The Devil Princess Volume 1 Chapter 3

Chapter 3: I turned two years old
 

“This is terrible.”
 
A sweet child’s voice poured into the spacious empty room…it feels spacious to me, but it’s probably a smaller room for this mansion.
 
Pastel pink walls decorated with cute hand painted flowers surround the room. A brand new small bed has a canopy and lace curtains flutter about. There is also a small mirror stand and a chair, giving the room the feel of a playhouse.
 
It probably looks unoccupied from an adult’s perspective, but you can see the presence if you lower your eyes a little. Despite the fact that large glass is a luxury even in this world, this room is equipped with a mirror so massive that it must be unimaginably expensive, and it currently reflects a small golden-haired toddler.
 
Yes, it’s me, Eurushia.
 
Having gloriously turned two today, I was stunned to see my appearance clearly for the first time.
 
“…what could this be?”
 
My mother… is a very beautiful person.
 
Her fluffy golden hair is soft and has a pleasant scent. When Mother holds me in her arms, I immediately feel happy to bury my face in her hair.
 
I met Father for the first time after I was blessed in church. I suppose he’s busy with work? He seemed to have come this time worried since the evil spirit appeared, but he apologised to Mother for not being able to visit much.
 
Father is a wonderful man. Maybe in his mid-twenties? Quite handsome, with reddish golden hair, full of sensuality.
 
Seeing the two of them together must have been a wonderful encounter. To be reunited after such a long time made my mother and father feel like kneading sugar into honey – quite sweet.
 
Being the daughter of two such beauties, I naturally had high expectations for my future appearance.
 
I didn’t need to have lofty ambitions like a princess, just to inherit a decent household as an heiress and become a beauty in a nice middle-class place where I could be doted on sounded good to my little civilian mind, which was confident that I wouldn’t have to struggle much in the future.
 
Anyway, when my mum held me in her arms as a baby and I saw my reflection in the window at night, I thought if the baby was that cute, [I could do it].
 
Yeah. I… thought that.
 
“No, no, no, no, no, There’s just no way.”
 
Now, it might seem like I’m misunderstanding this, but there’s nothing wrong with my looks per se. In a way I think I was born quite beautiful.
 
But you know… that’s fine years from now. Grace with breathtaking beauty that blossoms around the age of ten, or a little before, should be good enough. Until then, being called things like cute, lovely, the usual ‘young miss Eur is like an angel’, that level is fine.
 
I shake my head slowly, sending the really well-behaved golden hair brushing past my shoulders swaying slightly.
 
What’s that? Golden, but not blonde. It’s a mirror image of my original form’s [Golden Fur], isn’t it? This isn’t blonde, it’s [Golden Threads].
 
I have a normal skin tone… but if you look closely, there are no pores. Human skin has some wrinkles if you look closely, doesn’t it? Yet I hardly have any?
 
My features seem to have inherited only the best parts of both parents, with tiny cherry-blossom lips and long golden eyelashes, quite pretty and cute too.
 
Make-up accentuates the features, but this is my natural appearances, they are perfectly natural… isn’t that a bit much?
 
…Well, so far I thought it was a bit flashy, but I was lucky enough to be born beautiful…but unfortunately that wasn’t the extent of the problems with my appearance.
 
So um…there’s no…”distortion”, you see.
 
If asked what I mean, I wouldn’t know how to describe it either.
 
The point is that people are living things. It goes without saying that as something living and growing in this world, no matter what things like blood vessels, bone structure, lifestyle, eating habits or gait, I am completely lacking in any ‘distortion’ that should inevitably occur.
 
That alone might be fine. Or rather, it wouldn’t be, but I could live with it. Being complimented by the neighbourhood grandma as [looking like a doll], which takes on a literal meaning, is just how it is.
 
Unfortunately, I’m not [a doll]. If a doll really looked like that, it’d be terrible.
 
My eyes are similar to both my father’s and my mother’s, as they are tinted with golden pink.
 
