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


It suddenly occurred to me that the sun was about to set.

The sunlight shining through the window was like a flame, and I thought to myself, Oh, it’s that time already, as if it was someone else’s problem.

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

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

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

I didn’t know how long the plans for rebuilding public facilities next fiscal year had been stuck on my desk until I pulled out the low-priority items.

To begin with, even if there were territories, there were only a few races, and the demon realm had no need to conduct as much politics as the human realm.

The amount of paperwork a demon lord had to do would not pile up more than what he accomplished every day.

Inspections, councils, diplomacies, and the like – I left those for tomorrow.

It wasn’t even the busy season, yet I was confined in this room. But I knew I had no intention of doing anything but work in the office.

Just how much of a coward was I? I couldn’t even be bothered to ridicule myself.

If I exhaust all of today’s portion, I might end up finishing all the work I could do in the room ahead of time.

I didn’t want to leave the room. Because if I did, I would run into Shal.

‘Shal’

I stopped writing at the thought of his name. My muscles were stiff from sitting most of the time. Feeling mentally exhausted like slime, I put down my brush.

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

How could I go see him after what I did to him? Even if I went there, I was sure my heart would be crushed at the sight of the room that had become empty.

Thinking about it, I didn’t know how much effort I put into holding back the urge to cry all this time.

I became expressionless whenever I suppressed my emotions. The power of my eyes, which I normally controlled, would also activate involuntarily.

I was really bad at controlling my emotions.

In the past, I wouldn’t get shaken up easily. But now, when it came to him… my heart’s sensitivity would accelerate to its maximum, whether I liked it or not.

Shal rejected me. He must’ve grown tired of me. He must be thinking of getting out of here. Did he leave now, or was he still here?

I was so scared. I hated myself so much for what I did yesterday that I was going crazy with anger. Ahh, how frightening.

He was a benefactor. He was a precious human from another world. He smiled and looked at me without fear.

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

I was unfamiliar with the names of my emotions or the subtleties of my heart, so I couldn’t fully grasp what was flowing down my chest. But, only a single thought dominated my entire body.

I was—scared.

Even though I was a demon lord with a power stronger than any of the demons and the object of many fears… the thought of being hated by just one person scared the hell out of me.

—Knock, knock.

As I stared blankly into space with such thoughts in my mind, I heard a timid knock on the door.

It was an irritating way to knock on the door. It might’ve been Reisen, who was constantly exposed to my eyes acting out of control.

“What is it.”

The voice that came out of my mouth was unintentionally sharp and cold as if my heart was screaming at them to leave me alone.

It was a piercing, monotonous way of speaking. If it was a lesser demon or a servant, they would get frightened. If it was Reisen, he would just complain, but that didn’t matter.

Was that the reason why? There was no response from the other side of the door, nor did they show any signs of entering.

I didn’t have a shred of patience to wait for them kindly, so I stood up, unimpressed, and walked towards the door.

Click.

“If you have any business, make it… quick…”

“Oh… You’re still working… Sorry…”

An apologetic voice from an unexpected guest reached my ears.

I opened the door in my impatience, and beyond it was—a man who shouldn’t have been there.

Am I hallucinating?

My mental fatigue must have been so bad that I had a convenient vision or dream.

It would be strange if it wasn’t. His voice, his breathing, and his presence was as real as could be. It was strange.

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

The man—Shal, came into view as he slowly opened the creaking door and smelled of sweat, blood, dirt, and a faintly refreshing scent.

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

I felt like my heart was going to burst. The pounding shook my eardrums from within.

All of my senses were striking me to tell me that it was all real, but if that were the case, I would be dead right now if I didn’t cower and cover my ears.

After all, I had hurt Shal so badly. Hurting someone you didn’t want to be hated by was like being killed by that person.

Humans especially hate that sort of thing, don’t they? You know, the look as if they wanted to kill someone they were terrified of.

But that was about it. What I had done… Putting him in a position of livestock was just an excuse to tie him down. That’s the way it should’ve been.

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

“Ugh…”

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

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

Even so, Shal took a slow, steady step forward as if trying to regain the distance between us.

The door slammed shut.

Unable to meet his eyes, my strained gaze restlessly drifted to his feet. My trembling lips struggled to form words, almost biting into each other.

“Why… Why did you come…?”

“We made a promise, remember? Yesterday.”

Yesterday.

My heart. Ahh, it hurts.

My heart throbbed loudly as I remembered my mistake. Cold sweat ran down my stiffened cheeks, wondering if words of reproach or goodbye were to follow.

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

I lifted my head in surprise and saw him move his arm.

—He’s… gonna hit me…!

Rustle.

“Ngh……W-What…?”

I closed my eyes shut, wanting to deny the reality that the hand that had always been gently held out to me was going to hurt me.

But instead of a fist, something light touched the tip of my nose.

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