an entire limb, the adaptation process of what Iggy bestowed me, or just the fatigue from the past few days catching up to me, before I knew it night had fallen and I was ushered down the halls of Alvheim by a male elven guard.
Supposedly a formal banquet/ball, I had decided to go in a recreated tuxedo/pants/shoes combo. As usual, they were created from my darkness mana. Since I had Light’s Order though, I could add in some colors other than hues of black and violet, and I also made a white dress shirt to complete the look. A modern tuxedo in a fantasy world… a bit different than the norm, but not bad.
Since I was the guest of honor, I had the obligation of arriving first while the girls stayed behind to dress up.
That made me reconsider making my outfit so quickly, but it was too late to regret my actions.
The elven guard led me through the halls
Nearing the room for the event, a wave of sound swept over me. String instruments reminiscent of harps, carried a soft melody through the air, accompanied by the light chimes of bells and the warm notes of a flute. Within that, male and female voices murmured, elegant enough to pass as harmony for the music.
After rounding a corner, the guard left me behind and I caught a glimpse at what was causing all the noise.
First of all, the room was huge and circular, large enough to fit well over a thousand people standing. The right half of that space was occupied by tables lined with a color array of meats, fruits, vegetables, and other dishes that I couldn’t identify off-hand. I did notice some Black Steel Boar meat mixed in there, however, along with some of the same berries that were in the porridge Titania made for me.
The décor was exquisite, the type that royalty and rich snobs would love in their homes. A crystalline chandelier hung from above the center of the room, radiating soft white light. Along the walls, white candles flickered and gave off a subtle sweet scent. The floor, while made of living wood, appeared lacquered and smooth.
Glancing at the left side of the room, I saw the source of the music. Upon a raised stage, a trio of elven musicians played away. One had a harp, as I thought, another a wooden flute, and the last lightly tapped a metal xylophone. Despite their small ensemble, the music managed to carry and fill the entire room.
And then there were the elves themselves. Everywhere around were beautiful men and women with outfits and hairs in almost every style and color imaginable. I saw a male elf with short light blue hair and a green suit. A female elf wearing a yellow dress with long brown hair kept in a ponytail. A male elf with pink hair and a puffy red tunic… that somehow worked on him?
Hundreds of elves with countless variations milled about. Some ate, some danced, and some sat at tables waiting.
But in spite of the crowd of elves, there was one elf that stood out. It was hard not to with his attire and position.
Aultry stood in the center of the room atop a pedestal, garbed in flowing emerald robes and a crown of leaves. While he looked around the room with a gentle smile, the elves paid him no heed, as if pointedly ignoring his presence.
Then again, with such an eccentric king as their leader, I didn’t blame them.
The elven guard reappeared at Aultry’s side and whispered something into the king’s ear. Hearing that, Aultry suddenly turned my way.
I debated for a brief moment about activating Information Concealment and fleeing the scene. I didn’t think that I was ever good at formal affairs and I didn’t really want to take the time to learn.
Before I could make a decision, Aultry started walking my way. “Our guest of honor! Lord Nazin, you’re finally here.”
A hush came over the room.
“King Aultry.” I nodded. “Thank you for your invitation.”
Aultry grabbed my arm and began pulling me towards some elves sitting at the tables. “It’s no trouble at all! Now, let me introduce you to some of our elders…”
“Ugh.” I sat at a nondescript table on the side of the room, nursing a drink in a wooden goblet. It was refreshing, tasting a bit like a mix of mint and citrus with some strange berries. Sadly, it wasn’t alcoholic. I liked to pretend that it was though. Doing so helped me relieve the stress. A little.
“You don’t seem like you’re enjoying yourself, dear.” A mature female voice called out. It was the elven woman who owned that shop Titania brought me to see. The one with violet hair and all of the enchanted accessories.
