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The Lazy King Chapter 15

The Lazy King Part 2 Chapter 7: Fortis’ Courage

Part 1: I’ve not a Fragment of Courage

This is, perhaps, the oldest memory I possess.

“Congratulations, you have been chosen as a Hero.”

“…? W-what… is this, who are…”

That black robe that draped over her head, and covered even up to her eyes was the vestment of a magician. A robe you would occasionally see along the main street.
Those that covered their eyes would develop the ability to see ‘something’ unknown to an ordinary man. But it was a long time later that I came to know that fact.

Without a single harbinger, the magician that had appeared all too suddenly said that to me, who, sword alone, had never even held up a kitchen knife.
I’m not sure what she was seeing with her eyes, or what she had discovered with me, but in the end I never had the chance to find that out. If I were to refer to that encounter in a clichéd fashion, I’ll bet it was fate.

“… So… what is… a Hero?”

For the dubious mage that suddenly appeared, and the shady-as-hell voice she threw out, the reason I decided to take her seriously… no, the reason I even confronted her was just a coincidence… or maybe something else.
I’m sure that I just didn’t have the will to ignore one who had come to inform me of something of her own accord. If perhaps I had such a will at that time… I should have been able to settle it then and there. But in the end, as if thrown about by the tide, I ended up hearing her speech just like that.

The shady, suspicious magician spoke.

“A hero is one who lights up the darkness with their valor. Who crushes the strong, and saves the weak, the sword of hope to save the human race from the invaders of darkness. And you have the makings of one. I can… see it.”

Honestly, I was troubled.
By the magician who claimed to see something I couldn’t. No, of the magician who spoke as if she were looking at it the entire time.

For one without a single friend, with my only form of conversation being when I occasionally went out shopping, I had absolutely no idea how to deal with her, and I could only give a vague reply when it came down to it. I couldn’t help it.

Without even asking what quality she was seeing. Just thrown around by the waves.

“Um… becoming a Hero is… um…”

I don’t have a reason. I don’t have any reason to become one. I doubt I’ll be able become one, and up to that point, I never even imagined for that option to appear before me. I never thought I’d ever want to become one.
I was… what you find in any city out there, the lowest rank of the city’s middle class. Nothing more than a single child.

The magician smiled at my bewilderment.

“You will become a hero, Serge. If you do, then someday when the time comes that those dear to you, your parents, lover, friends’ lives are put at risk by the forces of evil, your power will surely come through to put a stop to it. In order not to come to regret it someday, your power is to become… the 『Sword』 of humanity.”

Those dear to me? Parents? Lover? Friends?
Huh? Um… I don’t really… have anyone like that.

My parents weren’t there from the time I gained awareness of my surroundings. I don’t know whether they’re dead or alive.
Even I had always hated my own hair and eyes, the dirty color of gray sewer rats. With my lack of sociability, there’s no way I would make any friends.

All that I have… are some whose faces I know of, and complete strangers.

I repeated the magician’s words to myself, and thought.
Surely, this magician had only ever seen heroes like that. Those with dear ones, parents, lovers, friends. Heroes with the courage and ability to fight the dark forces, or whatever, for their sake.

But I was always alone. Even when no tragedy out of a fairytale had befallen me, I was just alone.
None too smart, and quite weak physically. On my feet, I lost to children three years my junior, and I couldn’t even read or write decently. I never felt a sense of crisis from such a thing. There were more than enough of such people around me.

I could only look upon her with cold eyes.

The mysterious atmosphere, and her hood that seemed to fit it. I didn’t even care whether she was a fake or the real deal.

Of the magician’s expression, all her robe allowed me to see was her mouth curved into a smile.

“Please think over it a night. Serge, you have the right to choose. To live as a hero to light up the dark, or… to waste your entire life as a normal civilian…”

“I’ll do it.”

I replied immediately.

“… And please decide it by your own will. Your fate is… huh… eh?”

“I will… become one.”

At that moment, I definitely sensed that her concealed eyes had opened wide.
Surprise. That was the first emotion I managed to give to the magician. It was somewhat enjoyable.

“… Are you sure you don’t have to think about it? If you do end up becoming a hero, you can never return to an ordinary life. Perhaps whatever happiness awaiting you in the future would disappear. Your dear ones, lover, parents, friends, you may be forced to part with them for eternity.”

And I’m telling you I don’t have anyone like that. Even whatever sort of worth was there having those four in my life was unknown… to me.

The magician’s mouth warped slightly. She let out a long sigh.

“Even if your resolve is of that level, I must call your choice to hero-hood to be premature. While I do commend that resolve of yours…”

“I’ll do it, dammit.”

The resolve to lose what didn’t exist?

But in all truth, I had no one. I had nothing I could call a dear one. With no one I needed to protect, I had no reason to hesitate. My present state was the worst, and as long as I can’t think of a life lower than that, then I might as well just press forward whenever the opportunity comes to me.

My ignorance was named as recklessness, and at that moment, it was misunderstood as courage.

“… Why? Why is it that you can be so strong? Even if I call you a hero, you’re still human. If you face defeat at the forces of darkness, and face a tragic demise… no, the probability of you facing a fate worse than death is nothing low.”

Why am I strong?
I’m not strong at all.

I’ve not a fragment of courage. I’m just… alone.

If the strength of the heroes of the past lay in that they had people to protect, then I’m sure…

My strength is that… I don’t have a single thing to protect, and not even the need to defend my own life. I can permit any sort of sacrifice, and that’s all it was.

But the magician couldn’t understand that.

The reason I would become a hero.
I forcibly moved my facial expression I hadn’t changed in a long wile, and formed a stiff smile to the magician’s bewildered air.

