A Demon Lord's Tale: Dungeons, Monster Girls, and Heartwarming Bliss Chapter 183
In the Eyes of a Dragon
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
The hero's sudden advent inspired in me naught but surprise. I had not expected her to apparate within the dungeon's confines, let alone emerge with her garments torn and her frame smeared in filth. So numerous were the streaks of blood that adorned her that I found her still animate state difficult to comprehend—she was a terrible sight to behold.
A brief moment of petrification assailed me as I observed her, but the spell did not last for long. There lay a towel nearby, one typically reserved for the children, used to clean their faces upon their return from their adventures. I retrieved it as I summoned Lyuu and entreated her to procure our medical supplies.
Upon weaving an incantation meant to abate her injuries, I happened upon a realization. The hero was uninjured. Though her appearance indicated that she had suffered greatly, she bore no wounds. My ability to perceive, analyze, and quantify that which lay within my sphere of recognition informed me that she was in no immediate danger. Relief washed over my mind. She was safe.
I looked over her once more and examined her condition in greater detail. Her breaths were taken at a regular pace, her bones appeared unbroken and her body unswollen. She was in good health in spite of her apparent distress.
It was then that I understood that Yuki had purged her wounds prior to arranging for her transportation. Her lack of injuries was sourced from one of the many potions he carried on his person. I am aware of many of his methods. And yet, I know nothing of the technique employed in her ferriage.
His ability to have her sent through the very fabric of space without his accompaniment was particularly curious. And yet, it came as no surprise, for Yuki's antics were more often bizarre than not.
"Is Nell gonna be okay…?" The child by my side, Illuna, raised her voice in concern.
"I believe so," I provided her with a reassuring pat as I replied. "She is merely asleep. Yuki has already seen to her wounds."
Need I need be concerned for him? My thoughts drifted to the demon lord as I mentioned him in passing. As I did not wish to distress the children, I did not allow my worries to show. Still, they persisted. I was left with little anxiety over the safety of his flesh; I knew full well that there was little concern to be had for his physical health. My apprehensions lay with his mental fortitude, or rather the lack thereof. My husband appears to others as a confident, outgoing, and even arrogant man, one who is unable to be conquered by the likes of an attack on his psyche. But that is far from the truth. His heart is frail and his mind easily attacked. The value he places on those he holds dear is far too great for his well being. I know all too well that he would not allow his sense of rationality to stand in the way of his fury should he bear witness to one with whom he has concerned himself with coming to harm.
Keeping an eye on him was a must. Fortunately, Leila and Enne were performing that exact action in my place. While the former's ability to keep Yuki rational lay only within the realm of the questionable, I had no doubt that the latter's presence would allow him to keep his rash nature at bay. I should have known that accompanying him was a choice I should not have forsaken. I regret nothing more than allowing myself not to be by his side.
But what is done is done. I cannot change the past, and there is little use in lamenting my mistakes at this precise moment, for there is still much to be addressed. I directed my attention to the human that lay before me. I'd best move her somewhere more comfortable.
Many an hour passed before the girl finally began to stir.
"Have you finally awoken?" Spurred on by my words, Nell groggily opened her eyes and examined her surroundings.
"Where… am I…?"
"You lay now within a dungeon's confines, Yuki's dungeon's confines."
The sound of my husband's name caused her to snap to attention. Hurriedly, she pushed herself up from the bed in which she lay and pieced together her consciousness.
"W-where is he?" she stammered. "And what happened?"
"I do not know his whereabouts. He was not present upon your advent. But whatever the case, you would do best to remain calm."
My explanation appeared to provide her with a sufficient summary of the situation, as she quieted down and began to speak in a tone indicative of tranquillity and understanding.
"Oh… I guess that must mean he saved me…" Her lips began to warp into a small but evident smile, one that failed to reach completion as she found herself awash with another wave of confusion. "Wait, Lefi!? Huh? What the heck!? I'm in Yuki's dungeon!? Isn't that all the way in the middle of the Wicked Forest!?"
…It appears that I may have been mistaken in assuming that she had come to an understanding.
While there had been others that had sat by the hero's bedside, it was only I who remained by it even now. It was not that they were unwilling to attend to her, but rather disallowed by the passage of time. Even my own waking state was driven not by intention, but by habit. My husband and I would often make use of the time that we shared alone come nightfall to indulge in all manners of games that made use of cards, pieces, and boards. I do not understand. How is it that he retains his energy throughout the day in spite of so little rest? It is none other than our late night activities that drives me to spend so much time in bed.