But isn’t the [Eye Power] too strong?
 
Why does it emanate such bizarre eye beams, such a strangely imposing aura, even though the colouring is soft? Probably not just my opinion. Even the maids should be familiar with my appearance, but when I stare at them, they avert their eyes!
 
That’s just not possible. No two-year-old is that frightening.
 
What has happened to my body in the past year? Is it my hair? Is it still that of Demonic fur? I could shave it off, but that would go against what I just want – to be cute. I came to this [World of Light] even willing to incur ‘his’ wrath just to be able to live normally as a girl here.
 
People in this world may not notice what’s wrong with me.
 
But I understand. Possessing the knowledge of the dream world from this, I realise this, but still shudder in horror.
 
“This isn’t a… ‘human’ form is it…”
 
This form resembles flawless 3DCG. If the idealised perfection humans desire were to actually appear in reality, they’d be completely ostracised.
 
Stunned, I muttered in front of the mirror in my very first room, which was given to me at the age of two.
 

 
Yes, I’ve decided on my life’s goal. I am now going to [Live Like A Human].
 
What ordinary people would consider to be the meaning of [Live Respectfully Under the Heavens As An Upright Person] is literally the meaning for me.
 
Since I have sublime beauty, if I stand out too much, I’ll have to blend into human society with average inner aspects… This is the [Wisdom of Life] of a weak Demon who slips among humans.
 
Now that I think about it, perhaps Father dropped the bouquet of flowers when he saw me dressed up on my second birthday, because he was so frightened…
 
I rarely see the busy Father, but only exposure can help. At least Mother and the other inhabitants of the manor have settled in considerably, and are no longer as stiff as they used to be.
 
Next time I see him, I’ll try to sneak up on him like a cat. Cats are like my day job, and I’m good at it.
 

 
And so… The month after my second birthday, the party was… Mother, Veo and me… Ah, plus the coachman brother. Anyway, that’s who went on the trip.
 
And once again, after a lot of time spent dressing up, I found myself exceptionally well-dressed once again.
 
A gothic-style dress of deep blue satin decorated with pristine white lace and silver thread.
 
This is… not children’s clothing, is it? The kind of luxurious dress made to order for dressing up dolls, to be displayed preserved in display cases, right?
 
Isn’t this more than an average family’s salary for one dress? It’s completely custom-made, right? It cost more than an adult dress, right? You can’t wear this next year!?
 
Frankly, even as a toddler, I worry about the principles on which our household finances operate.
 
“Eur, what’s wrong? Do you feel sick?”
 
“Little Eur, would you like a drink? We have fruit juice and black tea.”
 
Lost in thought in the carriage, Mother and Veo called worriedly.
 
“No.”
 
I smiled and shook my head. I had worried your mother and the others. I was glad that she saw me as a normal daughter, even though I was such a scary girl. When I was smiling with such a thought, my mother hugged me tightly. …… What’s with Veo waving her fingertips around back there? is there something wrong with her?
 
For now, let’s leave our family finances aside. If it is about money, I may be able to contribute to my family finances in the future to work as a child model or something.
 
More importantly, I have been looking forward to today’s outing all the time.
 
“Mother, not yet~?”
 
“Just a little while, Eur. When we get there, can you be good and proper?”
 
“I can~.”
 
“You speak so well, Eur.”
 
Mother and Veo smile too.
 
My conversational skills might seem suspicious for a toddler, but they’re not. Loosening up my Demonic [Language Correction] makes it sound more like:
 
[Mum, still no~t?]
 
[I can~]
 
A two-year-old with a lisp is cute. And cunning.
 
But still, Mother, can’t I do things on my own? Even when I try to move, I’m immediately picked up by someone, so I can’t even walk properly.
 
I understand that I’ve been overprotected due to the circumstances of my stillbirth and subsequent revival, but isn’t everyone in the mansion overly protective? If I were a normal child, I wouldn’t be able to walk properly, you know?
 
