A messenger of heaven appeared among the chaotic crowds
Carrying in hand a sacred treasure, and the flames of hope
Alongside those that sought out their destines
To seal the root of evil, the lord of demons
They brought along the light of hope to illuminate the dark night
… They were the ‘heroes’
The warriors of salvation chosen by god
There are places in the world one mustn’t tread out of pure curiosity.
For example, wandering the forest with a danger warning in search of fruit. That one was the worst. Because of that, I ended up in tears, chased by a wolf. My parents gently used their fists to teach me the foolishness of my actions. A number of stars twinkled in the backs of my eyes when they did.
Also, don’t touch the white wall with a ‘do not touch’ sign leaned against it. That one was also terrible. I ended up scrubbing my fingers on the verge of tears. The owner of the newly built house, the friendly old blacksmith (bald, macho) gently pat my head with his fist. I got to meet my late granny, and have a conversation with her for the first in a long time.
The one with a bit of a tomboyish youth, I, Marie, had turned twenty eight this year.
… Yeah. I became the splendid Lady the general public gossiped about, who missed her chance at marriage. Yeah, yeah.
But that couldn’t be helped.
My parents both ran a bakery. I was fifteen when I lost them to an epidemic. Thinking there was no way in hell I’d lose the store they treasured so much, I resolved myself, took a loan, took over the enterprise, frantically studied, earned up money, somehow paid off my debts, and got the business operational again. And when I looked at myself, I was already at this age.
Yep, so there was no helping it. My best friend already has three children, carrying a fourth, she had become a fine mother, but there was no helping it. That’s what I told myself. I mean, I was way too busy. I don’t envy the lifestyles of others. I don’t freaking envy it, I tell you.
Early in the morning, I’d stock up and prepare ingredients; during the day, I’d sell bread and candy; when night came, I’d prepare for the next day, take bath, and fall asleep like a log. As I was living that life without a fragment of glamor, I came across that peculiar gathering on a regular vacation day for the shop, as I was aimlessly wandering the capital.
In a corner of the street, a remarkable throng had formed, so I peered in with the pure question of ‘why?’ to see a large mercenary-ish man pulling at a gilded sword stuck in a stone with a bright red face.
After that, a wide variety of people took up the challenge, but it wouldn’t budge. What’s this, a contest of power? Or so I thought as I watched over it, when it had already come to my turn.
Well since I was already there, why not take a whack at it for old time’s sake. And as if the scenes from before had been a lie, the gilded sword parted from the rock. The hell’s all this, now that was easy… Or so I was shocked, as my heart beat over the possibility of a reward for all this. I turned to the one standing to the side, with splendid facial features, a man who gave off a minister-of-the-castle vibe.
No~ I was just a bit lucky there. Eh? What’s the trick? Well let’s see here, instead of the wrists, get power from your shoulders, and give it a light tug, perhaps. It’s just like popping the tight cork off a wine bottle… or so a stream of questions and answers were being prepared in my head, but the old man wouldn’t open his mouth at all. No, his mouth was open, but no one around let out a word of their voices.
Just what could this be? I gazed over my surroundings, and spotted a billboard posted up.
On it, was written inciting words that sounded like a joke.
And it was only at that moment I had noticed them.
『The one who pulls the sacred sword from the stone shall be granted the title of, ‘Hero’.』
… Yeah. It looks like I haven’t advanced a single step from my childhood. Ha. Ha.
The result: they gave me money and equipment, and drove me out of the town.
No, driven out may not be quite accurate.
They made a petition for me to go away.
They wanted me to go defeat the demon king that had revived.
The king of my own country did.
I questioned his sanity. No, I mean just think about it. I was but a pastry chef running a humble bakery. For some reason, not only women, but fighter-looking men gleefully bought the cakes and biscuits I baked, so we had a bit of a strange clientele, but that was all. We were a completely normal bakery. When it came to fights, I’d never once been in one since I attained mind and matter.
To ask a lady such as I to go slay the demon king, are you alright in the head? I diluted those words a hundred times, and coated them with lemon icing to give a kind, bitter-sweet and awesome explanation, but it didn’t work out.
It seems the demon king had only just revived, and after he fully regained his strength, it would be difficult to completely defeat him, he said. By a stroke of luck, the court magician had detected the feeble Demon King’s mana, and now was the chance left to humanity to slay him… Also, 『The other countries have already found and sent out heroes, so we’ll be in hot water if we’re the only ones not doing anything』 he said something like that, and I’m pretty sure that one was the largest reason.
What’s more, the other three heroes had journeyed out alone, so they wouldn’t even give me a guard.
Just what do you want me to do? I tried to soften up the phrase, I don’t give a damn about your country’s dignity, but the whole country was already ablaze with a, ‘with this, we can finally defeat the Demon King’ atmosphere, and there was nothing I could do about it.
So after spending a week carefully preparing for a journey, I reluctantly left the capital I had become accustomed to.
Now then, the first place I reached was a poor village on the outskirts.
At a nearby mountain, with the Demon King’s revival as a precursor, the strongest dragon called the Dragon King was demanding a sacrifice.
The Dragon King was known as the strongest monster, even among the Demon King’s subordinates. Two hundred years ago, he’d served as one of the Demon King’s elite four, brought cruelty to its extremes, and until he was beaten by a hero of the time, he was feared by the people as the Symbol of Destruction. A build large enough you had to look up to see, and claws akin to swords. His bloodstained black scales could fend off any attack, and his sharp fangs and jaw could chew through stone. That was the depiction of the Dragon King that remained in the world of legends… the old village chief explained. I myself had to ask starting with who the Dragon King even was.
No, you’re wrong. It’s not that I didn’t feel a sense of crisis, I honest-to-goodness never had the time to read legends or fairy tales or anything like that. From a young age, I was helping out at the shop, and my parents weren’t too interested in that sort of thing.
