Today’s Dinner is the Hero. 24



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Volume 1
It’s Surprisingly Comfortable at the Demon Lord’s Castle.

Chapter 24
Bouquet of Flowers for the Rabbit Demon Lord: Part 1


“P-please don’t hate me…!”

I could hear a wishful plea on top of my head, in a sobbing, hoarse voice.

I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I barely managed to move my arms that were trapped around his warm body.

Then, I wrapped my arms around the Demon Lord’s back who said something stupid and embraced him tightly.

“…I didn’t come here to give you a farewell gift. I don’t think I hate you any more than the eye of a needle…!”
“Why… not…! I did that… Uuu… S-Shal… I want to be with you, don’t go anywhere… S-Shal…! Uu… ughuuuuu…”
“D-don’t cry. Don’t cry, I-I’m going to… cry too…!”
“Ughhuuuu…!”

The trembling Azel was weeping so hard that his robotic, expressionless look on his face earlier seemed like a dream.

I almost felt like crying because his tears were ruining his beautiful face that captivated everyone.

My words became a little bit tinged with tears, somehow trying to stop myself from crying while holding my lips together. But again, hot droplets poured down from him endlessly.

It dampened my hair, cheeks and clothes, and even those jewel-like tears, and arms hugging me so painfully, all of it was dedicated to me and conveyed the sincerity of Azel’s heart.

Why are you crying so much?
I’m the one trying to apologize, so why are you apologizing to me?
There’s no way I could hate you.

I thought I was the one who pissed you off so bad that you’d hate me.

What if you didn’t want to see my face?
Maybe I was the only one who wanted to make up.
What if you rejected me with something like this?

Even so, I still wanted to be here.

I couldn’t wipe out the worst situation out of my mind, even though I knew he wasn’t that kind of guy because he really cared about me.

That’s how it is.

The pinnacle of the demon realm, an incarnation of fear.

The ruler of demons whom everyone feared, crying out because he was afraid of being hated by me alone and telling me not to hate him without even worrying about his own appearance, was a weak and delicate man.

A while after that.

Pat, pat. I helplessly stroked his back with the hand that wasn’t holding the flowers and tried to comfort him.

“I was bad.” “Stay with me?” “I’ll do anything, so…”

After repeating these over and over again, Azel finally calmed down to the point where his sobs occasionally leaked.

Azel thought that yesterday’s violence trampled on my desire to give him a gift by misunderstanding things and decided by himself that I hated the Demon Lord’s castle.

So, every time he spits out those words, I speak to him as gently as possible.

“You didn’t do anything bad.” “I’ll stay with you.” “Stay with me until you don’t want to.”

I instilled it over and over again, with all my heart, hoping it would be conveyed.

Now that it was over.

The setting sun had completely set down, and the view outside the window had become dim.

The interior of the unlit room casts a shadow, and the light of the still young moon softly shone in a way that mixed with the shadow of the sun that had just passed through.

Azel sniffed and didn’t let go of my body in the slightest, pressing his cheeks against my hair as if it would be hard for him to get away from me.

I was tall for a human, but Azel was half a head taller than me.
And yet, just like a child, Azel cried out loud without care.

The demons are fearsome, heartless creatures.

That’s what I’ve been told, but was that really the case?
He’s living with such a variety of emotions.

Feeling the heat of our bodies embracing each other, I felt comfortable knowing that they were really just emotional, whiny and delicate creatures.


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Today’s Dinner is the Hero. 23



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Volume 1
It’s Surprisingly Comfortable at the Demon Lord’s Castle.

Chapter 23
Not to My Benefactor, But to You: Part 2 (Side Azel)


A refreshing scent that I sensed back when I opened the door.
I opened my eyes cautiously. Something pure white filled my vision.

Fwwsh. The white came down a little and was thrust against my chest.
I lowered my gaze while trembling, and somehow managed to recognize it – flowers.

I’m pretty sure this flower is… Aryma.
It only blooms on the rough cliffs of the demon world, a flower that makes good medicine.

But, why are you thrusting this now on me, who forcibly ate you yesterday?

Unable to understand, I finally looked up nervously and stared at Shal, who knew the answer.

Shal looked directly at me for the first time since last night.