In the mansion, all I do is bring food to my mouth with a spoon. Even though my taste is weird, and I’m a light eater, if I let my guard down, the spoon is immediately taken away, and I’m fed like a baby bird.
 
Leaving that aside, the reason for today’s outing is the [Magic Education and Child Magical Power Examination Day] at the branch school in the town where that church was located.
 
Magical power examination… Magic! Yes, today they will examine my aptitude for magic.
 
After all, fantasy is about magic, right?
 
Despite being born as a Demon with an abundance of magical power, my only conversation partner is a hardcore brute, and moreover, he’s a tyrant. He devours intelligent beings physically, so I had given up on the chance to use magic.
 
“Now, we’ve arrived, Eur. Let’s get off the carriage.”
 
“Yes.”
 
Just when I thought I could finally get off the carriage and walk, Mother handed me over to Veo, who had already gotten off.
 
“Veo-san, I can walk, you know?”
 
By the way, my current words actually sound like:
 
[bi osha, aashi, aa keryuo?]
 
Hardly understandable. Well, it doesn’t matter, but for some reason, Veo, who perfectly deciphers even this toddler language, smiled at me.
 
“Not at all, Miss Eur, the outside is still dangerous for you. Please allow me to carry you. Also, feel free to address us servants without honorifics.”
 
“Uh-huh.”
 
Very well… Impressive as always, Veo. Expected from the eldest of our trio of maids.
 
Mature and yet only seventeen, huh? Veo, a black-haired beauty, captivates with her allure. The attractive young fathers, who bring their children for magical potential testing, find themselves infatuated with my charming mother. The sequence concludes with them recoiling upon realizing that baby me isn’t a doll. sniff.
 
We reached the front gates of the Magic Academy Preparatory School after disembarking from the carriage. Beyond them lay expansive lawns and gardens. Contrary to expectations, most individuals from magical backgrounds are nobles, and combined with alumni donations, the academy boasts well-funded facilities.
 
Expecting the Academy itself to be closed, I spotted students – teenagers in casual clothes here and there.
 
Over there, a boy and a girl were walking hand in hand. Somehow nice…
 
I want to enrol here too. Doubly tempting since Father, Mother and Veo are alumni.
 
But since it’s a magic academy, you must able use magic or mystical techniques. Failure automatically means being sent to the normal school, which Fel and Min attended.
 
Ordinary school provides a general education for the magically weak without an arcane background, teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, history, ethics; optional etiquette and fencing etc on request.
 
However, only six years of primary education is provided from the age of seven. Fel and Min learned etiquette and handmaiden skills for their current handmaiden apprenticeships, which began at the age of thirteen.
 
…Short education. Adulthood here is fifteen, though both have worked earlier.
 
Meanwhile, the Magic Academy offers nine years of training. It is similar to the systems of the Dreamworld, but of course it ends like that, because the social debut comes after the graduation at fifteen. In addition to general knowledge, magic is taught extensively, with special emphasis on the mostly noble students. Strict uniforms and guaranteed Academy status, plus rumours of fast-tracking for exceptional achievers.
 
It seems that differences in education emerge when there are many nobles. Even in regular schools, there seems to be class division for nobles and the affluent, but I want to experience ordinary, sweet and sour youthfulness. Perhaps this desire is fueled by the fact that the [me] I saw in the dream world had always been confined to a sickroom, making me yearn for it even more.
 
Nobles apparently make their debut in high society from their early teens? But encounters there seem arranged, almost like matchmaking, and lack excitement. Maybe not in elementary school; but at least I want to experience the sweet and sour romance of middle school boys and girls at least.
 
That’s why I want to enroll in the Magic Academy. It’s a selfish motive, but if you don’t have aptitude for magic, you automatically attend a regular school. So, I’ll do my best in the magical power examination.
 

 
Entering the venue for the [Child Magical Power Examination], there were already quite a few families there.
 