So, dear villagers, could you stop looking at me with, ‘is this really going to be alright?’ faces. I’m not uneducated. It’s just that to me, education is the pursuit or recipes to create delicious breads and confectionaries. There should be a limit to being placed in the wrong field.
I’m really sorry, for being a hero like this. Maybe humanity is already doomed.
I already have my suspicions little holy sword over here mistook me for someone else, but even so, I properly gathered info on the Demon King. Like hell I’m going to die from this personnel selection that’s more of an accident than anything else.
The Demon King went on his rampage two hundred years ago. To protect humanity from his menace, just like what was happening now, four heroes selected by the legendary devices worked together, and somehow managed to seal him at the ends of the earth.
Hey, defeat him properly next time, great heroes. My chest was full of such dissatisfaction, but that’s just how powerful the Demon King was. Asking me to defeat such a limitlessly dangerous entity, as I thought, that king and his people were really off their rockers.
If I do end up dying, I’ll haunt the space by their pillows, and whisper curses of, ‘one soul… two soul… looks like I need one more…’ in their ears as I fill their mouths with bone-dry scones, or so I resolved my heart.
Whatever the case, the one before me at the moment was the Dragon King. The climax right at the open of the curtain. Seriously, what do you expect from a woman who missed her marriage, only chosen by some shady holy sword. At the very least, I’d like to go at this with some more steps. No, it’s not like I think walking a few more steps will do anything about the problem, though.
But it was there, that some exceedingly beneficial information entered my ears.
Of all things, the Hero of the Bow was in this town.
Shield, Bow, Armor, Sword. One of the heroes chosen by those legendary artifacts. He likely heard rumor of the Dragon King, and came here from a foreign land.
Wanting to meet him with all due haste, I asked for directions.
And after being led to a conspicuously large wooden building, he was definitely there.
Silky flowing golden hair. Deep blue eyes like the bottom of the ocean. Fearless facial features, and an appropriate tense and splendid body, he was boldly lying on the bed…
… Covered in bandages.
Oh, dear god. Please forgive this sinful lamb for thinking, ‘and may a flight of angels sing thee to thy rest…’ in disappointment. I was just expecting a bit. I mean, the villager that guided me here said, ‘He’s a reliable and gallant one,’ and showed me some dreams.
Couldn’t he have said, ‘Leave the Dragon King to me,’ kill the monster himself, and let me tag along later? If need be, I had even thought to hand over the holy sword, you know.
… No, I’m not expecting any romance out of this, you know? There’s a limit to how shameless a completely unwomanly woman passed marriageable age can be, and even I know full well my place in life.
“… Oy, who’s that woman?”
“Yes. This is the Lumis Kingdom’s Hero of the Sword.”
“Hah? Hero? This old woman is?”
… What’s with this guy.
He suddenly looked down on me with scorn. He suddenly called me old. Yes, it’s true that twenty eight may be above the generally accepted marriageable age of the late teens, but even so, that’s way too rude a thing to say to one you’re meeting for the first time.
From what I could see, he was perhaps seven to eighteen. His appearance was fine, but how unfortunate for his insides. What’s more, I didn’t even ask for it, but he was already proudly reciting his tale of bravery. According to him, he was hailed as a genius at the bow when he was five, and from the age of ten, he took down a number of dangerous magical beasts. This village was the first place he ventured after being selected as a hero, and after challenging the dangerous Dragon King alone, he fell to dastardly means, and suffered heavy injury. Just a little more, and he would’ve defeated the Dragon King, said he.
Looking at his present state, I suspected it may just be sour grapes, but I endured it in the hopes that, at the very least, I could obtain some valuable information, and listened to his over-ornamented prattlings.
… But even someone as open-hearted as me, has a point when my reason reaches its limits.
“And that’s how it is… oy, old woman. Give your holy sword to me.”
“A divine artifact for a woman is pearls before swine. If I have that sword, I can win against the Dragon King.”
He said such nonsensical things as if giving a verdict from above.
“… Hero of the Bow, I cannot give my holy sword to you.”
“Hah? What are you talking about? It couldn’t be that a woman like you is to defy the orders of a hero like me?”
“No sh… Of course. I mean, I am a Hero as well… and…”
Standing, I gently reached over my hand.
… Right on top of the bandages a wee bit stained with blood.
“O-oy, what are yoGYAAAAAAH!?”
“You have suffered such severe wounds, Hero of the Bow. Wouldn’t it be best you get some rest? … Well then, I’ve already finished my business here, so I must be taking my leave. Good day to you.”
When I grinded against his wound a bit, the hero of the bow(?) let off a grandiose scream, so I left him, and left the room.
… But I don’t get the feeling those wounds were anything special, you know…
The adventurers and soldiers that stop by our place get over much more severe stuff. They all laugh it off amongst themselves as, ‘having another medal of honor’.
Not that it matters. Let’s stop depending on others for now.
If I had to rely on someone like that, it would be more reliable to do something myself.
Getting my resolve together, I began preparing to head for the mountain.
While climbing the dragon’s mountain, what I worried about was attacks from magical beasts.
A world where the Demon King had revived. There were dangerous monsters in the fields as if it were natural.
In front on the mountain trail I went down, as expected, there were two large horned wolf-like magic beasts.
… But no need to panic.
I’ve thought up countermeasures, and I’ve already succeeded in a number of experiments.
I calmly opened a sealed pouch at my waist, and took out its contents.
It was a spherical bread with the fruits magical beasts preferred kneaded into the dough.
What’s more, it was filled with a sauce made from boiling down, and condensing those fruits.
On its intense fragrance, the beasts’ attentions locked on in an instant.
It was enough to attract them.
“Here, go fetch.”
I threw the bread with all my might.
The horned wolves raced after it. I saw other beasts come out to give chase as well, and all of them were desperate to get the bread rolling away.