“Because it’s… for the sake of the world.”

If I have the power to save it, if my own power can be of the least amount of use to something, if you’re going to give me a reason to exist, then I’ll sacrifice myself to it. That’s what my child’s mind thought.  That’s all there was to it.
I’ll throw out my worthless self, throw out my vague standing in life, throw away the idleness I felt from my own ignorance… as if I was just tossing aside some trash on the side of the road, I was able to discard it all so easily. That’s all there was to it.

Even if I didn’t know how to read or write, I understood.

It wasn’t for my dear ones, or my parents, or lover, or friends, and of course, it wasn’t for the world. It was plain and simple… self-satisfaction.

From the eyes covered under the hood, water started to flow.
So even magicians weep. I ended up thinking something useless like that.

“… You will surely become a wonderful, and… tragic hero. Serge, I can do nothing but commend that courage of yours.”

What the magician gave name to was nothing like courage, but seeing that selfless smile on her face, I kept my mouth shut.
The magician’s hand gave off a faint light. To me, it was the first time I had ever seen magic, and it looked like the work of God.

The lights quietly poured down over my head. It was as she were covering me with a hat of it. And what existed in that flow was a power strong enough to stir up my existence.

“For your strong and noble will, I grant the Class of 『Hero』 onto you. Serge. I pray for light on… the path you are to travel.”

“… Yes.”

Her words stained the insides of my mind along with that power.

If you were going to give out something like this, then anyone… even a civilian could be a Hero. Even I could do it.

What is this… so effort and talent… had nothing to do with it.
Compared to the power granted by the 『Hero』 Class, all the effort I had ever put in, and those classmate, upperclassmen, lowerclassmen I had always been jealous of equally… felt like nothing but rubbish.

And on that truth, I felt a great sense of guilt.

Power I gained by cheating. My heart gave a dull ache.
What a terrible tale it must be.

“Now, Serge. Please go forth. With that power… to clear away the darkness. To save the world. Here, from this moment forth… you are a Hero, Serge.”

“… Yes.”

Hero. Serge the Hero.
It doesn’t really feel real. No, I don’t need it to. I mean, it’s not like I actually wanted to become a Hero in the first place.

The inside of my head was incomparably clearer than ever before, and my body unbelievably light.

Within my head floated the Brave Skilltree. The tree with all the powers of a hero loaded into it.
From one to one hundred, the Skilltree that had every slot on it opened from the start. I instinctively selected thhe final Skill on it.

A light descended from the sky, drawn to my left hand, before it began to take shape.
I felt no heat from it. It was a light that was only cold.

The 『Brave』 Skill Tree.
What existed at its depths, the weapon of a Hero. A Skill to bring forth a Holy Sword.

『Luster』.

It was a slender long sword. Its pale blue body was about one meter in length, and its design-less boorish hilt rested in my hand.
The Holy Sword I produced by expending an amount of Mana I wouldn’t even have felt if I were as I was before obtaining the Hero Class was simply beautiful… and cold.

The Holy Sword. Its name surfaced in my mind… Solitus Argentum.

(TL: Latin, Solitary Silver)

Light reflected off the blade with a lonely name perfectly suited of me, making it shine silver.
In the center of it, light, wind gathered, and gave blessings to the sword. The magician merely stared up at that sword in a trance, and at that moment, I felt the truth of my role as a Hero for the first time.

I hung out the blade’s tip towards the heavens. A holy pillar of light rose from it.
In my new life, reborn as a Hero, I couldn’t help but think a little.

If I’m the Hero, I wonder if I can make any friends.

Part 2: What’s Necessary isn’t Power, but Courage

… I failed.

I had been too lacking in caution due to my place in the sky. When I manipulated the wings on my back to charge with all my might, I was easily dodged.
At the same time, I received an impact great enough to crush my skull.

Demons are strong. Especially in the miasma of the Demon World, they were able to gain extraordinary powers. It’s completely different from fighting them on the surface, or in the heavens.

Once they reached the highest rank… Demon Lord, I wonder how strong that would be.

I thought I had understood it.

I’ve defeated a number of them A number of them fell.
I never thought I could deceive the wide ranged perception abilities of a Demon Lord. The surprise attack I launched with the premise that they knew it would be coming was brilliantly evaded, and I was smashed.

Strong. Within my fading field of vision, I thought.

I can’t even imagine how many months and years they had placed into their strength. But there was quite a bit of menace packed into that single blow of theirs.

The moment I realized my failure, what flowed out from my heart wasn’t fear… an anxiety great enough to crush me.
With my vision smashed, and my five senses fading, my mind dripped out, and my soul well into darkness…

… And a Skill activated.

My memories flashed back through me.
My limits as a Hero. My defeat. Being picked up by God, and made a Valkyrie. The power I devoted my life to. The power I devoted myself to defeat Demons. The Power I devoted myself to destroy them.

On the 『Question』 that came up in my mind, I selected 『Yes』 without hesitation.

My breath returned. Light came back to my world. My smashed head, and burst brain, and my split body, and any and everything else returned to normal.
A rewind from death. No matter how many tens and hundreds and thousands of times I got a taste of it, it was an unfathomable sensation I could never accustom myself to.

Power reentered my body. I slowly stood up.

The large shadow looked down over me. Golden eyes observing me. That calm giant stood stagnant like a pillar of rock.
And of all else, he was greater than any Demon I had faced thus far, and his reaction as he looked at the scene surely wasn’t that of one seeing revival for the first time.