But at a glance, there were only about a dozen toddlers like me? As Veo carried me, we headed towards the reception, and the receptionist noticed me, flinching noticeably.
 
It’s rude to be surprised when seeing someone’s face… Am I really that bad? It would hurt my feelings, you know? With a gaze filled with half-teary eyes, the receptionist began explaining the examination to my mother in a frantic manner.
 
Mom and Veo nodded as if nothing had happened. Are they used to weird things happening when I’m around?
 
I need to act [more human], but I feel like I’m about to break.
 
So, from the explanation, I understood that the examination tests if you can actually use magic. It’s not the cliché of placing hands on a crystal ball and having someone say, “[Your aptitude is this!]” In this case, you swing a dedicated wand placed in a booth separated by a partition, and a small magic spell comes out. Pass if it appears, fail if it doesn’t. It’s a very simple test.
 
Well, it’s natural for a two-year-old. But do they expect a two-year-old to understand how to infuse magic?
 
What’s magic power anyway? Does it taste good? While I was wondering if such a thing was possible, a toddler produced a tiny, lighter-like flame from the tip of his wand.
 
It seems to work somehow, just grabbing the stick. The place where the infant was had a ‘fire’ mark. Perhaps multiple attributes are also possible.
 
The first thing for me to do is to test normal magic arts, it seems.
 
Normal? What’s normal? And why does the explanation distinguish between [Magic Arts] and just [Magic]? When I checked the letters via Demon translation, the normal magic arts said magic arts, but others said neither.
 
Are incantations magic arts? Does not using incantations make it magic? Called Magic Academy, so maybe academically researched incantations and such are magic arts, while impulsive use makes it magic. The normal magic stall then had four attributes – fire, water, earth and wind. I see, I guess they are very versatile.
 
“…Um, then please let the young lady take this staff.”
 
The fire stall onii-san shuddered in front of me….Why shudder at a toddler?
 
While mother took the stick – a pencil? – I swung it vigorously, but…
 
crack!
 
“…………”
 
It cracked. The pencil-like staff split vertically, leaving everyone silent with awkward expressions.
 
“L-Let’s try again!!”
 
Positive Onii-san. I scared you, but you’re great! He prepared a new staff, but it also cracked the moment I grabbed it before swinging.
 
“””…………”””
 
The silence hurts. Both my face and Onii-san’s look tearful, while Mother and Veo have that indescribably tender expression on their faces again.
 
“Let’s use the… cane.”
 
What made him go that far? The young man onii san gave up the toddler-sized wand and offered a wand that was as tall as I am. If I hesitated at that point, it would be embarrassing for me. In response to his determination, I took a deep breath and grasped the cane.
 
“………………”
 
It collapsed… the big wand did. The moment it turned into black dust and crumbled away was so refreshing that I almost wanted to capture it on video and post it.
 
“…It seems that the young lady lacks aptitude… no, talent for fire magic.”
 
…Why did he rephrase it?
 
Well, if you can’t do it, there’s nothing to be done. I will live positively. There are still earth, water, and wind magic. If I have aptitude for any of them, I can still enroll in the Magic Academy. It’s not time to panic yet.
 
I thought so when I looked around and saw that the people in the other stalls who had been looking at us were unanimously stowing their staffs and putting up [On Break] signs. Damn you all.
 
“Young Miss Eur, there’s still some spirit magic still remains.”
 
Veo’s kindness hurts. But that means giving up hope without even trying, right? Enough already. In that case, I’ll definitely give up spirit magic out of spite.
 
But why did the staff break? Talentless, so… talent breaks staffs? What’s going on… a problem with the magic power maybe…?
 

 
The remaining booths, six in total. Four for elemental magic, and… huh? Normal magic was the same, but is there no light or dark magic in this world? Spirits could probably use both light and dark magic.
 
The remaining two… As I searched for the last booth, it seemed like Mother and Veo were also considering the last two, whispering something to each other.
 
