50. The Moon Rabbit Siblings (7)
The sun reached the tips of their toes.
A small wisp of white smoke appeared. Her toenails turned black and shriveled up, the rest of her feet soon following suit. The ashes that remained soon disappeared without a trace. The sun continued to rise and its light crawled up their feet, their knees, and then their thighs.
The Vampires cried out in agony. Their faces turned bat-like as they screamed, but there was no one there that showed any sympathy for them. Karina’s face turned back into that of a human’s and she cried tears of blood.
“S-save me! I’ll do anything! I’ll even be your slave! I’ll follow any order you give! I’ll even betray my brother! So, please… save…”
Karina’s face grew stiff as she spoke. Tom was smiling at her with great satisfaction. As he stood amidst 40 or so Vampires all crying out horrendously in agony, he appeared to be enjoying the scene. His clear, golden eyes looked pure and innocent, but that made his expression that much more terrifying. The sight of her being extinguished had no effect on him.
She knew at that moment that there was something seriously wrong with the man. He was twisted.
‘This bastard is crazy!
Groveling didn’t even phase him, so her goals quickly changed. She turned to Demon Lord Lily.
Lily didn’t avert her gaze. She held to her conviction to watch until the very end, but her hands and pupils trembled as she met Karina’s gaze. Karina didn’t miss these cues.
‘I-I can still live! There’s still a chance that I can survive!’
If she begged and struggled then she was sure that the Demon Lord would save her due to how soft her heart was. It may not have worked on Tom, but the Demon Lord was another matter.
Sunlight reached her lower body and began to turn it to ash. She was slowly being extinguished. She realized that her time was running out so she began to shout desperately.
“Aaaah! Your Majesty! The highest of all highnesses! I, Karina of the lowly Vampire tribe, begs you! Please save me!”
Lily twitched uncomfortably after hearing Karina’s pleading. Ellin, noticing Lily’s reaction, stepped in front of her and glared at Karina.
“Shut your dirty mouth, Vampire!”
Ellin growled angrily, but Karina did not relent. She had nothing to lose with her life on the line the way it was.
“Your Highness! I beg of you! P-please! Give me a chance to show you my dedication! Please! Just this once! Shade me from this accursed sun! If you do so, I shall lower my head and kiss your feet as a show of loyalty!”
The sunlight reached her chest. Her feet had already disintegrated into ash leaving behind nothing but her blackened bones. Her lower body had been completely destroyed. Her bountiful chest rose up and down with every breath, but as it began to shrivel and turn to ash, her ribcage began to show. Karina became even more desperate as she was faced with her impending death.
“Please! I beg of you! Your highness! I… please… beg… beg you! Please… Anything… I’ll do anything! I beg you! I said I beg you!”
Abruptly, Karina’s tone changed.
“You damned bitch! You crazy slut! I’m begging you! I’m groveling before you! Kyaaah! I’m dying! Q-quickly… save me!”
Her expression had gone through a series of phases. It had turned from earnest to despairing, then finally into resentment. She directed all her anger toward Demon Lord Lily as she cried tears of blood.
Karina’s body was slowly being consumed in flame.
Lily’s eyes grew wide. When the sun seared across the vampire’s neck and reached her chin, Karina’s expression changed once more.
“Aah… I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! Honest! I’ll apologize… so… save me!”
As Lily watched this, she saw it as a sincere apology and an expression of regret. She began to move instantly. She pulled Ellin behind her and frantically ran over towards the vampires. She tried to reach out to some of them, but she found herself clutching only what was left of their clothes as they faded away.
As they all died, Lily ran over towards Karina and tried to block the sunlight from reaching her face. However, someone abruptly walked in front of her.
Tom kept his back to Lily as he grabbed Karina’s neck.
“You talk too much.”
Karina’s eyes grew wide.
Tom grabbed onto her neck right then. Karina’s head was ripped free from the rest of her body along with the majority of her spine, and her face was exposed directly to the sunlight. It completely burned through. Karina’s pained expression faded in an instant as all the skin on her face vanished.
Tom carelessly tossed her remains―her skull with a section of her spine still attached― over to Karakul.
“You have to perform her rites, yes?”
Karakul wordlessly lifted her skull. His eyes turned to Tom who smiled back.
“Then… send that to Bludifer,” Tom said. “I’m sure he’ll carefully hold the rites for her.”
“Just what did you…!”
