Published at 23rd of May 2023 06:48:11 AM

Chapter 695

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Chapter 695


The skirmish was short-lived.


It lasted a total of thirty-five exchanges.


As Ellen, holding the Lament, parried Reinhardt's sword with her half-swording technique, she pierced through the gap in his dynamic movements, burying his entire body in the white sand.




With Reinhardt half-buried in the sand, Ellen climbed on his chest and ended the fight by placing the blade of Lament against his throat.


The blade and their faces were so close, they were almost touching.


"You're dead."


"…Yes, it seems so."


At Ellen's words, Reinhardt nodded.


He even smiled, as if he had wanted to hear those words while being overpowered.


Though the skirmish was brief, the two combatants, who had already turned into monsters, left the white sands utterly devastated.


"Are you going to do more?"


Ellen asked while keeping Lament pointed at his throat.




Some things can be known from the moment swords are crossed.


Reinhardt hadn't thought he could win from the beginning, and Ellen couldn't help but realize this.


Ellen knew it too.


A hundred times out of a hundred, she would win.


She knew she would prevail.


So, Reinhardt must have known as well.


Ellen got up from Reinhardt's flattened body and helped him to his feet.


"Sure enough, I can't beat you."


Reinhardt couldn't defeat Ellen with the swordsmanship he had learned from her.


That much remained unchanged.


"Do you really need to beat me?"


"Actually, I don't really want to win."


Reinhardt laughed.


"It's just nice like this."




"Winning and losing don't matter."


Reinhardt gazed at the waves rolling in.


Waves that surged, broke, retreated, then surged and broke again, only to retreat once more.


As he watched the seemingly eternal ebb and flow.


"What matters is that we can do this."


It wasn't about winning or losing; he had wanted the very fact that they could cross swords like this.


There would always be a next time.


And a time after that.


He had yearned for that eternal moment, independent of victory or defeat.


That succession of moments, Reinhardt said.


Ellen still didn't know how Reinhardt had managed to overpower her.


How had he done it?


He couldn't even defeat her now.


How could he have overpowered and saved her back then when she was stronger, possessed by a vengeful spirit?


Ellen still didn't know.


And it seemed Reinhardt had no intention of explaining it to her.


In the end, Reinhardt had confirmed what he wanted to know.


Between Ellen and himself, who was stronger?


Ellen was stronger.


The gap remained insurmountable.


Even if he were to lose eternally, he wished to win just once.


He knew that after that single victory, he would return to a continuous string of defeats.


"You may not know, but you're officially dead."


Finally, Reinhardt said what he had wanted to say.


Hearing those words, Ellen felt as if her breath had stopped.


The thought of the real conversation frightened her.


She felt suffocated and scared, not knowing what she would hear.


The Demon King had captured the fake hero and executed her.


The exact method of the staged play was unknown.


However, the hero was dead.


It was done.


"We forcibly brought the autonomous region's representatives and made them watch the public execution. They seemed to enjoy it."


Reinhardt chuckled.


It was a wicked sense of humor.


He couldn't help but think so.


He had forced the representatives of the human autonomous region to watch their hope being executed mercilessly.


Cruel, but undoubtedly effective.


The one who died must have been something like a puppet.


Creating such a thing wouldn't be difficult.


"With this, the annoying hero religion should quiet down, and the autonomous region will slowly dissolve."




"There won't be anyone left who will project useless hope onto you. You won't have to feel burdened by it anymore."


Those who prayed for Ellen to save humanity, groaning under the Demon King's oppression, would disappear.


Since the symbol of hope, the hero, had died, such an act was now impossible, even with the slightest hope.


"Now, you don't exist in the world, there's no one who needs you, and there's no one who will ask you to do impossible tasks. The hero lost to the Demon King and died. That's the end of the story."




"People will forget you."


Reinhardt looked at Ellen.


"So, what excuse will you use to run away now?"




"Even if you can't escape, you still want to run away."


At those words, Ellen bit her lip and bowed her head.


"Just being with me seems unbearable to you."


It was clear from her expression.


She didn't need to say it.


She was suffering in this very moment.


Finally, with those painful words, Ellen couldn't help but open her trembling mouth.


"I'm sorry... I... I'm sorry..."


Regardless of the reasons, how justified or necessary it was.


It was true that she left without even having a conversation with Reinhardt, who had saved her.


It was also true that five years had passed since then.


