There’s a moment where I think I made a mistake. What’s that noise? is that wind? Falling. I’m falling? The continuous wind rushing passed my ears snap me out off my stupor… I’ve been tricked! I try to think, but I’ve become lightheaded. I have no skills to fly, and the ground is coming at me fast. Think. Think. Think!
gero “All is for you Mano-sama” I barely hear in a calm voice that’s coming from right next to me.
I look to my right and I see Gero, I’m elated and relieved at the thought of him saving me. He too, is falling. How does he plan to-…!
“Whatever your plan is do it now!” I yell as the ground rushes towards us, only seconds away.
“As you wish Mano-sama” I hear him say.
Chirik! Ki!… I’m too afraid to open my eyes for several moments… Afraid to think that I may have met my demise.
“Are you alright Mano-sama” I hear Gero say meekly.
No longer thinking of my own well-being my fear and worry instantly turn to Gero’s fate. As I open my eye I see that I am hoisted above a kneeling Gero. I attempt to shift my weight… Chirk … and hear cracking sounds.
Ge…e…ero “I isolated the force of the fall within myself to assure your safety… please tell me if you are hurt anywhere.” He says putting me down in front of him… more cracking sounds can be heard as he does.
He stays on one knee, but still attempts to bow.
“Fool!” I yell fuming with anger.
I ball up a fist to hit him… but looking at him I can’t bring myself to hit him. The porcelain-like mask, as well as the gem implanted in it, are both cracked. All over his outfit you can tell that parts have cracked clean-through as pieces can be seen hanging in sleeves, and leaned against the fabric from the inside. The knee planted on the ground seems to have shattered completely from his knee cap down. I push him to lie on the ground attempting to be gentle… but being a little too rough because of how angry I am.
“Mano-sama…” Gero says softly before attempting to resist.
He is helpless though, as he has lost the ability to right himself or get up.
“Tei-La-Tu Restore!” I yell closing my eyes and thrusting my hands towards him.
“You are never allowed to sacrifice yourself! Ever!” I yell at him, now too worried that the spell might not be working to open my eyes.
I don’t know if spells would work with whatever he is supposed to be. I’m incredibly angry at him… but in the end this is my fault. He wouldn’t have needed to save me if I had been more careful.
“Maou-sama!” I hear desperately yelled behind me.
I turn and see Bik teleporting repeatedly, his head dashing left and right. About two more jumps to landing safely he stops teleporting, and falls the rest of the way. When he hits the ground he immediately scrambles to get on his feet and starts searching desperately
“Over here!” I yell.
He franticly dashes his head around to find the origin of my voice, looking slightly more comforted when he sees me alright.
“Are you hurt Maou-sama?!” He says running as quick as he can in my direction.
He runs over and looks at Gero
“How did he get this hurt?” He says staring at Gero
I turn back to look at Gero and see pieces of porcelain floating back into place. Cracks are beginning to be undone, and tears in his clothing are stitching themselves back up.
“New order… From now on nobody is allowed to sacrifice themselves… nobody.” I say resolutely.
Bik lowers his head and stares at Gero silently. He seems to have gotten the message and waited quietly.
…It’s easy to forget that you were born so recently when you start with memories of another world. I don’t remember a single soul, including myself from the world I remember though. The only friends I have ever known are the people I have met today… and already I’ve nearly gotten one killed. I took this world for a game… I underestimated death. It’s a mistake I won’t be making a second time.
I feel a tug on my sleeve and turn to see Bik staring back at me. He has a strong resolute look on his face… as if to tell me “it’s okay”. I smile when I see this, and he smiles back in return.
About 20 minutes pass before using the spell continuously makes me run out of mana. My body becomes limp and falls forward onto Gero. Like when I ran out of mana before I am still conscious… but this time I feel a lot more tired.
gero “Please be careful not to overexert yourself Mano-sama.” I hear Gero say as he gets up.
He picks me up and leans me against a nearby tree. He looks nearly perfect… except for a crack on his gem. I spent the last five minutes alone attempting to fix just that, but I don’t seem to have made any progress since I started. I am assured of his health as he stands before me and bows. The relief rushes to my head… and I lose consciousness.