When Lily tried to shout at him, Tom smiled at her. On the surface, it looked like a truly friendly and amicable smile, but the only thing that Lily could feel from it in this situation was cruelty and violence.
“Your Highness. You’re too naive.”
“Yes. Truly naive.”
They cut down the surrounding trees and placed the remains of the dead Vampires into newly-built coffins. As their flesh and muscles along with their organs had all turned to ash leaving only their blackened bones behind, it wasn’t all that difficult moving them. As such, Orcs couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the Vampires as they moved the remains. They carefully organized the skull, humerus and femur, vertebrae and pelvis of each one into the coffins. Karakul retained his formality toward the dead as he watched the Orcs.
He turned his gaze to Tom.
“Wouldn’t it have been better to leave her alive?”
“Mm? Ah, I decided that it was too dangerous to leave that woman alive. Do you really believe that there could be a shred of loyalty to the Demon Lord from someone that would betray her own brother?”
“But if we used her, we could have negotiated with Bludifer to free the Apostles that have been cursed.”
“But if we did that the Vampires would just return to hiding in the shadows. They’d bide their time for the next opportunity to strike. In that case, isn’t it better to take this chance to sweep away all those that defy the Demon Lord?”
Karakul was lost for words hearing his reply. ‘Those that defied the Demon Lord’ didn’t feel like it was restricted to just Bludifer.
“May I ask if you’re planning on killing the Apostles as well?”
“I could if I felt like it, but as you said, looking at the abilities of the various races, it’d be a bit of a waste to just throw them all away. Currently, they don’t have any fealty to the Demon Lord, but if the Demon Lord manages to defeat Bludifer and forces him to his knees, they might change their minds.”
‘Did he plan things that far ahead back when he let the Vampires go?’
Karakul finally realized the reason Tom had let the Vampires go during the Hero’s invasion. He wanted the unification of the Demon Kingdom. To completely unify them under one rule. Regardless of the process, what his master before him cared for most was the ‘result’. It meant that no matter who died, no matter how many were sacrificed, all of these things would be completed with Demon Lord Lily at the center.
“Well, I’m giving them a chance because the other Apostles showed her respect out of formality, but the Vampires did not. They were aiming for her from the start. I repay those that show kindness with kindness, but those that show hostility with hostility. Isn’t that just common sense?”
“You will be hated by Her Highness.”
Karakul sighed deeply in his mind.
“In any case… are you planning on sending it back looking like that?”
Tom turned to the Orcs, who by now were raising the coffins onto a rickety-looking wagon.
“I was considering whether to decorate it with flowers.”
“He would appreciate that.”
Tom shook his head sarcastically.
“Cover it in silk with the Demon Lord’s crest. We’re treating it as a formal message; at least do that much.”
When Karakul looked confused, Tom grew quiet.
“I’m talking about a mark that symbolizes the Demon Kingdom, the mark of the Demon Lord.”
“There is no such thing. We Orcs have a flag that our tribe uses, but there is nothing that represents the kingdom.”
“There is no flag?”
“Is it necessary?”
Tom pressed on his temples. Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t seen a flag in the past when he’d invaded the Demon Lord’s castle. He didn’t think about it much back then, but as he was involved with the kingdom now, he began to realize the importance of such a symbol.
Karakul was definitely one of the wisest and contemplative Orcs out there. He had the talent necessary as an individual warrior and as the chief of a tribe, but lacked the knowledge and forethought required to lead an ‘army’ or a ‘nation’.
“A symbol is one of the basic mediums needed to unify people on a national level. Each tribe would do their own thing without one.”
As they lacked the identity of a unified organization, they wouldn’t care about helping each other. It was one of the main reasons that the Demon Kingdom was so powerful, yet found themselves being slaughtered all the time by the humans and having their leaders murdered.
“Take some time later to discuss it with the Demon Lord to properly create one. Along with a set of rules for the kingdom as well.”
Karakul tried to think of some symbols of Hell and groaned. Other than martial arts, he didn’t have any talent for the art.
The image of the execution moments ago swam in Lily’s head. Karina had been begging for her life. To be saved. That she was sorry. However, Lily had not been able to save her. Of course, she knew that begging alone would not have absolved Karina of her crimes, but at the very least, shouldn’t she have been given a chance?
‘Your Highness. You are too naive.’
“Am I too naive? Is that it?”