The Demon was a mountainous bald man, whose body height exceeded two meters. His brown skin was draped over a great armor of muscle coating his entire body. The way he held himself was closer to humanity than any other Demon K had seen before. I didn’t see him to be holding any weapons, but with that body of his, perhaps such a thing was unnecessary.

A Demon’s power is high. Originally, I could detect them instinctively from quite a distance. If that opponent was to be an exceptional Demon Lord, then I could even feel it kilometers away.

No matter which of the seven sins a Demon was to reign over, that should hold true.

If I had acted without prior information, and without adequate caution, I wouldn’t have even noticed this man’s existence.

Is this man… what God had feared of… the calamity?

Before the unidentified man, I held up my Holy Sword.
That would have been a favorable chance for him to give a followup attack, but the man didn’t move his body at all. He folded his arms, and looked down on me, those golden eyes letting off a fiery radiance. A heavy pride clung to his mouth.

“… I see, that sword is… so you’re Serge Serenade… I never thought the real one would show up… why must everything always go astray.”

“… Hah!”

I have no words… to exchange with a Demon.

I sucked in a short breath, and gave the ground a strong kick

The blade was one imbued with high divinity. The strongest sword in the wor… no, perhaps just the strongest of the Human Race. But still, Demons that climbed up to the surface were one thing, but it wasn’t imbued with the power to kill a Demon in the Demon World with a single stroke.

That’s why I have to put power, Mana into it. In a time so far back I can’t even remember when it occurred, it was what I once laid hands on as a human, Hero’s power.
The pale blue edge was clad in a pale light. It was an armament to cut down darkness. The power that the frail human race had devoted itself to in order to stand against Demons. A sword of light to repell all sadness to befall them.

The Demon Lord didn’t move.

The blade lightly cut into his flesh.
Jet-black blood scattered, and before that could fall to the ground, he embedded his foot into my solar plexus.

My breath was knocked out. My internal organs were hollowed out. My brain let out a scream.

For a few seconds, my body danced in the air, before I was thrown onto the ground. My entire body hurt from the pressure of the impact.
It hurts. I’m in pain. I’m scared. He’s strong. I ignored all those notions going through my mind, and thought.

I couldn’t see the instant he moved. Normally, in the moment an enemy made a move, I could see a small waver in their being, but I saw none of that at all. He was simply too fast.

I can’t even see where to start. The difference in power between us was hopeless. My dynamic vision was unable to follow him at all. And of all else, a Skill to erase his presence is… too abnormal.

“… u…”

I barely managed to swallow down the scream forming at the back of my throat.
I allocate the parts of my mind heading in a negative direction from the pain and power gap towards analyzing my resources on hand. That was, in all the years I’ve fought on, the method of fighting I’d cultivated to keep fighting without having my heart fold in on me.

Just as there were different types among Angels, the Skills a Demon could use varied by the Sins they governed. With pure physical abilities this high, speed beyond my perception, and the ability to pierce a barrier with his bare hands…
From that blow, there was but a single sin I could surmise that he held.

Superbia.
Among the various sorts of Demons around, it was the type that required the most caution.

I didn’t『Die』, so the pain won’t go away. The option isn’t coming up in my head.

He’s going easy on me. My magically strengthened body, and the barrier of an Angel, before this Demon, they were no more than walls of paper. I’ll bet he had enough power to turn me into a lump of meat in a single blow if he was up to it.

In that case, it would be a lot easier on me if he just killed me…

On the non-fatal damage assailing my body, I started to go through all options I had to preserve my continued existence, and at that moment, the man raised his voice.
Fitting his stature, it was a voice like a subterranean rumble. But opposed to that thunderous tone of his, the contents held some intelligence. That was one of the reasons Demons were something more than simple beasts.

“That authority is… 『Fortis』 I see… a troublesome one it is… no…”

The wrinkles on his brow smoothed out, and his frowning expression warped.
His voice wasn’t leaving him anymore, but he was quite clearly showing scorn.

What is he scoffing at? If he laughing at me for trying to attack knowing full well the gap between us?
No, there’s no way I’d ever understand a Demon’s thoughts.

I confirmed my damage. There was still some pain left across my body, but it won’t influence any offensive actions. In the first place, the option of retreat never existed.

My knees trembled. My arms shook. I stopped the quivering across my body, and stood up. I had no choice but to stand.

Hero was the general term to refer to those that opposed the dark. Therefore, as long as a darkness to oppose stands before me, and my own soul is undying, I must strongly impose myself on it.

… Because if I don’t… I won’t be able to fight on.

“It’s useless. Your power will never reach… me.”

I won’t reach. I know.
I could feel it from a single blow. Even if I didn’t measure his power by the disparity in our Mana, I knew well enough of the gap between us. Of all else, this Demon Lord is… simply too fast.

But still…

I remembered the days of battle I had spent.

Since descending back into this Demon World, the three Lords I took on were all strong and troublesome existences holding desires strong enough to paint out all existence.

What’s necessary isn’t power, but courage. As long as that doesn’t run out, my defeat is… unthinkable.

I concentrated power to my eyes, and send malice and fighting spirit towards the Lord whose name I had yet to learn.

Black soil, dark emotions, and a miasma full of stagnant air, yet within that my blood and soul cried out. My spirit was excited.

I don’t know, but within my perpetual existence, within all the battle experience I had built up, I had a premonition that I was diving in to the longest battle I’ve ever faced.

Surprisingly enough, even when I directed my intent to kill at this Demon Lord, he still shows no will to fight. That reaction I had never witnessed from any Demon of Superbia thus far was too ominous to bear.

… I’m scared.

“… It doesn’t seem you understand, 『Fortis』. Courage and recklessness are… different things entirely.”