That time had changed many things.




"If you're sorry, can you be with me now?"


Ellen couldn't bring herself to say it.


Is there still a place for me?


Is there any part left to spare for me?


She wanted to say yes, but she couldn't.


It was too shameless.


Having left on her own accord, and now caught trying to run away again.


Claiming that everything was resolved and that they could be together now, so casually.


To change her attitude as easily as flipping the palm of her hand.


To accept everything while trapped in this peaceful prison.


Wasn't it too much?


Wasn't it too selfish?


"Can't you do it?"


"Sob... ugh... ugh..."


In the end, Ellen began to cry, gritting her teeth.


She couldn't say it was possible or impossible.


She felt sorry to say it wasn't possible.


And she felt guilty to say she wanted it.


Making excuses, she had been running away at some point.


In the end, she felt pathetic for being caught and only crying.


It was too hard.


It was too lonely.


It was too desolate.


She wanted to say that every day had been painful.


But she couldn't bring herself to say those words.


Finally, after a fortnight of rest, they had a proper conversation.


A conversation filled with nothing but tears.


"I... I don't know... I don't think... I don't think I deserve... to be like this... I don't think... I don't think I can... I don't think I have... the right..."


"Who gives such a right, anyway?"


"I don't know. But... I don't think... I don't think I should be like this... I shouldn't be... I shouldn't be... I shouldn't be like this... I did things... to you... to the world... But what right... what audacity do I have..."


Reinhardt grabbed Ellen's chin as she sobbed, forcing her to look up at the cold eyes.


"I thought so. In the end, you couldn't bear to be with me."


"Whether it's guilt or remorse. Or the fact that we've been apart for too long."


"From the beginning, you could have done anything for the reason you left me."


"The reason you left me five years ago was just an excuse. You just couldn't bear it yourself."


"You didn't leave because you had to."


"You just left because you wanted to."


"If you wanted to be by my side, you could have. There were countless ways to do it. You know that."


There must have been a way for Ellen to be with him if she wanted.


It was just that Ellen couldn't allow herself to do so.


That's why she left.


Even now, when all the other reasons for leaving had disappeared, wasn't the proof that she didn't allow herself to be together?


"You just can't allow yourself."


"You think you're the cause of all this."


"You think the betrayer, you, don't deserve it."


"Even though you know I don't want that, even though you know I don't blame you. You just can't forgive yourself."


"That's why you're crying like this. Even now, when it doesn't matter if you're with me, you're just forcing yourself to suffer for vague guilt."


"Even though you're torturing yourself, nothing gets better. Nothing changes."


"Where is the reason or inevitability for that?"


"There's none."


At Reinhardt's words, Ellen squeezed her eyes shut.


"I know... I know too..."


"I know that doing this... doing this doesn't help anyone or anything... I know it just hurts you and me... I know."


"I know I'm pathetic, and I know I'm stupid and foolish for doing this..."


"But I don't know... I can't erase the thought that if I had done better back then, if I had believed... I can't forgive myself. So, I can't do anything because of my actions, I don't want to forgive myself because of my actions..."


"I don't think I should be with you. I don't know how to break this vicious cycle..."


"I know not everything is my fault, but I can't say it's not either. If I'm even a little comfortable, a little happy, I can't bear myself..."


"I can't even imagine that..."


"I know I'm a fool for feeling this way, I know... I know that nothing can bring back the dead... I know that guilt won't help me live or change anything... But I can't let go... I just can't..."


"I know that the more I feel this way, the more I hurt you... I don't know. I think I've gone mad at some point... I can't think straight... I feel like I'm falling apart..."


"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for running away, for betraying you. I'm sorry for not trusting you. And I'm sorry for wanting to run away again, for not being able to say I want to stay together... But... But..."


"Stop. That's enough. I understand your feelings."




Reinhardt held Ellen as she sobbed, spewing guilt-ridden nonsense.


Feeling guilty even to meet his gaze, Ellen cried with her eyes tightly closed. The Demon King spoke calmly.


"Do you know what the meaning of the mansion you were in until today and this uninhabited island is?"




A prison created to make escape impossible.


Placing her in a location where escape was utterly unattainable.


"I prepared this place because I knew you would be like this."


If your mind cannot be changed, I will imprison you in a place where you can never escape.


That was the reality of this place.


"When I found you again, I had all sorts of thoughts on what to do."


"I knew you would be like this, unable to bear yourself."


