"Preposterous! I would like to see how you'll talk me into believing my companions are indeed scheming against me as well" He was agitated but who could blame him. He had been through a lot and spent the most time with them when he was called to this unknown world.
"I would have liked to inform you which of them had not been included but, I'm afraid… they, at some point… perished along your journey. The only ones that remain are of the human kingdoms or part of one of the main factions"
Kazuya was shaken. He thought about the companions that have made it this far with him. Each of them belonging indeed with the humans despite racial differences.
Alicia Von Lichtenstein - Princess of Zweifel Kingdom
Robert Britt - Head Knight of the Filodoxos Kingdom
Julia Tisdale – Royal Guard of the Zweifel Kingdom
Dwayne Mybber – Dwarven Paladin of the Church of the Goddess of Light
Gale Valentine – New Saintess of the Church of the Goddess of Light
"Wait a minute! Gale was only recently part of the church and I was the one who introduced her to them. She raised from the ranks and became the new saints by herself!"
"I know… That is why I decided not to tell you mention this if you did not bring it up, but that woman was manipulated the moment you left her in the hands of that wretched organization. The fate she suffered… is worse than those who have died along the way"
"Gale… (Are you really scheming with them against me? Did I really throw you into the belly of the beast?)"
The demon lord was had not gained this title for nothing. The mere flicker of his anger when mentioning the church of light caused a tremor that shook the castle. One could easily identify that he has his grievances with the church.
"If not for the oath I took with Natsu, I would have already razed such a wretched organization to the ground. They are hypocrites that feed on human weakness. They stomp on anything remotely against their organization whilst shamelessly proclaiming righteousness"
"No… Gale was saved by me and would never do anything against me"
"Never underestimate the church of light. Their prowess of brainwashing individuals can be proven not by their own followers but the soldiers labeled with that wretched 'Holy' title. She would not have been allowed to leave their compounds much less as the new saintess if they doubted her loyalty to their objectives"
"I trust her. If it is how you say it is then I would save her once again…"
"I admire your loyalty to your friends but…" The demon king wanted to continue but stopped after looking into the hero's gaze.
The hero's eyes convinced the demon lord of his determined decision and nothing he could say can convince him otherwise. The demon king could only sigh and keep the conversation going before they ran out of time.
"But what about the princess? She was engaged to me and if something happens then won't she be once again placed as a political pawn towards Filodoxos' crown prince?"
"The illustrious crown prince of Filodoxos and the princess of Zweifel were once promised to each other. Did she tell you herself that she didn't want the marriage to happen?"
"No, but the king expressed his deepest regrets on that promise he made with them. That was why I worked hard to break it"
"Were you aware that princess Alicia admired the crown prince of Filodoxos since they were young? The seemingly mysterious and talented crown prince of Filodoxos despite his fame is a ruthless individual while the cold and beautiful princess is even more ambitious than her father. Do you truly know your so-called fiancé? Were you aware that those two were the ones that suggested to cancel their own engagements just so you would have more motivation to finish this campaign earlier?"
"Princess Alicia… Do you have proof?"
"Indeed I do. Here are letters you can go through"
Letters and envelopes with the seals from the royal families of both kingdoms made them undeniably real. The demon lord observed as the hero's trembling hands as he went through the letters one by one. The well-known merciless demon king felt both pity and regret. This was mainly because the hero in front of him reminded him of his old friend, They were truly alike. Both wished nothing more than to help and this was how they were repaid.
"Let me tell you a secret which only few from generations know of. Magical races like us can make an absolute oath to our cores that can ensure that what we do or say is undeniable. Have you ever heard someone say 'I swear upon my core'?"
Scanning his memories, he indeed has heard this phrase more than once. They were mostly his enemies but what does that have to do with anything?
"I swear upon my core that what I am telling the hero Kazuya is nothing but the truth or may fingers explode"
A surge of magic pulsed in the area which alerted the hero but after observing for a bit, nothing happened. His gaze went back to the calm demon lord wondering what was that all about.
"I don't get it…"
"Then this might make things clear. I swear upon my core that what I've told the hero Kazuya is full of lies or may the little finger on me left hand explode"
"Isn't that basically the—"
Blood splattered before he could finish his sentence as the demon lord's little finger suddenly burst. Kazuya didn't know what he should be shocked about. What had just happened or the unaffected face the demon lord made as he lost his own finger.
"Please don't spread this secret around. Although I do have the ability to use my magic to fool you and make my own finger explode, you can try this out with other demons that do not have such an ability if you are still uncertain"
"That's not the point! Your finger just…"
"It is but a small price to pay. I can grow another one in time. I do believe that I've made my point so I will be moving on to inform you about what Natsu and I have worked on together. Do you perhaps know magic?"
"I know the basics. I didn't have enough time to study deeper because the war suddenly began. Milleya… was only able to teach me until she…"
"Ah yes… The youngest elven sage. She, as well as your other companions were taken to our side after their attempted assassination. We failed to save them…"
"I promise that you will have the choice to know everything about them if you desire. We must focus on the more important things with our limited time. The reason I asked about your magical knowledge is because Natsu and I uncovered a variable that led us to doubt the whole hero summoning process"
"What about it?"
"If you were not aware, Natsu stayed for a few years after the war to settle personal matters and to ensure that his legacy would be preserved by all sides. In that period, Natsu, myself and the High Elf Figg studied the summoning formation the humans use to summon heroes. We found a startling discovery"
"What did you find?"