The Demon Lord sneered.

『Fortis』

The name of the authority I gained the moment I became a Valkyrie after my death. One of the Virtues governed by Angels.

… No… that’s wrong. What’s to be feared the most is that, even after inferring it, the Lord had yet to lose his composure.

Still with a brilliant smile on his face, his figure leisurely swayed. That brown body, that large build started jiggling about like a Slime, before it dissolved away.
The sudden fear send shivers down my spine. While his head had already disappeared, that voice continued to ring out.

“No matter how you may try to prove that brave heart of yours, no matter how many tnousands of times you’re prevailed with it… it’s all… meaningless. Serge Serenade. Valkyrie, Valkyrie, is it… ah…”

I cannot comprehend. On the unknown that didn’t correspond with any of the experience I’d built up over my life, my hands shook.

That muddily oozing body flowed over onto the ground, and as if it were an illusion, it vanished entirely.

She was full of openings. I knew that, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the one who emerged from the giant.

“Eh… that can… ‘t be…”

My breath stopped.

Upon the destruction of that muscular mass, what came out was… a young girl.

White skin, and golden eyes. On her back grew five sets of dark wings, and from her head grew platinum blond hair that reached all the way to her feet.
What she wrapped around that body looked like nothing more than unornamented, colorless old rags, but while there were some differences here and there… that figure, and presence was something I could never mistake.

… In the distant past, it was an honorable form I had happened upon before.

I only saw her for an instant. A single short moment. In the depths of my memory, behind the haze of things forgotten, all that remained of my recollection of her was that brief scene.

It’s likely that the other party never took me to sight. She likely doesn’t remember. It’s because we never even exchanged words. It’s because our statuses and powers were too far removed for something on the level of conversation to be permitted.

… But I remembered. From that single glance, a powerful charisma that burned itself into my soul.

Those ten wings of light.

A Lord of Lords. One who was granted the fruit of glory by the supreme God of the celestial realm.

The jet black pointed tail she hadn’t grown back then slapped messily against the ground.

“How can this… why are… you…”

“As I thought, so you’ve scene this form of mine before… Ku ku ku, should I call it a strange twist of fate…”

There was a difference. The Angel I had looked up at back then had wings that glimmered as if they were light itself that had taken shape. Her eyes weren’t gold, but a clear emerald greed. She didn’t have a tail either.
But if you looked at it the other way, besides those traits, not a single thing had changed. Her face, her body, her height, tone, expression. That blazing power that could scorch one at a glance hadn’t faded at all, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of years had passed.

… No, that’s wrong.
There’s no way that’s true!

I shook my head, and mustered up my courage.
The girl before me is one blessed by the vice of a Demon. One who would creep unseen through the shadows of the hearts of man, to devour their souls.

Word by word, I asked as if I was posing the question to myself.

“That can’t… be. What trickery is this… Demon Lord. Why have you chosen to take up such a form at this point in time…?”

“Hmm… interesting. You’re an interesting one, Valkyrie. Having seen this form, and knowing my name, you still maintain the willpower to stand before me…”

Quite different from before the girl scoffed at me in a gentle voice like the ringing of sleigh bell. Her lips curved, and her right hand directed itself at me.
That was her activation nose. Without any warning, without a single movement of Mana, light poured out. Enough to cloud over my eyes, an untainted white light.

Forgetting the burning sensation in my eyes, I unintentionally opened them ever wider. It was a Skill I was accustomed to, but that’s exactly why I couldn’t believe it.
The meaning behind it caused my body to quiver.

The overflowing light took shape, and in her hand, a single sword was created.

Among the authorities granted to Angels, it was the power most specialized in bringing ruin to Demons.

The 『Iustitia』 Authority.
A Skill to manifest a sword of light to dispel the dark.

『Sin Breaker』

The point of the sword that looked to have been delicately folded out of light itself was directed at me. Normally, it was a sword of justice that would never have found its way to be pointed there.

By assuming a stance for battle, the shaking across my body came to a stop. But the sway of my emotions wasn’t so conveniently ceased.
I have the greater reach, but something like that… doesn’t matter if I can’t hit her.

“The real… deal?”

Still, even when confronting her, what formed at my mouth was a question.

In contrast, my opponent’s lips only returned a smile.

This is no good. Even if I found myself asking it, I already knew the answer.
This woman before my eyes was undoubtedly the genuine article. This pressure, that form. No matter what illusions she were to use, it would be impossible to replicate it to this extent.

A true Angel… no, former Angel.

The glory that kneeled beside the throne.

Gloria Seidthroan.

“I’m also short on time, but, ku ku ku, how… pitiful. I’ll play with you just a bit. Think it an honor for your body to be receiving my blade.”

“You are… no, you should be dead…”

At the very least, that’s what I’d heard.
In a time an uncountable number of years passed, against the greatest army of the Demon World’s forces, she commanded all the forces under her command, and managed to repel them, but after confronting the enemy’s Demon Lord, her whereabouts were lost. As she never returned, she was proclaimed dead.

The death of a high class Lord made quite an echo through heaven. I remember it. No, there’s no way I could forget.
Due to the outcome of that battle, the war was brought to a temporary armistice.

I have no idea as to why she became a Demon.
In the first place, as I never associated with her, I only knew of her personality and bearing from hearsay. All I knew for sure was how extraordinary her power had been.

Do I have… any chances of victory?

With all the power I could muster, I glared.

I built up my courage.

The appearance of a powerful Demon of prophecy. The birth of a calamity.
And… for some reason, the one with the highest possibility of being able to take care of it was me.

