“Shal! What are we playing today?”
“Hmm. Let’s play a word-chain game today. Restricted to fruits only.”
“Restriction, fruits! Maruo. Loves fruits! But, Maruo. Loves blood more! Blood!”
“If Azel says it’s okay with you, I’ll give you some.”
Flapping around me after finishing my morning meal was my personal bat-like caretaker… Maruo. For the intonation, just think of that certain red plumber.1He probably meant it was similar to Mario.
It was a huge, round, bat-like creature the size of a basketball, with one large eyeball in the center of its body, and a mouth on top of its head.
Maruo was the only bat I named when I first encountered them.
We usually played together only for a little while during the spare time I had after finishing my meal, just to make sure that Maruo, a busy servant of this castle, would not be late for work.
I rested my elbows on the table, picked up the sliced peaches served with my after-meal snacks and put them in Maruo’s mouth.
“My lord. Not say okay. To him. Shal, important!”
“Yeah, Azel has taken good care of me. I’m very grateful for him. …I’d like to return the favor, but I don’t know what to do…”
“? Shal. Give my lord. Present?”
Maruo stared at me with its big and round eye and tilted its body in confusion.
A present… Right, it’d be nice if I could give him one.
I couldn’t get out of this room, and I was also penniless, so the only thing I could give him is blood. But despite my several tries of convincing him, he hadn’t really taken a lot from me.
Maruo nuzzled his smooth, froggy skin against my arm on the table and flapped his wings to cheer me up as I slumped my shoulders downheartedly.
“My lord. Lately. Busy fighting! Flower. Recover fatigue. Place it blooms. Maruo knows!”
“! That’s a great idea.”
Maruo smiled with its whole face and delightfully told me of the place where the flowers bloom.
It wasn’t that far from the demon lord’s castle. It was apparently located in a crevice of a steep cliff. They only bloomed on dry, rocky areas, but ended up falling into the crevice when blown away by the wind.
I was told that it had a high recovery effect since it bloomed in certain numbers even in harsh environments, and it was also good for brewing tea. As expected of a caretaker.
I decided to ask Azel if I could go out once he tells me that I could leave the room, then sneak over there to get them.
I felt refreshed with that objective in mind and started to play the fruits only word-chain game with Maruo.
—Later that night.
Now that I was just about to sleep, Azel rushed into my room while skipping.
I was lying in bed as I rubbed my slightly drowsy eyes and sat up. Azel spread both his arms wide, boldly laughing with a triumphant look on his face.
“Shal! I’ve finally forced the guys in the castle to yield! So, starting tomorrow, you can wander around the castle as much as you like. I’m working at the office, so, well, if you’re bored, you can drop by and visit me!”
He snorted with his eyes sparkling, as if asking me to praise him.
Furthermore, just when I thought he was snapping his fingers to show off, I heard a sound of a glass shattering.
“I’ve lifted the barrier. Don’t forget, okay? I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Azel had gotten rid of the barrier that forbade humans from going in and out of it and emphasized to me that it would be by tomorrow. He carried out his promise where he would give me permission to freely wander around the castle one day.
I kind of squinted my eyes as if I were looking at something dazzling.
It had only been three weeks since I lost to the demon lord. We had only been acquainted for that long.
Despite that, Azel only asked very little of me, even though he already gave me room, food, peace, and the things that I liked, and even kept his promises on equal terms.
I could tell, in his own stubborn way, that he had been treating me well, and I had no idea why, but it gave me feelings I never felt ever since I came to this world.
—I really want to return that feeling.
I wanted to return this warmth too. After all, being cared for by someone would make you feel warm and happy.
“Thank you, Azel. I’ll definitely come to your office tomorrow. Please wait for me.”
“T-There’s no helping it, then… Ngh…”
I thanked him as much as I could, and Azel turned away again, red and trembling as usual.
I had been getting used to these seizures. I asked him before if he was physical ill, but he said he wasn’t. Still, I felt worried.
That was when I thought of the flowers Maruo had told me about. Ah, I really want to give that to Azel. It’s my way of saying thank you.
I called out to the Azel, who was now resurrected and had become healthier.
“Azel, it’ll be just a bit outside the castle, but… Do you mind if I go to Axio Valley tomorrow–“
He stared at me sternly and denied my request at such a high speed. I slumped my shoulders in disappointment. Just why? The back of the demon lord’s castle is full of cliffs. That’s where I’m going. It’s just really a short distance away.
Azel became flustered with a bitter expression since I got depressed, but he immediately recovered and stood firmly with his arms crossed.