… Hmph, in the end, magic beasts are still animals.
If there’s a source of food much more appetizing than the human before their eyes, they’ll be engrossed in it at once.
I haven’t been serving adventurers for nothing. I’ve always been researching the ecology of magic beasts. My bread has a reputation of being more useful for exploration than magic items.
After gathering information on an area’s monsters, and making the preferred bait for each type, they’re no enemy to me.
I sealed my pouch again, and leisurely walked down the path on which the danger had passed.
Eh? Holy Sword? … I’m properly using it to dice ingredients, you know?
The pample’s green and solid-stiff skin, as well as the walnut’s rock-like shell can be sliced through like butter. As expected of a Holy Sword! I was honestly impressed. While travelling, its highly conspicuous golden glimmer was embarrassing, so I put it away in a large bag on my back. The edge was getting a bit dull, so is it around time I get a skilled blacksmith to hone it? Even so, I’ve sure received something nice.
Throwing around a few more breads to remove all magic beasts in the area, I aimed for the summit.
I laboriously moved my heavy feet, and finally reached the peak where the Dragon King lived.
As I thought, an unfamiliar climb was tiring. I did usually walk around a lot on my days off, but the forests around the capital, and a mountain road were completely different. The formidable incline had left my legs trembling.
If I met the King now, it would be quite troublesome. I thought that as I looked around, but it seems the Dragon King wasn’t home.
I lowered myself onto a log-like stone nearby, and stretched out my weary legs. Raising my face, I saw an unimpeded blue sky. The clear mountain air tickled my face, and a plentiful green let off a gentle scent.
Taking a big stretch, and a deep breath. Aaah, this is nice air. It’s not by much, but I can’t really imagine a ferocious dragon living here.
I took a canteen from the bag on my back, and took a gulp of some sweet and sour lemon water.
『…… That’s quite some nerve to blatantly relax yourself on a dragon’s tail.』
I heard a sort of roaring low voice.
Eh? From where? I looked around, but I didn’t see any suspects.
No, no, wait. Come to think of it, he said something about a dragon’s tail, so…
Huh, could it be… u-up?
『What’s with that overly idiotic expression of yours?』
That voice was undoubtedly descending from a large mouth overhead.
A jaw with lines of massive fangs opened up.
A long neck was coiling around to look.
… A grey dragon was looking over me.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaah!? I-I really do apologize!? I… I-I-I-I never thought it would be a tail, so I just went and- and wait, you’re not even black! You lied to me, village chiiiiiieeeeeef!?”
『… For now, calm down. You’re too noisy.』
That fed-up order came down, and I shut and fastened my mouth closed.
W-w-w-w-what should I do? At this rate I’ll be e… eat… wait, huh?
… He’s not going to move?
“W-well… I’m just being a little bit hopeful here, but could it be the gracious Dragon King doesn’t have the intent to eat me today? Maybe? Um, I was just wondering you know? So how about it?”
『It feels disgusting to hear you depreciate yourself in your speech. You were just making yourself at home in a dragon’s nest, drinking water, and letting out a voice like an old man.』
Guh… O-oh shut it, won’t you? Even women will let out old man-like voices if they’ve been unmarried for long enough.
And wait, he was watching? How embarrassing.
『… I don’t eat humans.』
As I felt my face grow hot, I heard a light whisper.
I couldn’t help but look up at the Dragon King.
『Why do you look so surprised?』
“Ah, no, I was just thinking you’re different from the stories I’ve heard… Dragon King, two hundred years ago, didn’t you attack humans, and get yourself defeated by a Hero?”
『That’s the previous generation. I became Dragon King a hundred years ago. And even since then, I’ve never once attacked a human in my life. If you attack a human, they make alliances, and come back for retribution, don’t they? When I live on a mountain so abundant in beasts, what need is there for me to go out of my way and eat a human?』
“S-so that’s how it is… no, wait. I heard you were demanding sacrifice from the village at the foot of the mountain.”
『They’re doing that all on their own. Convincing those cowering girls, and sending them to other villages is breaking my bones. Go tell them not to do anything unnecessary.』
“If you didn’t need them, you could send them back, and unravel the misunderstanding… no, I see. So they can’t return.”
『You’re sharper than I thought. A girl who’s failed to fulfill her purpose could never live out her remaining years decently in a village that’s offered sacrifices all by itself.』
What, then it was all the villagers’ misunderstanding? Then Mr. Dragon King has totally been framed, hasn’t he? The girls offered as sacrifice even lose their places to live… uwah, it’s the worst.
But it’s a good thing Mr. Dragon King is a nicer person(?) than I thought. He did just casually make fun of me, but if it’s going to be like that, there’s no need to worry.
『If you’re going back down the mountain, then take my heart with you. What you have on your back is the divine vessel, the holy sword, is it not? If it’s that, it should be able to pierce my scales.』
“W-what sort of drivel are you spouting!? As if I could do anything like that!”
『I’m already tired. Neither human nor dragon even tries to hear my voice. Being feared and attacked without a reason has gotten tiresome. Just how long has it been since I last had a meaningful conversation with another? … If it’s going to end anyways, it would better be by your hand, than that low-life Hero of the Bow, or whatever he’s called.』
The fact his voice sounded somewhat lonely couldn’t have been my imagination.
Getting a little caught up in his words, I backed myself up a bit.
And I finally noticed.
The reason Mr. Dragon King didn’t move… why he couldn’t.
… In Mr. Dragon King’s feet, a number of golden arrows were sticking out.
“T-that’s… could it be the Hero of the Bow…?”
『Yeah… that whelp, I’ve no idea where he got it, but he used a dragon child as a shield when he attacked. I managed to let the chick flee, and have him retreat, but this is the state I’ve been left in. Perhaps he cast the curse of the dragon slayer on them. I cannot touch these arrow. It’s only a matter of time before life leaves this body of mine. Before that happens, quickly…』
“… I can’t!”
