"It can't be…"
"So, this explains everything I was unsure about… I didn't know that you intended to stay in our world. Both the crown and the church's movements make a lot of sense now"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Both sides have already made preparations for both celebrating the human victory and the mourning of the fallen hero. I never considered the possibility that you would decide to stay. You should leave with me while we still have the…" The demon lord's eyes narrowed as if noticing something and glaring directly at the hero.
"What is it?"
"You have been marked by the church's trace spell. It is almost identical to a regular blessing which was why I didn't notice it until now. You have been marked before you came into this room"
"Gale… (are you really…)" he frowned. He couldn't really believe that the warm and shy girl would do this to him.
"Stay still hero. I'm going to remove the spell on you but we immediately have to leave. Its caster will be able to sense it"
The demon lord raised his hand and directed his palm towards the hero but Kazuya slowly shook his head. He had finally come to a decision.
"Thank you, but no… I'll be staying behind. Please use your magic to inflict some damage on me instead. I will be claiming that we were both wounded and that you fled" Suddenly without warning Kazuya took out a dagger and stabbed his left leg. He wanted to show the demon king his determination. Both of them stared at each other in silence. Both giving each other mutual respect.
"You… have chosen death?"
"it's uncertain whether they would truly kill me. I failed to take the life of the demon king and now I have the sudden urge of returning to my own world"
"You… That will not work! You're underestimating their vileness too much! They—"
"I know you mean well but I have made my decision. Besides, even though they have their own factions, my companions have been with me for years now. If I don't give them a chance then truly my stay here would have been nothing but a farce. The others… would have all died in vain and I was the one who doomed them by taking them with me" This was the price he had decided to pay for himself. The companions he gathered himself were each killed by the side they wanted to protect. They could have led better lives if he had not asked them to join this farce.
The demon lord felt both respect and a pity for the man in front of him. He was summoned to this world not by his own will and decided to answer their call for help yet he stands here with regret after finding out the truth. He knew what the inevitable end of this young man would be and couldn't help but hope that he would survive.
"My name is Hellion Malum"
"I'm Kouzuki Kazuya"
"I wish to have made friends in better circumstances but a man in my position has its own troubles"
"I would believe so. I also hate to ask this of you, but can you give me a couple of wounds? They need to be convinced that an epic battle took place in this room"
"I haven't admired a human as much as I did Natsu. If you survive this then I would be happy to solve your chastity problem by introducing you to my daughter"
"Haha… It would be an honor to have the almighty demon lord as a father in law" Little did he know that his response was the trigger to what would happen next.
"I see… This must be the work of fate then. Do you not hate demons?"
"I never hated anyone. Even though I've fought against the demon race, they were all admirable warriors who were brave and honorable. I would have fought for your side if you were the ones who summoned me"
"Is that so? Then allow me to give you a few things as well as cast an experimental spell on you. Are you willing?"
"What do I have to lose? I would like to express my utmost gratitude to you. If it were not for you then I would have died not knowing a thing. I won't make any promises but I'll deliver your message to hero Natsu if I get the chance"
"We'll see each other again. Hopefully in better circumstances. Please do note that I am usually not as easy to get along with as I am now"
"You'll understand eventually or at least I hope you get the chance to"
A bloodcurdling scream echoed through the halls of the castle. It was the voice of none other than the hero Gabriel who was supposed to be in the middle of a great battle against the demon lord.
"Let's go Gale. Have you made up your mind?"
The heroes' five companions looked at the retreating demons in disdain. They turned and immediately walked towards where the hero entered and barged into the room.
They found a large room that was badly damaged. Indeed, a battle must have taken place. They did find a shattered table and chairs a bit peculiar but paid it no mind. A familiar bloody human figure stood in the middle of he room using his sword as a crutch.
"You're late Alicia" She was displeased at his tone which seemed like contained anger. The princess shrugged it off since he had the right to be. They were late and from the looks of things, everything was over.
"What happened? What about the demon lord"
"That guy escaped. I almost got his arm off and gave him a fatal wound but wasn't able to finish the job in my state"
"I see…" Kazuya didn't fail to observe his companions who were now contemplating on their next step. His chest felt heavy after seeing the beautiful features of his so-called fiancé that didn't even bother to ask if he was alright.
"Kazuya!" The white robed saintess threw herself into his arms so suddenly that the sword in his hands fell to the ground. This was like her usual self which filled him with doubts. He still reacted instinctively and caught her despite his current state.
"I'm fine Gale. Just a bit roughed up. More importantly, I have something to tell you guys and I hope you won't be surprised. I've been thinking about it for a while and decided to return to my own world after the war"
His companions were shocked at this his sudden revelation. He decided to announce this for two reasons; one for his own safety and the second reason was to probe the others' reactions. He only told Gale and Alicia, but he now confirmed that the others knew of his initial decision due to their reactions.
He held a little bit of hope that Hellion was mistaken, but it turns out that he really did throw himself back into the jaws of the tiger. After confirming it for himself, he felt a myriad of emotions but kept his emotions in check.
"How long have you decided on this Gabr… no Kazuya? You know that I am engaged to you right?"
"Sorry Alicia, I know that it may sound unfair to you but I've made up my mind long ago. I'll have to trouble you with the preparations. You don't even like me anyway so this should come as a relief to you right?"
