Chapter 86

“Exactly what is this?” Grimmy asked as he flew through the sky. Lindyss and Vur sat on his head with Rella and Bella sitting on Vur’s shoulders. A swarm of fairies flew behind Grimmy, blotting out the sun for the people on the ground. “I feel like a mother duck with her chicks in tow.”

Lindyss snorted. “Blame the new fairy king over here,” she said and placed her hand on Vur’s head. “They’ll be following him like moths to a flame until the queen is born.”

Vur scratched his cheek. “At least there’s plenty of space for them in Konigreich, but we’ll have to defeat the guardian for their birthflowers first.”

“That shouldn’t be an issue,” Lindyss said. “It’s probably disabled if it’s a construct or it’ll submit to you if it’s biological. I do wish Charon teleported the room somewhere more convenient though.” A vein appeared on Lindyss’ forehead.

“Where’d he put it?” Bella asked, peeling her eyes away from the rose.

“On top of his tower in Konigreich. Literally,” Lindyss said and sighed. “I just hope a breeze doesn’t tip it over. My skeletons have been telling me about the panic it induces every time it wobbles.”

“Ah,” Bella said and looked down. “And here I was thinking he looked pretty cool when he teleported the whole room away.”

Silence fell over the group save for the chatter of the swarm behind them.

“I should’ve gone with Tafel,” Vur said as he looked up at the sky.

“And bring this many fairies back to Niffle?” Lindyss asked as she gestured behind her. “Not happening. I have a feeling she doesn’t want to see any fairies for a long time.”

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“What does it mean to be the demon lord?” Tafel asked. She sat on the edge of her bed, with her hands clenched into fists on her lap. Her head hung as she stared at the floor. Dustin and Mina sat on chairs across from her. Sunlight streamed through the window by her bed.

Dustin frowned. “Tafel? What happe-“

“Answer me!” Tafel’s voice cracked when she yelled. She raised her head and glared at the duo across from her. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes.

“Calm down,” Mina said. “We’re just worried abou-“

“It’s just one question. If you’re not going to answer it,” Tafel said in a low voice as her horns glowed silver, “then get out!” She shouted as a circle appeared underneath Dustin and Mina. An instant later, their bodies disappeared along with their chairs and carpet.

Tafel panted as she stared at the exposed marble floor in the center of the room. She threw her body across her bed and buried her face in her pillow. A minute passed and the door to her room creaked open by an inch.

“Excuse me,” Retter said and rubbed his nose. “I couldn’t help but overhear-“

Retter shut his mouth when Tafel raised her head and glared through the crack in the door with puffy eyes.

“A demon lord is the demon who holds the respect of the people,” Retter said as he gulped and pushed the door open further, “whether by power or charisma.”

Tafel sat up in her bed and pointed at her desk’s chair. “Sit.”

Retter nodded and took a seat. “The demon lord is the one who guides the direction of the kingdom,” he said. “They’re the ones who make the choices: to go to war or seek an armistice, to abolish laws or to create new ones. Everything they do is to ensure the continuation of the demon race. I don’t know what happened to you to-“

“I killed people,” Tafel said, interrupting him. Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Thousands of people. Humans. Demons. Men. Women. Children.” Her voice cracked as tears dripped from her chin.

Retter’s brow furrowed as he frowned. “That-“

“I’m a monster.” Tafel lowered her head and stared at her palms. “Aren’t I?”

“No,” Retter said. His armor clanked as he stood up and walked towards the side of the bed before kneeling. “I’ve fought in too many battles to keep track of before I became a sentry in the royal castle. I’ve seen my fair share of monsters; you’re not one of them. All I see in front of me is a scared child who feels remorse for what she’s done. Monsters don’t feel remorse.”

Tafel sniffled and looked up. “Thank you,” she said and turned her head away. “I’d like to be alone.”

“Understood,” Retter said and saluted as he stood up. “Let me know if you need anything.” He walked outside and closed the door. He sighed as soft sobs echoed in the room behind him.

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“This can’t be real, right?” Michelle said and turned to the woman standing behind her. “Tell me it’s not true.” She took a step towards her. “Mom?”

“I’m sorry Michelle,” Marissa said and hugged her daughter. Lines streaked down her face where her tears had ruined her makeup. “I’m sorry.”

“How?” Michelle asked as her body trembled. Her arms hung by her side. Behind her was a coffin with a body covered by a blanket. The top of the blanket was peeled back, revealing the pope’s mostly burnt face. “Dad’s the strongest. He’s blessed by the spirits. He talked to me just a few hours ago. He can’t be dead.”

Michelle broke out of her mother’s embrace and kneeled next to the side of the coffin. She clasped her hands together and chanted. A white light enveloped the burnt corpse, but dispersed without any effect. She chanted again and again to no avail. Tears sprang to her eyes as her mother cried on her knees behind her.

“I promise I won’t be bad anymore. I won’t drink, I won’t run off and disobey you. I’ll pray twice as much without complaining,” she said in a quavering voice and gripped the wooden casket. “So please, Dad. Get up. Please get up.”

“Michelle…” Her mother hiccupped and placed her hand on her daughter’s shoulder.

Michelle flinched as her mother’s hand made contact. “Who did it?” she asked and gritted her teeth as her tears streamed down her cheeks. “Who?”

“It was me.”

Michelle whirled around and glared at the doorway. Randel was leaning against the door’s frame with his shoulders slouched and his crown lopsided. “I gave the order to have him killed. If you want to blame someone, then blame me. It is my duty to protect the people as the king. I did what had to be done.” Forgive me, Rudolph.

 

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