“Zed! Why are you laughing so loud like that?” shouted Tooru as he was crawling out from his tent. The loud laughter across the forest had woken him up from his sleep.
“That’s not me,” answered Zed. “Wake the others up.”
Zed said nothing anymore and just kept staring sharply at the north. He had stopped his [Mana Web] to give time for Tooru and the others to get ready, so he didn’t know where and when the Demon would come at them.
Seeing Zed looking serious like that, Tooru realized that something was not right. He wanted to ask him, but he knew that waking the girls up was more important for now.
“Lucy! Wake up!” shouted Tooru from the outside of Lucy’s tent.
But no answer was heard from inside their tent.
Seeing that, Tooru hurriedly opened the Tent’s door and looked inside. Then, he shouted, “Lucy! It’s an emergency! Wake up!”
“yawn…Un? EH?! KYAAAA!! D-Don’t peek!!” Lucy’s shout could be heard from inside the tent.
Suddenly, Tooru shut the tent’s door in panic. “I-I’m so sorry!! Please get ready! Zed said that it’s something important!” After saying that, Tooru walked dizzily to Zed with a really red face.
Seeing that red face, even though the Demon could come anytime, Zed just couldn’t help but to get curious. So, he asked Tooru, “What….happened?”
“N-No…. I-It was….,” Tooru couldn’t say anything about what just happened back then. But, after he tried to remember about it once more, his face only grew redder and redder in embarassment.
Realizing that Tooru had seen something good after seeing his bright red face, Zed grew impatient. “Tell me or I will leave you alone in this forest.”
“E-Eh? N-No, that’s….. I-It’s something embarassing….”
“Come on!! We are both men!” shouted Zed as he grew even more irritated. Now, he wanted to hear it even more.
Tooru frowned. He thought that it was a really shameful thing for a Hero to do. He actually wanted to keep it a secret, but Zed was the only close male friend of his, so he too wanted to know about his opinion regarding this matter. Then, after glancing left and right, Tooru got closer to Zed and whispered to his ear, “L-Lucy was only wearing her undergarment for sleeping. A-And, I accidentally saw her…. I-I am so ashamed as a Hero. Do you-”
Without even hearing the end of Tooru’s word, Zed just hit his head. Zed was angry at him, because he heard that Tooru felt ashamed to see such a piece of heaven and not felt happy about it even for a bit. Zed thought that, to see a girl accidentally like that is a gift from heaven, no one may feel ashamed of that! Or it will be an insult to the woman!
Well, that was only what his mind tried to convince him. Deep inside his heart, the real reason was, of course, because he was envious of Tooru. He regretted a lot for not being the one who woke the girls up. Even though he was a righteous guy and never even tried to peek on Lucy when she was taking a bath on the river, if it was an accidental scene, he too wanted to see it.
“E-Eh why?” asked Tooru as he squatted down and rubbed the spot where Zed had hit him before.
“GUAAAAAAAAAH” Before Zed even managed to finish his scolding, a huge boulder suddenly smashed him from his left side. He screamed loudly as he was being blown away by the one meter wide boulder onto the trees on his right side.
The boulder’s pushing force was so great that it dragged Zed straight through the trees and only stopped after smashing him onto a tree with a really wide trunks 30 meters away from the campsite.
“Guh….uhuk...huk…aahk” Zed writhed in pain and coughed up a mouthful of blood after the boulder, that squeezed him onto the huge tree, fell down with a thud.
His left arm, from shoulder down, was completely shattered by the force that the boulder gave him. Even a few of his ribs were broken by it. If it wasn’t for the Dragon’s Blood that enhanced his body, maybe the boulder would have shattered him apart like minced meats already.
Back at the camp…
“Who’s there?!” shouted Tooru. “Show yourself!!” He pulled out the Holy Sword from the sheath on his waist and gazed keenly at the place where the boulder came from. He actually wanted to go to where Zed was, but he needed to protect Lucy first. He knew that Zed was strong, so he just prayed that nothing bad happened to him.
“Tooru! What was that sound?!” shouted Lucy as she crawled out from her tent. She stood there in front of her tent with Riria on her back, still sleeping comfortably.
“Lucy!! Come closer to me! Something suddenly attacked us just now!! Be wary!” shouted Tooru as he slowly walked closer to Lucy. He walked there backwards, while his eye were still staring at the dark forest where the boulder had flown out from.
“W-Where is Zed?” asked Lucy as she walked to Tooru while looking around the camp.
“He got attack-”
It was such a bad night for Tooru that he even got cut twice in one night when he was still talking. But he wasn’t thinking about that at all, he was gazing even sharper at the darkness where that menacing loud laugh came from. Then slowly, a silhouette was seen fluttering slowly on the air towards him and Lucy.