I unintentionally cried out.
I mean, this has to be strange. Mr. Dragon King hasn’t done anything. All of it, everything was a misunderstanding on the humans’ side.
Trying to kill him is a mistake.
… I definitely can’t recognize it.
“I’ll pull out your arrows! And I have some cookies with healing effects, so please eat them! I think you’ll get a little better!”
『O-oy, what are… ghh!?』
I went into pulling out one of the deeply embedded arrows. I tried to make it as painless as possible, but the arrow’s head had eaten in too deep, making it difficult.
I grit my teeth, and put all my power in. Finally, the first arrow came out. Blood poured out of the deep wound.
This was much more serious than anything that Hero suffered. But Mr. Dragon King only groaned a little without raising a scream.
I took a cloth from the bag on my back to stop the bleeding. Do I have enough on hand? I must hurry to pull the other ones.
Every time the blood flowed, I heard sounds of him enduring the pain come down from up high.
… Ah, so Mr. Dragon King had been enduring it like this the whole time.
No matter how hard or painful it was, not raising a single cry.
Every time he was presented sacrifices he never asked for, every time he was feared by girls he had no intentions to hurt, every time he was assaulted by humans who wouldn’t listen… his heart must have been grating this whole time.
I pulled out an arrow. A pained voice leaked out. A non-insufficient amount of dragon blood poured out.
Its color was definitely the same as what flowed through my body.
… By the time I noticed it, uncontainable tears were slipping out all on their own.
『…… Why do you apologize?』
“Because this is humanity’s mistake. We should have listened to your words… for so long. So I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
My voice shook pitifully.
We kill other lifeforms in order to survive. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to eat our meals. We wouldn’t be able to survive the harsh colds of the winter. We wouldn’t be able to protect out lifestyles. So I don’t think of that a mistake.
Playing with the food chain, immersed in a sense of superiority isn’t kindness, but arrogance.
But dragon meat was too hard. No matter how processed, a human would never be able to eat it. Nothing but divine artifacts could cut the scales and claws, so they would have to be discarded.
If he was rampaging, that would be a different story, but Mr. Dragon King hadn’t even descended to a human settlement. He was a king of dragons who even thought for the futures of the girls offered to him.
It was all something the humans assumed on their own.
I could do nothing but apologize, and it’s not like that would do anything to heal his deep wounds.
I felt that was too pitiful, as I cried, and continued pulling out the golden arrows.
By the time I had pulled out all the arrows, Mr. Dragon King was dead tired, and every part of my body was covered in blood. The sun was already going down.
My arms were numb. Power wouldn’t come to my legs. My whole body felt heavy, and it felt like I was going to collapse, but I still had something I had to do.
I wiped off my red hands as best as I could, and from the bag on my back, I took a pouch of cookies.
“Mr. Dragon King… these are cookies containing herbs that work well on cuts. I think it’ll also help a bit with the pain, so… please, eat…”
I held out everything I had on hand.
I worried that he might not have enough power left to eat, but Mr. Dragon King opened his large mouth just a little.
I put the cookies on his tongue, and used the lemon water from my canteen to wet his mouth.
I turned from the movements of his powerless jaws to his wounds.
The soldiers and adventurers often said, ‘It’s because of your cookies that I was able to survive,’ in exaggeration, but are they properly doing anything?
… I mean, the herbs are just something I’ve been growing in the back yards, you know.
But it’s the specialists we’re talking about here, so even if it’s just flattery, I’m sure it’ll do at least a litt…. HWHAAAAAAAAAAAT!? T-the wounds are visible closing up on their own, but what the hell is thiiiiiiis!?
Eh? The herbs? Just how strong were those herbs supposed to be!?
“Fue…? Ah, yes.”
『You… what did you put in these』
“What, you ask? … Just some herbs I grew in the back yard.”
『Liar! As if gardening by hobby could grow miracle-class medicinal herbs!!』
Even if you tell me it’s a lie, it’s the truth, so there’s nothing I can really do about it. More than that, I’m also a little lost here.
I mean yeah, everyone came to buy the cookies. Even when the shop had a relatively cute design.
Dumbfounded, our faces met and stiffened.
The impression given off by the form of the gaping Dragon King was a little amusing, and I unintentionally laughed out.
『… I can’t accept it.』
“Kufufu… well, well, it healed you up, so isn’t that fine? More importantly, is there anywhere around where I could wash myself off? It doesn’t look like I can go back to human civilization like this.”
『Muh… um, sorry. That one’s my fault.』
“Don’t worry about it… in exchange, I would be happy you forgive us, if just for a little bit.”
I tried to act impudent, but inside, my heart was pounding. My eyes were searching for salvation outside my control.
But as if he had seen through my heart, Mr. Dragon King gave a small laugh.
『Then I’d best repay the favor. Let my lead you to a healing spring only the Dragon King knows of.』
Saying that, he gently held up my unmoving body in his thick arms.
“What sort of place is this spring only Dragon Kings know about?”
『It’s a spring that gushes out hot water. It has a fatigue recovery and a beauty-preserving effect.』
“Well that’s amazing… are you going to enter too?”
『… How about you get a little more self-awareness as a woman?』
“Watchu talkin’ ‘bout. Even if you’re a man, you’re a dragon!”
… Um, is it just me, or did Mr. Dragon King just take on human form?
Eh? What? Could dragons do something like that? Silky silver hair flowing to his back, super handsome, and even his skin was nice and smooth, is he picking a fight with me as a woman? W-what’s more, when he transformed, he w-was n-n-n-naked… and more than that, he saw meeeeeeeee!! And while I couldn’t move my weary body, I let him wash every nook and cranny!?
Waah… I can’t get married anymore…
…… not that I had such plans.
“Marie, you’ve been wriggling around like that for a while now.”