She looked different. Her long violet hair was done up in a neat bun and held in place with two silver sticks. She was also wearing a lilac Oriental-styled dress patterned with golden lotuses. Even so, I remembered that her name was-
She smiled and took a seat opposite me. “I’m honored that Yggdrasil’s champion remembers an old lady like myself.”
I slumped and ran my left hand through my hair. “Gah… Don’t remind me about that title.”
Yggdrasil’s champion. That was the result of the gift that Iggy gave me. The one fated to bear the light and maintain the world’s order… or something. Because of that, even though I put all the effort into being a fearsome Demon Lord, I was hailed as the second coming of Alvheim’s first king or something. The rebirth of the exalted bloodline… which meant I had to be introduced to all of the important elders and nobles. And their daughters. And their grand daughters. And even the occasional single ‘madam’.
Remembering that, I groaned and took a swig from my goblet. Sadly, it still wasn’t alcoholic… though in hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have done anything to me anyway even if it was.
Maria laughed. “I can’t blame you, dear. With how some of those girls are eyeing you, I’d hide away too. They look like they want to get to know you real well, if you know what I mean.” The purple-haired elf smiled and winked at me.
I shuddered, remembering some of the gazes I’d gotten from the elf women after Aultry’s introduction.
Maria laughed again and then stood up. “Well, dear, you won’t have to worry about them much longer.” Her gaze shifted towards the entrance.
Curious, I followed her gaze.
Then, my breath stopped.
Three young women walked into the ballroom.
The first was a cold beauty with honey-colored hair. Wearing a pristine and lacy white ballgown that looked like something Cinderella would have worn, Titania calmly strode across the floor in crystal heels. Her hair had been styled into a double-braided ponytail, elaborate yet controlled, just like her.
The second was an ethereal beauty that could rival a goddess. Her hair, pure white like untouched snow, drifted behind her in soft waves. Perhaps knowing that she would draw attention from her appearance, Saphira had chosen a soft blue dress that hung loose on her body. The subdued color didn’t accentuate her hair or eyes and the size somewhat hid her perfect figure beneath it. Even so, it was hard to detract from such an extraordinary appearance.
Finally, the last woman was the one I expected, the one who I saved, who I abandoned, and who I held the most guilt towards in this whole world.
An innocent young woman that captivated others with her radiance. Someone on the cusp of adulthood by human standards but still barely a toddler by elf standards.
Golden hair reminiscent of the sun and green eyes sparkling with mirth.
She walked into the room alongside Titania and Saphira and it was like the first time I met her. No. It was like the first time I left her.
Her dress was the same, despite me never making it in this timeline for her. A simple dark violet dress that was slightly too large for her and far too revealing. A dress spun from darkness and chaos, originally meant as a parting gift to protect her from harm.
But in the end, it did everything but.
I breathed, and my heart raced.
She looked through the crowd for a moment, but her eyes found mine without fail. Of course. No matter the time, no matter the place…
“Well, dear,” Maria said. “I suppose and old lady like myself shouldn’t overstay her welcome.” She smiled at me and stood up. “I’ll leave it to you saplings now and be on my way.” Saying that, she started walking away, swiftly vanishing into the crowd.
At the same time, the three young women approached.
Titania, the frosty but kindhearted eldest princess of Alvheim.
Saphira, the once divine, once fallen, and now former Wrathful Sin Dragon, returned to her rightful self through my use of Dragon’s Grasp.
And Aria. The one I saved, the one I abandoned, the one who I had so much to make up to.
Titania was the first to arrive, quickening her stride to reach me before the others. She stared at my face and my suit before blushing. “You… clean up nicely, Lord Nazin.”
I laughed. “As if. You could find someone like me anywhere off the streets where I came from.”
Saphira arrived next and shook her head. “You debase yourself too much, my Master.” She smiled and said, “While you may not be the most handsome man in the room, you are definitely not one that could be found off the streets like you say.”
I shrugged and glanced around.
The celebrations were beginning to wind down. The food was mostly gone, and the candles almost exhausted.
I swirled my drink around in the goblet and took another sip.