I could see the dirty stains on his clothes. Even his exposed skin showed a few scratches.

His brows quivered as if he was nervous, but his well-shaped lips arched gently.

Then, a lower tenor began to speak words at a calmer tempo.

“I’m sorry for interrupting your work this late. But I really wanted you to take this.
It can’t match all the happiness and value you’ve given me, but… this is my utmost gratitude.
Thank you for all your hard work keeping me safe.
Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for the warm room. Thank you for being so kind to me. Thank you for taking such good care of me. And, thank you for calling me by my name.
And then, uhm… the thing that made me the happiest was… —when you told me to stay close to you.
Ah… I came to the demon realm thinking I would die, but I never thought you’d let me live this much, even though I asked you to kill me.
Wondering if it’s okay for me to live by someone else’s side, I couldn’t help but feel my heart warm up. ………Oh, I see…… I guess I was happy right from the start.”

The worn-out Shal spoke to me slowly as if trying to explain himself.

And as he did, he realized a feeling he didn’t know existed, his cheeks flushing in embarrassment, and directed a bashful smile at me.

His smile was more beautiful than anything else.
It was the same as ever, soft and enveloping, not even the slightest bit repulsive, and as warm as a cotton wool.

“H-hah…”

The back of my throat, which had been trembling with fear, loosened and I felt like I remembered how to breathe.

It felt hot inside my chest, and my mind and body were filled with something so warm that it seemed to melt away.

The heart that couldn’t resist being drawn to it reached out with trembling fingers to the hand offering the flowers.

But then, I remembered being rejected and stopped just on the brink of doing so.
Again, I couldn’t help but feel scared.

However, the many feelings that Shal had just expressed to me pulled me to his hands.

I grabbed his injured hand and carefully placed my strength on it, trying not to break it like grabbing snow.

“To be in this kind of state… just… what did you…”
“Uh…… W-well… You’re right… The truth is, I wanted to sneak out, and give this to you… in a more stylish, less ragged way than this, but…”

When asked in a hoarse voice, Shal shyly softened his tone, and I didn’t know if he was embarrassed or not, but he couldn’t help saying it while avoiding my gaze.

The bashful look on his face turned into something like suffocating with guilt.

I could somehow understand what he was trying to say from that point on, even if I was prone to misunderstanding things.

Once I understood it, it was too late.

I felt my expression collapse in an instant and turned into an unbecoming mess.

“Yesterday… I didn’t want to tell you, I’m really sorry… I said I wanted to go outside yesterday because I wanted to get some flowers… That’s why, this is, uhm… I… I heard that there are flowers in Axio Valley that can cure fatigue, so… to you…”
“…”

—I wanted to give it to you.

The words were just as I had imagined them to be—faster than they reached my ears.

I pulled the hand I was firmly grasping, forcibly embracing the body of the dispirited human.

“…? Aze–”
“Uu… H-hic…”

I can’t do this anymore.
It’s the limit of my patience.

I could tell that the warm body in my arms had frozen in surprise. Even so, I couldn’t stop from embracing him.

The tears I had to endure by suppressing my expression overflowed with ease and rained down on Shal’s body.

I didn’t know. I didn’t know.
I didn’t know you were even thinking about that.

There’s no one who worries about my body that’s stronger than anyone else’s.
Even though there shouldn’t be such a thing as caring for someone when you’ve tried to kill each other.

“Aah… a-ah… I-I… I did such a terrible thing…! I didn’t, h-hic… realize… that… h-hic…!”

There shouldn’t be such a thing, yet he tried to do it.

The hero who was supposed to kill me did something that no one else had done.

Shal insisted on going out because in his heart, he wanted to prepare a present for me.

As soon as the barrier was lifted and he was allowed to go out, he wanted to go find a present for me.

I couldn’t stop my tears from pouring out. I couldn’t stop crying and blaming myself for being a stupid, foolish and inconsiderate being.

I didn’t know what kind of man Shal was here now, because I had been chasing after him as a benefactor. Blind bastard.

Now, for the first time… I knew.

The man in my arms was undeniably warm, and straightforward.

Shal, despite me making his own life into a meal, came to me as if he had spared no time in wiping off his sweat in search of flowers until nightfall. Fully realizing this, I felt my chest burst.