“I beg of you, just leave me be for now.”
“I don’t really mind, but… you look like a new breed of man-eating plant right now.”
Who’s a monster?
While I wanted to punch this Dragon King, who seemed to have left his delicacy behind in his egg, I started off towards the land of the next elite four.
With all that happened this time around, I decided it best to see what the other ones known as elite four were like.
Perhaps there was a mistake in the legends, and I couldn’t discard the chance it was a misunderstanding by the humans. Of course, I knew it was dangerous. But if there was a sorrowful misconception, I wanted to correct it.
I was a pastry chef.
One who made pastries for people.
And if you asked why I made them, I could answer at once that it was to bring happiness to those that ate my food.
… The soul of a craftsman, I’ll show it off to the world.
Anyways, with this and that, I was going to continue my journey, but for some reason, the Dragon King… Zelosphede decided to come along. As one would expect, he couldn’t venture in dragon form, so I had him wear a robe because his human form stood out.
By the way, when I asked if it was alright that he discarded his nest like that…
“… It’s not a bad time for me to find a mate.”
Hmmm. Don’t really know what you’re talking about there.
Think you’ll find someone so easily? This is why you pretty folk are… yes, yes, if you’re like that in human form, I’m sure you’re a chick magnet in dragon form too… it’s not like I’m jealous or anything.
“Oy! Old wo–”
When I remembered it and sulked to myself, I heard a fierce explosion and a scream from behind.
I hurriedly turned around. All that was there, was a scorched road, and Mr. Zelo, who seemed to have cast magic in human form. I do get the feeling I heard another voice too, but…
“W-what was that?”
“No… it’s that. A monster came out. The sort that cries 『Oldwo~, oldwo~』as it aims for the women and chicks of other races. A low-life mocking bird.”
“What’s with that? That sounds gross.”
“It was coming at us, so I sent it flying into the distance with my 『Breath』.”
“And that’s amazing… and wait, rather than sent flying, did you not happen to incinerate it?”
“No, it’s alright.”
I don’t really get it, but it seems the Dragon King has taken care of a dangerous magic beast.
He really is reliable at times like this. It was the right choice to let him tag along.
By the way, Mr. Zelo could use a wide array of 『Breath』, so if he didn’t find a mate, I said he could come help out at the bakery.
The individual himself immediately gave an, ‘I don’t mind,’ so I’m sure he’s going to take it easy with his wife-finding.
And with this, it looks like I won’t have to buy ice or kindling for a while. A huge help to our finances.
“… More importantly, Marie. I’ve heard that the demons kidnap women in the lands beyond. As long as I’m here, I don’t think it will be a problem, but you’d best be careful.”
“Yes, thanks. I’ll watch myself.”
I returned some thanks to his truly-worried voice.
Yep. Let’s brace myself. Don’t be negligent, why not go at it with all I’ve got.
I strongly gripped the bottle full of berries I had just harvested in the forest.
“g….uh… Damn you, Hero…!”
Moaning as he glared our way was a blond pretty boy.
Sharp canines peeked out from his mouth, and a deep red liquid dripped from his lips.
His eyes were crimson like gemstones. Wearing a well-tailored tailcoat, he who was of a noble-like appearance was the one rumored to be kidnapping virgins from the villages. Grandchild of one of the old elite four, and a 『Vampire』.
“Bastard, you think… you have gotten me with such a trick!? You coward!!”
His abusive voice was quivering a little.
Painfully shrugging his shoulders. A rough sigh.
The hand he used to painstakingly wipe off his sullied mouth held a copper spoon.
In the other hand of the boy, looking at me as if I was his long-time mortal foe… he firmly held a bowl of glossy jelly that let off a deep-red lustre.
“… Mr. Zelo, what do you think about his reaction? He’s glaring at me something awful.”
“Despite that, he’s been gobbling it up quite greedily for a while now. A little more, and he’ll fall, won’t he?”
“Yeah~ maybe I should’ve held back a bit on the sweetness.”
“No, this much is just right for me.”
Saying that, Mr. Zelo took a mouthful of the red jelly. He looked quite satisfied with the taste.
The nearby villages begged us to reclaim the young girls that had been abducted, and from a bit of investigation, we determined he was a Vampire, so I tried preparing an appropriate sweet.
In a nearby forest, I gathered a large mass of 『Ruby Berries』.
Bearing fruit from the beginning of spring, it was a hard and tart berry. The flesh of the fruit contained a high iron concentration, so it had an effect of increasing blood levels. Highly recommended for those with anemia.
But as it was, it was too sour to eat, so I used my abundant travel funds (seized through negotiation) to buy ample sugar and make a compote of it, mixed the juice that came from that with honey and agar, and finally came out with a jelly that contained bits of fruit. Bite into it, and pleasant sweetness would flow from the red fruit. A jelly of supreme bliss.
Normally, it would be left in a cool basement storage for a while, but this time, with Mr. Zelo’s help, I was able to finish it up at once. A dragon’s 『Breath』 is amazing… Though Mr. Zelo was making a dubious face all the way through.
I tried challenging with the overly simple idea that blood=iron, and the Vampire seemed to be taking to it quite nicely. Every bite, he would give a, ‘damn you…’ but he even asked for seconds, so I’m sure it’s alright.
… By the way, the supposedly-kidnapped village girls came to his castle of their own accord. Apparently.
I see, come to think of it, he’s an ephemeral pretty-boy you wouldn’t often find in these parts.
Mr. Zelo was also charming, but when it came to tickling one’s maternal instinct, he would have to raise a white flag to the Vampire boy.
His appearance was four, or maybe fifteen. The stalk- uninvited village girls who’d come on their own to become Vampires all looked to be older. And they took the boy’s impertinent reactions with an, ‘Ufufu…’ enjoying it at times.
But really, what should I do here?
