※This is an R-15 story, so the depictions are subdued, but it is the development you might expect.
“For this vegetable, you have to take out the seeds inside after you peel it. If you don’t, there will be bitterness when you boil it.” (Leishia)
I learned a lot from Leishia about human society, and I was also being taught cooking at that time.
At that time, I found more worth in cooking since I felt change from it instead of learning about human society.
I would improve the parts she pointed out, and would provide food. After that, I would study and learn a variety of things.
About the history of the world, the Yugura Church, the lifestyle of humans, the knights, and the adventurers.
“Ekdoik, it might be a good idea to become an adventurer. It might be weird coming from me who isn’t that knightly, but you don’t seem like the type that would be able to handle a stiff workplace.” (Leishia)
“I am an avenger. I have no intention of doing anything aside from that.” (Ekdoik)
“An avenger isn’t a job, you know? You think you can walk around human society while jobless?” (Leishia)
“…No issues.” (Ekdoik)
“If you attack all the people that enter your peripheral, you will just be dealt with as a madman. Even if the individual power of humans is weak, they have learned techniques to protect themselves. Or can you confidently say that you can win against anyone with your own power? Even your father Beglagud wouldn’t be here the whole time if he had such power, right? He would think about invading the human realm just like the Demon Lords.” (Leishia)
The strength of Leishia isn’t that high. Even so, she had the looks and valor to be left in charge of a platoon.
The reason why she ended up there was because, at the time when she was exploring the Kuama Nether, she encountered a pack of devils.
There were several high devils affiliated with Father. Leishia judged the situation wasn’t favorable and became bait in order to let her comrades escape.
Judging from the fact that there weren’t any other humans that were dealt with or captured, she must have successfully lured them away.
“A passing mark for me. I would have wanted to defeat the devils, but my talent in the sword is a bit… Ah, but there’s also one person with a whole lot of talent, you know? They have a pretty hard head, but I am sure they will become someone who will lead the Holy Knights in the near future!” (Leishia)
“I am impressed you can talk with so much glee. Even though there’s almost zero chance you can return alive.” (Ekdoik)
Considering the personality of Father, I was sure he would get rid of her once I learned everything from her. I knew this and Leishia should have also known that, too.
“…Right. What I can do is give you knowledge and lengthen my last moments as much as possible. But that’s fine. I was prepared to die in that fight and lost. That’s why I am basically already dead. I can do this in my dying hours. Don’t you think that alone is already great?” (Leishia)
“The knowledge you are giving me will be of use when I kill people. Can you still say that after knowing this?” (Ekdoik)
“I don’t know about that. It is true that you might become even more dangerous through that knowledge. But there’s also the possibility you will change. There’s risk in this, but I don’t think it is a bad gamble.” (Leishia)
“I don’t understand you.” (Ekdoik)
“I don’t think this can be achieved in one go. But I might be able to change the current you. Even if I don’t manage to, someone in the future might be able to change you. Me being able to provide that trigger has enough worth.” (Leishia)
“…I really don’t understand.” (Ekdoik)
Leishia was trying to change me. But I had no intention of listening to her words at that time.
It is because I thought that her words might simply be her excuses to be saved as a weakling that has simply been captured.
“You are so not cute. Ah, but properly learn how to cook, okay?! I would be a bit dissatisfied if the food just now was my last meal after all!” (Leishia)
“I made it as instructed. You still have complaints?” (Ekdoik)
“I want to eat more meat! Ah, I am not talking about rats and stuff like that, okay? Bigger stuff!” (Leishia)
“Big size beasts don’t live in the surroundings of the Nether. Our food is brought to us from the outside by the whim of devils. Even if there’s variety, it would be on the level of rabbits.” (Ekdoik)
“Rabbits, huh… They are tasty, but that’s rough for someone like me who likes cute stuff…” (Leishia)
“I won’t be able to understand the idea of loving animals.” (Ekdoik)
“You were raised by wild devils, so you are pretty much like an animal yourself.” (Leishia)
“Don’t put me in the same category as them.” (Ekdoik)
One day, there was meat placed in the ingredient storage.
Several decently big chunks of them. The fur and skin had already been taken off and was left there disorderly.
It wasn’t that strange for there to be cleaned up meat.
It is because devils have the tendency of enjoying the cries of the animals and making them suffer.
That’s why there would often be times when you would see parts of the animal missing. But considering how thorough it was this time around, the devil that got this meat must have tortured them just as thoroughly.
“But they have saved me the trouble. She will surely not complain about this.” (Ekdoik)
I wash the meat, slice it, and grill it. First strong, then weak. I continue the preparation of it while repeating the process Leishia taught me inside my head.