Tooru gripped his sword harder as he stared at the flying silhouette without blinking. As the silhouette flew closer to him, the campfire started to light it up to show him its real form. When Tooru finally managed to see its face, he was surprised, because it was only a man, a floating man.
But then, Tooru realized that it was…..actually not a man, and it was also not even a human, because that floating human-looking thing actually had a sharp red horn protruding from the side of its head.
Tooru held his breath as he finally saw it for the first time, his rightful enemy, the Demon.
Tooru looked carefully at the Demon. Its skin was as brown as a normal human, and its body was also just as muscular as a normal human soldier, even his long hair was dark brown like most of the man in this continent. Tooru was confused when he saw that there was not much differences between this demon and most of the human in the Human Continent. Is he even a Demon? Tooru asked to himself.
But, when he observed that Demon more carefully, there were actually big differences, such as its pupils, that were dark red and sharp like a Magical Beast. Its ears that was sharp and pointy. A pair of bat-like wings on his back that were brown in colors. And naturally, its red, 50 centimeters long horn that was sharply pointing to the sky while emitting such an eerie aura around it.
“Ghihihihi….it has been a long time, since humans came into this forest,“ said the Demon to Tooru and Lucy who were vigilantly staring at him.
Tooru and Lucy didn’t say anything. They had never fought against a Demon before, and only knew a small deal about them from Zed and also from the church.
“Oh, come on… Relax….,” said the Demon. “I won’t kill you…..yet.”
Hearing that, Tooru held his sword even tighter and started to pour his mana into the sword to use its skill at any given time. Lucy also put down Riria on the ground behind her and then put out her white long staff, Asclepius, from her own Storage Bracelet. She grasped it in her hand and started to chant [Blessing] to strengthen Tooru’s power.
Even though Tooru already prepared himself for a fight, the Demon just leisurely looked at them and asked, “Finished?”
Tooru didn’t answer his question and just asked him back, “Who are you?”
“Ooooh, nice question,” said the Demon as he fold his hands in front of his chest. “Well, you should feel honored to know my name…. My name is Terra! The Great Earth Demon Terra!”
Tooru ignored the demon’s overbearing answer and asked again, “What are you doing here?”
“Fufufufu, so you want to know about what the great me is doing in this filthy forest? Fufufufufu, it was a secret, of course….”
“Oh……,” said Tooru, “ okay, forget it then.”
“Ah! Wait! Don’t you want to know about my super important mission, which was given to me directly by the great Emperor himself?”
“Err…” Tooru was silence for a bit as he pondered about it, but after a while he just flatly answered, “not really…”
“Ahahahaha! Fine! If you want to know about it that much, I will kindly tell you!!” said the Demon as he ignored Tooru’s rejection, “The great me is here to build a giant teleportation magic formation between this forest and the Demon Continent!!!”
“What?! You can’t do that!” shouted Tooru. “I will stop you!”
“Ahahaha!! Too late! I have finished it just now!!”
“So, you were using the mist to cover your doing?” asked Lucy.
“Hahahaha, you are pretty smart! But, now that the formation is finished, I don’t need the mist to cover it anymore.”
“Guh! Where are the other Demons that teleported here then?” asked Tooru as he looked around him.
Hearing Tooru’s question, the Demon just scratched his cheek and said, “Well, to activate the formation, I will need lots of human blood. I already killed a few adventurers that wandered inside this forest, but its nowhere near enough.” Then, the Demon smiled viciously and said, ”So, after killing you three, I will go to the nearest city, and then bring them here as my sacrifice!! AHAHAHA!!!”
“I won’t let you do that!!!” shouted Tooru.
“AHAHAHA!! What can a mere adventurer like you do to me, A High Demon?!!!” shouted the Demon as he flew up and started to chant in Demon’s language. As he chanted his magic, a huge boulder slowly formed above his head. Then, after the boulder had turned into 1 meter wide, he pointed his hand towards Tooru and shouted, “Take this! [Boulder Smash]!”
Then, the boulder flew in high speed towards Tooru.
“Kuh…” As the boulder flew toward him, Tooru lifted the Holy Sword over his head and shouted the name of a skill, “[Holy Sl-]AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA[-ash]” As he shouted, he swept the sword downwards and a 5 meter long white sword aura flew toward the boulder and the demon. (AN : Getsutga Tenshouuuu) Tooru had used 75% of his mana into this skill. Because he had never fought a Demon before, he was pretty nervous and afraid. And if this much mana couldn’t hurt the Demon, then he had to escape with Lucy and Riria as fast as they could.
