“Not enough… it’s not enough!” cried out a red-haired man with blue skin, floating in the sky. “It’s still not enough… bring out your full power, this battle is still too cold!”
The roar reverberated in Cyrille’s eardrums. As if to agree with the demon’s statement, heat waves began to spread from his position.
“Prometheus – Forbidden Formula!”
The blue-skinned demon pushed his arms towards the sky. At the same time, the earth cracked and a red fire billowed up from the ground to cover a square kilometer with flame tens of meters high. The surrounding territory that had been wrapped in the darkness of night was now illuminated by the hellish glow.
Forbidden Formula, a technique that increased the power of magic with an excessive consumption of magical power. Originally, the magic called Prometheus could only cover a hundred meter square with an ocean of fire. The demon expanded it further by using the Forbidden Formula. In exchange, it was more difficult to control the magic, but at this moment Zion of the Phosphorus Fire was the only demon in the area. After the town was cleared by the heroes, he had no need to worry about the surroundings.
“Eterna, put out the fire with your magic!” Jean called out.
Jean, the sage, was working with the witch Eterna and the saintess Maria to cover the party with a wide area shield. His voice was tinged with irritation.
“I know, I know,” Eterna said. She had already been moving before Jean gave the order. She calmed down, focused, and activated a major water spell.
With that single phrase, a giant sphere of water appeared over the demon’s head. Once it appeared it was affected by gravity and fell, heading towards him with enormous force. Eterna intended to accomplish attack and defense at the same time with this spell.
But the demon wrapped himself in flame and threw himself towards the mass of water. He penetrated from the bottom straight through to the top. Once he was out, he kicked it like a ball, straight at Eterna.
Jean, Maria and Eterna were amazed at the counterattack that was outside of common sense. All they could do was to hold on to the shield that was already straining.
The warrior Gadio rushed forward. Every time he kicked against the ground small craters would form where his feet had been. The weight of his black armor and two handed sword was no joke. Despite that, his overwhelming strength allowed him to move at high speed. Beyond strength, Gadio would even use magic.
The quiet invocation accompanied the concentration of magical power at his feet that he pushed into the ground. The earth before him rose up to create a stairway in time with his advance. Gadio raced forward towards the falling sphere of water and the demon beyond.
Gadio refined his prana as he moved. His technique converted power that filled the body into an invisible force called “qi,” a power distinct from magical power. At the cost of heavy physical weakness it released a deadly blow. The technique was originally used by a knight who served the kingdom, and was known as Cavalier Arts.
Gadio swung his sword with both arms full of prana. The surrounding scenery seemed distorted by the speed of the strike. A high pitched sound rang out. This was Cavalier Arts – Sword Curtain. A shockwave raced out and cut the meteor of water in two. Even after that, the shock wave carried forward towards Zion.
“So, this time it’s you!”
Zion held out his hand, black smoke pouring out. The smoke did not behave like smoke from a fire. Instead, it was a haze created by Zion’s “phosphorous fire” attribute, a rare attribute that allowed him to control both darkness and fire. The shockwave was made visible by the smoke and Zion caught it with his bare hands.
The palm of his hands were clasped around the shockwave. They were protected by a thin membrane of fire that refused to allow it to touch his skin. Zion clicked his tongue and threw the shockwave into the sky.
“You still have nothing… it’s not hot, this heat of yours!”
However, Gadio himself was still going. He reached the end of the rock staircase and kicked off of the last step. His black armored form danced high in the sky. Zion prepared to receive his giant sword with a fist wrapped in flames.
Bang! The fist and blade collided with each other. The aftermath of the impact sent vibrations through the surrounding air.
“It’s about time to end – let’s finish this!”
Even in muscular strength, Zion surpasses Gadio. With a crash, the knight was blown away and sent flying towards the ground. At the same time, the water that had lost its shape splashed down on the ground, putting out the flames that had covered the surface of the earth. Fog billowed up from the ground, wreathing the party in mist.
“Hey Hero, crawl out of hiding and fight me! You are the only one who can match one of the three Demon Generals!”
