Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
“…Looks like the old fart wasn’t kidding when he said it’d be obvious.” I muttered under my breath as I gazed upon the scene laid out before me. It was so disastrous it almost made it seem as if the horde’s attack had succeeded. Soldiers and townspeople alike were strewn all over the streets, as stained and messy as they would have been had they been slain. Wow, uh… just… wow.
The few who had awoken only served to make the scenario look worse. The headaches their hangovers resulted in led them to stagger about and groan like zombies. Yeahhhhh, if I didn’t know what was going on here, I probably would’ve thought I’d just walked straight into a horror movie. Or hell. Probably the latter.
Alright, that’s bullshit. But only ‘cause of the smell. That shit’s so strong you could probably pick up on it from a mile away. Whatever the case, one thing was obvious. The party that followed the attack was one not soon to be forgotten. Chances were, we were indirectly at fault. The soldiers had most likely ended up with an excess of energy following the enemy raid because they ended up with no part to play. Going all out and partying until they dropped was just their way of emptying their overcharged batteries.
I walked down the street paved with the “dead,” taking care not to step on them as I did. Eventually, after a few minutes of careful navigation, I arrived at ground zero, the bar, and peeked inside. “Looks like this is probably the place.”
“Sorry, but we’re closed,” said the bartender. “I’m sure you can see why.”
Like me, he was in the middle of navigating around a bunch of pseudo-corpses. Unlike me, he happened to have a broom in hand and was in the midst of cleaning up after the drunkards passed out all around his tavern.
“Don’t worry about it. I was just here to pick up a family member anyway,” I said before glancing around the room. “But yeah, you’re right. Looks like getting everything ready again is probably going to be a real pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, well, business is business,” laughed the bartender. “As this shop’s owner, I can’t really say I even mind it.”
Now that’s what we call entrepreneurial spirit.
After exchanging a few words with the bartender, I started sorting through the corpses strewn around the store for the one I was looking for.
“Let’s see… Nell… Nell… Oh, there she is!” I eventually managed to find her passed out in a chair, face-down with her head rested against her arms. Once I reached her, I placed my hands on her shoulders and gave her a couple light shakes.
“Nell. Wake up. It’s time to head back to the inn.”
“Nnmmnnm…” A small groan escaped her lips as she rubbed her eyes and slowly sat up. “Yuki…?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Come on, let’s get out of here. If you want to sleep, you can do it once we get back.”
“Hehehe… Yookeeee.” She giggled drunkenly as she leaned into me and rubbed her face against my chest.
Is she half-asleep? Or just drunk? Ehhhh… by the looks of it, probably both.
“Damn it, woman, how much did you drink?”
“Hmmm… Lots!” she said. “Shorry we started partying even though you were shtill busshy.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’d need to be half a man to give a shit about something as inconsequential as that.”
“Mhmm… You’re sho nice.”
Alright, yeah. She’s definitely still a bit drunk. She’s slurring her words way too much not to be. And that’s on top of all the weird behaviour. I lent her one of my shoulders as I contemplated the state she was in and helped her to her feet.
“Gimme ah wide!”
“Oh, for fucks sake…” I sighed as I crouched and let her onto my back. “Seriously. Just how much did you end up drinking?”
“Loooootsh!” She wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed me to signal that she was secure.
Goddamn drunk. I smiled to myself as I stood up and got back to my feet.
“You smell really weally good!”
“That’s… embarrassing. How about you keep stuff like that to yourself?”
Oh, okay. With Nell on board, I left the bar and started to head back towards the inn.
“Hey, Yuki…?” After a few minutes, she broke the silence and began speaking in a quiet voice.
“I did a lot of thinking. About what heroes really are. And what it means to be one.”
She paused, so I made a noise to urge her to keep speaking.
“Being a hero is hard. Really hard. People will start saying really nasty things about you if you show even the slightest bit of weakness. And they’ll try doing bad things to you too. It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter how far the rumours are from the truth. None of it matters unless I’m strong enough to go unchallenged. Heroes aren’t allowed to be weak. No matter what.”
“But I still want to be this country’s hero. Not for anyone else anymore. But for me. I don’t care how much people end up hating me. Because that doesn’t change the fact that I love this country. And I want to protect it.”
