While it was nothing new to say, I had already gone through the Cave of Training once. The first time I came, my Hero’s tomb raiding sense had activated and so I had even tried exploring every corner of the place. But having realized now that there was nothing to be found, I advanced with the goal of swiftly clearing the cave no matter what.
Clack! Clack! Clack!
Bam! Crack! Crunch!
When taking out the delay due to the training puppets being created in phases, the actual time I spent fighting amounted to no more than fleeting moments.
I reached the last area, the “Transcendentant’s Room” which was prepared for the next generation Hero, in almost no time.
I had four Z-rank Skills. As it had been smooth sailing even when I had one Z-rank Skill, at present, the cave was no training but rather a trifling walk in the park. As I had expected, the female priest was waiting at the entr-… Mm?
“Who are you?”
A tall male demon stood there in place of the female priest. Although I didn’t sense the Dark Energy distinctive to demons from him, he did have the other trait in the form of a black pair of horns protruding from above his ears. He was attired in a pure-white tuxedo, while his only weapon seemed to be the scimitar hung on his back. The sword was by no means small, yet it felt relatively small because the demon was so tall.
I examined the man’s Status out of habit.
The interior of the last room was identical to how it was in the 6th Playthrough, excluding this old demon who courteously bowed and gave a greeting.
“Hello, new generation Hero. Welcome to the museum that commemorates the foolish First Hero. I am the demon in charge of managing this place, and I do hope you will not hold the prejudice that all demons are absolute enemies. This is a place which also serves to tell that truth.”
I listened without a word, for the time being. This demon didn’t know about me yet, didn’t know that it wasn’t my first time here.
“Long, long ago, the First Hero, who was summoned to Fantasia from another dimension, grew stronger as you did. He led humanity and the interracial allied forces with his overwhelming talent, sociability and omnivorous appetite, and in the end clashed against the Demon King to wrest victory.”
“Enough with the unnecessary details.”
I was already aware of all this.
“Then do you know of the story that follows afterwards? The Hero who defeated the Demon King made a family with beautiful princesses, Elves, mermaids and Saintesses, and lived a happy lovey-dovey ever after. This is the version that you, perhaps, know?”
“Just get to the point.”
I looked about the garden of the temple. In the 6th Playthrough, the garden had been so well-maintained to the point of giving off a sense of mysophobia, but now I saw thickly grown weeds which made it appeared like it had been neglected for a long time. Could this also be due to the switch in the person in charge?
In any case, the demon proceeded to claim, as the female priest had, that the “Truth is different!”. The story he told was subtly different, however; he was depicted as a victim rather than a playboy. The Hero who slew the Demon King apparently didn’t have a happy ending.
The demon butler continued to speak.
“Hahah! You have a hasty temper, I see. As you might have already guessed, the First Hero became an unnecessary existence with the enemy vanquished.”
The demons who sought supremacy over the universe fell into chaos as the defeated First Demon King was sealed. From that point on, no one could stop the righteous Hero, and in theory, the universe should have achieved peace.
“Look, butler. If you want to say that the First Hero began to be kept in check by his allies, then you might as well spare me the details now. Anyone can see that much coming. Shall I try guessing it? Sick of his miserable wife and wife’s family meddling in his business, the Hero must have run away from home.”
“… Correct. I see that you have amazing insight.”
“It’s basic. Don’t try to butter me up.”
“Hahah! And you are humble too.”
The demon butler responded in a wily manner.
Instead of retorting, I slowly looked around the inside of the temple. Overall, it hadn’t changed from the last time I saw it; however, the small changes I found bothered me quite a bit.
First was the management. I had felt this at the sight of the garden as well, but dust was heaped up inside of the temple; it was evidence that it hadn’t been cleaned for a long time. It wasn’t bad to this extent when the female priest was in charge. While the place had been emptied out by raiders, she had at least kept the floor and windows clean. With the person in charge being changed to the demon butler, however, the cleaning wasn’t done at all.
Just like a house that was robbed.