"That is correct. You are within the forest." I replied. "How are you feeling? You appear unwounded, but I do not know if that is truly the case."
The hero turned her eyes on her body and examined it in detail. At first, there appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary, but I soon found her with her brows furrowed in confusion.
"Huh…? What happened to all my injuries…?"
"It is to my understanding that Yuki made use of a potion and restored you prior to initiating your transport, for you were injured upon your arrival."
"Yeah, I remember that, but… even all my scars are gone," her voice faded into a mutter that expressed both denial and relief, "I had so many from all the training I went through…"
"Pay it no mind. Yuki's potions are of a particular efficacy. The removal of old scars is but to be expected." I raised and lowered my shoulders in an expression of indifference. "If you are in no pain, then it is best that you focus your efforts on the restoration of your stamina. I expect that you are hungry, yes?"
"Oh, uhm. Yeah, thanks." Despite her still evident confusion, the hero accepted the bowl I offered her and lifted a spoonful of porridge to her lips. And in doing so, she froze. Her hands lost all momentum immediately prior to the act of consumption.
"Uhm, hey, Lefi? Not to sound rude or anything, but did you uhm… mix up the sugar and the salt?"
An uncontrollable, discontent groan escaped my throat. I cannot believe myself. I know no longer the number of times I have made that very mistake. When was it that I erred? I vividly recall tasting it many times throughout its preparation and ensuring that I made use of the correct ingredients.
"I… apologize," I offered my condolences after an awkward pause. "Both Yuki and Leila have departed for the demon realm. None of us that have remained within the dungeon's confines bear any significant skill in the culinary arts."
I lifted my hips off the chair by her beside as I continued to speak.
"Worry not, I shan't make you consume such a wretched creation. I will return shortly with a second bowl made anew."
"It's okay. It's still edible, and I don't mind." The hero giggled. "Thank you, Lefi. I really appreciate it."
She stopped me in the middle of my ascension and began to consume the oddly flavoured porridge. Though I remained embarrassed by my own lack of competence, I abided by her will and returned to my seat.
Following the interaction was a brief period of effective silence. The shuffling of the children in their sleep and the clinking of a spoon were the only two sounds to be heard.
"Yuki…Yuki saved my life." Nell set her tableware aside and began giving form to her thoughts. Each word that left her carried with it a deliberate purpose; she chose each carefully in turn as she voiced the last.
"Then it is as I suspected. It pleases me to know that my husband has proven himself to be of use."
"Your… husband. Right. You two got married."
"W-we did," I stammered. "Did he mention the change in our circumstances?"
"He did. He bragged about it with a big, happy smile on his face."
My cheeks reddened as my mind assembled an image of the scenario she described. However, my embarrassment soon faded as I caught wind of a minor yet glaring detail. The smile that rested upon the hero's face was unnatural. Forced.
As was typical of draconic beings, I knew little of the expressions of humans. I found it difficult to discern the intricacies of their gestures. And yet, I knew hers. It was a countenance that served to indicate she was desperately suppressing her emotions, a guise typically worn in the event that one was left with no choice but to give up on securing a particular individual as a mate.
"Have you…" I hesitated to confront her at first, but soon continued as I shook off the shackles of my uncertainty. "Have you fallen for him?"
“Wha!? Huh!? N-no! Not at all! Y-you've got it all wrong!”
So flustered was the hero that I had little choice but to smile. How terribly easy to read, she is. But I suppose that such is the way of a hero.
…Or perhaps not. Considering the concept of heroism reminded me of a man I had once reduced to cinders. He too shared in her status, but was of a dissimilar nature. He was proud, boastful, and knew nothing of the natural order. Our confrontation was one-sided. The ancient hero found himself as helpless as a mere hatchling before my might. It was not that heroes were straightforward and honest, but rather that the individual before me happened to be of such a disposition.
"Calm yourself. There is no need for you to panic. I do not plan to inflict any harm upon you regardless of your answer. It was a question I posed only out of simple curiosity," I said. "So? Have you fallen for him?"
"A more ambiguous way to describe your emotions I have never heard."
"T-That's just because I'm not really sure…" said Nell. "I don't think I've ever fallen in love before, so I'm not really sure if that's what this is."