“Really…?” I was appalled. You really still love it? Even though its people are trying to stab you in the back and use you for political gain?
“Mhm! I really do. I love Allysia. And I love you too. Very, very much. I’d be happy to spend the rest of my life with you and live in that big fancy castle of yours. I’d want to stay by your side forever if I could. And share my life with you. But I can’t. I just… can’t.”
“Because you wouldn’t be able to be a hero anymore?”
“Mhm. Giving up on heroism would be like throwing away my dignity. I know I’m barely a hero. And that, as it is, my pride means nothing. But I can’t just give up. Not yet. At the very least, I want to see this country through this time of hardship. I want to stay with it and make sure it stabilizes. And that it won’t need me anymore. Only then will I have fulfilled my duty.”
There was nothing I could say. I knew the value of dignity. And the weight it held on one’s mind.
“Yuki…” Her voice trembled with nervous uncertainty.
“I know that asking you this is really selfish. But… Can we get married anyway? Even though I can’t live with you or stay by your side?” The question came timidly, cautiously, and almost fearfully.
My response was short and sweet.
I dropped her.
I pulled my arms out from under her and let her fall flat on her ass.
“Ouch! That hurt, Yuki! What the heck!”
“You’re a goddamn idiot, you know that?” I spun around to face her—
—and flicked her right on the forehead.
“For fuck’s sake. What do you take me for? You think I’m going to let something that inconsequential stop me from claiming you?” I crossed my arms. “Fuck no! I’m a goddamn demon lord. We do and take whatever the fuck we want.”
“Yeah, I guess that is true.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard this plenty of times already, but demon lords are insatiable incarnates of greed. We get the things we want, no matter how many roadblocks we have to take down to do it. And besides, I’m a real man, not some drooling retard with half a nut. I’d never abandon you just ‘cause we can’t live together.”
I offered her a hand.
“Look, here’s how I see this. It doesn’t matter if we can’t spend that much time together. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if we end up going down separate paths.” I started to speak more slowly and deliberately, both because I wanted to carefully choose my words, and because I felt the need to hide my embarrassment. “Either way, you’re going to end up by my side. Because you do plan to come live with us eventually, right?”
Tears welled up in her eyes as she nodded—
—and took my hand.
I tightened my grip on her, pulled her to her feet, and into my arms. After embracing her delicate frame and allowing her a moment to relish in the sensation, I started to speak.
“But you know, honestly, I’m not even sure you’d like it all that much. Some of the people I live with are kinda loud, and make for some pretty annoying roommates. Just calling it out ahead of time before you get stuck dealing with it.”
“That’s okay,” she giggled. “I don’t mind. In fact, I think I like it better when there’s always at least a bit of noise.”
“Well, then I guess you’ll fit right in.” I allowed the warm smile on my face to warp into a wide smirk. “But man, you sure are a sly one. Did you really just go out of your way to pretend to be drunk just so you could milk that outta me? Like, seriously, come on, let’s be real. You totally knew exactly what I was going to say, but you went ahead and did the thing anyway, just ‘cause you wanted to hear it.”
Her face went from pale to pink, then pink to red in the blink of an eye. She was so red, in fact, that I felt as if she was either about to explode or eject a jet of steam from her ears.
“Y-you knew!?” she squeaked.
“Totally. It was obvious. I could tell you were actually drunk when you just woke up, but then you totally sobered up and started putting on a really bad act instead. The part that made it really obvious was the fact that you totally stopped slurring your speech. Might as well have been a dead giveaway.”
“Why couldn’t you at least have pretended not to notice!?” she said after groaning in agony.
“Because I like teasing people. Duh.”
“Really!? That’s why!? I hate you so much, Yuki! You’re a meanie! A bully! And totally evil!”
“Wooooah there! Calm down! I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be drawing your sword in the middle of the city like that!” I said as I easily avoided her blade. “And is it just me, or are you getting a sense of deja vu? I swear this exact same thing has already happened.”
“Shut up! Evil demon lords like you should just disappear!”
“Mwahahahaha! Too bad for you, hero! But evil can never be destroyed! As long as sentient life continues to exist, so too shall the dark side! True evil can never be banished! Only delayed!” I cackled as I turned tail and began running away from the blushing hero.
“Oh no you don’t! Get back here!”