Shal didn’t hate demons even though he’s human.

He merely saw me as Azelidias Nilegown, a Demon Lord, and faced me as an equal.

He was kind to me just because I was kind to him. He cherished me because I cherished him.
That’s just the way he does things.

In the middle of enemy territory, with a simply honest, straightforward and docile manner, he embraces and warms those that touch his hands.

Why would I ever think that Shal, the same person he always has been, as someone who deceives and lies?

If I knew that, I should’ve realized that it was something he really needed to do, without being so distraught.

I guess I didn’t face him as a person named Shal and became a one-way feeling of gratitude.

I made a conceited misunderstanding, went on a rage, threatened and hurt him.
Keeping it to himself, the single-minded Shal went so far as to find a present and even kept his promise to me.

I was only pretending to be strong on the outside, it was laughable.
But if you tear away a single thin layer of skin, I’ll—…!

“I-I… was weak… I’m sorry I was weak… H-huk… I hurt you, and frightened you, uuu, Shal…!”

I was so ashamed by the thoughts and regrets that raced through my mind in just a few seconds.

I’m a cowardly, useless man.
A useless Demon Lord.

Shal in my arms squirmed.

I thought he was trying to resist, so the tears flowing down my cheeks quickly intensified, flooding one after another.

“P-please don’t hate me…!”

I’m a helpless fool, and despite having done helpless, foolish things, in the end, I clung to him desperately.

This isn’t the Demon Lord.
This is just Azel’s bare heart.


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Today’s Dinner is the Hero. 22



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Volume 1
It’s Surprisingly Comfortable at the Demon Lord’s Castle.

Chapter 22
Not to My Benefactor, But to You: Part 1 (Side Azel)


Before I knew it, the sun was about to set.

The sunlight shining through the window was as red as a flame, and I thought to myself, ‘Ahh, it’s already this late, huh.’ as if it was someone else’s problem.

I didn’t feel the slightest bit of time passing.

Perhaps it was because I was so absorbed in my work that I felt like if I let my mind wander, I would be trapped in irredeemable regret.

The piles of calculation papers, documents, and materials that accumulated were regularly cleaned up by Reisen, and were replaced with new ones.

The plan for the rebuilding of public facilities next fiscal year had been stuck to my desk until I pulled out the low-priority items.

To begin with, even if there were territories, the number of races is small, and this is the demon realm where there is no need to conduct politics as much as the human realm does.

The amount of paperwork that a Demon Lord has to do piles up more than I could accomplish every day.

Inspections, assemblies, diplomacies, etc. I’ve turned them away for tomorrow.

It’s not even the busiest season, but I’m stuck in this confined room.
It’s easy to understand why I’m stubbornly unwilling to do anything but work in the office.

Just how cowardly can I be?
I won’t even bother mocking myself.

If today’s quota gets finished, at this point, I might end up finishing all the work in the room ahead of time.

I didn’t want to leave the room.
If I do, then I might run into Shal.

“Shal”

I stopped brushing at the thought of his name.
I was almost paralyzed, and my muscles were stiff. Feeling mentally exhausted like a sludge, I put down the brush as it is.

I went to see Shal every day, but I didn’t go today. I couldn’t.

After what I’ve done to him, how should I face him when we meet?
Once I get there, I’m sure I’d see my heart being crushed in the room that had become empty.

Just how much effort did it take for me to endure my tears at the thought of it all this time?

I become expressionless whenever I suppress my emotions. The power of my eyes that I normally control also gets triggered unconsciously.

The truth is, I’m not very good at controlling my emotions.

I used to be someone who doesn’t get shaken up easily, but now, when it comes to him… my heart’s sensitivity accelerates to its maximum value without warning.

I’ve been rejected by Shal. He must hate me now. He’s supposed to get out of here. Did he leave, or is he still in here?

I’m so scared. I hated who I was yesterday so much that I’m going crazy with anger.
Aah, how dreadful.

It’s because he was a benefactor.
It’s because he’s a precious person from another world.
It’s because he wasn’t afraid to smile and look at me.

None of these were the right reason, nor were they wrong.

I’m not familiar with the names of the subtleties of emotions and of the heart, so I couldn’t fully grasp what was flowing down my chest, but only a single thought dominated my entire body.