I momentarily shut my eyes and reflected upon the situation.
She and I were no different. Even our thoughts and emotions ran parallel. Yuki certainly does have quite the unfortunate talent for seduction.
"I-it's not really my fault…The way he saved me just made him seem so cool! How could I not fall in love with him after something like that…?"
With a slight blush adorning her face, the hero recounted the events that led to her advent.
"I cannot believe that he appeared at such a critical juncture without any prior planning."
"I know, right! And this isn't the first time he's done this either! He did the same thing when he visited Alshir!"
"He is simply that type of man. Despite claiming to put little emphasis on it, he is sure to steal the spotlight and position himself centre stage if presented the opportunity. It is a quirk of his nature."
"Right!? He always perfectly resolves the situation the moment you take your eyes off him! And then he acts like it was no big deal! And I can swear that almost everything he does catches me off guard!"
Voicing our complaints about the man at whom our affections were directed led us both to giggle.
"I wish I knew this was going to happen…" As her laughter faded, it was replaced by a smile that reeked of sorrow. "I know I can't possibly mean more to him than you, but I would have at least tried to tell him how I felt if I had known you were going to get married."
Again, I was led to understand that she and I were no different. I understood her. I knew her feelings well. Because like her, I too had found myself drawn to—charmed by—the comfortable air that lay about Yuki's person. Like her, I knew all too well that he was an idiot and that his sensibilities differed far from my own, but I had fallen for him nonetheless. Because I knew that being by his side was sure to put a smile on my face. It is as if we are as one. Regarding her feels no different from gazing upon my own reflection.
And that was the thought that spurred me to direct my inquiries inward. Would I be able to bear the fate to which she must? Would I be able to return to living in mateless solidarity after knowing his warmth? His kindness?
I needed not even the briefest of moments to arrive at a conclusion.
I knew that I could not bear a life spent without him any longer.
"I shall allow you to live with us." I raised my voice immediately upon reaching the conclusion. I could not be so cruel as to consign one of the few I saw as a friend to a fate that not even I could endure.
"Huh…?" She turned her eyes upon me in confusion.
"He is unlikely to refuse the request should you make it, for I know that he thinks rather fondly of you." I continued to speak. "I would not mind you taking up a place at his side, even in the case that you one day find yourself as another of his brides."
"T-that would make me really happy, but are you sure? That would probably make you sad, wouldn't it?"
"I certainly do not think nothing of it. But I also do not think nothing of you. I know your sorrows well and I do not wish to force you to bear them."
I almost wished to break into laughter. I could not help but find myself entertained by the extent to which I concerned myself with her emotional well being. I would not have lamented over it in the past. But Yuki had changed me.
"I have known for all too long that it is impossible for me to remain his sole lover." I gazed upon the vampire and the slime sleeping in their respective beds. "They are likely to join in sharing my status upon coming of age."
Yuki had already promised them that he would take them as his own should the time come. I knew well that it was a statement he made only to entertain the children, but it was likely that he would one day have to own up to his words.
While it was only the children that had expressed interest in his affections, I knew that they were not the only residents that may one day pine for his affections. I suspected that the maidservants could also come to adore him.
Picturing a future in which we shared his love was an easy feat, one that left me with a gentle smile. I loved him. But I also loved them. And I wished for their happiness as much as I desired my own. Each individual I resided with was an equal part of the fortune I hoarded. None could be replaced, and each had an intrinsic value that disallowed their substitution. My brood was warm and accepting. It was for that reason that I was unable to see them objecting to one so kind and honest joining our ranks. She was sure to become yet another part of my fortune and imbue my days with yet another layer of joy. Still, I find it odd to know that I have considered the likelihood of her acceptance. I cannot see it as anything but strange for the one feared as the Supreme Dragon to be so concerned with the emotions of others.
"We have spoken much tonight," I said. "You require much rest, and I believe that our discussion is one that will require the others to be present. Let us continue in the morning."
"Okay," replied the hero. "Hey, uhmmm… Lefi…"
"What is it?"
"Thanks for being so nice to me. I really like that part of you."
"E-enough," I stammered. "Cease your prattling and rest."
"Mmk. Thanks again for everything. Good night, Lefi."
"Sleep well, Nell."
With those words as our last, we returned to our beds and allowed the night to pass.