I heard a soft tread on the ground, and the scenery around me changed. The smell of the earth and trees was enough to make me swoon. I couldn’t even appreciate it well.
The sun shone through the trees on my bloodless face.
I realized that my arm was still hurting from the hero’s grip, but I had already stopped thinking about what to do.
I stood in a daze when a firm hand, wearing armor, slapped me on my cheek.
“Tch. Don’t space out. You’re the bad guy here, yet you look as if you just died. Don’t you give a damn on what’s gonna happen to you, or where you even are?”
Not only could I feel his sharp, upturned eyes glaring at me, but also my stricken cheeks turning red. Yet, everything seemed so far at the moment.
A whole bunch of problems that took a long time to wrap my head around was thrown at me all at once, and my brain just stopped processing them.
Being tactless, all I should be able to do was look forward and try my best, but now I felt like I had been plunged into total darkness.
The hero was annoyed by my lack of response and struck me on the cheek once again. Then, he tied my hands behind my back with rope and started to walk me like a dog.
“…We’re in the borders of the human realm. I had it prepared for my escape from the demon realm.”
“I’m taking you to the castle now. The king ordered me to kill you if you were still alive, but… even if you’re a criminal, it doesn’t feel right to kill someone who doesn’t resist. So, I thought that you should be judged and executed properly.”
“You’re supposed to be dead. Since you are Shal, it would be problematic if people learned that there were two heroes. You’re just a fake, though!”
“Uh… Cough… I understand.”
The hero pushed me off my back as I walked slowly. We used the forest to hide ourselves and set out towards the human realm.
Despite his violent words, the hero who eventually told me where I was and what he planned on doing with me was probably a kind man, if not a hateful one.
The destination of his teleportation was the edge of the human realm.
Are we already out of the demon realm? Even if Azel were to run in earnest, it would take him more than half a day.
As soon as I thought of that, I immediately gasped.
I felt ashamed of my foolish thoughts. There was no way he would chase after me. What was I thinking?
But I knew the reason why.
I couldn’t believe that the gentle and warm feeling of Azel loving me had completely disappeared, so I just hung onto what was left of it.
I was nothing to him. I wasn’t the one he wanted. What an arrogant desire.
It was no surprise that I couldn’t remember anything. After all, I was a different person.
No matter how many times I corrected them, they wouldn’t listen to me and still called me Shal. It was reasonable since they considered me as a double.
They wouldn’t let me out of the tower because they didn’t want the people to find out.
It all made sense when I filled in the pieces of the past.
My feet were as heavy as lead as we made our way through the forest.
—He had been living by holding on to his precious feelings of indebtedness for ten years.
I wondered how Azel would feel when he finally got what he wanted and smiled happily, only to find out that it was a fake.
Not to mention, that benefactor of his was already dead.
The feelings that Azel had held so dearly, so dazzlingly beautiful, had lost their way so easily.
Azel. Azel. Azel.
He was crying. He was in pain.
I wanted to protect him from such cold thoughts, from the sorrow of hurting him. I wanted to hug and kiss him right now.
But I was the one who was making him sad. I wasn’t qualified to do those things.
It wasn’t me whom Azel was looking for.
I found myself unconsciously calling out the name of the man I loved in a thin, regretful voice. But I knew I would never get a response back.
“…Are you an idiot… Even at a time like this, you’re still talking about the demon lord…”
As he pulled on my rope, the hero muttered something with a puzzled expression as if he couldn’t understand, but nothing reached my ears.