I’m— scared.

Even though I’m a Demon Lord with power stronger than any of the demons, and the object of many fears… The thought of being hated by just one person scares the hell out of me.

—Knock, knock.

Just as I was staring into the air with a blank look on my face thinking about such things, I heard a modest knocking sound.

It was an irritating way to knock on the door.
It might be Reisen, who was continuously exposed to my eyes acting out of control.

“What is it.”

Maybe my heart’s cry of wanting to be left alone took over, but the voice I let loose from my mouth was unintentionally sharp and cold.

It was a piercing, cold way of speaking that had no inflection.
If it’s a lesser demon, or a servant, they’ll get frightened. If it’s Reisen, then he’ll just complain, but that doesn’t matter.

I guess that’s why. There was no answer from the other side of the door, nor did they show any signs of entering.

I didn’t have the patience to wait kindly today, so I stood up, unimpressed, and walked towards the door.

Click.
“If you have any business, get it over… with…”
“Ah… You’re… in the middle of work… Sorry…”

An unexpected visitor’s apologetic voice had reached my ears.

When I opened the door in my impatience, I found a man who was not supposed to come.

No way. Is this a hallucination?

My mental fatigue must’ve been so much that I’m having a convenient vision or dream.

Otherwise, it’s strange. His voice, breathing and presence was as real as could be. Strange.

My brain couldn’t make sense of it, and my hand gripping the knob loosened up and fell.

Creak. The man that came into my view made a sound as he slowly opened the door, and he smelled of sweat, blood, dust, and just a little bit of a refreshing scent.

Why is he here?
No matter what, he would never appear in front of the perpetrator after being treated like that.

My heart was about to burst.
The pounding was shaking my eardrums from within.

If all my five senses are real, they’re going to beat me, but if that’s the case, I’m going to die if I don’t hold my head covering my ears right now.

After all, I’ve hurt Shal badly. Hurting someone you don’t want to be hated by is like being killed by that person.

Humans especially hate that sort of thing, right?
They always have this look as if they want to kill someone they’re terrified of.

But that was about it.
What I’ve done… is just an excuse to tie him down as livestock. It should’ve been just the way it was.

It should’ve been enough to make him hate me.

“Uu…”

It was a violent threat that you’d never do to someone you care about. I have no idea how he came to be in here despite that. I was so confused.

I staggered back a step or two, not knowing how to address him.

Even so, as if trying to restore the distance that had opened up the moment I backed away, Shal slowly and firmly stepped forward.

Slam. The door shut.

I couldn’t meet his eyes, and my strained line of sight drifted unsteadily to his feet.
My trembling lips struggled so hard that I almost bit myself trying to articulate the words.

“Wh-why… are you here…”
“I made a promise with you, didn’t I? Yesterday.”

Yesterday.
Throb. My heart. Aah, it hurts.

My heart throbbed loudly at the thought of my mistake.
An overflowing cold sweat ran down my stiffened cheeks, wondering if words of reproach or of goodbye were to follow.

I didn’t say anything, and Shal’s foot stepped into my view without hesitation.

When I lifted my head, I could see Shal’s arm moving.
—H-he’s going to hit me…!

Rustle.
“……W-wha…?”

I shut my eyes tightly, wanting to deny the reality that the hand that had always been tenderly offered to me was going to hurt me.

However, the tip of my nose was touched by something light, not a fist.


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Chapter 21 – Quickly, Quickly


“I-I see it…!”

The previously hungry duo was now energetic after eating meat.

After that, I was the only one desperately searching through several cliffs and rocky areas. But finally, I found a colony of Aryma that I had longed for.

How I longed to see the beautiful, pure white flowers blooming between the steep cliffs…!

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Chapter 20 – Wanting to See You


—Upon exiting the cave, a strange scene awaited me.

With only his arms reasonably transformed into a dragon, Gard was dismantling the buffalo—buffadon that was as big as a truck and was covered in scales as if it had rock armor all over its body.

There were pelts hanging a short distance away. There was a puddle of blood and a lump of guts next to it. He probably drained its blood and processed it there. It was a remarkable feat.