Even if I wanted to bring them back, they’re already Vampires, and the individuals themselves don’t look like they feel like returning…
As I troubled my head like that, Mr. Zelo suddenly gripped my hand.
“W-what? Something happen?”
“No, even when you didn’t do anything particularly special, for you to be able to make sweets this good… I thought perhaps something was coming from your hands.”
“What am I, chopped liver? There’s no way that’s true!”
At least take my techniques and experience into account, please!
“But Marie, your hands sure are warm.”
“Ah, right. It’s always been like that. My body temperature is a bit high. It’s nice for kneading bread and the like, but it’s troublesome in making pie dough… because it goes limp in an instant.”
“Hmm… perhaps that’s what rose the effectiveness of the herbs. It’s possible you’ve had some divine grace bestowed unto you.”
Yeah, no way. Even if that was the case, the effects were too extreme. No, maybe I should just be happy here. As a chef, you know.
… More importantly, Mr. Zelo, isn’t it about time you let go of my hand? Why are your hands so soft?
Wait, you’re making me remember the spring, seriously, stop it you perverted dragon! D-don’t wrap your fingeeers!?
“Kuh, damn… damn you…! … Seconds please!!”
And even after that, I was able to steadily continue my journey, and we finally stood before the Dark Continent where the demons lived.
It sure was a long journey. Around three months, perhaps? I’d never travelled before, so my sense of time wasn’t the most precise. Thanks to Mr. Zelo, and the hard work other people who could fly, I do think we cut our movement time down considerably.
“What is it, Mr. Zelo?”
“… Could it be you’re planning to take over the country of demons?”
He said that with a sigh.
Of course, I didn’t have such intentions.
I didn’t, but,
“Well, it’s true we’ve gotten a bit too many… comrades, I mean.”
At present, the comrades accompanying us were, including Dragon King Zelo, fifty two members.
All of them powerful demons and spirits, and beastmen, and divine beasts, and heroes, and to be completely honest here, this large force was completely beyond my hands.
I mean, I can’t even fight.
All the way here, I barely had any fights that could be considered fights.
At times, the mocking bird that cried, ‘Oldwo~ oldwo~’ would come to be blown away by Mr. Zelo, but other than that, no magic beast even tried to approach. If I had to say, finding food and shelters for these numbers was a bigger problem. When we reached big cities, everyone would do their best to work. And the adventurers added a little.
“But past this point, the monsters powers get extremely strong, don’t they? … I’m a little scared.”
The small girl who gave the impression of a small animal, was of all things, the Hero of the 『Armor』. Her name was little Rouché.
Just as her appearance would suggest, she was a child that made you want to protect her. She was so timid she surrendered to magic beasts without a fight, and as she was collapsed on the ground, I took her under my protection. I think the divine artifacts should really get their shit together.
“…… I’ll pr… protect everyone…”
And the young man whose voice was too low to hear properly was the Hero of the Shield Garm.
His appearance was that of a large, muscular, strong-looking core fighter, but he carried a large burden called social anxiety disorder.
At a provincial town’s marketplace, he was avoiding the gazes of others by walking while guarding himself with his divine artifact in a clearly suspicious manner, and when the castle guards were going to detain him, I took him under my protection.
Does this child even need a shield? More than that, if he doesn’t lower his defensive gear a little, enemies aside, even allies won’t be able to stand near him.
By the way, just like me, these children were sweet-talked into going on their journeys alone for the dignity of their countries.
The source of that evil all falls on the Hero of the Bow.
Rather than the Demon King, wouldn’t it be more productive to go beat him?
I’ll definitely give him a good beating next I meet him. Or so I resolved in my heart, but for now, I turned my thoughts to the gloomy lands of the Dark Continent.
The furthest lands, the inhuman hive of scum and villainy.
Step in, and there was no guarantee you’d return alive.
“I-I’ll do my besth!?”
“… I won’t… lose.”
“I actually think it’ll be just fine.”
The two heroes affirmed their resolves, and I gave a strong nod as well. Also, Mr. Zelo, you should read the mood a little.
“… It looks like the time has come for me to get serious.”
A slightly stiff body. With this super army beyond my hands to my rear, I retightened my slackened feelings.
Because I had no idea what might happen, I’ll go at it like my life depended on it.
Resolving to get serious, I carefully clenched my precious chocolate (ridiculously expensive).
“It looks like this is the end for me…”
With my serious ganache sticking to his lips, the demon country’s prime minister quietly collapsed…
“That’s~! Not~! Fair~! That’s not faaaaair~!”
Now then, reaching the final chamber of the Demon King’s castle without a single chip in our manpower, we found a small girl on the verge of tears, hitting her foot against the ground.
Pitch black hair without the slightest curl, and golden eyes. With almost transparent white skin, and rose-like lips, the young beauty was the revived『Demon King』. Apparently.
Even when she threw a tantrum, and wailed, her seven-to-eight years old doll-like figure was exceedingly cute. I wanted to hold her close, and pet her head.
“Yeah~, even if you tell me it isn’t fair…”
“Like not even fighting!? This is different from what I heard! Why aren’t the demons on our side!?”
“I mean, they just started following me after I gave them candy.”
Now what shall I do? The things I’m capable of are quite limited.
To try and get little demon king to stop crying, I took out the ultimate weapon I had saved.
“Um, Demon King, here…”
“I-I don’t want it! Something like that…!”
The sweet was promptly knocked off of my hand. The petit gâteau fondant au chocolat rolled across the room’s red carpet.
… Ah, this is no good.
At a time like this, what would my mother do?
I didn’t even have to think about the answer. My body properly remembered it.
… I lowered a clenched fist onto the little Demon King’s head.
“… Demon King, listen closely.”
I got on my knees to match eye-level with the little girl.
Whenever they scolded me for doing something bad, the people around would always lower their eyelevel like this. Not from above, they properly let the young me hear their words.