Zion’s words were not wrong. With the strength of the Hero, the party had never fallen into despair even when fighting one of the three generals in the past. However, the hero Cyrille who still missed Flamm – because of her shaken heart, she couldn’t use magical power successfully.
As he taunted them, an arrow was released from a distance an ordinary human being could not have seen with the naked eye. Linus had been waiting for the right moment and took the shot when Zion was distracted by Cyrille. Despite the distance there was no problem with the speed or aim of the arrow as it headed straight for Zion’s forehead. Moreover, the arrow was hidden by the water vapor, and Zion never noticed its existence until it reached him.
In the instant between the arrow’s appearance and before it could stab through his brain, Zion reacted on instinct rather than by conscious thought. The temperature around him soared, burning the arrow to ash.
“Hey, that’s not it, that’s not it at all!”
Zion, who embraced the heat of battle, despised that sort of sniper attack. He exploded in anger, raised his hands and put out even more magical power than he had used to that point. Multiple fireballs were created in the air, quickly growing to the same size as the water meteor Eterna had released.
“If you won’t heat up, I’ll heat you up! Flare Meteor – Forbidden Formula!”
The spell was outrageously powerful. Zion was trying to kill Cyrille in one powerful blow. The remaining steam burned away under the heat of the spell, and the people on the ground looked up at the huge fireballs that each rivaled the sun.
“Aaaah! Such a thing… it can’t be stopped!”
“We did all we could.”
“Eterna, how can you be so calm! If you could use more powerful water magic, we’d have a chance!”
“It’s my fault?
“Hey, you guys-”
“We can’t fight now!” Maria interrupted. She rarely raised her voice, so her shout momentarily silenced the others.
“Please reinforce the shield as much as possible,” Cyrille said. “Gadio can add his shield as well. If we reduce the size we might have a chance.
“Even that is not enough!” Jean said. “Cyrille, can’t you use the power of the Hero to protect us?”
“I can’t,” Cyrille said. “That’s why I’m thinking about how we can manage.”
“Why, why, why? You’re the Hero, why can’t you use the hero’s greatest weapon?” Jean asked. “What’s wrong? Don’t complain about feelings. If you’re the Hero, you have to save us!”
Cyrille could only lower her eyes and clench her teeth. She couldn’t argue. Right then, she was certainly showing her weakness as the Hero. But, after all, she was still a young girl. Her guilt and hurt feelings couldn’t disappear so quickly.
“How can you be distracted by garbage like Flamm? You are the chosen hero, there’s no need to think about useless people,” Jean said. “You should think about protecting your fellow heroes!”
“If you are the Hero, take action like a Hero! Throw away useless sentiment!”
“Jean! This is not the time for that!” Eterna interrupted. “Get ready!”
“Damn, why… why do not you understand, when I know I’m right!”
Jean was not sensitive to feelings and didn’t realize how much his words could hurt. Despite his grumbling, he joined together with Eterna and Maria to deploy a shield. Cyrille still was not able to use her magic at all. Up above, the Flare Meteor continued to inflate with magical power.
“Sorry, I thought I could get hotter, but …”
Though Zion sounded rueful, he had still gathered enough power to eradicate the heroes. He raised his hand, prepared to bring it down and drop a gigantic lump of fire.
“Hotter, hotter, hotter, you battle maniac!”
Along with the commentary, someone slapped the back of Zion’s head.
Zion furrowed his brow and looked back. A woman whose outfit exposed quite a lot of her blue skin was floating in the air behind him. She brushed back her hair, a darker blue than her skin, and glared at her colleague.
“Oh, Neigas, sorry to bother you.”
“Bother me? The heroes would die if I weren’t here! Do you remember what the Demon Lord said?”
“What was it?”
“Do not kill human beings! Do you not remember at all?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”
After being told off by Neigas of the Blood Wind, another of the three Demon Generals, Zion canceled the magic he had developed with a casual wave of his hand. The heroes looking up from the ground were shivering simply from seeing two of the three demon generals gathered together.
“All right heroes, that’s it for today. We should battle seriously next time!”
With that, Zion waved at them and left. Cyrille did not understand at all why he abandoned a battlefield when he could have killed them all.