And then Aria arrived.
The music shifted. Where before the musicians played a soft background tune, this time they shifted to a slow ballad. When they did, the candles suddenly extinguished, momentarily dimming the room. But then, soft green lights flickered into existence, lighting the ballroom like stars.
Aria walked in front of me and extended out her hand. She smiled, a soft expression filled with countless emotions across countless lifetimes, and whispered, “May I have this dance?”
I stared at her and she stared at me, those emerald eyes glistening with unshed tears.
In the corner of my eyes, I could see Titania and Saphira.
The former looked torn between interrupting or supporting her sister while the latter looked downcast but accepting.
“Of course.” I stood up and grabbed Aria’s hand. “Shall we?”
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Aria whispered into my ear as we danced, her body pressed up close against my own.
It was something I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to. A cliché that I stumbled across, one that I chose to interfere in despite my lack of power.
Aria leaned her head on my shoulder as we slowly waltzed. “I was so scared. I was so scared and I prayed to the Goddess for her to save me, to save us. But she didn’t.”
She wouldn’t. That Goddess… she cared only for the thrill. Excitement. Tragedy was just as entertaining for her as joy, perhaps even more so.
“And then I made a prayer. I begged for anyone, anything to save me. And then you did.” Aria laughed. “You. Someone so weak, so powerless showed up and said those arrogant words.” She shook her head. “I couldn’t believe it.”
I didn’t respond. Instead, I continued our slow dance, gently swaying side to side with her in my arms.
“And then you died. For me, you died. And I could do nothing about it. I couldn’t thank you. I couldn’t repay you. I couldn’t even give you a proper burial. That kindness… I could never forget it for saving me from a fate worse than death.”
I bitterly smiled. “What kindness? I saved you on a whim. A selfish whim at that. And the second time I even left you behind to die alone.”
“Even so,” Aria said. “I owed you my life. You gave me who had no other choice another chance. You didn’t baby me like everyone else. You didn’t protect me. Instead, you let me choose.”
“Choose?” I shook my head. “Some clothes, food, and water is barely a choice, Aria.”
That was something I couldn’t forget. Something I realized only now.
How cruel was I? How deluded was I? To leave someone who lost everything alone. To not have the courage to stand by her side and instead possess the gall to throw myself at an insurmountable foe just to wash away that guilt.
“You gave me options, Nowun.” She laughed. “It’s funny, really. When the world abandoned me, ‘no one’ appeared to save me.”
“…Your puns need work.”
“And you need to rely more on others.” Aria lifted her head and stared into my eyes. “You might be strong, but that doesn’t mean you should fight against the world by yourself. And you might be ‘Nowun’, but that doesn’t mean you are no one. Not to me… and not to the others either.”
She placed a finger on my lips. “Shush. I don’t want to hear it. And besides, I’ve kept you long enough.” She gently lowered my hands and stepped back. “Pay attention to the others too, alright?” With those words, Aria waved and then walked away, leaving behind only the fading scent of vanilla.
But that didn’t last long. “…My Master.”
Saphira called out to me and curtsied, lifting the edges of her dress. “May I… may I have this dance?” The entire time she spoke, her gaze was lowered, avoiding my eyes.
Something about that act irritated me.
“Yes, my Master.”
I held out my hand. “Dance with me.”
She lifted her head and smiled, her eyes glistening. “…Yes.” With that single word, she grabbed my hand.
I drew her close and then our dance began. But unlike Aria, where we simply swayed back and forth, Saphira followed my lead. When I stepped, she stepped. When I moved, she moved, as if she knew my next step before I did.
“You’re quite good at dancing, aren’t you, Fi?”
She nodded. “Yes. It is… one of the few things that I can remember from my past.” Saying those words, Saphira’s eyes took on a far-off look.
I frowned. It caused me to hesitate, and made Saphira step on my foot by accident.
