Chapter 26:

What we know of the Devil

On the run with a witch from another world

After a full day of riding to the north through fields and woods, we found ourselves on the edge of Scaldis’ Central Province. We rested in the ruined remains of a small castle amidst hilly woodland. Crossing the terrain proved more challenging than expected, and it seemed like a safe place to make camp for the night.

Chiyo and I snuggled up close to each other under a blanket as I took out the book on the Devil we’d received from the Thieves Guild. With our love for each other now out in the open, we no longer needed to hide our affection. It wasn’t quite the romantic read like the mood called for, but it would certainly make for conversation material.

I opened the heavy book and leafed through it to the page where Aldo had left off, on Colette’s interrogation. I began to read out loud, with Chiyo’s head resting on my shoulder. She looked just about ready to doze off.

“After a few weeks of training with the Witches Guild, our numbers started to rapidly grow. The man you refer to as the Devil was called a Soldier of Justice in our ranks. His proclaimed desire was to create a world without suffering, and we would blindly follow him to our graves. For freeing us from oppressive households and bestowing us with miraculous powers, our ability to truly love was a small trade-off. Who needs men anyway, when falling in love usually just entails being a slave for the rest of your life?”

“Some feminist we’ve got here,” Chiyo scoffed, “it’s more like he’s tricking impressionable young girls into joining his cult, isn’t that right? You see this kind of story all the time on the news.”

“Feminist? What’s that supposed to be?” Chiyo kept using words I couldn’t understand, but I didn’t press the matter for now. Instead I listened to her reply.

“It’s someone who stands up for women’s rights. I suppose this world needed a bit of it if someone gathered up enough displeasured women to start a war with. But still, what the Devil did is little more than exploitation of people’s good intentions.”

I couldn’t help but correct Chiyo on what had truly happened. “No Chiyo, you’ve got it all wrong. The Devil was a power-hungry demon that indiscriminately killed the innocent, and caused millions to die. If those witches called him Soldier of Justice, that’s because he used his magic to brainwash them.”

Chiyo, still resting her head on my shoulder, breathed a heavy sigh. “Haah, This is all getting a bit too confusing. Seriously, which side of the story should I believe? Maybe we should read a bit more of what she has to say.”

I already knew what happened during the Great Holy War, so I didn’t even need to read what was written. I didn’t trust Colette’s account anyway. Instead I told Chiyo what had happened according to the stories that were passed down to me.

“The crux of it is that the witches staged an attack on the rest of the human realms from the desolate mountains of the north, from their very own breakaway nation called Seigi. Over half of the continent fell to the forces of evil. The situation was hopeless until the aristocracy put aside their differences and started putting together money for a grand alliance. The skilled Salix clan, of whom Dancing Willow descends, the courageous Quercus family, the cunning Acers, and of course my own great-grandmother. They all came together with their armies to fend off the attack. And those are just some of the heroes who protected Scaldis. I’m not sure how it went in other countries though.”

Chiyo got the chills. “That’s kind of scary. Isn’t there something more lighthearted in this book? I still want to be able to sleep tonight y’know. Look for something like the Devil’s magical abilities, magic is cool!”

I dutifully turned the pages until I reached a chapter on magic. Chiyo stared with starry eyes at the page. It was filled with etches of a shadowy figure casting various kinds of spells. When I came to the next page, there was a lengthy explanation attached.

There are two known ways to obtain magical abilities. The first is to receive a blessing from the Gods, which seemingly happens at random. The second is for a blessed person to make a contract with a non-blessed person to share power. The Devil is thought to have obtained his abilities through an unknown third method. His strength was without an equal, allowing him to single-handedly create a chain of contracts with gullible women, exchanging their hearts for powe-“

Chiyo wasn’t listening anymore. She instead wrestled the book from my hands and turned to the previous page to continue looking at the drawings of the Devil’s spellcasting. She was enthralled by it, evidenced by the way she put her face right up to the drawings with her mouth hanging open.

“Oliver, do you think I’ll ever be able to use this kind of stuff? It looks unlike anything I can manage. I mean look at this! Body modification magic? Telepathy? Seemingly unlimited mana? How did this grand alliance even manage to beat the Devil?”

“To be honest, I don’t know. The history books are vague on that. And as a witch, I’m pretty sure your abilities are more limited than his.”

“That makes no sense! I want to be able to change my face and body at will as well, and I don’t remember ever entering any contract. Give me more overpowered cheat skills, stupid Devil!” Having said this, she brutely handed me back the book and crossed her arms with an exaggerated pout.

“Why do you want to change the way you look? You’re beautiful just the way you are.”

“You’re just saying that to score points with me, aren’t you? I know there’s enough about me that could be better, and I’d change it in a heartbeat if I could.” Chiyo swiped her hair behind her ear, revealing a mole on her cheek.

“But then you’d no longer be you. I’d hate to see you change yourself to fit some ideal vision of beauty you have. Please just stay the way you are.”

Before I could say anything else, Chiyo came closer and gave me a peck on the cheek.

“I guess that’s the right answer.” She giggled.

Having lost interest in the book as well, I closed it and put it away. I turned to Chiyo to give her a kiss back, and picked up the conversation again. We talked until the late hours.

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