The Regressed Son of a Duke is an Assassin (Novel) Chapter 21 - 22

C21 - 22

Chapter 21: The Strongest in the Demon Realm (2)

In the royal mansion situated within Belias, Princess Arin had succeeded in rendezvousing with the reinforcements. Escorted by imperial knights, she crossed over the boundary gate and arrived at this place. From early evening till dawn, it had been a long day that wholly consumed her. She was tremendously tired both in body and spirit, but her weary eyes refused to close.

-Knock knock.

“Come in…….”

As she replied with a somewhat feeble voice, a woman with an extremely tense expression cautiously opened the door and entered.

“Ex, excuse me. Your Highness!”

It was Sienna’s maid, Emily.

“Thanks for coming. I know you must have been resting, and I apologize for calling you so abruptly.”

“No, no, it’s not ridiculous at all, Your Highness! I am truly grateful to have been summoned……!”

Emily’s rigid shoulders and shrunk neck revealed how nervous she was.

Just a few hours ago, they had rushed over with her in their arms. The awkwardness now felt incongruous with that memory, making Princess Arin increasingly uneasy.

“Why express gratitude? I’m not someone worthy of…”

“Come on! Meeting with Your Highness is of course an honor! I probably won’t forget today for the rest of my life!”

“Is that so?”

Despite her appearances, the maid seemed rather simple.

Arin had called her without much thought, but was now perplexed as to where to begin or what to say first.

The words she wanted to say struggled to find their way out, leaving her to idly bite her innocent lip.

“First of all, I should apologize. I’m truly sorry for dragging you into this mess because of my foolishness…….”

Unable to meet Emily’s eyes, Arin turned her head as she spoke with difficulty.

Unlike the troubled princess, Emily hands waved energetically in denial.

“Why are you apologizing, Your Highness? It’s not your fault! It’s those vile demons who should be sorry! Why did they have to appear in droves precisely on the day of your arrival……!”

“It’s not that!”

The princess inadvertently shut her eyes tight and raised her voice.

Emily continued to look around, wondering what she had done wrong.

“Because of me… your master is in trouble…. Because of my foolishness in coming to your side…. Your master trying to protect me….”

She had regretted it during that brief time, again and again.

If she hadn’t been there at that time, at that place, none of this would have happened.

Someone’s child and someone’s master had suffered a mishap because of the bravado of an incapable princess.

Feeling a paralyzing helplessness that made it seem impossible to face anyone, tears welled up in the princess’s eyes.

However, Emily, as if oblivious to the situation, continued to blink innocently.

“If you are speaking of our young master, I am under the impression that he has not perished?”

The chances of survival were slim for that young body, devoid of any strength to cut through the currents.

Frankly speaking, it seemed like an inevitable death scenario to everyone.

“Do you mean to say that you believe your master is still alive?”

“Of course! My young master hasn’t passed away!”

Princess Arin doubted her own ears.

“How could he be alive? Even if he fell into the water, the fall was an impossible height! The rainfall must have increased the current’s speed, it’s more strange for him to be alive, isn’t it?”

“Ah, you have no idea how tenacious my young master is! He wouldn’t die so easily! Maybe he swam or grabbed onto a branch, whatever he did, he’ll definitely come back!”

Princess Arin considered one thing for sure.

Setting everything aside, she could clearly discern this much.

This maid was speaking from the heart without any pretense.

Perhaps she was the only one in the world who believed he was still alive.

“I’ve heard it over and over again on my way here. Everyone lamented saying there’s no chance for the young master to have survived, but strangely I never felt that way! I always had this feeling that he would return soon as if nothing happened!”

This feeling was strangely persuasive.

While she might have spent a longer time with him than the princess had, it was not easy to think this emphatically.

But, conversely, it showed how much trust the maid had in her master.

“You believe in him. In your master…”

The princess’s anxious heart seemed to slightly ease.

It was somewhat comforting knowing that there was someone who still held hope for his survival.

“What kind of person was your master?”

The conversation naturally shifted towards Sienna.

Emily thought for a moment, then stuck out her lips, unable to figure out how to express herself.

“Well…, originally he was considered completely useless, to the point where he couldn’t do anything in the family. Almost every servant in the mansion didn’t even know if he existed, his presence was that negligible.”

The young master was neglected even by the servants, an unnoticed figure among prominent offspring.

That was Sienna Bert’s original image.

“But about two months ago, I think? The young master changed bizarrely after a duel with the fourth young master. It felt as if he suddenly started displaying abilities he had kept hidden until that moment…”

“Hidden abilities?”