It hurt, but that wasn’t all.
Their thought for me properly reached my heart. And that was supporting me, even now.
When I’m not even a parent, I wonder if I can do it properly.
I’m not too confident.
… But if I care about this child’s future, I have no other choice.
“Wha!? What are…”
“You know, the things we eat are made from life. It isn’t just this sweet, all the food you can find out there is like that. Everything you’ve eaten, and everything you’re going to eat, all of them carry a sort of life. Someone put their soul into making it. So you can’t let it go to waste. Hitting it away like that is definitely no good… Okay? Can you make a promise with me?”
“Little Demon King, do you hate sweets?”
“…… I-I don’t… hate… them…”
“I see… then here. I made it. This may just be my pride, but it’s very tasty, you know?”
Saying that, I took another petit gâteau from my waist pouch, and handed it over.
Ah, she properly took it this time. It’s a bit of a relief.
I retrieved the portion that had rolled across the floor, and seeing she was still hesitant, I took a big bite.
Yep. Sweet, with a nice fragrance.
Quite tasty, if I do say so myself.
“T-that… was just on the floor…”
“Oh my. Even potairs and radishners come from inside the earth, you know? If you call yourself a pastry chef, you canst be afraid of a sweet that’s fallen on the floor.”
Of course, you wouldn’t give it to customers, though.
The others were already used to my exorbitant actions, so they were quite calm.
… Well, perhaps it’s because I was always like this, that the guys never came any closer.
“… It’s… tasty…”
Finally putting my hard work into her mouth, she let out a voice I could only call unintentional.
… Ah. Nice, that expression.
It’s because I wanted to see that face that I kept at being a chef.
From inside her small hands, the confectionary rapidly disappeared.
In a daze, she stuffed her cheeks, and moved her mouth with all her might.
And as she did that, tears visibly began building up in little Demon King’s eyes.
“Uhu… i-it’s the first time I’ve ever… e-eaten something so tasty… father and mother… hic… they all died long, long ago… when I… opened my eyes… I was alone… I always ate alone, and… i-it never tasted like anything…!”
“Wait, wait a minute. You’re not the Demon King of two hundred years ago?”
“Wro… that was fa ther…”
“Eh… then the one who was sealed wasn’t… the Demon King? Then why did you try becoming Demon King…”
“P-prime minister said it was good to get revwenge, so…”
Hearing those words, I immediately turned around.
Ah, Mr. Zelo had already apprehended the conniving bespectacled prime minister. With smooth and natural movements, as if he was only taking a breath of air. Without even the chance to resist, the prime minister was cuffed, and chained to the ceiling.
… Even so, where did he get those chains from? They definitely weren’t in our luggage before we left…
“P-please wait! As a retainer, anyone would think to retaliate for the death of one’s lord! I was only bringing back new glory to my new master, the prin–!? Hey!? Could you stop poking me with those spears…!?”
He cries out nicely.
Now then, let’s just say we’ve contained the problem for now, and decide on our next actions.
“Demon Ki… no, that’s not it. What’s your name?”
“I see. Then you’re Mil.”
“I’ve been thinking it for a while, but Marie, you should be a bit more sensitive in what you go about calling people.”
“Please be quiet, Mr. Zelo.”
Isn’t it cute? Mil? Like a cat.
“Mil, is there a bath here?”
“Y-yes, there is.”
“Then go take a bath. Could you hop in too, Rou? Ah. Please tell me where your kitchen and ingredient stores are as well. All of you, once you’ve washed off your sweat, help me prepare.”
When I gave out orders, everyone showed precise movements.
Ah, it was here that the results of the training we’ve done over the past three months show themselves.
If they don’t move swiftly, they’ll be late to the fun. Having them expect so much is more blessing than a chef like me deserves.
As Mil looked like she still didn’t understand the situation, I stroked her head, and gave a bright laugh my father once let out.
“Once you’re out of the bath… we’ll all have dinner together. It may be so good your cheeks will fall off, you know?”
She’s learned the tastelessness of eating alone.
So let’s teach her the taste of eating together.
My skills as a chef are calling out to me.
… Now then, how about I take a whack at it?
Dear mother and father in heaven,
How are you spending your days there?
There’s quite a lot going on around me, but I’m somehow doing just fine.
The daughter you raised, at times harshly, at times violently, and sometimes kindly is about to turn twenty nine. The fact I’ve been able to go on as a chef for so long is surely thanks to the two of you.
To this day, I’m still living a life without a hint of sex appeal… at this point, I’m quite certain a curse has been placed on me. Father, I’m well aware you prayed, ‘I hope my daughter never brings home a man for the rest of her life’ to god every night. When I get over there, you’re really in for it. Also, that god is an evil god.
Now then, to change the subject, the bakery your daughter loved just as much as you did has been transferred from the country of humans to the land of demons… and on this occasion, it has been upgraded to a splendid castle on the border.
“Mrs. Marie! We’re already out of cheese soufflé!”
“I’ll finish up a new one soon. But that will be the last one for the day. Put out a sign.”
“Lady Marie, what should we do with the new variety of wheat flour that’s just been delivered?”
“Ah~, for now, could you just carry it to the storehouse? I’ll have a look after we close up shop.”
“Marie, I have driven off an oldwo mocking bird!”
“Huh, it came again? Thank you, Schew. Even so, there are sure a lot of them in these parts… Are we near their nest… I’m happy you drove it off, but make sure you don’t get hurt, okay?”
“Sah, yes sah!”
I saw off the happily laughing tiger-race girl, and finished up the mixed berry tart before my eyes.
With that, my job was over, and it would likely be sold out soon. I imagine we’ll be closing up early today. It wasn’t even evening yet, so I couldn’t really get used to the sense that work was over.
After that journey to save the world, more than half a year had gone by.
There were quite a few troublesome things, but after this outcry and that, we went ahead and made a new country on the border of the human and demon countries.
