Chapter 18:

I am the Demon Lord. (1)

The Hero Who Returned Remains Traumatized in the Modern World

What would you do if you saw a dead cat on the side of the road?Bookmark here

Would you pick it up and give it a proper burial? Maybe even go as far as to mourn it.Bookmark here

Or would you ignore it as something that was simply not your business? Leave it there, and maybe tell your friends about it later, explaining how “gross” or “sad” it was to see.Bookmark here

If you answered yes to either one of those, congratulations. You’re a normal, sane human.Bookmark here

In fact, if you answered something entirely different, chances are that you’re still mostly sane. It being my job to study and care for sane, adolescent humans, I would certainly know.Bookmark here

If you weren’t human, here’s an example of what you might do.Bookmark here

You might pick it up, thinking that an average, sane human would be disgusted by such a thing. They would likely be sad, and not want to see it in such a place. So it’s only natural to pick it up and remove it, right? Even if it wasn’t a cat; a previously living being that humans love to care for; it’s still just a sack of meat that’s likely already gone bad.Bookmark here

Either way, it’s trash.Bookmark here

So that’s what I did. Thinking in such a way that wasn’t human, but instead poorly mimicking one, I put the cat into a nearby food waste bin.Bookmark here

“Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing!?”Bookmark here

A voice.Bookmark here

Female, likely between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.Bookmark here

It came from directly behind me.Bookmark here

The emotions she directed towards me with her voice were those of anger, but more prominently, sadness. Of course, sadness for the cat, and anger towards me.Bookmark here

Perhaps dumping it was wrong after all.Bookmark here

I turned towards her, and put on a smile. Humans generally liked smiles, and it helped to ease the tension of an otherwise troublesome situation. I saw it often in exchanges between customers and employees at restaurants, or when young salarymen talked to their superiors.Bookmark here

In this culture, smiles and apologies were everything. No matter what happened, no matter how unsatisfied a person was; a proper Japanese citizen would smile and apologize, and the problem was supposed to go away.Bookmark here

“Ah, my apologies.”Bookmark here

The irony of it was that in Japanese television and fictional media, the person who smiled the most, and apologized the most, often ended up in the worst situations, or in some cases was revealed to be mentally insane, or dangerous.Bookmark here

Despite these people knowing that a system in their culture caused many mental and physical health issues, they did not strive to change it. This also seemed to be a common theme of humanity as a whole. They liked to ignore problems, or put silly bandages on them. Some were like that on Alterra as well.Bookmark here

The girl ran towards me, grabbing my collar and pulling me in close to her enraged face. Though it wasn’t her intention to do so, I couldn’t help but be forced to notice her features.Bookmark here

Blonde hair. Fabricated.Bookmark here

Shiny, tan skin. Fabricated.Bookmark here

A colorful face, with much makeup and overdone polishing.Bookmark here

Fabricated.Bookmark here

I had seen this look before. It was a staple of Japanese counterculture, commonly referred to as “Gyaru.” In a desperate bid to break away from the strict customs of modern society, many girls dressed in this manner to amplify their beauty in a way that was reversed as to what was expected of them from their elder generation, as well as their peers. She must have been one of those desperate people.Bookmark here

“‘My apologies’ My ass! I asked you what the hell you think you’re doing!?”Bookmark here

I stayed silent.Bookmark here

The way in which I handled the cat must have been indecent. So explaining myself would only have angered her more.Bookmark here

“Nevermind! Just out of the way, kay?”Bookmark here

She pushed me aside, and removed the lid of the trash can just enough to get the cat out. It’s eyes were half open, and its flesh was exposed to the open air. The gyaru girl brought the quiet flesh to her chest, holding it softly in her arms like it was her own child.Bookmark here

Time slowed to a stop in that moment, holding me hostage by my human brain’s relative perception of its flow.Bookmark here

She cradled it, calmly swaying her figure back and forth. As she did, the moonlight illuminated the tears which formed in her glistening eyes. They escaped her ducts, crawling down her oval cheeks all the way over to her rounded chin, then released into individual drips onto the fabric of her neat high school uniform. She must have forgotten about her anger, as it was overtaken by a thick, potent sorrow.Bookmark here

“It must have been painful, don’t you think?”Bookmark here

“I…”Bookmark here

I stopped.Bookmark here

The girl wasn’t talking to me, but instead the lump of flesh that she treated like her own passed kin.Bookmark here

“Let’s take you somewhere where you can rest a little more peacefully, okay?”Bookmark here

She walked away, forgetting about my existence entirely. But I still followed, eager to see this lesson through. I needed to learn how to live as a human again. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to survive in a world where violence was for the weak; in a body devoid of magical ability.Bookmark here

We left into the forest nearby, before she turned to me once again.Bookmark here

“Hold him.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

Him?Bookmark here

“I said hold him.Bookmark here

She was talking about the deceased cat, which I soon realized from the way she held her crossed arms out to me. I took it into my own, mimicking her careful method of handling. It was certainly deceased already, so why did she treat it as living?Bookmark here