“Yes! Ever since then, he’s truly become a different person! Suddenly declaring he wanted to join the frontlines, he then received recognition from the Duke himself. I just followed him, surprised…”

Her beaming smile seemed genuine, devoid of any deception.

It somehow made sense why this nonchalant man brought this maid along with him.

“Don’t worry too much, Your Highness! You’ll see our young master’s stern face again before long!”

“I hope so… that would be really great…”

However, reality was much harsher than desires, preventing her from fully letting go of her worries.

Princess Arin could only hope that she would see his face once more.

***

“Phewah!”

The moment he savored the sweet taste of fresh air, all the pent-up strength drained from him.

“Ptooey! Ptooey!”

He spat out all the impurities in his mouth and struggled onto dry land with great effort.

While the ground was unbearably hard and uneven, it felt like the most comfortable bed in the world to him at that moment.

“Ah… what a dreadful struggle.”

It was all fine and dandy leaping into the Blood River, but what followed was considerably more tiresome.

Despite holding his breath, the stench that seeped into his nose and the horrid sensation of corpses touching him made him feel revolted.

The grotesque aquatic demons feeding on those corpses added to the chaos, turning it into a total mess of a party.

If that damned dragon had been obedient from the start, none of this would have happened.

If I ever encounter it again, I’ll grind its wings so it can’t escape, then chew off everything from the horns on its head to the claws on its toes!

As he snapped out of these futile thoughts, a long sigh escaped him.

I should have kept doing what I was doing from the start. Showing off has only left my body feeling wrecked.

It wasn’t just me who came close to wreckussian. In my stretched-out right hand was Kayram, having transformed somewhat.

The pale violet blade was nowhere to be found, replaced by a murky state smeared in dark red fluids, looking nothing like a demon sword.

“Did you die, Kayram?”

Expecting an answer despite the silence, I cautiously asked.

[…Don’t make me talk.]

The heavy, reluctant words caused my relaxed muscles to tense up again.

A voice filled with all the annoyance in the world.

I better not push any further, or that sword’s liable to stab me without a second thought.

Quietly standing up, I created a sphere of water the size of a fist with my hand.

-Swish swish

The pure water, free of impurities, gently cleaned off the grime clinging to Kayram.

After some washing up, the mist cleared and Kayram’s true form re-emerged.

[Urgh, I hate this sticky feeling!]

“Once we get back, I’ll give you a proper wash, so hold on for now.”

Kayram’s rigid gaze still held a heavy amount of irritation.

[Ha? Do you even think of returning? Do you have any clue where you’ve ended up?]

“Well, it’s definitely not the frontlines…”

The sky was a deeper red than the one above the frontlines.

The air was thick with heat, unnaturally uncomfortable, and a chilling cold grazed at my skin.

At first glance, it was an awkward space that seemed vastly inconvenient for any human life.

The name of this place was known as the Demon Realm.

In the end, I had come full circle and landed back on this dreadful soil.

Wow, how long has it been since I’ve been here?

It was so nostalgic I felt like jumping for joy.

[Is this really the time to be lost in recollection? Snap out of it!]

Always so temperamental…

I know it’s not a time to be lost in nostalgia.

Since I’m here in the Demon Realm, I’ll eventually have to go back. The knights are probably scouring every nook of the gorge looking for me by now.

I need to rush back and be “found” in an unconscious state as soon as I can; otherwise, I might miss the right moment to return entirely.

Turning my head, I checked the state of the Blood River.

The calm rippling of the water’s surface suggested an improvement from before.

If I followed the river upstream, I could likely return without a hitch…

It seems I’ve really gotten myself a long way off.

The distance to Remia Gorge looked incredibly vast.

I had better hurry if I wanted to be found at an appropriate time.

“Grrrr…”

An unexpected sound of a dog’s growling.

Turning in the direction of the noise, a pack of Hellhounds had appeared.

This was rather timely, as I needed to replenish my vitality.

Having partied hard in the Blood River, I was fairly famished.

“Growl!”

Though the Hellhounds charged with great bravery, their heads fell as I casually swung my blade through the air.

As always, I picked a head of a decent size and bit down into it.

[Hey…]

The taste was now as familiar as water itself.

The initial bitter flavor that I experienced the first time was now almost fragrant.

[Hey, Master…]

I wondered if I’d eventually start searching for blood rather than water.

