—The door to the peaceful office suddenly slammed opened, and a cupbat jumped in.
“Hah? I’ve already given my audience this morning. I don’t wanna go back to that place until I’ve spent every last second of my precious time with Shal. What’s this all about?”
The cupbat, the Demon Lord’s underling and personal caretaker, fluttered around Azel and called out to him hurriedly.
Azel didn’t even bother to conceal his displeasure, and the cupbat turned pale when it got asked. Still, it quickly regained its composure and answered him briskly.
“Hero! A hero, came! Time for, wrapping in bamboo mat! That is, all! Please, excuse me! For disturbing!”
‘My lord, a hero has come to the throne room. Please drive them out.’
Cuptbats were low-level demons who couldn’t speak well. If I were to sum up what it was trying to say in my own words—it would be like that.
The back of my throat quivered.
The cupbat reported what was asked of it, flapped its wings, and left, closing the door with a slam just as it came in.
I was staring at it in silence, my eyes widened in dismay, when I regained my senses and quickly turned around, unable to hide my impatience.
—Hero… A hero, you say…? There’s just no way. It’s too soon.
The summoning of heroes would always take place over a period of decades at the shortest. There was no way they could’ve summoned a new hero so quickly. It wasn’t the type of magic that could be done over and over again.
Due to the specifications of the summoning, there was no way a hero would come. Then perhaps something else, something terrible, had come.
Even if it wasn’t, a powerful being who had the power to enter the demon realm without notice and reach the demon lord’s castle had come to attack. Either way, it was a matter of great importance.
“Are you going…?”
I couldn’t help but stare at Azel behind me, thinking he might get hurt in a fierce battle.
However, he just humphed as if he wasn’t interested. He then embraced me tightly before he reluctantly let go of my hand and stood up.
It was as if he wasn’t worried about anything. He seemed to have no sense of crisis and was acting quite normal.
“What a pain in the ass… Can’t he just leave on his own… I mean, a hero’s a human with cheats and a combat maniac, but the difference in our strength is significant. Anyone can beat him, whether it’s Gard, or even Reisen, or Mulgan… Probably…”
“A… Azel, how can the next hero come so soon? Even if they were capable of summoning another, I haven’t returned there yet… No, they probably thought I was dead and sent the next one after me. Even so, the span is too short. Something’s strange…”
I was mumbling around and voicing my concerns in a panic when Azel gave me a sidelong glance and told me that it was his job, so he didn’t really have any choice. I could see his weariness in full view.
I could feel the comfort in his words, but I couldn’t stop worrying about him even in the slightest, no matter how strong he was.
Will it be safe for him to suddenly go into battle all by himself? Is it a trap? Will he get hurt?
I was more anxious than he was, my eyebrows furrowed, when I felt a hand on my head. Then, I expressed my worries to the owner of that hand.
The expression he had on his face as he grinned was fearless. That was enough to make the endless anxiety I had fade away.
Really… He was more reliable than anyone else when it came to combat.
“No matter who comes, I won’t lose. After all, I’m the strongest. And well, they might’ve figured out a way to make the summoning more efficient. I’ll have others look into it. …But still, I don’t wanna go.”
“Heheh. When you put it that way, I can’t even start to worry about you… If you don’t want to leave me, maybe I can come with you? I might be able to help you if there’s a chance to, and you can also show me how cool you are.”
“! Y-You leave me no choice. I won’t use my sword, so you can watch from the front! Hehe. Heheh.”
Azel was in such high spirits that I could almost see a dog’s tail wagging from him. He was as cute as ever. I could easily tell that he was eager about it.
The annoyed look on his face changed at once. Then, he cheerfully walked towards the door, to which I followed with a smile.
I’ll be watching you carefully, so everything’s going to be fine. I can’t use magic or a sword right now, so when push comes to shove, I’ll carry you and escape.
“I was looking so much forward to when the hero would come to attack until you came. Now that I have you, everything else is just a bother. I’ve been waiting for you, a hero, but that’s just because you’re that benefactor.”
“I guess so. I didn’t know your reason for that back then, that’s why… at first, I thought it was all about the blood, so I figured any hero would do.”
“You’re an idiot. As if a person from another world who only has the same title could compare to the hero whom I have been longing for for ten years. The only one I want is y-you. Hmph.”
Azel said those words while turning away in embarrassment, opened the door wide, and walked away with cheerful steps.
The footsteps that followed his figure came to a halt.
“…Ten years… ago…”
I gazed at his back that was growing distant with my eyes wide open as if I was trying to implore him.
All the noise around me disappeared for a moment, and I was surrounded by silence. But my heart was beating so loudly that it felt like it was going to jump out of my ears.
Maybe I just didn’t remember.
Or maybe something went wrong and someone took my memories. Maybe I got hurt in a fight and forgot about it.
Those thoughts consumed me just a few seconds ago, and my lips quivered, opening and closing in a small way.
I managed to move my staggering legs forward, and, not wanting to arouse suspicion, I chased after him as if nothing had happened.
What should I do?
“—I came to this world eight years ago…”
I couldn’t have met you ten years ago.