I wondered if monsters would gather around it, but then… I remembered that in all my explorations with Gard, I had never seen any monsters in the area come near him.

I see. He’s a flying disaster.

“Oh. I was in the mood for some rare steak, so I went with Plan A. Heheh, I’ll roast some delicious sirloin for you.”

He showed me a refreshing smile when he saw me come out of the cave and wiped his hand with the handkerchief he took out of his pocket.

I wanted to retort a lot of things that I couldn’t say anything in return.

Gard skewered the meat into a branch, arranged it on the firewood I had prepared, and roasted it. He also hummed a tune.

“Just the fillet is fine.”

I gave up on what I wanted to say and requested a specific part of the meat instead. The sirloin was a bit heavy for my first meal of the day.

I decided not to pay too much attention to the potential of demons and sat next to Gard.

I crushed the peppercorns and sprinkled the powder. My only job now was to be the sprinkler.

Gard had been staring at the chunks of meat that he had just begun to cook when he saw my hand that was sprinkling the pepper and gasped.

“A~ah. You got hurt as soon as I took my eyes off you. The hell’re these?”

“Urgh. I’m not a child.”

He firmly grabbed me by the arm and glared at me, his eyes saying, you’re such a child!

“Bite marks, huh. It won’t stop bleeding… I didn’t even notice the smell because of the buffadon’s blood…”

“I was bitten by porcupines. But it didn’t hurt a bit.”

“Porcupines? Ah… You mean, a horncupine1Porcupine is “yamaarashi” in Japanese. In this world, they are called “tsunoarashi” with “tsuno” meaning horn.. I see—” 

He was utterly amazed as if my story had struck a chord with him.

Well, how should I put this… Sorry.

He rummaged through his pockets and pulled out a handkerchief, but it was stained with the buffadon’s blood.

Gard went silent and stopped rummaging. Good call.

He was frowning for some time, but when he saw me looking disheartened and guilty, he pressed his lips on my wounded hand.

Kiss.

“Huh?”

“Hm, I’m not fond of blood, but this is delicious… Nn,” Lick.

“…It’s ticklish, but… What are you doing?”

Gard began to lick my wounds. His slithery tongue crawled over the skin of my hand to tend to it.

When the horncupine drank from me, I didn’t feel as turned on as I did when Azel drank from me. So, I thought for sure they were harmless.

Gard looked at me with his lips on my hand, his slightly slanted eyes glancing upward.

“The horncupines have hemotoxins2toxins that destroy red blood cells, disrupt blood clotting, and/or cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage in their fangs. They have small mouths, so they can only drink in small amounts. Your wounds won’t heal even if they just bit you playfully.”

“O-Oh… So that’s how it is…”

“I’ll apply some blood clotting toxin. It’ll only take a second, so just let me lick them for a bit, ‘kay?”

Gard then pressed his lips against my hand and once again licked my hand carefully. Apparently, he could mix the toxins inside his body with his saliva and apply it with his tongue.

That was probably the situation we were in, but the image we convey was quite awful.

I looked like a pervert letting a handsome guy lick my hand, which was pretty distasteful.

I stared down at him as he thoughtfully licked with his slit eyes closed and had an indescribable look on his face. His long silver eyelashes cast shadows, and he looked beautiful despite what he was doing right now.

“……”

The sight of it gave me a sense of déjà vu.

The idea of my fingers being licked reminded me of Azel, who used to drink my blood every day with reservation.

He would glance at me from time to time, checking how I was doing, and touch me as if he was handling a fragile object. He called humans feeble beings and became overprotective of me, worrying about not hurting me more than necessary.

…I want to see him.

I felt my chest tighten.

“Mm. Aight, that’s it!”

“Oh, the bleeding has stopped. Thanks.”

“You can’t go around monsters you don’t know anymore, ‘kay?”

The warmth on my hand had gone away.

It felt a bit damp, but my hand wasn’t bleeding anymore. And, he still treated me like a child.

I wanted to talk back to him, but I knew that I held out my hand thoughtlessly, so I nodded, unable to pay anything.

Ugh… I’m so ashamed.

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Chapter 19 – Nibbling Fever Time


After seeing Gard off, I made my way through the rocks to the open area in front of the cave that we had agreed on.