I use the spices that Leishia likes and give it flavor. I don’t forget to taste test it to make sure I didn’t mess up.
“…Alright. It is not a bad taste.” (Ekdoik)
I fill up the finished meal in a bowl. I remember how Leishia even complained about the presentation just recently, so I try to get the bare minimum balance.
It is the best one I have made until now. I carry the meal while thinking Leishia should be more silent with this.
“Leishia, it is time to eat…?” (Ekdoik)
There was no one in the place where Leishia was imprisoned. What was left were numerous blood stains. And the chains that were tying her up were on top of the blood, unharmed.
I was wondering at first that maybe she escaped. If she were to cut off her arm, it wouldn’t be impossible to get out from the chains.
I learned a lot from Leishia, but I did feel like there were less things I could learn from her.
I thought Leishia must have felt her end was drawing close and had taken the gamble of running away before Father judged her unnecessary.
It is not like I was the one who let her escape, but I thought it would be possible that part of the responsibility would be put on me.
I placed the food down, and just when I was about to search, I felt a presence behind me.
“What’s the matter, Ekdoik? Did something happen?”
It was Father, the Great Devil Beglagud. I was faintly surprised by this.
Father would normally not move from his throne, yet he had gone out of his way to come to that place. It was way too rare of an experience for me.
“…Uhm…it seems like that human has escaped, so I was thinking about chasing her…” (Ekdoik)
“That human? There’s no way that could be possible.” (Beglagud)
“That human has already been rid of -right in front of mine eyes.” (Beglagud)
Father looked at me who is dumbstruck and laughed.
“You should have learned enough about humans. Thus, I judged that the human will be running away in a near future and decided to get rid of it a bit sooner.” (Beglagud)
“…I see…” (Ekdoik)
I was relieved. In that case, there’s no grief. But at that time, there was something clutching my heart.
Father gave a glance around and found the meal I made.
“What, haven’t you used it already?” (Beglagud)
“That meat. I was thinking about rewarding you every once in a while. It is fresh meat I finished off just this morning. Not bad, right? To think you would eat it at the place of its death. You have grown nicely.” (Beglagud)
It took me time to understand the meaning of his words. But it wasn’t so bad that my brain would refuse to understand it.
The sensation when I touched the meat, the texture when I sliced it, and the taste of it played clearly in my mind.
Humans are living beings. They have meat just like other creatures. But, even if so, my body and heart were rejecting this.
I covered my mouth, crouched, and vomited in place.
“…Humans don’t only have their bodies. Their hearts also grow big and strong. But that also leads to them being easily shaken and moved. How is the pain of having only your heart stricken?” (Beglagud)
“…Why…do something like this…?” (Ekdoik)
“Why? I have given you countless pains and trials in order to make you stronger. This is simply a part of that. You are a human, therefore, your heart is weak. You have devolved to this degree just from the death of a human who looked after you for a brief period of time.” (Beglagud)
This was the objective of Father from the very beginning. I had become strong in body, so he tortured my heart, and tried to urge further growth in me.
“Humans have created techniques to corner their enemies without hurting their bodies at all. Humans are truly wondrous creatures. The amount of techniques they have created in order to hurt each other is to a degree that even I don’t have a full grasp on. Especially things like this. I could only learn of its effectiveness for the first time in this fashion. Ekdoik, the humans that you will be facing in the future will use attacks like this one. Heed this warning.” (Beglagud)
I didn’t look at Father’s face at that time. But he was most likely smiling.
About the fact that I would be growing further, about how he has fulfilled his curiosity; I don’t know which feeling was stronger than the other, but there’s no way for me to measure it anymore.
After that, I found the remaining parts of Leishia that were thrown into a jar, and vomited again.
Devils turn to dust once they die. But I was taught here that humans turn into such ugly and grotesque shapes when they die.
I buried everything inside, and strengthened my resolve to become stronger in front of the pile of earth that couldn’t even be called a grave.
“I have avoided eating meat since then. My memories of that time would replay vividly when I eat meat, and the taste is the last thing in my mind. The only saving here is that Father didn’t use this method of torture often. It would have been difficult to even survive if I couldn’t eat anymore after all.” (Ekdoik)
I looked at Blue’s face after I finished telling the story. Her expression is…it looks like she is angry.
Did I say anything that would anger her? No, now that I think about it, Blue hasn’t eaten yet.
If I talk about this, the food of Blue might turn tasteless, too.
“Sorry, that’s not a story I should have told before eating. Can you eat that?” (Ekdoik)
“There’s no way I can! Aah, geez! I will throw it to Gestaf afterwards.” (Blue)
Blue said this and cooled the basket with magic. Looks like even telling the story can bring about ill effects.
