Chapter 4:

Chapter 4

I Was Tasked With Defeating The Demon Lord, But For Some Reason, She Is Now My Girlfriend!?

“How?”Bookmark here

Krystal had asked several times in the last hour alone, and it was a question growing more frequent as time ticked on. Though she was asking no one in general, it seemed increasingly pointed at me.Bookmark here

We had been traveling for several hours into this day and it was the second day of our journey so far. While we were deep into the forest separating much of the Human civilization from the Demon border out on the far horizon was a single black shaft rising into the air. The top most spire of the newly created Stronghold on our doorstep.Bookmark here

Krystal and I were not alone as we took a single unit of well-trained soldiers as defense on our trip to the castle, but none of them would be joining past the fortress walls. And that felt further overkill the longer we traveled. I know I get lost easily but even I couldn’t miss something that massive… right?Bookmark here

“Why you, of all people? How can this possibly be?”Bookmark here

I would love to know that myself…Bookmark here

What I really wanted to know was how I was going to solve this massive problem before me. Because if I didn’t come up with an answer soon, well... I wouldn’t live long either way.Bookmark here

“I mean, if anyone was supposed to be a chosen hero to defeat a Demon Lord it would be Dad. He is capable of taking a few down, right? Or maybe old man Magnus would still be a good choice? But no. It has to be you, sticking your nose into trouble again. Why?”Bookmark here

“You do know I would never choose this for myself, right? So please, stop chewing my ear off, I have enough problems as it is. Don’t add to it.”Bookmark here

I have never seen Krystal’s head whip around so quickly just to glare at me. Like a torrent of blue furry. “You want another chokehold on top of it?” The miasma of terror was nearly visible flowing out of her.Bookmark here

I turned away as quickly as possible, pretending as if I hadn’t said anything in the first place. I tried to whistle while feigning ignorance, but I seemed to have forgotten how to whistle from being this terrified for my life.Bookmark here

At that Krystal sighed loudly, and whipped the horses to keep them on track. “I wish I could go with you. Or someone, at least. There is no way you can do this alone. No one really can. Demons are just that destructive. And this is a Royal? The highest class of Demon there is? There is no way this Prophecy is true. You are going to be sacrificed. And for what? Nothing!”Bookmark here

I didn’t want to turn and look at Krystal. But I was able to hear her leather gloves tighten around the reins of the cart she was steering. She was frustrated, that was obvious in her constant complaints that she dished out at me. But it was reassuring to hear she was frustrated on my behalf. That did make me feel ever so slightly better about my situation.Bookmark here

“It's the Prophecy.” I still kept my eyes out on the wilderness stretching out in every direction around us instead of upsetting Krystal by looking at her again. “It said it was me who would slay the Demon Lord and me alone. They are apparently always right. There is no getting out of it now.”Bookmark here

“GAAAHHH!!!” Krystal screamed loudly and stomped her feet wildly, enough to cause the horses to buck from being startled and the cart to be jolted around. I was startled as well, causing me to duck and cover my head from potential wild punches in coming, but none landed. “I don’t want to hear about any prophecy ever again! I want to strangle that bitch for opening her damn mouth. She could’ve just stayed quiet and everything would be so much better now! AHHH! Why!?”Bookmark here

I sighed in frustration with her. If only Delphai had not predicted it was me to defeat the Demon Lord, maybe someone might have been sent in to take care of the threat. But now I was given this Quest and could not turn it down. That was the end of all arguments. Bookmark here

“Maybe everything will go well?”Bookmark here

Krystal looked over at me with a look that screamed she thought I was losing my mind. Maybe I was?Bookmark here

“I mean, Archbishop Britedon said that every single Prophecy comes true in the end, right? And it said I was the sole person capable of killing the Demon Lord, so with that being said, I should survive fine right?”Bookmark here

“No, you idiot!” Krystal yelled in retort in less than a second from when I finished my musings, “I thought of that too already. But it doesn’t say you live, it just says you defeat the Demon Lord, nothing about you coming back alive. What if you end up like Benjamin Kay in the end?”Bookmark here

Benjamin Kay was a fierce hero of legend from almost a thousand years ago. Long story short he, a giant of a man from that time, held off an army of Elves at a bridge just wide enough for a few to come across at a time, thus well within his limits to handle them on his own. The opposing general got wise to his tactics and ordered arrows to be fired at him from a distance, but he kept marching forward taking arrows as he moved unflinchingly. Bookmark here

