A Demon Lord's Tale: Dungeons, Monster Girls, and Heartwarming Bliss Chapter 57
First Contact With The Hero
The first thing I saw after entering the designated corridor was a young girl huddled in one of its corners, her head buried in her knees. It was immediately apparent that she'd been crying, sobbing in fear. The girl lacked the valiant, brave nature one would expect of a hero. I failed to understand why the church had sent someone so cowardly. I could see was that she was much stronger than the average human, but her faint-hearted nature rendered her strength moot. That said, I very much preferred dealing with a coward over some sort of war-crazed battle maniac.
"So uh… Hi."
"O-Oh no! Not again!" The hero responded to my greeting by attempting to shrink into the corner. She tightened her grip on her knees and shivered upon hearing my voice. She was so terrified that she couldn't even bring herself to raise her head and look at me. I had to change my approach.
I crouched, lowering my body until my face was level with hers before speaking in a bit of a softer tone. "It's okay. Don't be afraid. I'm not going to hurt or scare you," I said. "I'm uh… actually a living thing."
Hearing me call out to her again caused the hero to fearfully raise her head. Her face was swollen and her eyes were red. She'd sobbed quite a bit.
“Uhm, who are you, mister?”
“Well… it’d probably be better for me not to say. For both our sakes.”
The hero regarded me with a bit of a dubious expression. She seemed to want to raise a few questions, but her face paled in dread before she could.
"W-Watch out mister! T-there's something behind you!" She raised a finger and pointed at the objects floating above my shoulders.
"Oh, don't mind them." I shrugged as I turned to face the three dolls hovering around me. Each was shaped like a young girl. "Thanks girls. You did great. Your duty is done, so feel free to go do whatever." I gave each doll a light pat on the head as I dismissed them from their duties.
They responded by happily giggling and floating away. The three human shaped toys were, of course, each possessed by one of the three wraiths. I'd given them the dolls because I felt it more convenient for them to have physical form.
"Did you just give those monsters orders? W-Wait, that means you're the demon lord!"
The hero drew the sword hanging off her waist and held it out in front of her. The blade was decorated with many a beautiful engraving, but because the hero was still sitting with her butt planted on the floor, neither she nor the sword in her hand seemed to possess much in the way of dignity. Needless to say, her tear-stained excuse for a glare didn't help either.
A quick glance at the weapon was enough for me to discern that it was dangerous. It was enchanted with some sort of effect that prevented me from performing a detailed analysis. All I was able to learn was that it was a holy sword. And as such, it likely had some sort of bonus effect in the presence of evil. A part of me suspected that it would do double damage against demon lords and their ilk.
"Yeah, I am, but can we not do the whole combat thing? Iunno about you, but I've got no intention of fighting someone that just got done crying and whimpering."
“I-I wasn’t crying!”
“Yeah uh… sure. I totally believe you."
"Mmrrphh…" The hero responded to my exasperated comment with an indignant groan before following up with an angry quip. "T-Then why the heck did you have to mess with me!?"
“I mean, think about it. Some random stranger walks into your house all armed and shit. Chasing said stranger out is only common sense. That said, I didn't think that you'd have a total mental breakdown. Really wasn't expecting the tears.”
The orders I gave my wraiths were actually quite specific. I told them to leave her alone and let her head home if she decided to turn tail and run.
"Well… I guess I can kinda see what you mean," said the hero. "B-But there weren't any tears! I wasn't crying!"
"Yeah, yeah, okay, I get it," I rolled my eyes. "But either way, leave this place. Go home. You being here is making it hard for me to go about my business."
We couldn't even do the laundry with her around; the maids couldn't exactly go around hanging clothes out to dry with a monster girl slaying hero on the loose.
"I-I can't!" declared the hero.
"You'll start attacking innocent people again if I leave you alone!"
Ugh… what a pain in the ass. Why did I think talking to her would be a good idea again?
"And who exactly are these 'innocent people' you're referring to? Are you talking about the criminals I killed when I visited the city? Or maybe the armed force that came to take my head?" Again, I rolled my eyes. "Just sayin', I didn't instigate either of those two scenarios. You guys attacked me first both times. All I did was retaliate. Don't you think it's kind of ridiculous to judge me for responding to violence in kind?"
While I did technically launch a preemptive attack on the army, it was still a case of legitimate self defense. They had infringed on my territory with weapons in hand. It was clear that they were some sort of punitive force.
The hero was at a loss. I didn't even need to look at the expression on her face to tell that she knew not the truth behind the incidents I was involved in. It was only natural for the country to hide the details from her if they worked against their interests. That was just what countries did.
"You are far too naive," I said. "You can't just swallow what your higher ups tell you if you truly wish to help people in need and save those in peril. You need to think about the scenarios you're exposed to. You have to come up with your own opinions and then act on them. Of course, that applies to what I'm telling you right now too. Don't just swallow it and interpret it as the truth. Digest it."
My tone was condescending. I spoke to her like a know-it-all despite being the furthest thing from a hero there was. I had no right to lecture her. I had no intention of ever doing the whole hero thing. And even if I did, I wouldn't do it out of the goodness of my heart. I would demand tremendous amounts of wealth, fame, and status for each heroic action I undertook. Though the demands were sure to earn the ire of many, I didn't care. If I was going to put my life on the line, then it would have to be for my own sake. I saw no reason to risk dying for nothing but the benefit of others.
To be frank, self-interest was precisely what had fueled all my actions to date. Taken to the logical extreme, one could even say that the act of saving Illuna was something that I'd done entirely for myself. I chose to rescue her because I didn't want to see her go, because I didn't want her to suffer, because I didn't want her to end up as some asshole's slave. It was all for me.
I only helped people for my sake. My desire to lend them a hand was something born within me. My actions were selfish. I only chose to execute them for the sake of self-satisfaction. And I knew I wasn't the only one.
My understanding of my own selfish nature was precisely why I hated people who posed as saints. I absolutely detested the two-faced assholes that claimed they wished to help others from the bottom of their hearts, people that "believed" that their actions stemmed entirely from goodwill. They disgusted me. I hated the fact that they didn't just admit that they were helping people for their own fulfillment and satisfaction.
"So yeah, that's pretty much how it is." I frowned. "It's not like I hate humans in particular. I wouldn't go out of my way to attack them without reason, but of course, I don't feel the same way about my enemies. Tell your higher ups that I'll annihilate anyone that opposes me without exception or mercy."
"But then… why?"
I stood up with my declaration and got ready to leave, but the hero stopped me before I could.
"Why didn't you kill me? Didn't I technically oppose you?"
“Oh, that? That’s just ’cause you’re a girl.”
“Huh…?” The hero's jaw dropped.
"There are two reasons I let you live. The first is that you're a girl. The second is that you're still just a kid. Killing you would leave a bad taste in my mouth, so I didn't. That's all there is to it."
"S-So it's just because I'm a girl…? Wait! Did you just call me a kid!? I'm not a kid!"
"I understand, milady. I am sorry, I was mistaken." I gave her an exaggerated apology before spinning around so that I could actually leave.
“W-Wait! Hold on!”
But again, she stopped me.
“What is it this time…?”
“M-My hips gave out so I can’t get back up. Could you help me to my feet?”
The hero not only revealed her weakness to me, but also asked for my help despite the fact that she'd been antagonizing me only a few moments prior. Her behaviour was so bold and outlandish that it scrambled my brain. I could no longer tell if she was gutsy, cowardly, or just plain naive.