If I ever got addicted to this, it’d be quite the trouble…

[Look behind you, you fool!!!]

A bellow loud enough to burst an eardrum caused me to drop the head I was holding.

Startled, I turned to Kayram, who was looking somewhere with a serious gaze.

“Ah, why would you scream all of a sudden while I’m eating…?” “Look at that! Didn’t I tell you that something amusing would happen~?”

“…!”

Humans have a limit to their memory; they can’t recall all their past experiences.

However, there are some memories that are so absolute that they cannot be forgotten no matter what.

Even in a life lived twice, that memory, that existence, that voice was unavoidable!

I hadn’t verified it yet, but I knew who this cocky voice belonged to.

Slowly turning my head, I followed Kayram’s gaze.

There, crouched on a low cliff, was a man looking down at me.

At the sight of his face, my 99% speculation became 100% certainty.

“You’re human, right?”

The man was grinning with a carefree smile.

Even though I found myself in the Demon Realm, the first demon I encountered had to be this guy?

Why on earth was this demon, no, this man here?

Demon King Belkarion.

The strongest in the Demon Realm, who had fought the most terrible blood battle with me in my previous life, was now right before my eyes.

------------------

Chapter 22: The Strongest in the Demon Realm (3)

Demon King Belkarian.

Those who had witnessed him during the war with the demon legions all agreed:

“It’s as if all evil in the world has been gathered into one place.”

He was a being who thoroughly negated the inner workings of sentiment (정), which according to legend the Creator had endowed all life with during the creation of the world.

An existence of such a level that it could not be fully expressed by any negative words, a being that gave a sense of incomprehensibility and rejection that could not be understood.

Even I, who had made a contract with a god, felt fear for the first time in the presence of this being.

Perhaps even the gods would fear this man.

The wild throbbing of my heart spoke for the current instability of my emotions.

“Are you human or not? Why aren’t you answering?”

Belkarian pressed for an answer at my lack of response.

“Are you mute? Or do you not understand what I’m saying?”

It was not that I did not understand; I heard every single word.

Belkarian, who had jumped off a cliff, landed casually on the ground where I stood.

“Judging by your appearance, you look like a young child, maybe 10 years old at most, but you’re quite daring. To kill a hellhound in one blow and even dare to drink its blood?”

With each step he took towards me, suppressed memories from the past surfaced.

The thrill of facing the strongest being.

The chilling cold penetrating to the bone and the rising bloodlust.

An overwhelming emotion was consuming my inner self – the belief that I had to pour everything into this, without thought for what came after.

I silently extended both hands forward.

“……?”

Crossed wrists and the pointed end of a sword aimed forward, two eyes set over the curved space.

I had adopted the optimal defensive stance considering all possible scenarios.

Watching this, Belkarian burst out laughing.

“Ha-ha! Isn’t this amusing? Hey, relax! Who told you to kill…!”

Belkarian’s mocking demeanor froze in an instant.

Only about ten steps separated the Demon King from me.

Although we were close enough to fall on each other, no more was permitted.

Even if not visible, a red circular boundary was already established around me.

If he took even one step further, he would enter into the domain of my killing sword (살검), which I had designed.

A smile returned to Belkarian’s face, which had been stiff just a moment before.

“The potential for growth of your race is indeed infinite, isn’t it?”

Responding to my murderous intent, an indescribable, formidable aura of killing intent rose from the body of the demon king.

“Do you want to fight me, little one?”

In his extended right hand, not mana, but another kind of energy was gathering.

A power that humans could not wield, unique to the demon race.

Both sides were prepared, and what remained was to see whose foot would step forward first.

[By the way, who is that?]

Kylam, who had been silently watching, finally spoke up.

“The Demon King.”

Contrary to expectation, she did not seem surprised.

It seemed she had already guessed his identity from the first time they met.

[Then is he the one who I destroyed even his soul in my past life?]

“Well, fundamentally speaking…”

To be precise, what Kylam had annihilated was not the Demon King himself, but the Death Sword (사검) that the Demon King possessed.

However, the Demon King did not hold the Death Sword in his hands now.

Upon scanning his entire body, there was nothing that seemed to resemble a sword.

Since it wasn’t a small blade like Kylam carried, it would certainly have been obvious if he had it.

Is he without it now?

[So, do you honestly think you can win with your body in such a mess?]

Honestly, the chances were not necessarily high even if I had said I didn’t have a chance.

As Kylam indicated, my body was not in a normal state at the moment.