A Fallen Angel who once stood at the summit of all Angels. I doubt there’s a calamity greater than this.
I can’t leave this Lord to run free.

In that overwhelming pressure, I wrung out even more courage from the depths of my heart. I used it to coat over my fear.
The heroic power I cultivated in my battles as a Hero. That Fortis authority I laid hands on when I became a Valkyrie.

It’s fine, it’s fine.

I put power in my arms, the power of my soul. The Holy Sword was clad in an even greater light, and let off a silver blue glimmer.

And the moment I held that sword allot…

A familiar message came up in my mind.

『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Decapitation』

My vision suddenly went dark.

What had transpired, what did she do? I couldn’t understand any of it. I couldn’t even perceive it. There wasn’t even… any pain to be felt.
A followup window faded into view.

『Do you want to try again?』

『YES / NO』

I can’t move my body. My five senses have already gone out. Within that nothingness, the message alone was all I could perceive.
The answer was… already determined.

Light returned to my eyes again. The hands that had unconsciously began to predd down on my wounds… came to a stop.
Gloria’s Sin Breaker was artlessly smeared with a slight hint of red.

The message. I should have been cut. I should have been killed.
Even so… now, I can’t even tell what part of me was injured.

“So you revived… were you able to follow that attack? Fortis… truly troublesome, and a truly worthless authority.”

My body could move perfectly.

I swallowed some air. I narrowed my eyes, and observed every one of her movements. I held my sword, and took a step forward.

『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Blunt Force Trauma』

My eyes went pitch black again. It was a feeling of loss great enough to swallow my soul.
I instinctively gave my response to the message that came out.

And I felt the light again.
Gloria was a mere few meters away. If there was nothing to obstruct me, it was a space I could span in the blink of an eye.

“… Serge, what did you even come here for?”

Black again.
Cause of Death: Decapitation.

I can’t see. I couldn’t see her sword. I couldn’t even see its afterimage.
No matter how much effort I put in, I wasn’t able to see any of it. The Gloria of my vision had always just been standing as she was. She hadn’t done a thing. That’s all it looked to me.

“Could it be that you’re under the delusion that as long as you keep having a go at it endlessly, you’ll eventually win?”

It went black. The speed was too fast.

And every time, I would spam YES whenever that question was to come up.
I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. I’m scared. My senses are going cold, and this feeling of nihility is much too great.

I compelled myself to keep reviving. Without permitting myself even a moment of waver, I forced myself to come back.

What’s necessary was never power, but a heart that couldn’t be crushed. Just as when I was human, no matter what fear, no matter what enemy I stood to face… courage. Brave Heart.
I rejected the deathful feeling of all my body’s heat being robbed away.

Right. Courage.
As long as that doesn’t break, my defeat is… impossible.

“Brave Heart. That only Skill granted to Angels that govern Fortis. With you power, no matter how many tens of thousands of times you’re to revive yourself, Heard aside, you’ll never even match up to Kanon or Zebul.”

I let her provocations slide passed.

The moment I revived I retreated a stem. But even then… black again.

There’s no doubt I’m being cut at. There’s no doubt about that, but…

My field of vision slowly swayed. I’m not sure if that was because I was on the verge or collapsing, or because of this crushing pressure I felt on myself.
Give up on life. Death is the inevitable result. That thought started growing in my head.

There was just one thing Gloria was wrong about.
Yes, the power bestowed upon Fortis Angels was unlimited resurrection. As long as the soul, as long as one’s courage doesn’t break, then the 『Brave Heart』 Skill was one that promised victory. And that’s all Fortis Angels were given.

Many months and years have passed since I became a Valkyrie, and attained that authority. I don’t have any fear of death left anywhere within me.

The speed at which I died was much too fast. It was so swift that I didn’t even have the time to feel any pain, and that was my only saving grace.
I revived, and in the slight moment before I died again, I poured some power into the sword in my right hand.

The Mana I could pour into it during that brief instant was truly small. But it was surely accumulating within my blade.

“… I guess you’re not going to die off so easily… If I had the time, I’d personally sing your requiem, but…”

Gloria stopped her hand. From the start, she seemed to be concerned about time. I wonder what she’s so worried about.
But it’s my chance. In that moment, I poured my all into my Holy Sword. The blade received my will, and cloaked itself in a greater light. It was no longer some faint glimmer, but a definite darkness-destroying Sword of Light.

I directed the tip towards Gloria, towards the Demon who was once the aspiration of all Angels.
Even if this body is to fall apart, the will imbued in my sword will never go out.

Regardless of what speed she may boast, what power she carries… she cannot avoid the light.
The energy gathered within my Holy Sword compressed in an instant, and converged at the end of the sword.

Without a single twitch of her brow, Gloria stared at the shimmering sword.

… And I let out my power as a Hero, the power that had taken down all darkness in my path.

Part 3: I won’t… Lose

Heroes are but weapons.

They were the weapon the human race devised to destroy any enemy that stood before them. The Holy Sword was nothing more than one of their methods to carry that out.

By its pure simplicity, it held no weakness, and therefore it had the power to destroy both Light and Dark equally.

The inside my mouth was parched. Even when I hadn’t died yet, I couldn’t breathe. My throat was blocked up.

“Well, well, well, it seems you’ve still yet to understand…”

“Eh… why…”

After the light was dispelled, what was revealed was Gloria standing with the exact same expression as before.
Her body, and those tattered rags she wrapped around herself as clothes weren’t damaged at all.

That isn’t… possible.

A decapitating blow at an unperceivable ungodly speed. That truly was fearsome. Bu this one… far surpassed my prior shock.

Superbia.