“I would like to persuade you to quit this invasion,” Neigas said, “but I know that’s not going to happen.”
Neigas spoke of peace, but after looking at Maria and seeing the hatred in her eyes she gave up quickly.
“Well, see you again, invading Heroes.”
With a wink, she followed after Zion. The remaining heroes could look up at the sky with dismay. Other than the saintess at the far back who was looking up with hatred.
◇ ◇ ◇
After the battle, Linus rejoined the group and confirmed the degree of damage. Fortunately, nobody had wounds that Maria couldn’t treat with her magic. Unfortunately, the loss of supplies was severe. It would make it tough for them to continue.
“You can’t use metastatic stones here as a treasure… Damn, what a waste.”
Cyrille’s magical ability “return” allowed the group to travel freely back and forth between the human kingdom and demonic territory. However, in order to return to the proper spot in the demonic territory, they had to set up a “transition stone.” The group only had a limited number of such stones, so they could only be used if the group has covered as much territory as they had planned or more. If they covered less distance then they would have to return to the kingdom without setting up a return marker.
“Until a while ago, everything was going well. Now that things should be even better, why are we delayed?” Jean said. “How can cutting off dead weight slow us down?!”
“Jean, please calm down.”
Maria, who was treating Gadio, noticed that Jean was losing his temper as he had done during the battle. She tried to calm him down, but he wouldn’t listen.
“How can I calm down? Cyrille, why did this happen? Why?”
“Apologizing doesn’t change anything!”
“Hey Jean!” Linus said, putting his hand on Jean’s shoulder. Instead of calming down, Jean shook off his hand.
“Damn, shit, fuck! Everyone, why can’t you understand that I’m right! I’m surrounded by idiots!”
Without looking at the rest of them, Jean stalked away from the group into the barren lands.
“Ah, he’s in trouble too,” Linus said.
Linus knew that Jean had complex feelings towards Cyrille. In a word, he was jealous of Flamm. With Flamm gone, Jean expected Cyrille to pay more attention to him. Contrary to his expectations, that hadn’t happened. Moreover, Flamm, his usual outlet for his anger, was not there. Linus could understand that Jean was upset, and would bear with his temper. Still, even as a friend, he couldn’t defend his behavior.
“Yes, this should be fine,” Gadio said. As Maria finished her treatment, he rose to a seated position and turned his shoulder to confirm his condition.
“I am sorry,” Maria said. “I can’t heal it completely.”
“Don’t worry, I’m used to getting hit.”
While it still hurt, Gadio felt much better than he did after getting hit by Zion’s fist. As he stood, Eterna, who had been watching the treatment, turned and walked away from the party in a different direction than Jean had gone. Eterna frequently wandered off on her own, but this time Gadio found himself following after her. He wasn’t quite sure why.
An awkward silence arose between the remaining three: Cyrille, Linus, and Maria. They were the two that Cyrille knew best.
“Well, don’t worry about it. Everybody has bad days,” Linus said, “hero or not.”
Linus wanted to encourage Cyrille and dispel the atmosphere.
“Yeah, there is still a long way to go to the Demon Lord’s castle,” Maria said. “You can get it back little by little.”
“Yeah,” Cyrille muttered.
Cyrille’s heart sunk further with feelings of guilt. Linus and Maria looked at each other. If nothing they could say could turn things around, they could at least be kind to Cyrille.
“It was strange that they just left like that,” Linus said. “They seemed to be saying something about ‘instructions,’ and ‘do not kill humans.'”
Although Linus was a long way away from the conversation, he could roughly understand what had been said by reading lips. As soon as he mentioned the demons, Maria began tapping her thumb and index fingers together in irritation.
“It’s very strange,” Maria said. “They’ve killed a lot of people before.”
“Yes. Should anything change now?” Linus said. “I guess it doesn’t make a difference.”
“It can’t make a difference,” Maria said. “It is better for all of the demons to disappear.
Her tone was unusually vehement. Linus was starting to realize that she had a deep-seated hatred of demons. Actually, when they were in the capital before, he had investigated Maria. He was good at that sort of thing. He felt bad about it, but his curiosity exceeded his sense of guilt.