I mean, look at our super forces. Just one of my comrades could rival a single national army with their massive powers, so if we settled down anywhere, it would cause a large overturn of the national balance. It was quite a spectacle to see the pale faces of the VIPs when we visited the countries around. I mean, it was like a march of the strongest army.
There was still a divide between human and demon.
Of the children I had taken in as comrades, there were still many who hadn’t forgiven humans as a whole.
But at this point, it’s not like they asked to part from the human comrades we’d assembled. In that case, the resolution we came to with Mr. Zelo ‘negotiating’ with the demon country’s scheming prime minister and co, was to form a new country.
A country where various races could live together.
There was still a mountain of problems, but I thought it would work out, one way or another.
You never know until you try, and that all depends on how we work from now on.
Luckily enough, the demons of the demon country we went to persuade were all cooperative, and the number of humans immigrating in was slowly rising. Even if we weren’t big enough to call a country, we were at least a territory, I guess. Maybe more of a commercial city.
In exchange, it seems Mr. Scheming Prime Minister is going through hell. The people helping him, and the general mobilization is busy every day.
Yep, everyone’s working hard.
… And I can’t do a single thing when it comes to politics, so for now, I’ve reopened my bakery.
No, I mean, the thing that provided a chance for everyone to get along was candy and bread. And perhaps because I had treated others to food in various countries, there were customers coming in from abroad. Even regulars from the capital stopped by on occasion. When they were done with their work, they may move their families here.
Everyone celebrated how splendid my shop had become.
… Because the entire first floor of the castle was my new bakery.
Were the forest spirits and dwarves amazing for putting up a castle in only three months, or was the minister amazing for being influential enough to permit the castle to be used as a store, I’m really not sure who to praise at this point.
Everyone was so understanding it was contrarily scary… I’m really fine like this, right?
For now, I’ll work hard, and do my best to make something tasty. Everyone says they can’t do their jobs without my sweets anyways.
And without doing that work myself, and doing nothing but cooking all day, I’ve gotten myself a cute daughter.
“Hmm, what is it, Mil?”
“Marie, um… d-do you like… me?”
“Of course. I love you.”
Her figure as she timidly asked me was so cute, that I gave an immediate response. Like a bud opening up, her smile bloomed. Yep, she’s cute. I want to pet her all over. But my hands are covered in cream right now.
… Still, I know that only spoiling her isn’t a proper education.
“No. You just ate your snack, didn’t you? You’ll spoil your appetite for dinner again, so no.”
The former Demon King’s daughter Mil hung her head.
Erk… making a face like that isn’t fair… I get a feeling surrounding eyes were seeing me as heartless.
But you must be firm with these things.
Sweets are tasty, but they’re not something you should eat too much of.
Sweetness left the best memory when it was insufficient. This was the general knowledge of the eater. This is why an artisan’s full course has such a small desert.
So I decided to snap the sweet-tasting whip.
“Ah~ and I was even thinking of making your favorite cream croquettes for dinner~.”
“… C-cream croquettes…!?”
“And I was even planning to add on a potair potage soup… if you won’t be able to eat it, maybe I shouldn’t~.”
“I-I don’t need snacks!”
“I would be quite happy if you worked hard at your job~.”
“I will! I’ll do it! I’ll carry that for you!!”
“Thank you! Make sure you don’t drop it.”
Her back as she carefully, carefully carried the tray of mixed berry tarts was also cute.
Kuku, even the Demon King’s daughter is just a child. Too easy for an adult such as myself.
And as I promised, let’s make a Mil special course for dinner today.
“… You’ve got her dancing to your tune quite nicely.”
“Hmhm, cute, isn’t she?”
“You sure are.”
As he made some ice with his 『Breath』, Mr. Zelo said some incomprehensible things.
… I’ve been thinking it a while now, but with his royal-class looks, Mr. Zelo’s appearance was unfit for the kitchen to a surprising level.
No, come to think of it, he’s a king of dragons, was he? I’ve been lightheartedly asking him to make ice and light fires these days, so it’s totally slipped my mind.
“Still, that king of demons has grown quite attached to you.”
“Well, I’m sure she wanted someone to pamper her. She’s treating me like a mother, after all.”
“… Marie, do you want a child of your own?”
“It’s not like I don’t. But I’m already passed that age.”
“No need to worry about that part. While you were asleep, I’ve been feeding you dragon blood every night.”
“Dragon’s blood has perennial youth and longevity effects. As the Dragon King, my blood is even more effective. You should be able to give birth easily for the next forty years or so, and your body’s become sturdy enough that even a dragon’s child shouldn’t pose a problem.”
“Waaaaaaaaaait!? What are you doing to someone’s body without consent!? So the fact that I’ve been waking up with a metallic taste in my mouth these days was your dooiiiiiiing!!”
I was worried my gums were bleeding, you know! And wait, how did you get in my room!? What about the key!?
I grabbed his lapels, and shook him back and forth, but Mr. Zelo didn’t shy back.
More than that, he easily unfastened my hands, and held them in his own.
Kuh, using a dragon’s strength in a place like this is unfair… wait close! You’re too close, Mr. Zelo!?
“Don’t act so defenseless, and egg me on… even like this, I’m holding back quite a bit.”
Eeeek!? H-h-h-holding back what!? Did I make him angry!?
“I knew you were dense, but there should be some limit to that. You’re the one who taught me to walk the path of living alongside humans. Resolve yourself to take responsibility for that.”
Eeeeeh!? No, I mean you’re the one that followed along when I gave you candy… no, it’s nothing. I’m sorry. I don’t really get it, but I’ll take responsibility, and apologize, so for now, don’t hold your glistening face so close to……………!?
Father and mother in heaven.
Because of the sweets you taught me to make, my life may just be taking a bit of a drastic turn.
Seriously, I’ll get you for this.