Of all a Demon’s Seven sins, it held a high offensive potential, and an overwhelming level of Speed.
If so, then what is with that defensive capability? If I had failed to kill her from too low an output, I could accept it, but…

A single blow with all the power of a Hero… the power that had brought ruin to three Demon Lords before. It’s surely impossible for her to be unscratched. Unthinkable.

… Like this, it’s as if she’s not a Superbia, but a…

『Serge Serenade has Died. Cause of Death: Decapitation』

My mind went white. On the display that suddenly popped up, my response was a beat later than before, but I somehow managed to select YES again.

I revived. Around me spread a vast empty ground. I used my left hand to prop myself up, and rose. There aren’t any followup attacks coming gown on me.

“It looks like you want to ask ‘why,’ Valkyrie.”

Gloria’s expression, her features that had been put in place like a fine work, were slightly bent.
I’m not sure if the reason behind that face of hers was hatred, or perhaps compassion.

“If you had been placed under my charge, I would have trained you up from the ground again… but, you’re not bad, I guess.”

I had let out all the power stored in the sword. A second shot will take some time.
But without even jumping at that opportunity, she let out calm, and knowing words.

No, I doubt she even had to wait for a chance from the start. In the past few minutes, I don’t even know how many tens or hundreds or thousands of times I’ve been killed. That’s how big the difference in power was between us.

There’s no way a former Angel didn’t know about that, but as I thought, her expression didn’t change.

“Hey, Valkyria. Do you not know of it? No, there’s no way you’re oblivious. The 『Superbia』 authority, the power to 『Overrule』 all things in creation.”

Recharge complete. I concentrated every nerve in my body to fire it off again.

But in response to that, all that returned were some disinterested words.

“… So you really don’t get it. There’s no way I’ll be defeated by you. No, it precisely because it’s me, that there’s no reason for me to lose. I don’t even have to dodge. Serge Serenade, why is it that you, a mere 『Valkyrie』, the lowest possible rank of Angel, believe that your attack can get through to a former Saint Lord Class like Gloria Seidthroan?”

I cannot listen. It’s all a fabrication. She’s just trying to break my heart.
But it’s not as if I had a chance to cover my ears, so those words jolted my brain.

But from the battle theory that I had forged over countless experience, I was quickly able to discern her meaning.

『Overrule』

Of course, I knew of it. It was a Pride Demon’s prideful way of dealing with things.
… And it included the power to nullify powers they thought of as beneath them.

“Ah… eh…”

Certainly, if you go by that logic, then all of my attacks would… just be nullified by her Overrule.

“… Eh? Then…”

“Even if you repeated one hundred million attacks, that blade will never reach me.”

With eyes as if she was lecturing an incompetent student, Gloria declared as such.

It wasn’t a problem of output, but of principle.
It was law. Just as water was to flow towards the earth, my attacks were never to get through to this woman.

My vision went dark again.

Within that darkness, the floating YES and NO.

All of my attacks will simply fall flat?

My base attack power, and speed. The effort I piled up, and the power I’d tempered. Our base statuses as Demons and Angels were too far apart. It was hopeless.

After staring at those words for several tens of seconds, I…

Slowly, timidly selected YES.
Light came to my eyes once more. With the same fed-up expression as before, she was there to greet me.

You won’t die? … How incorrigible. Is that courage, or thoughtlessness…“

That piercing glare, and the feelings of scorn contained in it.
I swallowed up the fear extending from my feet, and the basic fear I felt as a warrior.

… I won’t lose.

The moment I became a Hero, I had already resolved myself to swallow down all feelings of loss.
If something of this extent… were to make me accept defeat, I would never have been called to Heaven, nor would I have become a Hero.

My breathing had been cut off for a while. My own tension, and the intimidating air Gloria let out stiffened my body.
Even when I should have fully recovered, I felt it difficult to move.

Within my mouth, I wordlessly encouraged myself.
I had always been fighting alone. No matter how hopeless the challenge, I took them on.

I can win. I won’t lose. There’s no such thing as absolute. Yeah, that’s right. If giving up means death, then I am immortal. I’ll come back no matter how many tens or hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of times it takes. I’ll destroy you.
Serge, you’re strong. Strong. Strong. Stronger than anyone.

Overrule?

But there should be some way around it.
No, the very fact that she needs to use Overrule to render my attacks useless means that if she didn’t use it, it would be possible for me to inflict damage on her. That fact I was able to give her a slight cut on my first attack is proof of that.

… With all things taken into account, it’s not like she has defensive capabilities to get out of everything without a scratch.

I’ve a countless number of experiences of having defeated Demons of Pride. I even know their weaknesses.

The countermeasures for Superbia.

As Gloria recognizes me as an existence below her own, I need to give a Skill with an output enough to threaten her, and make her wary.

I licked my dry lips, and got my breath in order. I calmed my pulse, and sharpened my awareness.

The emotion within them was contempt. The way one with absolute strength would look down on a lesser being.

I bit my lip, and shut off the incessant ringing of my instincts not to fight the one before me.
I pretended not to notice my fright. I fooled my own heart. All the way to now, that’s how I always fought. Back when I was human, and there henceforth. Fear was my enemy, and my friend.

I clenched the hand holding my sword. What I need is my attack with the highest firepower. An attack with the sword itself would be best.
I stored all my energy into it, and instead of emitting it, I collected it around the edge… I’ll cut her up directly.

Normally, actually hitting her with a swing of this sword would be the most difficult option, but right now, this woman is being negligent.
And in that, there was a small, ridiculously small chance for my victory. And as long as there’s a chance… I won’t break.