Lily asked the Moon Rabbit Siblings beside her. They stood in their servant’s outfits with their heads lowered toward her.
“Not at all.”
“Your Highness is always friendly and amicable.”
She felt a little reassured by their words.
‘I’m tired. I couldn’t sleep at all because of the Vampire invasion.’
She thought of Tom and frowned.
“Could it be… he hates me?”
She began to suspect that the strangely familiar man might hate her. She felt that their distance was intentionally being grown every time she tried to get close to him. It was like that in this case as well. The feeling that he disliked her in particular because she was the Demon Lord.
‘Was he disappointed? Had he come here with high expectations and instead found someone like me as the Demon Lord? Why does he hate me?’
Lily laid on the bed and used her plushy slime as a pillow, burying her face into it. Her face softly indented its gel-like flesh.
‘I don’t like being hated.’
She definitely didn’t like the feeling of being hated. As someone who had been on the receiving end of so much hatred by the other Apostles, she felt that it was one of the worst feelings. The feeling of trying her best to meet expectations, yet still being ignored. It felt like she was invisible. Like air. However, this time, it was a bit different. She really didn’t want to associate the word hatred with that man.
She felt a completely new feeling swell within her. Nostalgia. His golden locks and eyes. She felt like she had met him somewhere before, in the past.
‘Where did I see him? This feeling… like I’ve seen him… met him…’
Exhaustion slowly washed over her and her crimson eyes began to shut… she was drifting asleep.
The Moon Rabbit siblings who noticed this jumped up and looked at each other.
“I’ll read you a story!”
“I’ll hug you warmly!”
Lulu quickly raised a storybook while Luli entered the bed and embraced her. They were truly a pair of like-minded siblings. Despite their activities, Lily’s eyes shut due to exhaustion.
“A long, long time ago… there was a certain Ajin girl. She…”
Lulu continued reading his story.
‘Long time ago…? An Ajin girl?’
“And so… then… A… He…”
Luli embraced Lily tightly. Lily reciprocated her embrace by warmly hugging back. Luli’s eyes twitched as she playfully dug into Lily even deeper. As Lily enjoyed the sensation of Luli’s soft, white hair and her long rabbit ears, she felt relieved.
“… said. I’ll protect… A vow…”
Lily fell into a deep sleep in the middle of Lulu’s story.
There was an Ajin girl amidst the flowers deep in the forest. A girl with small horns, a tiny frame, red eyes, and copper skin.
‘… Is that me?’
The girl turned around.
There was a man. A golden-haired man with bright, golden eyes.
‘Tom? Why is Tom…?’
He was sobbing on his knees and looking as though he had just managed to escape from a truly horrendous nightmare. The Ajin girl who saw this approached him. The man embraced her. He embraced her softly as though he was holding onto something precious, and he said something to her.
‘I’ll protect you! I’ll protect you no matter what happens, Ellie!’
That was some kind of a vow. A vow to protect her. Dozens of years later, Tom had made that same vow to Lily.
Lily shouted as her red eyes shot open.
“I’ve met him!”
Luli who had been embracing her jumped back in surprise and Lulu dropped his book. The siblings watched her in confusion.
“Your Highness? What’s wrong?”
“Did you have a nightmare?”
The siblings’ eyes held great concern. However, Lily didn’t have the time to think about that. Because she had remembered and could barely contain her thoughts.
She had met him! A long time ago! Dozens of years ago in fact! She didn’t remember it clearly, but it was definitely near the human territories! At the flower beds near Lania, the city that the humans abandoned! That was where she had met Tom, the Devil of Lania!
“That was it! And…”
He had embraced her younger self warmly and lovingly. She had felt so comfortable and sweet that she still hadn’t forgotten about it all these years later.
“He… embraced you? E-embraced you tight?!”
Her bestial ears stood tall and faintly trembled.
“Should I hold you too?”
When Luli asked with her head tilted in concern, Lulu pressed down on his sister’s head.
“N-now that I think about it when she asked what his desires were it was definitely…”
‘Let me protect you.’
He had come to keep the promise that he had made to her dozens of years ago.
She sat dumbly. The strange sensation that she was some kind of protagonist in some dumb romance novel for girls surrounded her. Her heart was filled with doubts. At that moment, the name he had shouted stuck out in her mind.
“Who… is Ellie?”
Her throat tightened as she uttered that strange name. Anxiety pressed down upon her like a hammer.
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