Side Story: The Return Trip
Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
“Geez…” Nell heaved a sigh as she and Ronia walked under the moonlit sky. “Yuki sure loves causing trouble.”
The path to their destination, the inn they were staying at, was kept lit both by the stars and by the magical items placed along the side of the road. The dim, faint illumination led to the creation of a wondrous atmosphere. So beautiful it was that it looked like a scene straight out of a painting, a cityscape torn directly from an artist’s mind.
Neither girl seemed to be paying much attention to their surroundings. They looked completely off guard, and in their minds, they were. But both had been trained so well that they didn’t even notice the fact that they were unconsciously scanning the backdrop for any signs of danger. The pair was sure to notice should they be tailed or approached.
“He’s always doing the craziest of things,” complained Nell. “I don’t think he even knows what common sense is.”
“But you still seem to be enjoying yourself,” said Ronia suspiciously. “Especially for someone with so many complaints.”
The mage’s response stemmed from the look on her friend’s face. Her words had been sour, but her smile told a different story altogether.
“D-do I really?” Nell’s voice quivered as she responded to her sleepy-sounding friend.
“Were you really that happy to see him?”
“Y-yeah,” the hero. “He’s really strong. I didn’t expect to see him here, but knowing he is is reassuring.”
“He’s that strong?”
“Mhm. He was always really strong. I’m not really sure why, but now he seems even stronger. I don’t think I would be able to put up much of a fight against him anymore, no matter how hard I tried,” said Nell with a nod.
The claim caused Ronia to give the other girl a look of disbelief. The scuffle in the bar had proven to her that the man was strong. But she couldn’t believe that he was even stronger than the person walking at her side. It was no exaggeration to say that Nell was one of humanity’s finest. Only the strongest orichalcum adventurers were able to match her. And that was in spite of the fact that she had yet to reach her peak. Nell was still growing into her role. She would only get stronger.
It was commonly understood that demons, the demon realm’s inhabitants, were more powerful than humans. They were much more capable of exerting brute force, be it physical or magical. But that wasn’t to say that humanity was doomed, for the human race had technology and technique. It was by no means strictly inferior.
With all that in mind, Ronia knew that Nell was strong enough to hold her own, even here in the demon realm. And yet, she claimed that she couldn’t hold a candle to the man the two of them had just met. Though none present had made the man’s race known, it was obvious that the man was no human. He had to be a demon, and one of the realm’s most powerful at that.
That was only one of the many facts that the mage had deduced. The conversation he had with Nell had been riddled with clues detailing his identity. And Ronia had already finished putting them together. One of the most significant bits of information was that the two spoke of a girl named Lady Iryll. Ronia knew: there was only a single Iryll in all of Allysia that even the hero would think to address by title.
This meant that the man named Yuki was not only stronger than a literal hero, but also acquainted with one of the country’s most important VIPs. And that was enough to tell her that he had most likely been the man that had put an end to the prince’s rebellion, the mysterious, masked entity that had shown up in the capital a month prior, only to vanish as quickly as he had come.
Unveiling his identity revealed the reason it had been kept a secret. Ronia now understood exactly why the king had kept his mouth shut and his lips sealed whenever he was asked for more information. It was because he was a demon. The fact that a demon had saved Alshir was one that could never be revealed; public outcry was sure to ensue should it ever come to light. Allysia would once again be plunged into a state of instability despite only just having been restored to order. Likewise, there was a chance that the church could suffer if it was known that Nell, the hero, was on friendly terms with a demon.
Ronia herself didn’t particularly mind, however. Her friend was willing to trust him in spite of his race, and she too saw no reason not to do the same. There was a chance that the rest of their allies might not think the same, but there was no need to tell them everything. All the others needed to know was that they had found someone willing to cooperate. And that was probably all they wanted to know about the individual in question anyway. There was little chance they would ask for too many details.
“Was that really the only reason?” Ronia pressed the other girl for answers. She highly doubted that the man’s strength alone would have caused Nell to respond in the manner she had.
“D-did I really look that happy?”
“I think so.”
Ronia could easily tell that, while Nell really had felt reassured by the man’s presence and willingness to help, there was much more than just that to it. The look in her eyes had been filled with affection, with a longing that could only be described as love.
Nell tried to force a smile, but it came out in a way that put her embarrassment on display. The truth of the matter was that she was overjoyed by the unexpected encounter. She saw him as an absurd and selfish man whose thoughts and ideals were entirely beyond comprehension. The event that had occurred within the bar was a perfect example of exactly what that meant to her. Though it was entirely his fault, Yuki had suddenly and inexplicably changed his mind, pinned the fault on the man he had verbally assaulted, and rendered all of his assailants unconscious.
The people he fought weren’t the best behaved. They were hot-blooded, and there was a chance that the events that followed his insults may have very well unfolded regardless of whether or not he had initiated them. But whatever the case, the fact was that the fault lay with him and not any other.
It was unreasonable. He was unreasonable. But that was a part of why she found it so entertaining to be around him. With him around, there was never a quiet moment. There was always something going on.
She felt like it was almost as if something was drawing her to him. She didn’t know whether it was because of something to do with his abilities as a demon lord, or whether it was something that originated from the person in question. But she did know that, like her, the goat-horned girl and the girl he called his daughter felt the exact same way.
And so did the girl that he had married.
It had finally happened.
She had always known that the two were perfectly compatible despite their propensity to argue. And as the thought passed through her mind, so did a pain through her chest. But she shook it off. She chased the thought out of her mind as she spoke to the other girl in what she believed to be an energetic tone.
“That’s just because he’s fun to be around. I’m sure you’ll know exactly what I mean if you spend enough time with him,” she said. “Now let’s hurry up and get back to the inn. I’m sure everyone else is already on their way back too.”
With that said, Nell once again began to “happily” walk along the side of the road.
“…Okay” Ronia paused for a moment before assenting. Her friend seemed to think that she had hidden her emotions away. But the mage saw right through her. Ronia opened her mouth to speak, but she didn’t know what she was supposed to say to the other girl, nor how she was supposed to say it. The only thing she could muster was to agree to follow the other girl back to their temporary residence.