"This is the result. Harriet and I came up with this."


At the mention of that name, Ellen shuddered.


"I'm not a mage, so how could I have sent you here in the first place?"


The bizarre trap she had fallen into and the undetectable teleportation.


Ellen had no choice but to know that it was Harriet's doing.


"I knew you would say something like this. You would whine and try to run away."


"That's just the kind of person you are."


"It may be cruel, but-"


"If left alone, you would treat yourself even more cruelly."


"It seemed like there was no other way."


Whatever the reason, Harriet had sensed the moment Ellen left that she would spend the rest of her life running away, and the Demon King knew it too.


Even now, she's crying, saying it shouldn't be like this.


She's just cruel to herself.


How could he offer the choice of happiness to someone who thinks they don't deserve to be happy?


The Emperor knew that Ellen would eventually try to run away because her fundamental attitude wouldn't change.


So he tried to force her.


To imprison her.


To confine her.


To bind her forcibly in a place where she couldn't escape, and this was the result of that thought.


A small island in the vast sea and a mansion.


Imprisoning her in a place where she couldn't even tell which direction to run was believed to be the way to stop Ellen's self-deprecation.


Essential supplies could be provided, and she would have no choice but to accept this life, even if she couldn't come to terms with it.


Eventually, she would accept it out of resignation.


Reinhardt, who could clearly see what she was thinking, spoke.


She couldn't refute his words that she would keep trying to run away.


No matter the reason, Ellen now knew she would always find some excuse to flee.


"But, you know,"


"When I actually tried it..."


"It seems... strange."


"No matter how much I think about it, tying you up like this, imprisoning you, confining you."


"It shouldn't be like this."


"So... I created this place, and watched you living here..."


"But when it comes to this,"


"With you trapped before my eyes, in a place like this,"


"Seeing you unable to sleep properly, and constantly sobbing,"


"I think this is not right."


"It shouldn't be this way."


"In the end, this will only hurt you more."


The Demon King released Ellen's chin.


Hadn't she been suffering since being put in this environment?


He shouldn't accept this.


Although she knew she couldn't escape, she was just numb.


All she did was suffer.


She engaged in another self-deprecation.


A foolish self-deprecation that she didn't deserve happiness.


Although she would resign herself to being trapped and accept it,


It was clear that she would eventually fall ill.


The Demon King silently watched Ellen as she cried.


If he confined her, he could keep Ellen in this place forever.


However, Ellen would fall ill while huddled up, unable to forgive or accept herself.


This could be a lesser evil, but it could never be a better option.


It was nothing more than a story of caging a bird in a cage, taking it out and touching it whenever needed.


Thus, the Demon King couldn't help but come to the conclusion that this wasn't right as he observed the reality that had become as he imagined.


"After the destruction of Darkland and the death of the previous Demon King, I couldn't live as a demon since arriving in the Imperial Capital."


"There were limits to disguising myself with magic."


"Living as a demon was impossible."


"To live among humans, I needed a human form, and that's the Reinhardt you know."






On the shore where waves crashed,


In a prison named an island made for only one person,


The Demon King carefully removed something from his left ring finger.


Despite her tears, Ellen stared blankly at his actions.


"The ring that allowed me to live while blending in with the world is the most important item that made all of this possible."


The ring.


Ellen had never known that Reinhardt wore such a ring.


Since it was a ring for disguise, even its shape could be concealed.


Reinhardt, who had returned to his Demon King form, quietly grasped Ellen's left hand.


"I've created a world where I can live as a demon, so I don't need it anymore."


"As you know, you can't live anywhere in that form."


"It's not right for someone who looks exactly like the deceased hero to roam the world."


"Now that I can live as I am,"


"You can't live as yourself anymore."


"So, I'll give it to you."


"From now on, you'll need it more than I do."


"And I'll send you back."


The Demon King carefully slid the ring onto Ellen's left ring finger.


The ring, which seemed a bit too large at first, fit perfectly on Ellen's finger.


Ellen stared blankly at the Demon King, trembling as she asked, "What is... this?"


"This is the object that allowed me to become Reinhardt and even a cat."




The ring of Dreadfiend.


As the last Archdemon, this ring had made everything possible.


But now, it was no longer needed.


So, it was given to someone who could not live in the world without it.


Having intended to keep her imprisoned for the rest of her life, the Demon King finally admitted that it was a mistake.