I spotted the original home owner. She wasn’t wearing the priestess outfit I saw her in the other day, but a set of half-transparent crimson lingeries that clearly showed her private parts. She was staring vacantly outside a window in a bewitching posture with her butt sticking outwards, while her heavy breasts and slender arms leaned against the window frame.
There was no way she couldn’t have seen me at this distance, yet the female priest didn’t even send a glance my way.
And there was a reason that explained why.
It was obvious as to who was behind the “Hallucination” on her Condition.
“Hahah! She’s a specter of the past who was the Hero’s wife. There is no need to pay mind to her as she is in the midst of dreams and cannot see us. Now then, new generation Hero. The truth lies ahead, waiting.”
The demon butler was ultimately the same as the female priest; he guided me to the golden statue modeled after the First Hero located in the deepest area of the temple. I was seeing the First Holy Sword once again. Would this demon try to have me seize that sword like the female priest had?
For the time being, I decided to tacitly try my luck.
“That Holy Sword’s the reward?”
I intended on sending his jaw flying the moment he answered in the affirmative, as it was necessary to be wary of his Z-rank Hallucination which had completely fooled even the female priest. Or perhaps I was already under his spell and yet to realize it—that’s how unsettling a Skill it was.
“It is not.”
“Please watch carefully.”
The demon butler walked near the statue.
The statue showed a reaction. It seemed to have been designed to attack anything that approached the Holy Sword, even if that may be the administrator; however, the demon, who had expected as much and had prepared accordingly, was a step ahead.
By using hallucinations to make the statue attack nothing but air, he snatched away the Holy Sword in but moments, yet the statue returned to where it stood, unaware that the sword was taken away.
“… Like taking candy from a baby.”
The Skill Hallucination…
It was extremely tempting.
The demon butler cast a curse which emitted an ominous aura on the stolen Holy Sword and immediately afterwards…
… a crack appeared in the Holy Sword’s blade.
Then in the end, it completely broke apart and became useless.
A forced laugh escaped my lips—that’s how ridiculous what happened was. Would a Holy Sword be called a Holy Sword for show? It was a Holy Sword of legend because it possessed a sacrosanct element. Of course, there could be no absolutes, but nevertheless a Holy Sword wasn’t an item so easily destroyed like that.
The corner of the demon butler’s mouth curved up in a smirk.
“From the look of your expression, Sir Hero, it appears you have understood.”
“Why don’t you explain.”
“Yes, of course. The Holy Sword I just destroyed is indeed the Holy Sword formerly used by the First Hero; however, at the same time, it is not—by no means would the genuine article have been so easily broken. The reason why is that this world of Fantasia is not the only one of its kind.”
This I knew, as I had learnt about it from Professor Morals. The Fantasia dimension was one enormous education facility where Earthlings abducted by the teaching staff were raised into Heroes. It wasn’t something like a school or academy, however; it could be said that each and every copied dimension in itself was like a schoolbook.
From Villager A to Princess K, every single thing existed for the sake of one Hero. It was truly an education method of an outrageous scale.
“You are not the only Hero.”
“So you destroyed the Holy Sword in order to show me evidence?”
“Indeed. After all, this Holy Sword would not have been so easily broken even if only half of the legends were true. Is that not so?”
If a Holy Sword meant for slaying the Demon King could be shattered by the likes of an insignificant demon butler, then it wouldn’t have even been called a Holy Sword. But the sword that was destroyed before me was definitely a Holy Sword.
The demon butler proceeded to conclude what he wanted to say.
“New generation Hero. This Fantasia continent is not a dimension copied exactly like the original—it is a uniform partition of the original world. For instance, say you have something with an original power of 100. The concept is not to generate a replica of that item with 100 power, but to split its power and divide 1 among many. It is the same with the Holy Sword that was destroyed just now.”
He then added that this concept didn’t only apply to the Holy Sword, but that everything that existed in the world of Fantasia was a clone split off from the original.
“Even Demon King Pedonar?”
“Yes indeed. You truly do have good insight. That is what I wanted to tell you. Those in Fantasia’s continents are making noise saying that the Demon King has resurrected, but that is misinformation. Not once has he resurrected ever since his defeat at the First Hero’s hands, and this is because the entirety of his power is sealed, divided among the number of replicated worlds in existence.”
