Chapter 65: Of the Demon Lord’s Mausoleum and the Man That Gnawed a Hero to Death
By the time I finally opened my eyes, several days had pa.s.sed by.
"Oh, you're awake."
I was greeted with the sight of Melehn peering directly into my face. She brought her own closer and pressed her forehead against my head, then proceeded to hum thoughtfully.
"Doesn't look like there's a problem with your magic. Spirit waves are fine too. Can't spot any after-effects either."
"Sorry, but… where is this…?"
Had I given it more thought, then I wouldn't have posed the question. I was, of course, still inside Glenstadt Castle, resting in my own room.
"So I made it, huh? I didn't die…"
I let out a long sigh. I was more than certain that, had I kicked the bucket then and there, I would have gotten an earful of the Demon Lord's scoldings once I made it to the other side.
Melehn responded by giving me a rather chilling look.
"So tell me, is it just in a werewolf's nature to overdo it like that? Or is it just you, Vaito?"
Ow, Ow! That hurts! That really hurts! Stop grinding my temples, Senpai!
"Um… How did things turn out?"
I managed to bring myself to avoid Melehn's relentless a.s.saults and had opted to ask the question that rested heavily on my mind.
In a rather surprising gesture, she let her hand fall onto my shoulder and gave her answer in an unexpectedly soft tone.
"Everything's fine. There's nothing for you to worry about. Our teacher took care of it all."
She went on to tell me that the guards had personally nursed me after I had lost consciousness. They had also gone through the trouble of calling for the Dragon Folk to return from their refuge, then gotten to work on enshrining the remains of the Demon Lord and the Hero.
In a more convenient turn of events, the Master had come to relieve me of my unconsciousness soon after.
To shed a more light on that, it seemed that he had been perceptive enough to feel the loss of the two t.i.tanic ent.i.ties that were made up of the Hero and the Demon Lord. He had even forced himself to come here in spite of his lingering troubles with movement.
I was also told that upon his arrival, the Master had gone on to toil away. He had spent the entire night at the Demon Lord's side doing everything within his power, but it was far too late for any forms of healing or resurrection to have any effect. It didn't matter whether you were the Lord of all Demons or a Hero; once you were subjected to the full extent of death, there was nothing that could bring you back.
In the end, the exhausted Master had been forced to officially declare the Demon King as deceased. He had done so through rivers of his own tears.
The Demon Lord's remains had been carried way to the mausoleum, where he had been buried in the graveyard beneath.
Demons did not have much in the way of customs that included a proper funeral service. Their life-long experience of dwelling alongside nature had taught them to bury their dead as quickly as possible, or there would be no way to protect their remains.
Nevertheless, there was no doubt that they would go into mourning.
The Hero's body, on the other hand, had been returned to the Miraldia Army that had been awaiting him outside the mist. The Master had done so believing that all those dead should be mourned equally, but it would seem that he had been met with the unbelievable shock of the army.
It was no wonder. After all, the most lethal wound visible on his corpse appeared to have been made by some king of gargantuan wolf.
They misinterpreted the situation, believing that the Hero had failed to subjugate the Demon Lord and had instead been gnawed to death by one of his underlings. Believing the Demon Lord to be alive and well, they neglected the body of their Hero and fled for the hills.
This being a fate no one deserved, the Hero had been brought to the mausoleum of Glenstadt Castle for a temporary burial. Some day, his remains would be returned to his home town.
A scout's report had come in, confirming that the Miraldia Army had succeeded in escaping the forest and was now back in Bachen. The public militia had scattered completely, and whatever remained of the official army had holed itself up in Bachen under the pretence of a defensive manoeuvre.
Other stories that were pa.s.sed on to me told of horrific rumours that were circulating about. Rumours of me, mostly. I also heard that there were additions being made to the wanted posters published by the senate.
In the end, neither side had really gained anything. Both sides had lost their paragons.
The Miraldia Army should be silent for the time being, at least.
The real problems had festered in the Demon Lord's Army.
With the Demon Lord defeated, only the division commander was left to command the troops. With Division Commander Tiberit having perished in battle, the only one left was my own commander, Gomoviloa. He had been making use of the past few days to console and encourage his men, sometimes even scolding them, all responsibilities that had fallen to him. Had he not been there while I was out cold, there could be no imagining what might have happened to the distressed troops.
Considering his skill and prior accomplishments, the Master was a very suitable fit for the position of the new Demon Lord. He himself seemed to be hesitant to pick up that mantle, but I'd do my best to convince him later.