But at that moment, the moment where I stepped forward for the sake of that slim piece of hope, Gloria curled her face into a smile.

“Still… that power… even if it isn’t to get through to me, perhaps it may work on that man… but I’ve no time to paint her my colors…”

Gloria’s wings opened up wide.

They fluttered a little, and her body gently rose into the sky.

“Struggle all you want… just how far will that power of yours go… how far can you prove your recklessness on these lands…”

My thoughts took a turn.

It’s no good. She’s running away. If I want to kill her, this is my last chance. There’s a high probability the speed of those wings of hers exceeds mine.
There’s no way I can catch her if she takes flight.

Those spread wings of darkness. Unlike when she was an Angel, their form and color had become much more sinister.

I took a step forward. I took to the sky. I kicked the air. I brandished my sword. Gloria’s body moved. My target vanished from my sight. She appeared again ten meters to my side.
It’s no good, I still can’t see her. Even in the air, those movements of hers were still in good health. I have no means to give chase.

She’s running away. No, perhaps I’m the one being spared? They’re both the same.

Always alone, I barely let my voice out since coming to the Demon World. The sound I let out after all this time was terribly cracked.

“Wait, Gloria! Please, answer me one thing!”

That Angel was surely one of the brightest stars in the sky.

A woman who earned much reverence from her brethren. Enough that, when we never even talked, she remained firm in my memory, a woman whose names wrung across the Heavens.

And why…

“Why are you alive!? I’m certain that you were…”

Without waiting for me to finish, she climbed up higher and higher.
I didn’t follow, but simply looked up, and shouted.

“… felled in a battle against a mighty Demon Lord.”

Gloria Stopped.

Her eyes were directed at me once more.

“… What?”

… From a crooked smile, to an expressionless face. An expression I had never seen before.

“Demon… Lord…? Felled in… a battle with… a Demon Lord…?”

Her frightened voice rung out higher than the heavens. Her small form blurred.

My breath became short. Those golden eyes appeared before my eyes, and finally, I realized I was being clasped up by the neck.

Black emotions swirled in the depths of her pupils. Disorder, or perhaps hatred.

“A Demon Lord, you say!? What nonsense, at the time, Heard Lauder was…”

“Herd… loader…?”

The bones of my neck let out a creaking sound. I can’t breathe at all.
I’m going to die. I’m going to be killed. My neck’s going to be wrung out to death. My field of vision flickered on and off, and my soul raised a wail.

Within that uncollected consciousness, I thought about the meaning of those words.

A name on that list of powerful Demons that had been circulating about heaven.
A Superbia Demon who held the epithet of the Prideful Kaiser. He stood at the forefront of the army, and slayed a number of Angels. An infamous Demon.

But that’s wrong. That’s not how it is. It’s different from the rumors I’ve heard.
In the first place, there’s too much a difference between a General Class Demon, and a Saint Lord Angel. Even more so with the Angel commander being the greatest anti-Demon Iustitia Angel. Even if they came with an army of Demons, such a difference wasn’t so easily overturned in a head-on battle.

But at the same time, it was the talk of the town back in heaven. That’s why I remember it well.

Gloria Seidthroan engaged in battle with the army of the Lord of Depravity.
She was able to repel the General Demon leading their main forces, but…

“What does this… mean? I lost to… a Demon Lord? I. Was. Defeated!?”

My body was swung around. It was as if she was a child throwing a tantrum.

More than me, the woman herself was much more confused.

A chance.
If I were to attack right now, wouldn’t the damage get through? I tried to lift the hand clasped around my sword, but I couldn’t put any power into it. Angels and Demons didn’t require respiration all too much, but even so, the throat was still a single vital point.

With all my might, I glared at her. But while Gloria’s eyes seemed poised in my direction, she wasn’t looking at me.
It was a hollow glance as if she were staring into a world of dreams.

Why… just what is it that she’s seeing…?

Suddenly, the crushing feeling about my neck disappeared. Power returned to my body.

Losing my support, I began to plummet, but before I hit the ground, I managed to move my wings, and raise myself.
I took a deep breath, and corrected my posture. When I had gotten myself in order, a bizarre spectacle entered my eyes.

“Ah… no, nonsense… wha… this power is…”

Frozen in midair, Gloria’s eyes were wide open.

Her wings weren’t moving at all. No, more than that, it looked like her entire body had been glued fast to space. As if there was something locking her to the air.

But the strangest thing of all was… her face.

The words flowing out of her mouth were the emotions of rage she had never directed at me, even as I held a blade against her.

Her golden irises seemed to be searching for something, as they made large swaying motions.

And Gloria’s body shot off.

No, rather than gliding, she crashed and burned.

Raising a cloud of dust, she crashed, but she immediately corrected her stance, and landed properly, before lifting herself into the air again.
The hair that reached all the way to her feet was standing on end, and as if something had grasped her, she floated aimlessly around space.

It was a scene I had never seen before. An unknown phenomenon.

Gloria’s eyes were locked on empty space. There was absolutely nothing in that direction, but her gaze was surely seeing something.

“I see… so it was you who…”

Without finishing her sentence, her body began to rotate with her hair at the fulcrum, before she flew off again. This time, it wasn’t to the ground, but parallel to it. As if that small frame of hers was a bullet leaving its chamber, she shot forth, and raised a tuft of smoke at the horizon.

What was that phenomenon… wait, phenomenon?

It was without a doubt that her actions held intent. She was trying to attack something.

I remained vigilant. But within the web of my perception, I could only capture the three large swaying powers a few kilometers away, and a number of smaller forces, a flock of Demons coming closer.
Even at the moment Gloria flew off, I couldn’t see anyone around me.