“Oh! M-Master, I apologize. I did not mean- that is, I-“
“It’s fine.” I smiled. “I’m not some weakling that will get hurt over a stubbed toe.”
Saphira suppressed a giggle.
“What’s so funny, Fi?”
She shook her head. “It- it’s nothing, my Master.”
I twirled Saphira around and then swept her off her feet. After gently placing her back on the ground, I said, “Tell me.”
Saphira stared at me and the slowly shook her head. “My Master. It is just… strange.”
I slowed down our dance and said, “Strange?”
Saphira nodded. “Yes. This is all… very strange. So strange that often I wonder if I am still dreaming.”
“…What do you mean?”
“I remember now, my Master. I remember how we met. I remember how I killed you…” She stopped and then stared into my eyes. “…and I remember how you killed me.”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. So I didn’t.
And Saphira started talking. “I do not blame you, my Master. In that form… I was little more than a beast. A monster. And in that form, death was the kindest thing that you could have done.”
She shook her head, a sad smile on her face. “I can no longer remember my name. I can no longer remember why I fell to begin with. The countless years I spent as the Wrathful Sin Dragon have already taken their toll on my soul. What little I can remember from before then are nothing more than traces, mere remnants of a woman that used to be.”
Saphira sighed. “To be honest, my Master… it is a miracle that you managed to keep me like this. It is a miracle that you managed to pull together my fractured mind. And…” She smiled. “It is a miracle that you are my Master.”
Before I could say another word, Saphira came to a stop. She looked at me with her clear blue eyes and said, “Thank you.”
She shook her head and smiled. “We can discuss this in greater detail later, my Master. But for now, you have one last dance partner. She is a bit dishonest, so chastise her well.”
Like that, Saphira bid her adieu. In her place…
“D-Do not get the wrong idea, Lord Nazin.” Titania stood before me and held out her hand. She glanced at me and then looked away, her face flushing red. “I… I simply wanted to thank you for what you have done. Both for Alvheim and Ari.”
“Very well.” I smiled and took her hand.
Titania flinched, but slowly drew closer.
I laced my fingers around her own.
Her flush deepened, but she took a deep breath and managed to regain some composure.
Like that, we danced.
Her movements were awkward. Stiff. Unlike the time where Saphira accidentally stepped on my toe because I stopped, Titania continued to do so on her own.
“Lord Nazin, I am so-“
Titania flushed. “It is just… I am not used to dancing.”
“Good. Me neither.”
“You-“ She glared at me, though her gaze quickly softened and she looked away. “You need not chastise me. I saw how well you danced with Ari and Lady Fear.”
“True… but that was me taking the lead. Should I let you have a try at it?”
“B-But for a female to-“
“It’ll be fine. And if anyone complains, they can talk to me about it.”
Titania meekly nodded. After that, she took tentative steps. This time, I followed her instead of trying to lead.
Perhaps because she was still uncomfortable, Titania didn’t make too many drastic moves or steps. Even so, she was hyper-focused on her steps, each one controlled and deliberate.
I stared at her concentrated expression and couldn’t help but sigh.
Titania froze. “L-Lord Nazin? Am I… boring you?”
“Not at all. I was simply reminiscing.”
…Even now, I found it hard to reconcile the image of that spiteful young woman with the one before me. Of that elf who would be willing to team up with demons and sneak into the imperial palace just to kill her sister.
That woman was not here. Instead, there was a kindhearted young woman with a frosty exterior. Somewhat clumsy at both her feelings and actions, but one who tries hard anyway.
Titania looked at me and turned an even darker shade of red than before. “…Meanie. You’re the one that did this to me.”
I smiled. “Are we dropping the polite speech now?”
“It’s your fault. If I’d never met you, I could still be Titania, the stern eldest princess of Alvheim. I could still be a calm and collected Commander. But now…”
I lightly tapped her head.
“Idiot.” I shook my head. “Bottling up your emotions like that isn’t healthy.”
Titania froze. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about. Y-You are being silly, Lord Nazin.”