“Excuse me, but this cat has already passed.”Bookmark here

Words which slipped from my mouth without my intent. The first time it had ever happened.Bookmark here

Her response was a swift, painful slap across the face.Bookmark here

“Agh!”Bookmark here

The pain was nothing compared to what the hero had inflicted on me before my original demise, but the weak mind I was trapped inside of reacted strongly to my receptors, causing a strange noise to escape my mouth.Bookmark here

“Hold him and you’ll understand.”Bookmark here

I looked down at the cat.Bookmark here

Its half-open eyes.Bookmark here

Its droopy legs.Bookmark here

Its exposed flesh.Bookmark here

It was simply deceased.Bookmark here

I even attempted to sway my body in the same manner that the girl before me had just done, but to no avail. There was simply no point.Bookmark here

“I don’t understand at all.”Bookmark here

Another unwanted slip of words.Bookmark here

“Well, then just hold him for a sec.”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

She kneeled down into the dirt, staining her knees as she scratched at the condensed dirt.Bookmark here

She was attempting to dig a hole.Bookmark here

Her long nails did more than my own would have, but it still clearly wasn’t enough.Bookmark here

“Perhaps you could use a rock to break apart the more stiff chunks of dirt more quickly.”Bookmark here

The girl stopped. The color painted onto the ends of her fingers had already begun to chip, and black mud made its way underneath them. She stopped to look at her progress while making a slightly pouty face, before grabbing the nearest fist-sized rock and continuing as I suggested.Bookmark here

She didn’t acknowledge me.Bookmark here

Before too long, a tree-trunk-sized hole with a flat bed of leaves was made cleanly in the ground, and the cuffs of the gyaru’s uniform were now discolored even darker than her skin. She paid no mind to it though.Bookmark here

“Give him here.”Bookmark here

She commanded me, while still refusing to acknowledge my presence with her eyes. Her focus was entirely on the hole she had dug, and the cat which was likely to go inside of it. She had constructed a bed of leaves over soft soil, though obviously uncomfortable for a living being.Bookmark here

Something dead wouldn’t be capable of disliking it though, thankfully.Bookmark here

After leaving it with her once again, she carefully transferred the corpse into the makeshift resting spot she had prepared for it. She gave its coarse, mucky fur a few light strokes, whispering prayers in its ear.Bookmark here

“My friend has a few words for you too, if that’s alright.”Bookmark here

There was nobody else here but her and I. Perhaps she wasn’t right in the head?Bookmark here

Our eyes finally made contact again. She gestured at me to come over, with another softly spoken, yet abrupt command.Bookmark here

“Say sorry.”Bookmark here

“Me?”Bookmark here

“Duh, Who else?”Bookmark here

“Do you consider me a friend?”Bookmark here

“Just do it!”Bookmark here

I did as I was told.Bookmark here

I looked into the cat’s half closed eyes. But as I did, something strange occurred. It must have been my human brain glitching. I knew that the thing before me was a dead cat, and yet my mind told me that it was something else entirely.Bookmark here

Gnowellen. Hydrum. Sylphis. Geo. Santal. Calleth.Bookmark here

Pallis. Ordoc. Narc. Phillis. Carp. Manus. Jarvis. Gall. Territhus. Levine. Carthus. Kimbal. Marthy. Xarkov. Drakken.Bookmark here

Names.Bookmark here

Whose were they?Bookmark here

They flooded into my head seemingly without end, for as long as I looked at this lump of rotting flesh. I quickly realized they were names of the dead; of my fallen subordinates from my time as ruler of Demons, which I thought I had long forgotten.Bookmark here

But why now? What care would I have for names that I no longer had need to use? It puzzled my mind, which began to grow cloudy and difficult to use. Bookmark here

A human glitch, surely.Bookmark here

I focused back on doing what I had been told to do, in hopes of regaining my senses.Bookmark here

“I...”Bookmark here

I apologize.Bookmark here

Such simple words, and yet somehow I couldn’t get them out. It was as if something was stuck in my windpipe, which locked my voice out.Bookmark here

I reached out and began to touch the cat. For some reason, I had a sudden urge to stroke it, just as the girl before me did.Bookmark here

She was watching me.Bookmark here

Perhaps this world had magic that I was unaware of. This girl, who dressed in such a strange way, could have no doubt been a witch, and this dead animal was a trap to lure me away from potential witnesses. Killing in this country was made difficult, but not impossible. With her magic, she could dilute my clean mind, and force me to say such unfamiliar phrases with ease.Bookmark here

But why?Bookmark here

“I…”Bookmark here

Say it.Bookmark here

Push through the spell.Bookmark here

Break through her magic.Bookmark here

You were lorded over an entire portion of Alterra mere weeks ago. Just this much shouldn’t pose any trouble.Bookmark here

“I can’t say it.”Bookmark here

Failure.Bookmark here

Would she punish me for being unable to carry out her command? But it was also her who took away my ability to do so, was it not?Bookmark here