Due to being caught up in various events throughout the night and using my power consistently, my energy was nearly exhausted.

My hand holding Kylam unknowingly trembled slightly.

This was an all-too-slim chance to gamble on…

Could I really win a fight against this Demon King now?

– Snap!

“……?”

Suddenly, the power that had been condensing in the Demon King’s hand dissipated in a flash.

Lifting my head in confusion, I saw him gesturing at me to stop with his hand.

“It’s fine, it’s fine. What would I gain from fighting a child as small as an acorn… Don’t be on your guard so much, kid.”

The killing intention that was once full to the brim in his eyes had disappeared.

I was hesitant, but I couldn’t let my guard down.

When I raised my sword even higher for alertness, the Demon King dropped to the ground in exasperation.

“I’m really not going to do anything! As much of a troublemaker as I am, I don’t bother kids! If it doesn’t work, shall we lay down and talk like this? Like this? Are you reassured now?”

The Demon King’s pathetic state was truly unlike what I expected.

Moved by his pleading, I unknowingly lowered my sword and relaxed my guard.

“You’re a suspicious little guy, aren’t you? But judging by this, you’re not the type to get backstabbed later on.”

“……!”

I flinched at the mention of a backstab, but did not show it and continued to gaze at him restrainedly.

“Now, let’s get back to the previous question, are you a human, kid?”

I nodded silently in reply.

“How did you end up here?”

“…I was swept away by the current.”

“Swept away by the current? So you came here involuntarily?”

After a moment’s hesitation, I nodded once more.

I had responded to his question, but he seemed to be asking purely out of curiosity, without any malice.

“Then what’s your real identity? You carry an unusual presence for someone who looks so young, ripe with killing intention.”

“An average human…”

I spoke, finding no suitable description.

“Heh! You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you? Why would a plain human drink the blood of a hellhound? That’s not even part of your diet. Or were you so hungry that you couldn’t see anything else?”

“Why should you care what someone else eats?”

I gave a brash reply that could provoke his emotions, but the Demon King retained his unchanging smile.

“The kid has quite a temper. True to what you say, it’s none of my business what you eat, but let’s say my warning was just a friendly advice. You’ve obviously had more than one or two, and who knows, the scent of that might attract some terrible beasts looking for you?”

I wasn’t surprised by the information; I was already aware of it.

Seeing my rather calm face, Belkarian looked puzzled for a moment and then tilted his head.

“Hey, kid. Despite my looks, I have quite a prestigious position in this land you’re standing on, you know? There isn’t a demon in this realm that doesn’t know me……”

That would be expected, living in the Demon Realm and not knowing the Demon King would be nonsensical.

“But you’re a human and not a demon, and it’s your first time here in the Demon Realm, right?”

I nodded one more time.

“So surely we have never met before, but your face now is quite peculiar? Even the way you were on guard earlier, it’s as if you know who I am……”

He was sharper than I thought.

To calm myself down, I swallowed the dry saliva in my mouth.

As I did, a streak of sweat that had trickled down from my head followed the path of my neck downwards.

“You… have you seen me before……?”

“No, we’ve never met.”

Of course, within this lifetime.

My response was quicker than his question, and while it could seem suspicious, he seemed to accept it.

“Anyway, children these days are exceptionally perceptive, aren’t they? Maybe humans have that kind of indifference?”

Frankly, I found it quite curious that I was having such a lighthearted conversation with Belkarian, the Demon King.

Under different circumstances, instead of conversing, he would have shattered my legs to block any escape, tortured me to extract what he wanted, and then callously discarded me…

Was this demon really the cruel Demon King that I knew?

“……Why were you here?”

For the first time since starting this conversation, I threw a question his way.

“Me? I was just patrolling nearby with a particularly nagging demon. In the meantime, I felt a strange aura from this gorge and decided to check it out. I never expected to find a human here, of all things.”

“Patrolling?”

“Yeah, patrolling! It’s routine for a Demon King like me to inspect the lands over which I rule. Though in reality, it’s tedious and often skipped, but this time I couldn’t avoid it because of that nag…”

His face suddenly contorted mid-sentence, as if he’d said something he shouldn’t have and was caught.

“Ki-kid. What, what did I just say?”

“That it’s routine to inspect the lands over which you rule as a Demon King?”

“Right, right…”

Belkarian seemed embarrassed and scratched his head.

“Aren’t you surprised?”

“About what?”

“I just admitted that I’m the Demon King, and you’re not surprised?”