But, it turned out that he was completely wrong. “GAAAAAAAAAH-!!!” the Demon screamed as he was being destroyed together with the boulder by the [Holy Slash]’s energy. After a few seconds passed, the light from the skill dissipated and the Demon was not there anymore. He was already turned into dust.
“”Eh?”” But Lucy and Tooru was still confused when they saw that the Demon was gone. They only heard him screaming, and after the light was gone, he wasn’t there anymore.
Is it dead?
Why is it so weak?
Or? It’s a trap?
When they were thinking about the possibilities, suddenly, a sound was heard from behind. Lucy and Tooru hurriedly turned their body to see the source of the sound. From the flickering light of the campfire, they could see that a dark silhouette was waking up slowly from the ground.
It was….Riria. “sniff..sniff… it smells like roasted meat….are we having midnight snacks?” said Riria as she woke up while yawning and rubbing her eyes. Riria looked around her to search for the roasted meat, but, instead of finding the meat, she only saw that Tooru and Lucy were staring at her.
Seeing that Tooru and Lucy were holding a sword and a staff instead of meats, Riria just tilted her head and muttered, “Eh? No snacks?” She felt slightly dissapointed, but then she just yawned again and went back to sleep. More sleep means faster breakfast after all.
Seeing Riria like that, Tooru just giggled and scratched his cheek awkwardly.
“So, Tooru have beaten that demon?” asked Lucy as she looked around them.
After he saw his surrounding once more, Tooru ruffled his head and answered, “I think so…., maybe…, I guess….” He just shrugged his shoulder and shook his head as he too didn’t know clearly about what just happened.
“Hmmm, let’s forget about it,” said Lucy, “at least, we are save already.”
“Yeah…” said Tooru while nodding his head up and down.
Lucy looked around her again and realized that something was amiss. “Tooru! Where is Zed?!”
“Eh? Right!! I forgot about him!!” said Tooru, ”He was….attacked by the Demon before you woke up.” Tooru casted his gaze downwards as he remembered the huge boulder that smashed Zed into the forest behind them.
Seeing Tooru looking down like that, Lucy felt scared. “Eh?! D-Don’t tell me…. h-he is dead?”
“Kuh…. Don’t kill me just like that….or rather….don’t even forget about something like that….” said a voice from the dark forest behind them. It was Zed, he was walking slowly to them while holding his smashed left body with his right hand. Bloods were spreading onto his robe as his left ribs were piercing outside his chest. His left arm was swaying weakly as its bone were already shattered into pieces. Thankfully, his left lung was still intact, or he would be dead by now. After all, he only got one of them left.
“”Zed!!”” Tooru and Lucy shouted together as they saw the battered-looking Zed walking slowly to them.
“Where is the Demon?” asked Zed as he looked at Tooru’s and Lucy’s condition.
“I killed him already!” said Tooru with a bright smile.
“Hahaha…uhuk….kaaahk” Before Zed could say anything, he coughed up blood onto the ground.
“Zed!!! What happened to you? Are you okay?” asked Lucy.
“Well, I am okay for now,” said Zed, “ but….I will die sooner or later if I stay like this though…kuuuhk” Zed coughed up another mouthful of blood as he gripped his hurting left side harder. By now, his lung was already half filled by blood after a piece of shattered rib accidentally pierced it.
Looking at Zed’s pale face, Lucy hurriedly ran to his side and lay him on the ground. She opened Zed’s robe and started to examine Zed’s wounds. Lucy was surprised to see Zed’s old wounds, but that wasn’t important right now. “This is bad…. I can fix the broken arm…, but your lung is pierced by a bone…I-I can’t heal that….,” Lucy was panicked because she couldn’t do anything about the rib that stuck into the lung. A shattered arm could stick back together with [High Heal] after the arm was straightened, the rib that pierced out could be put back together after it was pushed back inside, but the rib that pierced the lung? She just couldn’t do anything about that.
“So….You need to take the bone outside of the lung before you can heal it…?” asked Zed.
Lucy didn’t say anything and only nodded her head.
Seeing her nod, Zed fell silent as he started to ponder about something. But after a while, “Ugh…” Zed growled as he tried to lift his body with one hand. Seeing that, Tooru hurriedly squatted down beside him and helped him to sit straight.
As he sat down on the ground, Zed looked at Tooru and Lucy on his side. Then, he started to speak, “Well….”
But, before he could even begin, Tooru had cutted him and said, “Don’t worry….!! We won’t let you die in vain. We will kill the Demon Emperor! Y-You can die peacefully….Uuuuu” The Hero cried as he knew that Zed’s life is not long anymore.