This terrified the soldiers, who ran from the idea that he was immortal. As he crossed the bridge, the Elf general ran in terror as well. When his comrades came to join him still standing on the other side they found he had died where he stood. He had won the battle on his own, but at the cost of his own life.Bookmark here

“I…” It finally started sinking in what was worrying Krystal the most, “I never thought of that. My bad.”Bookmark here

“That’s because you never think, you only do.” Krystal huffed, arching her shoulders up as she spoke, “You are so smart. So why do you keep doing stupid things and need me to bail you out every time? And now there is nothing I can do. So why? Why do you keep doing this to me?”Bookmark here

“I- '' I wanted to reassure Krystal that I could pull through somehow. But she was right. Every time I got lost or in over my head somewhere along the line, if it wasn’t Father coming to my rescue, it was Krystal who was right there to give me a helping hand. I was practically lost in life without her.Bookmark here

I wanted to reassure Krystal, but I was too busy trying to find a way to reassure myself.Bookmark here

“-n away…”Bookmark here

“Huh? What did you say?” Krystal had spoken under breath, quietly enough for only me to hear but no one else to ever be the wiser.Bookmark here

“Let’s run away. Just you and me.”Bookmark here

My eyes went wide from hearing her better. “What are you talking about? You can’t be serious!”Bookmark here

I had done my best to shush her and my voice so it was impossible to tell what we were saying. Because if any of the guards had, it wouldn’t be long until both of our necks would be on the chopping block.Bookmark here

“It's the only way.” Krystal turned to me, leaning in close to beg me, “There is no way you will live this and I… I won't be able to live with myself to know you were dead and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Please, don’t go, stay with me!”Bookmark here

As she finished her plea, tears began to well in her eyes and spill over uncontrollably. In my many years playing with, and being played with by this girl, not once had I seen her cry. No amount of pain she had endured had caused her to shed a single tear. Or least not in front of me. But now she was begging me to not go off to die and it brought her to cry in front of me. Bookmark here

What can I do? What can I even say to that face?
Bookmark here

I took a hold of one of her hands, held it up high between us, squeezing it like when we would make promises when we were kids. Krystal, probably realizing what I was doing, blinked away her tears and tried to give a smile but it never made it past her quivering lips.Bookmark here

“Is there anywhere safe for us to go?” I asked, doing my best to bring my best friend in the world back down to reality, “There is nowhere we could safely go where we wouldn’t be traitors to the crown.”Bookmark here

She tried to speak up but I cut her off before she was able to finish the first syllable. “Besides, what would it look like if the second highest ranking Guard in the whole Kingdom defected on her way to face the Demon Lord? Every citizen would lose faith in our ability to keep them safe. There would be turmoil in every town.”Bookmark here

I watched her mouth open and close repeatedly as she tried to rebuff my words, but it all ended in vain.Bookmark here

“You are Krystal Scarlet. You never run from a challenge. No matter how bad the odds look, you always charge in with a smile on your face and hope in your heart. You need to keep that strength. If you can’t do that for anyone else, can you at least do it for me?”Bookmark here

I kept her hand tight and shook it like how we would finish our promises. Krystal’s face contorted several times, trying desperately to land on a singular emotion, any emotion other than sadness. Finally it came to a pout, one of defiance. She huffed hard and turned her shoulder to me.Bookmark here

“Why are you such an idiot?” was what she said as her shoulders trembled silently.Bookmark here

I didn’t release her hand, not for a long time afterwards.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

 Towards the end of the third day, we had finally arrived at the base of the massive stone fortress known only as the Demon Stronghold. The massive towers rose high in the sky competing with the birds of the sky as to who had dominion of the air above.Bookmark here

Though it towered higher than anything humans had ever attempted to build, in the end it was not all that large at the base for a castle. From what I knew, castles usually were made as defensive points for towns. Yes, those of royalty made it their home, but the courtyards were large enough to keep entire towns and nearby villages safe and protected in case of worsening situations.Bookmark here

This building on the other hand was one large castle structure that seemed to only be for residence of the nobles, none else.Bookmark here

Furthermore, castles, including one of this magnitude, aren't built in a day. And yet this alone seemed to appear right under the Border Guards noses. How is still unknown.Bookmark here

Even stranger still was the eerie silence to which we arrived there. It was as if every life had left the area in a bid to see another day. Nothing was brave enough to come near the Stronghold. Only us, who are mostly brave, but more importantly, held by oath to see the mission through.Bookmark here

“This is as far as I can take you, Lawrence.”Bookmark here

I turned around from facing the giant stone facade to see my childhood friend one last time. Though she stood there tall and proud as a soldier of her caliber should, I could tell she was putting on the bravest front she was capable of.Bookmark here

