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Chapter 22: The Sage Vows to the Night Sky
My vision was dyed bright red.
A great deal of the blood had drenched me.
I stood quietly, not wiping it off as it trickled down my entire body.
The Hero was touching the spot where he had been cut.
Fresh blood gushed out intermittently.
Even as he pressed his hand against it, the flow did not diminish at all.
His blood continued to gush forth unceasingly.
The Hero’s mouth moved slightly, but he couldn’t form words.
He staggered and vomited blood.
When I strained my ears, I could hear him roaring like a beast.
As expected, this is his limit.
I judged, looking at the Hero’s plight.
The keepsake sword had ripped up his torso.
The wound wasn’t shallow.
It was clearly a fatal wound.
It wasn’t a problem that could be solved with fighting spirit.
I thought he was going to fall down just like that, but the Hero stepped forward with clumsy movements.
Clenching his teeth, the Hero spilled blood with every step as he approached.
Even though he was about to fall, he never stopped.
His pair of eyes, blazing with tenacity, were staring only at me.
The holy sword trembled as the Hero raised it.
It was held up in order to strike me with a single move.
Exhausting all the light of his fading life, he advanced with utmost effort.
Finally, he got me in range of the holy sword.
The Hero swung the holy sword down in a way that made him half-fall.
The blade, moving very slowly, touched my neck.
The holy light scorched the surface of my bones and tried to eat into it further.
But that was as far as it went.
The holy sword brushed past from my shoulder to my torso.
The slash with all his remaining strength was only able to cut through the robes I wore.
The Hero stiffened in his posture with the holy sword drawn.
He didn’t move even the slightest bit from there.
Not even the slightest sound of breathing could be heard.
I peeked at the Hero’s face.
He had a blank expression and did not blink even once.
Both his eyes had lost their light.
They weren’t seeing anything.
The Hero was dead.
In his last moments, he had not collapsed, but had withstood the power of the miasma and attempted to complete his mission as the Hero of humankind.
I couldn’t help but admire the way he fought beyond his limits.
I heard a small snap.
A crack appeared on the holy sword.
Its white light dissipated, and the blade shattered into pieces, leaving only the hilt behind.
The Hero’s wish was to defeat the great evil and bring peace.
He was the same as I once was.
Even though I don’t know what twists await me in the future, I can say that my peace-loving heart is genuine.
I turned heel and headed for the fortress.
The fortress was blazing red and lit up the darkness of the night.
I didn’t hear any screams or death throes.
It must have already been occupied by the Demon Lord’s army.
As if in proof, new undead were prowling around it.
This was a natural result.
Without the power of a Hero, they would have no means to resist.
Although I hadn’t directly confirmed it, I assumed that a one-sided battle had unfolded.
Grom was the first to spot me, and he came running over at a frightening pace.
He stopped just before we collided with one another, constantly checking to see if I was injured.
He must have been really worried about me.
I pushed Grom away from me gently.
“I’m not particularly hurt. I’m fine.”
“I-I see… I’m glad you’re safe…”
Grom was visibly relieved.
The other party was the Hero of the Holy Sword.
He must have thought about the possibility of the worst case scenario happening.
In fact, his fears were unfounded, but it was understandable that he was worried.
“Hey, Boss. Aren’t you looking well.”
It was Henry who appeared with an easygoing greeting.
His atmosphere made it hard to believe that this was right after a battle.
Only the red stains on his clothes and his bloody fists told me what had happened.
No doubt he must have defeated a large number of soldiers.
Seems like, to him, the exchange of lives was just a part of his everyday life.
“I wish I could have fought the Hero, too. Was he strong?”
“Very much so. True to his name, he was a force to be reckoned with.”
“I envy him.”
Henry spoke with real regret.
He was a genuine combat fanatic, who killed for his own pleasure.
He has no desire for vengeance against humans, but does whatever he feels like doing.
He also belongs to the Demon Lord’s Army because he enjoys war.
With that kind of nature, there was no way he could be called a good person.
However, he was already an indispensable member of the Demon Lord’s Army.
In the first place, I myself am not in a position to judge anyone on matters of good or evil.
I intend to continue to team up with him in the future for the sake of our mutual interests.
Luciana came flying out from the fortress.
She jumped around my neck with her arms outstretched.
Grom attempted to block her, but Luciana had evaded him.
“That’s amazing, you beat a Hero! That’s a brilliant feat as a Demon Lord!”
“Is that something to be so celebrated?”
As I unknowingly questioned the high-spirited Luciana, she knit her eyebrows.
“Isn’t that obvious? The previous Demon Lord couldn’t accomplish that. He was defeated by the previous Hero and you.”
“…Certainly, you’re right.”
As Luciana pointed that out to me, the memories came flooding back.
Looking back, everything feels nostalgic.
A decade has already passed since the events back then.
The time I spent in the Valley of the Dead was terribly stagnant.
All I could do was hold her corpse in my arms and repeatedly wonder to myself.
—Reminiscing can be done later. Now is not the time for sentimentality.
I should look at the reality in front of me, instead of thinking about the past.
This was not the time to relax.
Luciana, who sensed my inner thoughts, casually moved away from me and made her report.
“The fortress has been completely occupied. The surviving soldiers have also been captured and no one can resist. What do we do now?”
“We’ve achieved our goal of defeating the Hero. The Demon Lord’s army will return home. I want you to proceed with your preparations as soon as possible.”
With my orders, the three returned to the fortress.
They should be able to take care of the rest.
Left behind, I found myself holding my sword.
Swinging the sword in a horizontal line, I shook off the Hero’s blood.
I carefully wiped the blade with my robe and gently sheathed it.
I casually looked up at the stars that stretched across the night sky.
It was beautiful to the point of being terrifying.
Despite the tragedy on the ground, a magical scene unfolded in the heavens.
Subconsciously, I muttered to myself.
“—I became the Demon Lord, and killed the Hero. It’s an act that is in direct defiance of the current of fate.”
The will of the world surely wanted the Hero to win.
Evil is eliminated by an undefiable force.
It has forever and ever been the norm.
I was one of those who thought so when I was alive.
I wanted to use my talent for good.
Slaughtering humans couldn’t be right.
Moreover, it was unforgivable to use those slaughtered corpses to wage a war of aggression.
This was the evil I had hated more than anything else, and tried to eradicate.
I can’t help but feel the irony of fate in my current situation.
I had become that very evil.
“But I will continue to follow the path I have chosen. I will go as far as I can in order to achieve world peace.”
I was willing to make any sacrifice to achieve my goal.
I am the world’s most devastating Demon Lord.
I accept all infamy and blame.
It takes a crazy being to distort a crazy world.
“When you are reborn, I will show you a new world.”
It was an empty vow that reached no one.
I told it to the night sky.
Hasr: Next chapter, new arc!
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