“Y-Yeah!! You can rest in peace….” said Lucy as she nodded her head and cried as well.
“I told you! Don’t you just kill me like that!!” shouted Zed as he hit their head. “[Storage]!”said Zed as he pulled out his short sword from the Storage Ring and held it on his right hand. He also retrieved his water bottle and put it on the ground.
“Eh? What are you doing?” asked Tooru as he looked at the sword on Zed’s hand.
“Hmm? Of course this…”
Zed slashed his own left chest horizontally around the place where his rib was stuck on his lung. He cut it so clean and precise between the rib cage that the tip of his sword almost touched the lung and heart. After he opened his own chest, the blood splurted out and poured down onto his body.
“Eh?! Ah?!” Lucy was speechless as she observed Zed’s bizzare actions.
Before the blood flowed out too much, Zed hurriedly threw down his shortsword to the ground and took the water bottle with his right hand. He opened the bottle with his mouth and held it on his left armpit, then he poured the water over his right hand to clean the dirts on it.
After that, Zed took a deep breath and stared at the opening on his left chest. “Here we go then…” said Zed as he put his right fingers into the opening. First, he used his finger to push out his left side that was smashed into his body, thanks to that, the ribs, that pierced outside, went back slowly into the chest.
“Ugh…that hurts…” said Zed, “Well, next is the lung… it should be around here….uuugh….” Zed growled as he twisted his finger in order to pull out the stuck rib.
After the rib was put back onto the place, Zed pulled out his bloodied finger and smiled in satisfaction. “Haha, it’s done! Now you can use [Heal] on me!” said Zed as he looked at Lucy. Even though he had lost so much blood, with Lucy’s healing spells, at least, he wouldn’t die.
But, when Zed turned his head to look at Lucy, his face went really pale as he saw the scene before him. Lucy was lying there on the ground, fainted. She fainted after seeing Zed put his own fingers into his chest to repair his ribs.
“I am so dead…..” said Zed as a stream of blood began pouring down from his mouth.
Well, thankfully, he still managed to survive after Tooru poured down a bottle of water to wake Lucy up. Lucy was really in panic when she saw that Zed was already lying on the ground, dying. So, she hurriedly casted [High Heal] and managed to save him after she had used all her mana.
The sound of cracked glass could be heard from inside a wide, dark hall.
Inside that hall was 6 gigantic pillars that circled a single throne which was made of countless bones.
“Hmphhh…, that useless shit…..” A deep heavy voice was heard from the top of the throne.
“Your Majesty! I apologize for my subordinate’s fault. Please punish me as you see fit!” a woman’s sound was heard from one of the pillars’ direction.
“Silence!” shouted the voice from the throne.
As the moonlight peeked from the cloudy sky, the throne inside the room was slowly getting brighter. Over that Bone Throne, sat a black armored man holding a cracked round orb over his hand. That man’s appearance was haughty and powerful. Even though his face looked like a 50 years old man, it looked really sturdy and strong as if it was sculpted on a stone. His gaze was sharp with a pair of deep black eyes and red pupils. And over his long black hair, were five long horns that circled his head just like a crown.
That…was the Demon Emperor.
“So, the Hero has come huh?” mumbled the Emperor.
“Your Majesty! Let this servant go and fight him! I will bring back his head for Your Majesty!” shouted a big burly man that stood in front of one of the 6 pillars.
“Shut up….” said the Demon Emperor coldly. He was already pissed off when he knew that his plan was messed up by that lowly Earth Demon. Even when he sent one of his 6 Demon Generals to that place right now, it would need lots of blood and mana to use the Magic Formation, and it won’t even guarantee that the hero would die.
“Yes Your Majesty!” said the woman whose subordinate was Terra. This woman Demon had a long blonde hair with two curvy purple horns on its side. Her face was really sweet and beautiful, any man that see her will surely fall in love at the first sight. Her pupils’ color were dark purple just like her horns. And, over her bewitching, voluptuous body, she was wearing a short-skirted, sexy, purple dress that couldn’t hide her seductive and alluring places. This woman Demon was Alyosha, ‘The Succubus Queen’.
“You go and hinder them… We will proceed with the next plan….” said the Demon Emperor.
“Your wish is my command!” shouted Alyosha as she vanished into the dark.
Going back to Zed and the others…
On that night, after Zed was healed, they immediately resumed their travel through the forest to find and destroy the Magic Formation that Terra had made. After walking for an hour, they finally found it, and then Tooru destroyed it with the Holy Sword. After that, they rested until the morning and resumed the journey again.