"You… (what the hell happened to this guy?)" It was just a short time, but he indeed changed. As to why, she could only blame the life and death bout between him and the demon lord. The hero usually just let her say and do as she pleased but he was now speaking as if he wouldn't let anyone say so otherwise.
"I hate to interrupt but. I would like to hear the details of the battle Sir Gabriel" Julia Tisdale stepped forward putting her enormous shield behind her back. The group listened to the tale of their battle where the demon lord ended up almost losing a limb and was stabbed through the chest and his magic core damaged.
"So you really did it huh… with this, that guy and his people would at least need a century to recover" Alicia walked towards Kazuya and casually picked up the sword used in the battle and stared at it. Kazuya made sure to keep his eyes on her but a wet feeling on his chest distracted him.
The white robed saintess who was still hugging him sobbed silently. He wanted to comfort her like he usually did by patting her on the head, but he was shocked to find out that he couldn't move a muscle. A binding spell coming from no one else but Gale held him still as she continued to sob.
"Did you know Kazuya? You are the person I like the most and the person I hate the most at the same time"
His companions surrounded him silently as Gale looked him directly in the eye with her tears still falling. From the looks of things, they were going to go through with their plan even if he already expressed his intention to return to his world.
"You saved me from darkness, treated me warmly and gave me hope. I decided to be by your side and support you whatever may happen, but you threw me into a hell worse than the one I was in. You would never be able to imagine what I went through there. I endured hoping that you will come and save me again. I never doubted that you would"
"But do you know what happened next? They gave me news that you were engaged to the same woman who I found out was responsible for giving them information about the children and the death of Runa. I didn't dare believe it until I saw you giving that stupid and fawning look of love towards a person like her"
"So Runa's death was… Alicia?"
Contrary to his expectations, Alicia smiled before speaking.
"Yes, it was me. I personally stabbed that bitch's heart. I only regret not torturing her before ending her life. That impudent wench irked me every time she spoke, so it was just that she be put to death" a disdainful expression showed on her beautiful face.
"Do you see now Kazuya? This is the real Alicia"
"It's not too late Gale. Release me from this spell. I can take you to my world where we can be at peace"
More tears flowed from her eyes after hearing his words. She gently shook her head sideways refusing him.
"I cannot. It's already too late. The church is more fearsome than you can imagine. They… put a demon core inside my body and made me swear an oath which compels me to follow them. This is already my final wish. I wanted to let you know before the end and in your arms I—"
Without warming, a burning painful sensation made its way through both of them. Alicia has used Kazuya's long sword to stab Gale's back all the way through to Kazuya.
"So long winded" Alicia smiled and looked at Gale in contempt.
"This is my revenge Kazu…ya"
The light in her eyes slowly faded. With the last of her strength, she mustered up a warm smile before the arms holding his back quietly fell.
"A-LI-CIIIIiiiaaaaaa!!!" He glared at the beautiful and now unfamiliar cold princess that was smiling triumphantly in front of him.
"I'm not deaf so you don't need to scream at me you know"
"WHY!? I would have just quietly returned to my own world!"
"That would indeed be the ideal end to this war but not for me. Look at it from my point of view. How would you feel if you, a princess of the most powerful kingdom and sought after by everyone got abandoned by her own fiancé? Isn't that insulting?"
Her answer truly shocked him to the core. This person's pride and arrogance was on a whole new level. Kazuya held the now lifeless body of gale and tried to support himself as the loss of blood weakened him greatly.
"I say princess, you humans never do fail to surprise this dwarf" Dwayne stepped up and scratched his beard.
"Shut up you old dwarf. The crown is not paying you to talk" Julia unsheathed her sword and retorted.
"Shouldn't we put an end to this? I still need to report to my prince and receive my promotion" Robert followed suit and unsheathed his weapon while standing behind Kazuya.
Each of them talked as if Kazuya was nothing more but a fallen enemy general. They no longer showed familiarity and talked as if he was already dead.
"You guys… I truly have been blind"
Kazuya's next action startled them. Now that Gale had died, her binding spell already wore off. He held the sword by blade and gently pulled it from the lifeless saintess' back. The pain of slowly taking out the blade from both of them almost made him faint.
Aside from the princess, they had at least once experienced a blade wound so they could imagine the amount of pain the hero must be experiencing. They couldn't help but give him respect since he was only enduring it so that the dead saintess' body would experience no further damage.
"What are you guy's doing? Why are you letting him do as he pleases?"
"Keep quiet missy. I may have been paid to fight for you but gold cannot buy my respect. This hero may have just been a pawn, but he is a real warrior. Go ahead Kid, we won't strike until that girl's body is off you"
He coughed up mouthfuls of blood and his vision blurred but he mustered up all the strength he could to gently place Gale's lifeless body gently on shattered table's cloth not to far from them.
"I'm sorry Gale… I accept this revenge of yours"
The hero looked at his former companion before conjuring up blue flames to burn her remains along with the ruined furniture. He then staggered and walked back to the middle of the four to find Alicia holding his own weapon with a displeased smile.
"A naïve fool to the bitter end" Robert smirked as he watched Gale's remains get swallowed up by the flames.
"Do you have any last words hero Gabriel?" Julia pointed her weapon at him without changing her expression.
"Heh… We'll see each other again. Only next time, I won't be the one on this side of the conversation"
Kazuya closed his eyes and opened his arms as his body felt impact from four different directions. The four didn't know why but when they looked at him, they felt fear from the chilling smile of the dying hero.