"Natsu always told us that summoned heroes from your world were not that uncommon in literature. That was the primary reason he was not as startled as he would have led others to believe when he first arrived in our world. He informed us that what we found were indeed similar to his own, yours and the people that were part of your literature"
Apparently, the demon lord assumed that the fictional characters from the other world were some part of their history. Kazuya wanted to laugh but couldn't since he only noticed this because he was subconsciously looking for something to distract himself from all the bad news that he has heard so far.
"Could it be that the heroes summoned were not predetermined but randomly chosen?"
"Not quite. Do you remember the circumstances of how you were summoned into our world?"
"Yes. I was—"
"Don't tell me" He raised his palm. "I want to tell you about our findings so you can confirm it for yourself"
"Our study of the summoning formation revealed that there were coordinates present so the place where you were summoned from should be the same place where Natsu was summoned from"
"You mean that the first hero was from my town!?"
The hero was startled. Thinking of the summoned hero reference his predecessor gave indicated that he was not far from his own generation. He remembered that before he was summoned here, he was sneaking into his school from the woods and wondered if it was the same place where Natsu the hero was also called from.
"Are you familiar with magic traps? The summoning circle on your world's side works in the same manner, only that there are some specifications for it to be triggered. The main one being; 'A pure and healthy youth with enormous potential under the age of 20' which can be proven by your current achievements in this campaign"
"Pure? Is magic that advanced to even be able to accurately tell if a person has a pure heart?"
The demon lord gave him a weird look and kept silent for a while before finally giving a sigh. He judged that this hero does indeed fit the criteria of 'pure' in more ways than one. Truly a big difference from his predecessor. Although, Natsu did stay for twice the amount of time in Edea compared this current hero.
"Err… It means chaste. In other words, one must be a virgin"
Kazuya's face darkened immediately. There was no doubt that this ancient lord has seen through him because of that thoughtless inquiry of his. The look from earlier made him even more sure. He was so embarrassed that he wanted to dig a hole and hide in it for a while.
"Um… Don't worry you'll get there?"
"I don't need your consolation!"
The two of them looked at each other before finally breaking into laughter. This may have been their first conversation but for both, it had truly been a while where they could speak to another which held no reservations and treated them as equals.
"You are indeed from the same place as Natsu. Even your retorts are similar. Forgive me for being a bit nostalgic but he was indeed a friend that I cannot help but miss"
"Why are you talking as if he's dead? He returned to my world, right? If so, then he should still be alive somewhere"
"Truly!? Humans rarely live past a century and it already has been multiple centuries since he returned"
"Judging from what I've found out about him from you then It is likely that he's still kicking if nothing serious happened. I assume time moves a lot faster here compared to our world. I've thought as much since I've been here for almost a decade and hardly even aged"
"Ah yes. I believe he did come to the same conclusion with regards to his elven-like youthfulness. It is also why you heroes such high prowess"
"What I don't understand is; if anyone fitting the description steps into that summoning area, then does that mean that they would have been summoned here instead of me?"
"We didn't focus much on that aspect, but I remember Natsu saying that individuals needed to also meet the criteria of having an affinity to our world. Otherwise they would have functioned like normal humans in our world. He said he was going to continue his research on your world so that he can freely visit but since the difference of time is as fast as you say it is then it would be understandable that he has not yet come up with a way to visit"
"About your discoveries… what do the specifications have to do with the conspiracy?"
"The sages who originally created this purely meant no harm initially. Because the human race is the weakest amongst all the races in our world due to their limited lifespans and average abilities, it was a desperate move in their part to call upon an innocent youth from an unfamiliar world to aid them in their crisis.
Think about it. Rather than a youth, if people from your world can indeed have such great abilities in our world, then why not just summon someone who needs no training and can immediately dispel the threats?"
"You mean… the criteria of an innocent youth were set so that they could easily manipulate us to do their bidding?"
"That was not the purpose of the set criteria in the beginning or we did so believe. We believe that the creators did so because they were afraid of their own race's tendencies. Where as someone who had yet to develop will be easier to manage. You should have experienced it yourself from the way you have been treated"
"I… understand but forgive me for not being able to swallow it whole right away"
"I know how you feel but our time is almost up. I can feel my subordinates slowly being forced to retreat"
"They… are coming?" Kazuya tensed up. He didn't know how he would face his companions after everything that he had uncovered.
"It will not be long now" The demon king saw the troubled expression on the hero's face. "I would like to ask you a favor if you don't mind"
"What is it?"
"If… Natsu really is still alive in your world then please tell him that this friend of his is glad to know that he is still amongst the living"
The demon lord meant every word as Kazuya could only sigh in envy of their friendship. His predecessor was indeed a formidable guy in which he paled in comparison.
"I'm afraid I may not be able to grant that request"
The demon king was suddenly alerted by his response. He has an ominous premonition, but he still maintained his composure.
"I really hope that your next answer would not be that you had decided to stay in this world after the war"
"Huh? How did you know?"
Kazuya was shocked as the demon lord's expression before him darkened. This person had always been calm and collected in front of him so this change made him feel uneasy.
"Please tell me that you've kept this desire to yourself"
"I… I've told the princess since we were to be wed and Gale since she is the one that always felt sad when the discussion of my departure from this world always came up"
"Damn… No wonder the incoming reinforces are so massive. This is bad!" The demon lord's expression grew dim.
"Huh? Reinforcements? They told me it would take a few days before they arrive"
"Exactly. Although it may be good news for the humans to have such reinforcements, to you and me, they are bad news"
"Because ever since you let your intentions of staying here be known to both the crown and church's side… This place has been set to not only be the final battle of the war but also the final resting place of the Hero Gabriel"
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