“……”

“What? Do you really recognize me? Otherwise, even the most naive child would be startled to hear the term ‘Demon King.’ Have you lived all your life without hearing adults say that the Demon King will take you away if you don’t listen to your mother?”

What was this all about?

Certainly, the Demon King I was dealing with now was not the merciless sovereign I knew. Perhaps, even the Demon King had not been inherently evil from the start.

If I don’t significantly change the course of history, the invasion by the demon legion is yet to come.

If this casual, down-to-earth attitude was truly the Demon King’s original nature, what could have caused such a metamorphosis?

In the end, will I not be forced to fight the Demon King once changed again?

“Really, the more I look at you, the more peculiar you seem? Anyway, you need to return to where you came from, don’t you? If you go up against the stream, will that take you back?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Right, staying too long in a place that doesn’t suit you is just uncomfortable. Although our time was short, I’m pleased to have met you, kid. I’m not worried about you dealing with hellhounds, but be careful anyway.”

A gracious farewell wish. Was this really the end?

Could I safely make my way back?

This felt too anticlimactic compared to the urgency I had felt just moments ago.

As I turned away with my remaining sense of vigilance, my footsteps were hesitant.

It felt as if there was something very important I needed to ask.

“You……”

“Hm?”

“If you’re truly the Demon King……”

The dry saliva in my mouth was swallowed, and a clamorous thumping continued from my heart.

Turning my head once more to meet his gaze, I forced out the words that had risen to my throat.

“What do you want to do as the Demon King?”

A question that held much weight, and potentially a spark that could intertwine my future with this being known as the Demon King.

Belkarian looked at me with eyes wide with disbelief.

“This kid, I see now you’re not just daring but straightforward.”

He who had been holding his position, finally moved his foot and approached me.

The distance of ten steps was swiftly narrowed to just a finger’s breadth.

“You want to know what I want to do as the Demon King?”

The towering figure, easily twice my height, looked down at me with an elevated gaze.

“Isn’t it simple? I just want the beings under me to live well and be well. That’s the role I must fulfill as their king…… But!”

The spirited eyes of the youthful Demon King suddenly glittered, and the suppressed murderous aura within became vividly apparent.

The corners of his mouth curled upward, forming a sinister smile.

“If there are those who would obstruct that! Those who would cause harm beyond obstruction! Those who dare invade my land and bring suffering to my people! I will utterly annihilate them to atone for their sins! That is my duty as the sovereign and Demon King of this land!”

For a fleeting moment, I distinctly felt the malevolent true nature of Demon King Belkarian…

Even though various restraints held him now, those restraints could be released at any time, and that day would bring chaos to the world.

I wasn’t sure if I could prevent this predestined future.

One thought, however, remained clear in my mind.

“Demon King, won’t you make a deal with me?”

“A deal?”

Belkarian scratched his head at my sudden proposal.

“Whatever happens, there will be a massive change that could overturn your current mindset and bring about a drastic transformation. A change so profound it could turn the world upside down…”

“What sudden nonsense is this? Why would I intentionally…?”

“I don’t know what will happen. But I can assure you that you’ll change completely from who you are now because of it. And your transformation will also greatly impact our human world…”

Belkarian, appearing to realize that my words were no bluff, peered at me with a grave expression.

“Are you suggesting that I will invade your lands?”

“Let’s make a deal. No matter what happens, please don’t cross over to our lands.”

Belkarian snorted.

“Ha! You think you’re a prophet or something, kid? Suddenly making a deal is funny enough, but you want me not to cross over to your land? Fine, if I don’t cross over, what are you going to do for me, kid?”

“I’ll help you.”

He looked puzzled, as if he didn’t understand what I was offering.

“Help with what?”

“Everything. Whenever you face any crisis or difficulty, I’ll help you solve it. I’m sure I can be of great help.”

Belkarian kept his eyes fixed on me in silence for a while.

I, too, quietly waited for him to speak.

“Kid, what’s your name?”

“Sian Bert.”

“Sian Bert…”

He declared with a nod, “Good. As the master of the Demon Realm, I promise not to invade your lands, no matter what.”

Belkarian agreed easily to my proposal.

“However, you must follow through on your promise to assist me with anything. I detest those who break promises, whether they are children or adults.”

I simply nodded without saying a word.

Whether or not this deal would last into the near future, I wasn’t sure. But if we were to meet again, at least then, I should not have to clash swords with the Demon King.

Best of all, perhaps it would be that we never met again…

With this hope, I made my way back to the front lines.

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