Maria Afengen, 18 years old. She was a user of light magic with tremendous magical talent. She is currently in a position where she can be worshiped as the saintess of Origin.
Originally, though, she was not a believer in Origin. She lived in a village where a local religion dominated, and she believed in the local god. As a remnant of that time, she has a tattoo on her back that even now has not been completely erased.
Around ten years ago when she was eight years old her village was destroyed by the assault of the demons. She and her family and friends lost everything because of the demons. She was protected by the church and entered it at that time. As it happened, she had the light attribute and became a nun. Later, she was chosen by Origin’s prophecy to be a member of the current demon suppression.
She had enough reason to hate demons. However, was that enough to explain the hatred lurking in her? Linus wasn’t sure.
“Linus, did you have something to add?” Maria asked, tilting her neck.
She was very pretty. To the extent that Linus didn’t want to imagine that there is darkness in her heart. Well, even if there was darkness it was fine. He wanted to support her, including that, if only she would reveal everything to him.
“… No, nothing at all”
Still, Linus didn’t feel he was prepared to tell her.
Linus resumed the conversation again to comfort Cyrille. He was slightly amazed that she didn’t melt down. But her smile didn’t return, either. All in all, the party wouldn’t be saved unless Flamm returned and gave Cyrille a chance to apologize.
◇ ◇ ◇
Eterna stopped after walking for about five minutes. Gadio, who had been following behind her, stopped on the spot.
“Why did you follow me?”
As she spoke, she idly poked at the sphere floating beside her. It appeared to be an equipment designed for magical power amplification.
“I guess you called.”
“Oh, maybe, maybe,” Eterna said. “So what do you think of the party now?”
“What about it?”
“Are you enjoying it?” Eterna asked. “Are not you bored?”
Eterna had initially not been interested at all in demon suppression. She lived in the mountains, and though she had the same strength as S rank adventurers, she lived a simple self-sufficient life. Her age was unknown, her motivation unknown, she was a woman who didn’t stick her neck out at all.
“I thought I was excited about the heroic party that set out to kill the Demon Lord,” Eterna said.
“But I noticed that since Flamm left it’s not fun for me now,” Eterna said. “It’s not fun at all. The food is bad, everyone is bad.”
“I can’t disagree.”
While Gadio acted calm, it didn’t mean he didn’t feel the disturbing air around the party. Mostly caused by Jean, but even besides that the number of bombs buried – such as the scars on Cyrille’s heart and Maria’s background – were quite large. With Flamm gone, the party seemed doomed to collapse. Gadio respected her efforts, but he couldn’t fill her role.
“Therefore, I will leave,” Eterna said.
“Now that Flamm is gone, it shouldn’t be a problem if I leave,” Eterna said. “Well, even if you told me not to, I would just disappear without permission.”
It was Jean’s blunder. People who were chosen by prophecy to be members of the hero’s team for the suppression of the Demon Kingdom would assume that it was a duty and wouldn’t leave. But now Flamm’s departure is a fact that has given the rest of them an excuse.
“I don’t think it would be useful to tell Jean,” Eterna said. “I’m done talking to him.”
“Are you sure?”
“That guy. Talking down to me with his 8800 magical power. I have 10,000, I’m stronger!” Eterna said. “What mage would accept being told off by a child with lower magical power?”
“Well then, I won’t stop you.”
“I’m surprised,” Eterna said. “I thought you would stand for discipline and stop me.”
“There is no such discipline here.”
“If Flamm can leave, why can’t you?”
“Oh, you should come with me!”
While Eterna laughed, Gadio sighed.
◇ ◇ ◇
The group gathered again and returned to the capital with Cyrille’s invoked return. After that, Eterna announced her withdrawal from the party. Of course, Jean was furious and Cyrille was dismayed, but her intention remained unchanged.
Eterna shook hands with the rest of them before leaving the transition room. She never returned to the party again.
TN: Apparently if things don’t work out as a shonen protagonist then demon general makes a good backup career choice.