I hear the crackling of a fire nearby when I begin to wake next. The sky, as well as the surrounding forest, are now shrouded in darkness. I see Kiel, Bik, and the two imps eating roasted bird parts opposite to me around the fire. Gero is prepping one of the birds we hunted earlier today to be cooked. He is not wearing his coat, but is instead in his undershirt and pants.
“Maou-sama! I’m glad to see that you’re awake! How are you feeling?” Bik says dropping his chicken and coming over to my side.
“I’m fine, I was just a little shaken up.” I say standing up, and stretching.
As I stand I feel something flops to the ground from on top of me. I look to see that it was Gero’s missing coat. He must have put it on me as a replacement for a blanket. All the blankets we took with us are currently in my inventory, I suppose I should give Gero access to my inventory in case I am ever unavailable. I take some blankets out of my inventory and place them to the side.
“Here you are! Please enjoy and regain your strength!” I hear the smaller imps say in unison as they hoist a complete roasted bird over their heads, and present it to me.
Again they both have large smiles radiating happiness from them. Their happiness is almost contagious because I couldn’t help but smile and take the chicken after looking at them.
“Thanks, I appreciate it.” I say as I tear off my first piece of the chicken.
Biting into it was fantastic; chicken has nothing on the taste of these birds. The meat holds the roasted flavor perfectly and almost seems to be flavored. The taste of lemon is clearly noticeable when eating the fattier pieces.
“Hey, hey! I’m Mak!” One of the imps says as he pushes the other out of the way excitedly.
“And I’m Kay!” The other one says pushing the first imp out of the way in retaliation.
The imps stare at each other with hostile looks and begin to squall. They roll and jump around in their fight before Gero comes over and lifts each off the ground still flailing to hit each other. At first I found it quite an amusing scene… until I realized I no longer knew which one was which… they look so similar to each other, that I can’t tell them apart anymore. I’ll need to give them something to tell them apart in the future.
“I decided on names while we let you sleep. Do you like them?” Bik asks sheepishly.
“I like them, though I don’t know much about naming when it comes to imps. If you think they are good names though, then I’m sure they are.” I say trying hard not to mention that I can’t tell the difference between them.
“Hey Mano, once you’re done eating would you take a walk with me? I wanted to speak to you.” Kiel says from across the fire.
He is unusually serious.
“Sure, give me just a second to finish.” I say.
Why is he so serious? Did something happen while I was out?
I finished the whole chicken, I’m even left a little hungry at the end. Does this body require a lot of food or something? Or maybe it’s because I leveled a lot and I need food to grow. We both got up once he noticed I was done and walked into the forest. I motioned for the imps and Gero to stay put. We walked for a solid 5 minutes before either one of us said anything.
“The imps told me about what happened earlier to your friend. I had heard of automatons, but I had never seen one before.” Kiel said breaking the silence.
Did he want to talk about Gero? He’s not shown much interest in him just yet, so I didn’t think he would be this upset. Also automaton? Is that what Gero is supposed to be?
“Listen… don’t blame yourself. I just stood there while that goblin attacked you. If I had jumped in earlier it wouldn’t have been able to escape, and you wouldn’t have needed to chase it. I was scared.” Kiel said, clinching his fist.
“Huh?” He says taken aback by my statement.
“What happened today was my fault. I got a friend hurt because I wasn’t strong enough, because I underestimated this world. If it had been one of the imps or you that got hurt, then I would have lost a friend entirely. It took me over 20 minutes to heal Gero, and at that I never even finished completely before running out of juice. I won’t forget any of that… but blaming myself will do nothing. Let’s get stronger… all of us. We have things to protect don’t we?” As I finish my statement he looks back over his shoulder at me.
He has a look of “what was I even worried about” plastered on his face rather obviously.
“If that’s all you were worried about then let’s go back to camp. I finished my food, but I’m still hungry.” I say turning to head back to camp.
“…That’s not what I wanted to talk about… Who are you?” Kiel says seriousness back in his voice.
A chill runs down my spine, as I try to figure out how to answer
“I’m willing to talk about my past, if that’s what it takes. I want you to tell me who exactly you are, and why you picked me to go with you.” He says before I have the chance to reuse my last excuse.