The area was about the size of a sports field, and beyond that was a dimly lit cave filled with dark rocks, unlike the rocky arid-colored regions, which were restlessly overgrown with dead grass-colored plants.

I gathered the dead branches scattered around in one place while keeping in mind the best size for firewood. At the same time, I picked up some large leaves that could serve as plates.

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Chapter 17 – Self-Hating Demon Lord and a Budding


I resolved myself and was about to open my mouth, but we heard a loud sigh from inside the room. We both sneaked a peek again.

“Haa… Whatever happened to you? You were so excited yesterday and said you would lift the barrier on Shal, right? You ran off to invite him to come to the office, didn’t you?”

“………”

For the first time, Azel had stopped writing on the documents he was working on.

That’s right. Azel did those delightfully yesterday. Then, I promised him that I would come here.

I came as promised, but they hadn’t noticed it yet. Knowing what transpired thereupon, Gard tightly knitted his brows.

“…He won’t come.”

“What?”

“He won’t come, that guy. …For sure.”

Azel declared with dark eyes and a blank expression that killed his emotions. Then, he started to write again as if nothing had happened.

Reisen didn’t know the details and asked him in confusion. But despite that, Azel had nothing more to say.

For some reason, the lack of expression on Azel’s face didn’t seem to be a rejection — it appeared to be a defense.

I closed the door gently and carefully so as not to make a sound. Then, I looked straight at Gard again.

“Gard, let’s go for a stroll in the skies now.”

“Got it. Where to?”

“Axio Valley.”

When Gard heard my definite answer, he smiled wryly and with great amusement. Then, he easily picked me up and started walking.

I decided that—if I follow Maruo’s advice and go get the flowers, then I would convey my many thanks to Azel.

And, if he wouldn’t mind… I would like to tell him that I will always be here, until the time you no longer need me.

It wasn’t because I couldn’t get out of prison. It was because I still wanted to be here, even if I was allowed to get out.

I wouldn’t escape until I could tell him that. But I didn’t want to escape. I wanted to face him. More properly, in person.

Azel was a feared demon lord, but I never thought that everything I saw when I spent time with him had disappeared because of yesterday’s incident.

It had only been a short time, but I didn’t think Azel was that kind of man. His title of Demon Lord had nothing to do with it.

And that was if I were going for positive thinking.

He thought I was going to escape, and that seemed to have angered him at first glance, but perhaps he was just upset about it.

Somehow, it just feels like…

“Love, isn’t it? It’s like he loves me so much he couldn’t let me go.”

I chuckled.

I didn’t really seriously think that, but I thought it would’ve been nice if I teased him about it. I felt so immature.

Hahaha, what the hell.

Now that I think about it, I didn’t mind Azel being so cold like he was a different person……

Love?

Suddenly, my normal brain that had been on standby, received my jokingly positive thoughts.

Uh… Erm, I carried the joke a bit too far.

We were both guys, we were also of different races, and there was no way a fierce, handsome guy would love someone like me.

I had no idea what made me think that. Really, was my clunky head still lacking in blood? If that were the case, it was more natural for me to fall in love with him instead.

I came here to kill him, yet he let me live and gave me a much better life than I ever had. Rather than telling me to kill someone, he treated me on an equal footing and worked hard to ensure my safety.

He was such a dishonest, adorable, handsome man.

If someone decided to keep you in such a way, you would desperately want to give something back to them, even if you weren’t in love with them. You would feel terribly heartbroken to have hurt them. And you would end up wanting to be by their side.

I deeply nodded in understanding. That’s right.

For the sake of my wonderful, kind, and precious owner, I would go for a ride on a Hydrod-type intense roller coaster, eagerly waiting outside the window for me to jump out.

…Hup…!

The catchline is, ‘for Azel’!

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Chapter 16 – A Demon Lord I Don’t Know


The demon lord’s office was on a level where there were far fewer other demons.

It was a short walk from my prison, up three grand staircases with high ceilings that were difficult to climb.

Beyond the window facing the hallway was a clear, sunny day. The door across it had a standard size, probably because Azel was the size of a human.

Still, it felt much bigger for me compared to the huge door of my prison. I had to go beyond this door, clear up the misunderstanding and make up with him.

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