An invisible enemy… no, a long distanced assault?

I can’t see. I can’t see anything. It wasn’t something like Gloria’s speed that exceeded my dynamic vision.
Built on a different principle than Pride, a power of invisibility.

… That power didn’t align with any of the abilities I had learned about in Heaven.

And to the one who took it on… even Gloria herself seemed to be in an abnormal state.

“LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGG
GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!  WHAAATT’S THE MEANING OF THIS YOU BAAAAAASSSSTTTTTAAAAAAAAAARD!!!”

That voice of resentment that seemed to come straight from the depths of hell made the air shake.

While there was some black dirt staining her joints, there weren’t any notable wounds on her body.

But her eyes had completely snapped.

Her power had completely been freed from its previous concealment, and her idiotically high Mana stirred up the miasma, scattering pebbles left and right.

As if a curtain had been lowered over it, the world grew darker.
Perhaps noticing this abnormality, the three large clashing forces put their movements on hold.

My thoughts haven’t caught up the present situation. I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I’ve too little information.
There’s no doubt it’s the work of some third party. But I can’t see their form. There must be a meaning to it. That’s what Gloria, who’s swinging around her malice left and right goes to prove.

It must be…

Sensing something Gloria gave her wings a large flap, and drew a spiral in the air, as she ascended higher and higher.

Along with the tremors, some parts of the ground were projected up, and cracks began to spread.

After a few seconds, a strong wind began to blow. From up to down.
I struggled to fight against the bizarre wind flowing towards the land.

I looked up at the sky, kicked the air below, and moved my wings.

I soared through the sky. To Angels, that was a natural action akin to breathing. After a few seconds, the wind ceased, and I looked back at the ground to understand the intent of the attack.

… No, the ground hadn’t risen at all, it had caved.

Spreading many meters, indented soil as if it had been crushed underfoot.

No, it it’s just boring into the earth, then Gloria, and likely a majority of the other Demon Lords could do it. I’m sure I could as well.

The problem was, that I couldn’t discern the means ot attack, and I couldn’t see the form of the third party that had accomplished it anywhere.

A mysterious attack. A power to control the wind? No, if you think about the nature of the attack Gloria took on…

Right below me, Gloria stood on the land. Her attention was completely removed from me.

“S-show yourself… Leigie! Why, are you…!? All of this is your…”

Bloodshot eyes. Her expression held no disdain, and what it displayed was an anger close to madness. The Sin Breaker that had manifested in her hand was recklessly cutting countless lines in the air.
Out raced countless shockwaves of light. The air pressure senselessly rended the earth, and as if it were crying out, the wind played out a high pitched sound.

Those slashes flew out. A few of them came at me, but passed by my sides.
The reason they didn’t hit was because they weren’t something aimed at me. But if one of them had shifted just a little, I would have likely had my wings ripped off.

I was no longer in Gloria’s eyes. No, there wasn’t anything reflected in them.
Her screams and malice were certainly directed at something, but I couldn’t see what.

There was only one thing I knew.

That was what Demons were. I felt an illusion of all the blood in my body freezing over, and shook my arms.

… There’s always someone greater.

Without a doubt, there’s someone higher.

Otherwise, there’s no way Gloria would display so much rage.

I’ll run. I have to run. I have to report this.

While that power has yet to be directed at me, I’ll return to heaven, and report…

I moved my wings with all my might, and started rising up to the sky. The spiraling chaotic miasma to my back, I rapidly closed in on the sun. The wind I felt all over my body instantly dried off my cold sweat.

The point to connect the Demon World and Heaven wasn’t a specific place.

I stopped one high in the air, and looked back down at the ground.

As I thought, even when I look from up high, I can’t see any new enemy. I can’t feel anything.

… But there was one thing I figured out.

“… This is…”

The attack’s… identity.

But the marks left in the earth by coincidence or inevitability, had taken on a form I was familiar with.
Five long trenches, with a wide area connecting them… right, that center. There was one large cavity at the base of all of them. The hollowed out ground, and the slight differentiation of color made it all too clear. From the ground it was something too big to make out, but that form I hadn’t expected was…

“… The palm… of a hand…!?”

An absurdly large palm.
It was as if I was seeing a dream. I widened my eyes, and climbed higher.

It’s… big.

Its scale was off the charts, but I’m sure that’s… the shape of a human hand. That caving I had been a witness to, that denting of the ground had… only been but a single finger. I can’t think any of this is without meaning.

The remains of that attack dotted that black wasteland again and again. An intense sound, as if to indicate the end of the world, made me forget the thunderous wail of the wind racing past my ears.

If this truly is the work of a single lifeform’s hand, then there’s no doubt its weilder is large enough to reach for the heavens. Greater than any lifeform I’ve ever happened on before…
Compared to the marks left behind by it, both me and Gloria, with our statures of less than two meters, were nothing more than ants. The scale was too extreme.

Gloria’s body was picked up, and was sent flying again. As she was shot off, she used her wings to correct her posture.
Now I can understand it. She truly was being thrown about. By invisible hands.

And taking the attacks, Gloria herself realized as well.

And she wasn’t doing that good of a job at it.

Whether it was possible or not to do anything about it was another story. Gloria should withdraw. She should flee. Whether there’s a means or not, the way she flailed about meaninglessly no longer had any of the level-headed thought she displayed when taking me on.

I concentrated my eyes. It seems Gloria has yet to take any actual damage.
She was in distress trying to evade those unseeable, and wide-scoped attacks, but the blows from those hands didn’t boast too much firepower. Regardless of how many times she took those attacks, there weren’t an

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