I start to think of possible excuses. It’s more difficult than usual, because I have no idea what set off this round of questioning… Then I look him in the eyes. He is looking at me with an incredible resolve; ready to look through any lie. Sincere honesty is all that’s left of him right now.
…Screw it, let’s hope this works.
“I am the one this world refers to as “Maou”, the entity born… or maybe summoned to fight the “Yuusha”. My goal is not the destruction of humanity, but rather to end this endless slaughter of demons and Maou, and if you remember I didn’t pick you for my party, you asked to join. The reason I let you join, was because I want to become friends with the humans… and you looked kind of useful.” I say with the most sincere look I can muster.
I prepare for him to run, yell, tell me im lying, or walk away in disgust… but he doesn’t do any of that. He looks surprise for a few moments but relaxes and smiles shortly after.
“Ah, figures I would end up a pawn for the lord of all demons!” He says almost jokingly.
“First, I’m not the lord of all demons… just the ones I summon. Second, you’re not my pawn you’re my friend. Third… you’re not surprised? I thought people hated the Maou” I say with confusion and worry obviously showing in my voice.
I can’t help it, if he runs back to the village and tells them… My year of peace just got shortened to a day, and a day that’s almost over at that. I’ll have to stop him before he gets the chance if he looks like he’s going to run.
“How could I be surprise, when your imp friend couldn’t stop yelling “Maou-sama” when he thought you were hurt? Plus how could I miss those things growing out of your head?”
As he says this I reach up and notice that my horns have not only grown… but as thick as their base as a carrot. I blush profusely embarrassed…
“Oh! and they do hate the Maou, religiously so. I’m not kidding either, your literally regarded as the embodiment of all that is evil in nearly every major religion in the world.” He responds still somewhat jokingly
Great now I’m confused, worried, self-conscious about my horns, and thinking about the fact that the entire world has it out for me. This talk is just barrels of fun isn’t it?
“In fact, as an alleged third generation Maou worshiper, I was regarded as evil as well. I was cast out of my original village, and eventually wandered into this one nearly starving to death. It was between old man Tea and the owl lady that I had food and lodging long enough to start making some money from the local trade. The trade slowed down recently though… and with no way to travel out of town I was going to run out of money and starve in no time. It’s funny, both you and I can expect about the same treatment if we reveal our past to others.” Kiel said dropping his joking tone, and replacing it with a somewhat sad tone.
…So that was his past. He was exiled because they thought he had a relation or sympathy for a Maou…
“So are you… a worshiper?” I ask now too confused to even think of the proper words.
“No… in fact I despised the Maou more than anyone. I thought the Maou must have brainwashed my grandparents into thinking that not all Maou are evil, and in turn they convinced my parents of the same. My family was exiled from the church because the Maou tried to use them as a delegation… or maybe even as hostages” Kiel says clinching his fist and looking downward.
“My whole life I thought that there was no way on earth that if I ever met a Maou I wouldn’t devote myself entirely to killing them myself…” Kiel says before a long pause.
He lifts his head, and unclenches his fist before speaking again.
“But how could the embodiment of all that is evil laugh like a little girl, cry for her an automaton, enjoy her dinner with a stupidly happy look, look at me with sympathy when I talk about my past, despite the fact that not one of those supposedly righteous people has ever even asked whether I even was a Maou worshiper before… and call me her friend?” Kiel says as he walks over and put his hand on my shoulder.
One of those sounded like an insult… also when did I cry? …Still I’m happy.
“Oh just kiss why don’t cha’” I hear in a familiar voice.
Once again I look all around and cannot find the origin. Dreading it, I look up. Once again what stares back at me is a large frog face. This time my body reflexively jumps backwards.
“The Maou and tha’ village boy, what a romantic tale!” The girl from the egg shop says dropping from the tree and acting out the scene of a romantic kiss.
…Dang it! She heard me talk about being the Maou!
“What are you doing here!?” I yell in my surprise
“Oh ya! Guess I haven’t introduced ma’self yet. Names Kera, from today forward I’m gonna’ be your new tamer trainer”