“I have told Comrade and the others about how I can’t eat meat, but I was late in telling you.” (Ekdoik)
“It is an important thing to tell me!” (Blue)
“But…I didn’t even think about the possibility of a Demon Lord making food for me…” (Ekdoik)
“Purple has been making food for that man!” (Blue)
“That’s because the Purple Demon Lord’s heart has been stolen by Comrade. It is not like you have had your heart stolen by m—” (Ekdoik)
“Ekdoik Salf, grovel on the ground!” (Blue)
Looks like I have soured her mood again. Blue isn’t even looking at my face. Things just don’t seem to go well with her.
“…I am impressed that you could fight for the honor of Beglagud despite having suffered in such a manner.” (Blue)
“…It must have been because my heart was still weak. I became stronger after the pain inflicted to me by Father. I had to make myself believe that he was an absolute being and it was a path I could trust…” (Ekdoik)
That’s why Rakura defeating Father easily had shaken my heart greatly. I couldn’t properly feel the reality of it, and all the worth I had believed in until now crumbled, assailing me with a sense of loss.
I was on the verge of even losing my weak heart, so in order to fight that…
“…Even if it was fine at that time, you are still favoring Beglagud.” (Blue)
“It is true that I now understand what Father did were unforgivable things. But there’s no doubt that has shaped me into who I am now. If I were to deny it all and forget it, I would simply be running away from reality.” (Ekdoik)
“I see… But I feel bad about that knight. If she had been able to convince you who didn’t know left from right, she could have had an opportunity to escape.” (Blue)
There’s a clear difference between Comrade and Leishia who tried to correct me.
Leishia’s was an objective while Comrade’s was a means. I rejected the objective and accepted the means.
If I were to be asked my sentiments in this, there’s no doubt Leishia was the one who thought more of me. But there was a difference in the charm I could feel between the desire directed to me by Leishia and the desire Comrade invited me to.
If she had taken the method of reprimanding me in order to prioritize escaping, she could have utilized me.
Leishia couldn’t hold the malice to utilize me. That’s why she died. But I have no choice but to acknowledge her as an outstanding Holy Knight.
There’s no doubt my meeting with Leishia served as a trigger to form the person I currently am after all.
“Ekdoik, tell me more about you.” (Blue)
“Even if you ask me for ‘more’…my past was pretty much a repeat of unchanging stuff though…” (Ekdoik)
“There must be something! Like maybe the reason why you began using chains!” (Blue)
“That one is simple. I was crying the whole time at first when in the den of devils, so it wasn’t strange for me to run away at any moment. That’s why I was always chained up. Only the chains were by my side when sleeping and waking up. The only thing I could do was use the chains to kill time or do something. The chains tying my arms were the only thing that I could call mine.” (Ekdoik)
“Is there no brighter story?!” (Blue)
“Brighter, huh… Devils didn’t like light, so I often read books outside with the light of the sun.” (Ekdoik)
“I mean something that makes you feel good!” (Blue)
Something that makes me feel good… Hmm, I think my own growth was something to feel good about, but I feel like that’s not really it.
I feel good about the growth of Rakura and Wolfe, but Comrade told me I should refrain from talking about women when with Blue.
…Now that I think about it, Leishia was also a woman. I see, so that’s how it turns out.
My meeting with Gozu and Ban…had to do with my growth, so…
“…There’s almost nothing when it comes to my past.” (Ekdoik)
“It is weird coming from me, but your life is a mess. I am impressed that you could say that with such a life as yours.” (Blue)
“Right. But we are both brethren in the jagged path of life, and we’ll be together forever from here on. Even if we suck at finding things, we might be able to find something if we search for it together.” (Ekdoik)
“…This man seriously is just…!” (Blue)
“Hm? Did I sour your mood somehow? Sorry.” (Ekdoik)
“Don’t apologize without knowing the reason why! Come on, let’s go!” (Blue)
She wasn’t facing me, but she was stretching her hand out to me. I take that hand of hers.
Right, I am not alone now. There’s Comrade who understands me. I have allies that acknowledge me.
And then, there’s Blue who will live together with me.
I learned a lot from Leishia, but I haven’t made full use of it. Let’s experience even more things from here on so that I don’t waste her feelings.
“…By the way, I can’t get up without being given permission to.” (Ekdoik)
“…Let’s go!” (Blue)
“As I said, I can’t stand up… Wait a moment, if you pull me as it is, you are going to drag me. Ouch. Please wait. Are you listening? Oi—” (Ekdoik)
I ended up getting dragged for around 1 hour.
I gotta begin by not souring the mood of Blue. Fortunately, her mood has been soured several times because of me, and yet, she is a tolerant person who doesn’t throw me away despite that.
But I seriously don’t know what I should tell her to make her happy. This is troubling.