“Just know every man standing before you would gladly join you to take down the Demon Lord in order to protect everyone in the Human Nation. But, if we do, we could be breaking the Prophecy and there might be death that could have been easily avoided.” She had started strong, but the longer she spoke the more she began to tremble. In the end, she clenched her fists and lowered her head to hide her tears behind her bangs.Bookmark here

Seeing her like this made me clench down on my magic staff harder. I had to be strong. Not only was the entire human race depending on me now, but Krystal was doing her damnedest to not show her worries to her men or me.Bookmark here

“I know, I-”Bookmark here

I was cut off by Krystal running head first into me and wrapping me in the tightest hug I had received yet. Funny enough, it didn’t hurt, but surprised me that she was breaking her brave face so easily.Bookmark here

“I don’t care!” She finally broke down crying, “Just don’t say ‘goodbye’. Say you will come back and actually do it! Got it?”Bookmark here

A warm feeling filled me to the brim. So much so, I was unable to help but smile and pat the head of my childhood friend reassuringly.Bookmark here

“I promise! I will be back, safe and sound. I promise.”Bookmark here

She tightened around me once again before finally letting me go. She stood up right again and gave a mighty salute as she sucked up her tears with all her might. Behind her, each of our traveling party of soldiers came to attention and gave a salute to match.Bookmark here

I know I already had the warm and fuzzies, but this was becoming too much, as I was sure I was blushing hard at this point. I could only bow, a sign of high respect taught to me by my father, and thanked them for all they had done for me so far.Bookmark here

“I will return. Until then…”Bookmark here

I turned to make my leave. Once my back was to them I heard the men each begin to cheer, calling me a hero amongst other praises. I didn’t want to turn back as I am sure I would lose heart if I did, so I took one final breath on this side of safety and began to make my way to the Stronghold.Bookmark here

“Don’t do anything stupid!” was the last thing I heard from Krystal before making my way into the demon’s fortress.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

I had slipped through with relative ease. In fact, I might say it was too easy. I had found the gates down and no guards patrolling the front, so I should have easily sauntered in if I had wanted to. Bookmark here

Not that I had wanted to, but I did sneak my way in. Hugging tight to the shadows that were plentiful in this ill-lit fortress, and only when I felt sure no guards were around I moved into the lights provided by the numerous lamps of magic stones. I was amazed by their sheer number, as magic stones were rare and hard to find normally but there was more than I had seen in my life amongst the many corridors.Bookmark here

As I creaked carefully open yet another door, I found myself in another massive room, much larger than the tower seemed to be able to accommodate. I had only gone up a few flights at this point but each one seemed to get bigger and bigger that it boggled my mind each time I tried to map my exit mentally. Bookmark here

And I became increasingly worried the longer I moved about the passageways. I had been in here for nearly half an hour it seemed and not once had I seen any signs of life. Decorated foyers, feast halls fully furnished, and nearly endless hallways with several knight statues lining the walls, and not a single breath taken other than by me.Bookmark here

Slowly I began to explore more openly, but I was further curious about what this could mean than for my safety. Could this be a trap? Might this is a diversion? Is it possible the Demons expect an army to arrive here and then invade from somewhere else entirely?Bookmark here

The more I tried to figure things out, the better I thought that maybe it was a good idea the King had only sent me on this Quest. If this was a front for an incoming assault, then this might be the safest place for me to be at the moment.Bookmark here

Maybe the Prophecy might be wrong?Bookmark here

Have you ever thought something and then instantly wanted to smack yourself for having thought it? Well, that is exactly how I felt as I pushed my way through a set of large, steel double-doors. The room was massive and light in a bloody orange color of the setting sun filling the dozens of windows lining the room. Between the windows were large red tapestries that reached from the floor to the ceiling high above. A lone red carpet stretched from my feet to a chair raised high on the far end of the room. Bookmark here

The chair was black as coal and seemed to be made of spiked serpents frozen into place. Sitting prominently in the chair was a woman in an elegant red dress and a black leather sleeveless overcoat. Her magenta hair flashed and flickered in the falling sunlight as if it was sparking with fire. From out the side of her head came two twisting black horns.Bookmark here

“Oh? A Hero has arrived?”Bookmark here

Her voice curled my blood as she spoke. It was so sweet and elegant, but was in a tone that a tiger would say to its prey. Bookmark here

“I have been expecting you.”Bookmark here

Marshall Eastman
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