A relieved expression on his face despite how weary and haggard he looked, the older man being supported by Frau and Katie made a solemn declaration for all to hear.
“We are your king, Joe J. Skycastle VIII. Everything we say next will be a royal decree.”
At his words, everyone with the exception of the Demon Lord and Berunal knelt before the king.
“The united army of Ceramics, Wisdom, and Wheat Grace will retreat immediately.”
Once again Wisdom’s Alphonse and Wheat Grace’s Ferdinand bowed their heads. However the lord of Ceramics never showed himself.
But the King continued on.
“Hero Gray. From this moment on, there will be no connection between you and the Skycastle royal family. Young Hero, you may live wherever you so choose.”
The Demon Lord had held no interest in what was going on until now. At this new order, he turned his head to the King and sarcastically asked,
“Hey king of the Almerian continent, do you not need the Hero’s divine protection anymore?”
The King gave a slow but measured response.
“Demon Lord, if you truly wish to conquer the world, the Hero will stop you. That fact doesn’t change whether the royal family has him under our thumb or not. Is that different from what you were expecting?”
The Demon Lord snorted happily. He then turned towards the Hero and gave his own ridiculous decree.
The Hero and Ellis both turned towards the Demon Lord at the same time when they heard his voice.
“The Hero and the King have both moved just as I wanted them to. This guy’s the last obstacle.”
Ellis muttered to herself in her heart, waiting for what the Demon Lord was going to say next. And he moved exactly as she hoped he would.
“Oi Mother-con, stop being the hero. Stop aiming to kill me. Do that, and I’ll give up on trying to conquer the world.”
The Demon Lord’s sudden declaration made every soldier in the Warren army, the united Ceramics army, and even the Hero take a step back. Ellis was the only one who reacted differently, doing a small guts pose beneath anybody’s notice.
The obviously surprised Hero removed his head from Marionetta’s chest and tried questioning the Demon Lord’s true motives.
“Are you really fine with this after making that declaration to the entire continent? Aren’t you taking this decision a little lightly?”
“Yeah, I never really had any interest on conquering the world. I was more focused on killing you before you came to kill me. Because of my subordinates’ incompetence, I was summoned to this world without any of my memories. So well, I’d really like to spend all my time here enjoying myself.”
Ellis was gloating to herself. After all the Demon Lord was moving exactly as she had expected him to. But she still had to make sure, so Ellis put on a small play.
“But Demon Lord, what about all the remaining demons?”
“Ah, I’ll release all those guys from being my subordinates. But, I won’t kill all of them. Maybe some of those demons will choose to enjoy their lives? But that doesn’t apply to these guys here.”
The Demon Lord answered Ellis’s question with a serious face before pondering something for a second and raising his right hand.
A few soldiers from Ceramics’s army started to scream as they floated up into the air. Among these soldiers was Ceramics’s lord who had hidden himself within his army. Subsequently, each of them was returned to their true, demonic forms by the Demon Lord’s will.
“These guys ignored my orders, so I’ll deal with them personally.”
Making his declaration, the Demon Lord then addressed the demons lightly floating through the air.
“You all, didn’t I order you to not attack Warren?”
Every single one of the demons floating in the air nodded their heads.
“Then why have you disobeyed my orders?”
“That’s because, ah, oh yeah, that’s right. It’s all Zabine and Zaspard’s fault! All we did was accept their invitation!”
“Ah gotcha. That’s really sad for you.”
“It is right? So please be merciful.”
“Yeah okay. I can sympathize with you guys actually.”
The Demon Lord raised his left hand.
The pitiable demons floating in the air were all instantaneously turned to dust and carried off by the wind.
“That should be good enough right? I made sure there was no pain involved.”
The Demon Lord then turned towards Berunal.
“Just who are these Zabine and Zaspard?”
Berunal had to think for a moment, but with a clap of her hands, she was able to answer the Demon Lord once she had finally remembered.
“Zabine is a nightmare succubus and Zaspard is a nightmare incubus. They’re two of our top executives.”
“Hmph, then they need to be punished as well.”
“Um, Demon Lord”
“Huh? Oh, Bell is just fine, er, Ellis? Is this the first time you’ve spoken to me? Thank you for always taking such good care of Berunal.”
“Please don’t mind it. It’s no trouble at all. By the way, please don’t get mad.”
“Hm? What happened?”
“So, if Zabine is a nightmare succubus and Zaspard is a nightmare incubus, it’s possible they might already be dead.”
As Ellis shrunk back from him as if she were afraid, the Demon Lord tried processing her words in his head while turning to Berunal.
“Were they weak?”
“They were more or less my number two and three.”
The Demon Lord once again turned towards Ellis.
“Did Ellis beat them?”
“No, it was the dragons.”
“I see. Well, I don’t really care.”
Putting pointless details aside, the Demon Lord turned back towards the Hero.