I could remember it. Her eyes, twisted with malice towards the sister she adored. Something like that… I could relate. And because I could relate, I didn’t push it. Even though it was an obvious excuse, a transparent deflection… I let it stand.
And Titania did as well.
Eventually, we returned to dancing. Titania continued to lead and I followed. Slowly, patiently. And like that, she talked. “…I still don’t understand it.”
“What’s there to not understand?”
“…You, Lord Nazin. I don’t understand you. How you met Ari. Why you arrived in Alvheim. Who you are and why I-“ Titania cut herself off. “…In any case, why are you even doing this?”
“Protecting Alvheim? That’s an obvious one, isn’t it?”
Titania shook her head. “No. Not that. …This. Dancing with me. Humoring me. I… know that Ari already has feelings for you. And so does Lady Fear. I know this. Yet, you still…”
I paused, thinking about her words.
Titania had a point.
“I treated you harshly. I ridiculed you. I restricted you.” Titania stared at me. She bit her lips and then said, “Why are you still treating me so kindly?”
“…If I’m being honest… the fact that you’re beautiful has something to do with that.”
“But it’s because you’re like me.”
Titania froze. “Like… you?”
I nodded and mulled over my words.
“…I guess we both just don’t know who we really are? You with your mannerisms and royal duty, me with my… well, everything. I don’t know.”
Titania paused to think about that. “…So in the end you just can’t let me go, can you?”
“Well if you’re offering to stay…”
We glared at each other for a while before breaking out into laughter.
At that time, I noticed the music had stopped. Glancing around, the other elves had vanished. Even Aultry, that nosy king.
“Where is everybody?”
Titania smiled. “You just noticed? Ari and I had already talked to my Father about it beforehand. Why else do you think he dragged you around so much?”
That… made a lot of sense.
“But what about the others? The celebration of me becoming Yggdrasil’s champion?”
“What? Were you dissatisfied with the treatment you already had?”
Titania pulled my arm and started walking. “Come on. While this celebration has finished, it does not mean that the festivities are over. Ari should be done with the preparations now.”
“Preparations? For what?”
Titania looked at me and flushed a deep red before turning the other way. “Y-You’ll see. Just… shut up and follow me, idiot.”
It was late at night, just beyond the boundary between today and tomorrow. Clouds shrouded the moon, blanketing the world in pure darkness.
I was in my room, waiting while watching the black sky beyond my bedroom window.
There was a knock at my door, a pause, and then it slowly opened.
Within that pure darkness, staring at the opening door, I saw an unforgettable sight.
The door closed and then, beneath the cover of night, I experienced something I would never forget, even without my Absolute Memory.
Demon Lord Route – [ Harem End ]
Serena leaned back in her chair, lightly tossing a black pawn up and down in her right hand. “Well? It’s your move, now.”
Her opponent stared at the game board and frowned. “…This goes beyond cheating, Goddess.”
Serena grinned. “You started it.”
The board had been completely reshuffled. Whereas before when the Nameless One had been at an advantage with a majority of the pieces, now he was at a severe disadvantage with only three black pieces left in play: the King, the Queen, and a single pawn.
In contrast, Serena was now at an absolute advantage. Over half the board was covered in white pieces, more than she had at the beginning. Not only that, but if he moved a single piece, be it his queen, his king, or his pawn, he would end up losing it. The victory that had been three turns away seemed like a pipe-dream now, the tides of war shifting too fast for him to have grasped it.
Time marched on. Eventually, the Nameless One said, “Go again.”
The Nameless One looked up at Serena. “Go. Again.”
“Are you sure?” She smiled and leaned forward. “You might regret it.”
The Nameless One stared at Serena for a moment and then turned his eyes back to the board. “It’s fine. I trust myself.”
“If you say so~! Let’s see how you deal with this !”
The black pawn dropped onto the board, instantly changing colors from black to white.
At the same time, the Nameless One’s remaining pawn began marching forward.