"It's a good thing for me too."


"Having someone like you rot away in a place like this is, in a way, a subtle loss."


"Like this time, informing me of vital information. You'll do something else. Something in your own way."


"It'll be good for both you and me."


"I won't hold you back."




"You're free."


He granted her complete freedom, the opposite of imprisonment.


He ultimately chose to let go of the opportunity to keep her captive forever.


"With this, people won't know that you're Ellen Artorius, and you won't have to keep seeking places with no one around. You can just blend in with the world as an ordinary person, living as if nothing ever happened."


If she lived as someone else, Ellen would truly disappear from the world.


She could stroll through cities as an ordinary person, gain a new identity, and live a completely new life.


"Do you understand what I'm saying?"


Ellen stared blankly at the mysterious ring on her finger.


"If you leave here and want to get away from me, if you want to hide, I'll never be able to find you. If you decide to run away, I won't be able to see you for the rest of my life."


The Demon King, who had found the hero, gave her the means to escape from him forever.


If Ellen decided to hide, the Demon King would never be able to find the hero again.


"But at the same time, it's also an object that allows you to find me whenever you want."


It was an object that allowed her to escape forever.


But used differently, it could also be an object that allowed her to meet Reinhardt whenever she wanted.


As Ellen Artorius, it would have been impossible for her to wander the world, but with the power of the ring, it was possible.


Whether she used it as an escape route for eternal running away, or as a key to a meeting she could always have, it was entirely up to Ellen.


The Demon King gently held the tip of the hero's left finger, which had lost its color.




"Instead of confining you in a place like this."


"And not forcing anything else on you."


"I'll give you complete freedom to go where you want, and do what you want."


"Just one favor."


"Once every few months."


"Or once every few years."


"That's fine."




"Really, just sometimes."


"Come to see me."


"That's enough."


"That's enough... that's all I need."


"I won't ask for more."


"It's not like you and I absolutely have to do something incredible together."


"Like practicing swordsmanship like now."


"Or making something to eat."


"Or just gathering everyone and chatting like before, talking about nothing in particular."


"Even just doing those simple, trivial things would be fine."


"Sometimes, we can be together, right?"


"There's no longer any desperate reason not to."


"You know it too."


"You know how strange it is."


"I only ask for that much from you."


"So, at least allow yourself that much."




"Let's stop our mutual torment and self-flagellation... now."


At those words, the tears that had barely stopped began to flow again.


"Ugh...uhu...hic! Sob!"


That was all he asked for.


It wasn't too much to ask.


"It's not such a difficult request, is it?"


The Demon King gritted his teeth too.


He too held back his anger and passion.


With teary eyes, he met Ellen's gaze, both of them straining to see each other.


"So... will you do it?"


After finally capturing the hero, he locked her up and then set her free again.


He gave her the gift of living freely.


He would give her the means to leave forever.


He pleaded for her not to leave forever.


Instead of holding her, he let her go.


They made just one promise.


A thread that may not be thick or strong, but wouldn't break.


They connected a single thread between them.


If facing each other was too difficult and guilt-ridden, they didn't always have to.


But sometimes, they would meet.


Could they not at least allow themselves that much?


To not even allow that much would be too cruel to both of them.


They didn't need to be that cruel.


It was over now.


Couldn't they allow themselves that much?


That's what the Demon King said.


Knowing that if he forcefully embraced her, she would die in his arms, he created an environment where she could live fully in the world.


He sent her back to the world.


As she had been doing until now, let her live by doing things only she could do.


She could find her place for whatever reason, to atone for her sins or anything else.


But sometimes, when she was tired or lonely, she could come back and rest.


At least allow that much.


If she wanted to live with eternal punishment, she could.


But moments of atonement would never come.


So she could at least allow herself that tiny respite.


In front of the Demon King, who had finally chosen to let go despite wanting to hold onto her, she could no longer force herself.


With gratitude and appreciation in her heart.


She had to answer.


So, Ellen tried her best to turn her grimace, which had been unbearable up until now, into a smile.




And in the end, her tears and laughter mixed together, leaving her with an even more disheveled expression.


On the beach, where waves crashed and broke eternally.


On a beach where waves would roll in and shatter forever.


They promised another eternity.


And so.


The hero.


"I will...I will..."


With the Demon King.


Although thin.


An unbreakable bond.


"I will do it."


They shared a tiny, eternal covenant.

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