“So if you quit being the Hero, I’ll quit being the Demon Lord. But I’m not going to apologize or try to ‘atone’ for the murdering or looting my men have already committed. And I’m not going to take responsibility for anything those other demons do once I’ve given up control of them. I’ll leave dealing with them to the rest of you. So how about it? If you don’t like it, we can always restart our fight.”
Everyone there turned their gazes towards the Hero.
But Gray remained silent. He was kneeling down in front of Marionetta, his face once again buried in her chest. Marionetta’s hands and her heartbeat gently wrapped around his head.
The Hero, Gray, was troubled. He couldn’t decide what the right answer was. What does it even mean to stop being the Hero in the first place? It was a question that was too hard for Gray to figure out.
But then the mage Marionetta lifted the Hero’s face off of her chest. She knelt down on the ground next to him and looked him right in the eyes.
“You don’t need to be the Hero to be on the people’s side. Gray, you’re my hero.”
She leaned in, placing her lips on top of his, calming the Hero’s nerves. Afterwards she brought her lips to his ear and whispered a small spell to him.
Marionetta pushed on his back, and Gray rose to his feet. With a puffed out chest, Gray turned towards the Demon Lord.
“A world without a Demon Lord doesn’t need a Hero. I’ll be an ally of the weak no matter what. My name is Gray! Complaints be damned!”
After a moment of silence, the surrounding crowds exploded with delight.
“So, is this place truly a paradise?”
When Katie had first been put in charge of supporting the King, she had spent a good deal of time talking up Hope Coast. Now as the King continued wasting away and looking closer and closer to death, he asked her about it a second time to which she replied with a wide smile.
“I promise nya. We’ll give the tattered, constantly played with King our best room nya. We’ll start by restoring your stamina with some fish porridge and a round of sunbathing nya.”
“I see, it sounds fun.”
“You’re not the King anymore, so you should loosen your shoulders and enjoy life nya.”
“That’s right. I feel bad for Jack, but I think I’ll do just that.”
The King made a wry smile for his younger brother who should be struggling to fix things in the capitol even as they speak.
“Alphonse, what should we do with Ceramics?”
“We can appoint their highest ranking general as the acting commander once things have calmed down. Things would be difficult if we tried anything now.”
“In that case I’ll take care of them for the time being.”
“Thank you for doing so, Ferdinand.”
After a brief conversations, Alphonse and Ferdinand agreed that Ferdinand would take care of the 5000 Ceramics troops who had just lost their lord.
Ordering his own 500 men to follow him, Ferdinand took a position in front of the Ceramics army. The soldiers had already been surprised by the long march they had been made to take, and now that it has been revealed that their lord was replaced by a demon, their morale had fallen to the pits.
“Hmm, they can’t return to Ceramics like this.”
Ferdinand grabbed the doll hanging at his waist and started talking into it.
“Maria, can you hear me?”
“Loud and clear Ferdinand.”
“Can you prepare enough alcohol for 5000 people?”
“Leave it to me. It’ll be a piece of cake compared to making 18,000 meals a day.”
Once his conversation was over, Ferdinand yelled as loud as he could so that as many of Ceramics’s soldiers could hear him as possible.
“Yosh, we’re going to rest here for the day! Warren’s gone on and prepared us some alcohol! The rest of the day is going to be a no-holds-barred party inside the city!”
The men from Wheat Grace scattered out, explaining what was going on to all the soldiers who either couldn’t hear what Ferdinand was saying or didn’t know what he meant.
“It’s been a tiring day, so let’s cut loose and enjoy ourselves.”
“Let’s start by moving all these supplies. It’ll be easy with this many people.”
“That guy’s our general. He’s an old coot who can’t get enough of parties.”
Thanks to the carefree smiles of the Wheat Grace soldiers, the men from Ceramics could finally relax a little.
Everyone was finally convinced that this country-wide battle was finished. The tension in the air suddenly softened.
“So Margherita, I’m going to release the other demons in a bit. Prepare yourself because I’m coming by your place later.”
“I’ll sprinkle some salt at the entrance. I wonder if I should hang some garlic too.”
Now that things had calmed down, the Demon Lord and Margherita returned to their bickering.
“Gray, let’s go home.”
“Of course, of course. Sorry, sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for? Starting tomorrow, let’s share a cup of tea and think about what to do from now on.”
Marionetta and Gray slowly started back towards their apartment.
“Well well, that’s one problem settled.
Ellis took one last glance towards Marionetta and Gray before joining back up with Reeve, Frau, Katie, and Claire. They had all gathered together in the sky, ready to guide the former king to his new residence.
But suddenly there was a loud crack in the air loud enough to shatter somebody’s eardrums.
There was a bright flash of light as Berunal burst apart.
Afterwards, a large swirling hole formed in the sky above Warren.