And in any case, it had been thanks to the instigations of the Master that the Demon Lord had even raised his army. Until he had done so, the only forces worth speaking of were the relatively miniscule forces of armed Dragon Folk. That had then changed to include the likes of the great giant Tiberit and the countless demons that had decided to join their ranks. I myself was one of those who had been pushed upward by the Master to join the army.
That's why I'd made sure that the Master would shoulder the responsibility for it all. That I would aid him every step of the way went without saying.
While the army was one point of concern, what weighed the most heavily on my mind was the Demon Lord's mausoleum. I wanted to bid him farewell. On my own terms.
I rose from my bed. I could feel my body creaking at every joint, but I was still perfectly capable of movement.
"I'm going to His Majesty's mausoleum."
"I'll come with you."
"No, don't. I'd rather do this alone, if you don't mind."
Melehn gave me a long look of great concern, but then offered me a defeated smile.
"… I understand. Don't push yourself, alright?"
She lent me her shoulder to lean on, then ruffled my head like she used to do long ago. It brought back a lot of memories.
It just went to show that I'd beleaguered her far too much while I was unconscious, namely by making her worry her head off.
The minute I ventured out into the hallway, I was surprised to see all the aides of the first division forming a row in front of me. There was no way of telling when they had come here, but they were accompanied by the likes of the aide Balsche. Even Kulsche, the technical officer, was there. So were the personal guards.
Once I entered their field of vision, they all felt content to greet me with a silent salute. The thoughts that ran through my head couldn't be expressed with mere words, so I returned the gesture and gave them my own quiet salute.
Then, I left.
In the great park that was behind the castle Glenstadt, there was a mausoleum built out of stone. Those that had formerly resided in the castle must have planned to make use of it at some point, but they had never been able to make it inside. They had been overthrown by their own ilk, dragged down to ruin by other humans.
And now, it served as the resting place for the Demon Lord himself.
Once I had made an offering of incense, I looked up at the gloomy stone structure. This world had no actual incense, so I had been forced to make due and borrowed something with a similar enough scent from Melehn.
I closed my eyes, folded my hands together, and spoke to the Demon Lord.
"Your Majesty… Dying on your own was hardly fair."
I had been reincarnated into this world as a werewolf, and had finally come across someone who had undergone a similar experience. It had even been someone from j.a.pan, just like me.
There were no words to describe the familiarity I had felt towards him.
He had rarely ever spoken of his time in our old world, but he was still j.a.panese. Like I was.
There were too few things we had spoken of.
"You Majesty… I don't mind the bread this world has to offer, but I'd like to eat some rice again. Don't you agree?"
"Indeed. Rice could make use of the same amount of land and feed even more mouths. I'd love to introduce the people here to the idea of rice cultivation. Some day."
"No, no. I'm just saying that I want to eat some for myself…"
"It's much easier for you to eat grains, you know. Being a werewolf and all. But I'm part of the Dragon Folk. Our bodies just don't handle the stuff well."
"That sounds harsh…"
We had many conversations like that. While the Demon Lord had pa.s.sed away without ever telling me what kind of person he was in his previous life, it wasn't hard for me to visualise him as some kind of workaholic.
Even in this world, he had put his life on the line for his work. Now, he was dead.
The more I thought about it, the more socially awkward he seemed. He had, after all, died without even giving me his old name.
A voice behind me called my name.
"I thought I might find you here, Vaito."
It was the Master's voice. I turned around and was greeted with his usual smile.
He still seemed to be awfully tired. He was leaning on his staff in an almost dependant manner. Even the hue of his face seemed to be off.
"Master, are you feeling alright?"
"Oh, there's no need for you to worry. Let's focus on what's important here: you managed to defeat the enemies of the Demon Lord and Tiberit. Thank you, Vaito."
"The only thing I did was to take on a wounded Hero and kill him. It's really nothing worth the praise."
The Hero, Arshes. He had only fought against the enemies of the one called Meltia… and died for the same person. Or possible person.
Had Meltia been part of his family? A lover, perhaps? It was also possible that the two shared the same relationship a master and student might have.
It was possible that he was another person that had been reincarnated here?
Now, all of that would remain a mystery.
The Master held out a single, sealed letter.
"This is the Demon Lord's last will and testament. It said to hand it over to you."
"I can't say I received a single one of these myself. Once you're done with it, come and meet me in my room."
With those final words, Master turned to face the mausoleum and bowed his head in silence.