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