I was able to understand thanks to the demon butler’s explanation.
The penalty that came with the Job of Demon King caused the Demon King’s Level to drop according to the Hero’s Level. While I did find out from the 2nd Playthrough that it was a system set up in order to propagate the power of love and friendship, I did feel it questionable to give such a weakness to the Demon King who was supposed to resurrect and take over the world—but not any longer.
If he had never resurrected, to begin with?
It had been all wrong from the outset. Demon King Pedonar had always remained sealed from the day he was defeated by the First Hero until now. At present, the regression and adventures I was undergoing were simply education. Whether I defeated the Demon King or not, there would be no such thing as the downfall of the world.
What I was going through was literally a training aid, no more no less.
“The Demon King is not your true foe, Sir Hero.”
The demon butler emphasized this for the second time.
“I am aware that this may be much too sudden for you, Sir Hero, who must have been constantly requested to slay the resurrected Demon King, and thus it is fine if you do not believe me for the time being. Only, I ask that you remember my words at least once in later days.”
I responded vaguely, but this was absolutely not because I didn’t believe in this demon’s words. The latest regression made this my 7th Playthrough. In terms of experience, I was on my 17th year! No longer was I a fledgling Hero. Rather, the problem was that I was a veteran who knew too much.
The fantastic usage of Dark Energy shown by the Demon King in the 6th Playthrough wasn’t at the standard of having become stronger with increased Level. It was a glimpse of his original ability that he exhibited as the seal binding him became very slightly loose.
I saw the Demon King in a new light, which was why…
‘I should hurry and graduate already!’
Nothing good would come out of pointlessly getting tangled up in all this. The best course of action was to graduate as quickly as possible and shake the dust off my feet from this barbaric fantasy world, and I was making plans to that end when…
“New generation Hero, are you not curious?”
“Don’t omit the subject.”
You had to know what to be curious about, no?
“Hem-hem. My apologies. Are you not curious as to why they nurture Heroes when there is no Demon King to even defeat?”
“Who are ‘they’?”
“The ones who summoned you to this world, Sir Hero.”
“… Just spill the answer already. Instead of dragging it on and being silenced by some disruptor that appears out of nowhere.”
I had witnessed very many of such developments. Too many to be called coincidences.
“Hahah! I see that you are greatly cautious. Yes, I will explain it in summary—it is for the sake of defeating the First Hero. The First Hero who really ran away from home made a new family. Not one of equal husband and wife, but a harem of absolute one-sided submission. It would not be very wrong to call the members of that family the next generation demons and Demon King.”
Thus, the Hero became the Demon King, while his former companions set about nurturing a new Hero. This made me recall the final moments of my 1st Playthrough.
“This is all that I wanted to tell you, new generation Hero. Still, a reward must be in order seeing as how you have taken the trouble to come this far. This body is but one of the countlessly divided bodies, after all—I shall give you this power. May your adventures be an enjoyable one, brimming with hopes and dreams.”
The body of the demon butler, who bid me a courteous farewell, crumbled apart.
Although there was no change in my Status due to the influence of the Cave of Training, I got the feeling that my Skills and Levels had improved.
And the hallucination broke as well.
“Ah?! You are…!”
Still in her lingeries, the female priest covered her chest upon spotting me, frightened out of her wits. Being the gentleman that I was, I responded by using my tongue and lips rather than uttering awkward words. With plenty of love.
The female priest’s slender limbs dropped powerlessly.
I waited for the old prince to enter the Cave of Training, reusing a certain old hot water bottle in the meantime. A day passed, two days, then three…
“He really isn’t coming.”
I had become tired of the hot water bottle, and I felt as if I had wasted too much time.
“Maybe it’s about time I went to meet the Demon King instead…”
But at that moment, I was able to vaguely sense that somebody had entered the Cave of Training. That individual was still quite far away, at the Beginner’s Room.
I cracked a grin as I rose from the bed.
“So you’ve finally come.”
It was truly an unexpected meeting.