My hands were trembling.Bookmark here

Trembling like the hero’s, as he dealt his final, desperate blow into me.Bookmark here

Was this it for me? Had I failed to properly disguise myself as human?Bookmark here

I could feel myself out of touch with my surroundings, as if they were slipping away.Bookmark here

There was a wetness on my face. Surely, I was bleeding out. The witch had already begun to take my life.Bookmark here

Well, it made no difference to me. I had already lived my life, over the course of many hundreds of years. I had lived a life so long, I forgot when I had even been sent to that world.Bookmark here

Alterra.Bookmark here

That I had once been a human from Earth; that a goddess promised me a fabricated ambition which could rival my intellect; that I had been made to enjoy spreading mischief and bloodshed across the world; that my immortality and unordinary magic abilities were not part of her plan; these things were all that occupied my long term memory. Anything else had slowly wisped away to ash and dust with the passage of time.Bookmark here

And now that I had returned to my original human body in a world without her influence, that drive to cause chaos and destruction had disappeared, too.Bookmark here

All I was left with were my memories of the deceased, and of all of the destruction laid across Alterra with my influence.Bookmark here

I felt nothing of it.Bookmark here

The only thing that I had come to realize about myself since I came to Earth was that whether I lived or died made no difference to me.Bookmark here

“You did well.”Bookmark here

A hand on my shoulder.Bookmark here

All of my surroundings returned to me as I was pulled from my trance.Bookmark here

I was still alive.Bookmark here

“Did I… Did I apologize?”Bookmark here

I must have, considering she commended me. Surely I just didn’t remember carrying out her task. Her magic might have had something to do with it.Bookmark here

“Of course you didn’t.”Bookmark here

She brought her wide hand up to my face and wiped away some of the wetness. But when she brought it back into view, I saw no traces of red mixed into the complexion of her fingers. They only carried a clear wetness with them.Bookmark here

“But I can tell that you did your best, so it’s alright.”Bookmark here

I looked back at the cat. It was still there, untouched by my hands. It was still just a pile of flesh.Bookmark here

Did I do anything?Bookmark here

“What kind of magic is this?”Bookmark here

She giggled. I wasn’t attempting a joke, but to her, it must have sounded like it.Bookmark here

“Let’s give him a proper burial this time, okay?”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

She began to carefully place handfuls of soil over the cat chunk by chunk, with a caring, artistic intent. I kneeled down and followed her motions silently, hoping to learn more about why she was acting in the way that she was.Bookmark here

Maybe it wasn’t quite that I wanted to just learn how to mimic her bizarre actions.Bookmark here

It felt more as if I wanted to understand why she was doing such things.Bookmark here

“My name is Suki Handa. It’s nice to meet’cha.”Bookmark here

She was the first to introduce herself. It caught me by surprise, if only slightly.Bookmark here

“I am Hiniku Furukawa. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”Bookmark here

“You’re so formal. This isn’t some corporate meeting, ya know? We’re just kids.”Bookmark here

She giggled again.Bookmark here

Even though I wasn’t making a joke.Bookmark here

“I don’t understand you.”Bookmark here

“Really? ‘Cuz ya seem like a pretty simple-minded dude.”Bookmark here

A bluff, surely. Unless I had greatly miscalculated my own ability to blend in.Bookmark here

“Do I seem… like a human?”Bookmark here

She thought for a moment, taking my unintentional question more seriously that I had expected her to.Bookmark here

Had I blown my cover?Bookmark here

“Yeah. You do.”Bookmark here

A smile formed on her face.Bookmark here

“I see. That’s good then.”Bookmark here

“What, you secretly some kinda alien or somethin’?”Bookmark here

I was from another world. So by definition, that was something that I could be called. But a human wouldn’t likely believe me, so surely there would be little consequence in some honestly.Bookmark here

“More akin to a demon of sorts.”Bookmark here

“So you’re a chunni, huh.”Bookmark here

Choo-knee?Bookmark here

“I don’t understand.”Bookmark here

She giggled again.Bookmark here

And not at the response that I calculated she would.Bookmark here

“Gimme your LIME username.”Bookmark here

She wished to keep consistent contact. Between common classmates, club members, and infatuated girls, I hadn’t once allowed any humans to keep consistent contact with me unless they already had in the past. It seemed that I had few relationships with others before I had left this world initially, so I decided it would be best to keep it that way.Bookmark here

But if I were to begin talking to this girl, perhaps she could teach me how to better mimic a human. Perhaps I could try and understand her.Bookmark here

“Apologies, but I’m not interested.”Bookmark here

No, she had proved to be more sharp than she initially let on, as well as potentially dangerous. Perhaps not magic, but she seemed to have some sort of strange abilities nonetheless. It would be smart to keep away from her in the future.Bookmark here

I turned around quickly and walked away, before she could respond.Bookmark here

I would have to study humans a little more before I could face a difficult opponent like her again.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.