After walking for a week throught the forest, they finally found a city and bought a carriage. Zed also thought that it was already meaningless to walk to the Demon Continent because Tooru was already too strong for the Magical Beasts. It would be better to just hurry and go to the Demon Continent to fight some demons.
But, just like what they had already discussed before, first, they were going to take Riria to the Old Capital. Riria was also really happy to travel with the three of them. They even fought the Magical Beasts along the way together. With the help of Riria’s arrows, killing those Magical Beasts was already way too easy.
Riria was just like a little sister to them, because, even though she was 17 years old, she was not like a 17 years old girl at all. She still loves to eat and nap just like a little child, and she even falls asleep at 9 o’clock sharp every night. And she would only wake up when she smelled the breakfast’s fragrance.
Now, 2 months already passed since that night.
“Lucy-nee… where is the capital? Aren’t we there already?” asked Riria as she hugged Lucy from behind.
“Hmmm…from the map, we should be there already…” said Lucy.
“Really?” asked Riria as she climbed Lucy’s back to see the map she was holding.
“It should be over that hill,” said Zed from the carriage’s roof.
“Which one?” asked tooru from the driver’s seat.
“The left one. But, just follow this road for now, then turn left at the next intersection. That should be the road that led to the capital,” said Zed.
“Hmm? How do you know about that?” asked Tooru.
“I just know.” Zed knew because it was his hometown after all.
After another couple of hours of travelling, they finally arrived at the other side of the hill. But…
“Where is the city?” asked Tooru.
“Yeah? And what is this big lake? This is not drawn on the map,” said Lucy.
“Are we lost?” asked Riria.
“No,” said Zed, ”this…’was’ the capital….”
In front of the four, was a really wide lake that was even bigger than Sefia City, the capital of Holy Alliance. The lake was strangely round-shaped with no river crossing through it. And nothing special could be seen inside the lake either, the water was still and muddy because no river was passing through, and no fish could be seen swimming inside it either.
“The Capital City of Knightley Empire, ‘The City of the First Hero’…” said Zed again.
“B-but where is the city?” asked Lucy again.
Zed didn’t say anything but just pointed his finger into the lake.
“The city is this lake….?” asked Tooru.
“Yeah…The city was destroyed 10 years ago….,” said Zed as he remembered about that night. That night where he annihilated the whole city inside his raging fire. He too only knew right now, that the huge crater back then, already turned into a giant lake after this long 10 years.
“N-no…..Father…Mother….” Riria fell on her knees as she saw the wide lake in front of her. She wanted to go to the capital to look for a hint because she thought that there would still be remains to look at. But, now that the capital was literally ‘no more’, her mind was confused as she didn’t know what else she should do.
Her mouth was screaming without sound while her hand was hanging on the air to grasp at something, at anything that she could still put her hope at….
But, there was nothing….
Drop of tears started to pour down from her eyes….
Seeing the crying Riria, Lucy turned his head and looked angrily at Zed. “Zed! Did you know about this already?!” shouted Lucy.
Lucy slapped Zed’s cheek with all her might, and then ran to Riria’s side to hug her. The sorrowful Riria started to cry loudly in Lucy’s embrace.
Lucy was angry because, even though Zed knew about this already, he never even told her about it. If she knew, then she wouldn’t let Riria come here.
It was a really irrational reason though, because, no matter what, Riria would still come into this place even if she had to walk alone. Lucy was just angry because Zed never told them about something this important, in fact, Zed never even told them anything about himself. And now, Riria was hurt because of that.
Lucy felt bitter as she realized that she was being stupid to slap Zed just because of that, it wasn’t really his fault after all. But she wouldn’t apologize because her hand was now hurting so bad after slapping that iron-skinned face.
Seeing the two girls sad like that, Tooru also felt really bitter, but he knew that it wasn’t Zed’s fault at all. So he just gnashed his teeth and tried to calm himself. “What….happened to the city?” asked Tooru.
“…..” Zed didn’t say anything and just kept staring at the lake in front of him.
Zedediah was also confused at that time, should he keep it a secret? Or, should he tell them?
He didn’t want to let Riria hang onto those false hopes for the rest of her life. But….
It was…not an easy thing to do….to just tell them about his ‘bloody’ past…
“Zed…won’t you tell us?” asked Tooru again.
Zed turned his head to look at Tooru. Then, he turned his head again and looked at Riria and Lucy. ‘Even though they will hate me because of this, I still owe her an answer….,‘ he thought.
“We will camp here for now…” said Zed as he walked away to find some food for their dinner. “I will tell you about it tonight….”