“Miss Leah. Although the impression of summoning magic is not favorable…”
 
“It’s still too early after that incident. Even so, summoning Demons, as long as it’s not dangerous, but it might not be understood by ordinary people.”
 
“…………”
 
Summoning Demons, huh… Saying it myself, it does give off a bad impression.
 
Even so, listening to their conversation, summoning magic is an academic field that requires research on magic circles, and even nobles make a living as researchers in this area. It sounds a bit interesting.
 
Summoning magic is fine, but what about the last one… I pointed to the booth at the very back.
 
“Mother, what’s that one?”
 
“That’s… divine magic. It’s used to heal people’s illnesses and pains.”
 
Ah… I see. Is it the shiny thing that the grandpas and priests used in the church?
 
If it can heal diseases and injuries, it seems useful, and I feel like I won’t go hungry. But, since I look like a human but have the soul of a Demon, it might not work… I thought that, and Veo, who was holding me, made a pained expression and hugged me as if protecting me from something.
 
“Miss Leah, there is a risk of being taken in by some church if little lady can use divine magic.”
 
As Veo, the only one in our house who can use divine magic, said this with a furrowed brow, Mother smiled wryly. After all, Mother knows the old bishop from the church. It’s troublesome.
 
Veo must have said this because something unpleasant happened. There were suspicious religions even in that dream world, and there might be strange religions in this country too.
 
However, if Veo is not affiliated with any religion, it means there is no connection between divine magic and gods.
 
“For now, let’s try everything. It’s not good for us to determine and limit Eur’s potential.”
 
“I apologize. I overstepped my bounds.”
 
“It’s okay, Veo. Thank you for thinking about Eur.”
 
“Sister.”
 
“Hehe, it’s been a while since Veo called me that.”
 
Oh dear, they both attended the Magic Academy, but it seems they knew each other even back then.
 
Veo came to us when he was fifteen, and she said she became Mother’s maid right after graduating from the academy.
 
I sensed Veo’s deep melancholy as she reverted to calling Mom the way she used to. Moved by this, I gently patted her on the head, and in response, she embraced me tightly, laughing with a face that seemed on the verge of tears.
 
…… I’m sorry, I’m too soft, I’m going to be crushed.
 

 
Now, let’s get back on track with spirit magic.
 
I was taught that spirit magic is more about magical senses to summon spirits, rather than academic research into incantations like normal magic.
 
Summoning uses magic circles, which makes it art; spirit magic uses feelings, which makes it magic. CONFUSING. But doesn’t that mean that what does magic study? Is it only distinguished by the presence of magical power?
 
I still have some hope for spirit magic. I mean, spirits and Demons are co-inhabitants of the spirit world, so we’re kind of like relatives, aren’t we?
 
At the spirit magic stand, they had pre-summoned little spirits to test their affinity with us little ones. Looking forward to it!
 
“…………”
 
…Hey you wind spirits. The moment you met my eyes, you took off at full speed!
 
Far from affinity, I didn’t even get to call out before the wind spirits in the cabin made exaggerated expressions at Veo the moment I stepped inside, then fled faster than the actual wind without letting the warden stop them, despite his barriers to keep the spirits in place – leaving him frozen stiff.
 
If I were to use a human analogy, it would be like breaking a locked glass window with a body blow and escaping, so it’s surpising.
 
“Let’s move on then.”
 
Fast Veo. Too early to give up. Can’t be helped… I also have no interest in spirits who are afraid of this toddler!
 
“…………”
 
“Veo…? What’s with this water spirit?”
 
“I don’t know… But it seems to be crying.”
 
I made it cry! The moment I saw her face, she cried!
 
The palm-sized, female-type water spirit suddenly squatted and cried as I approached, ignoring the female tester’s repeated calls.
 
What happened to the water spirit? But I know – while the tester fretted, unable to understand its mumbling, I could clearly hear the water spirit’s [Words].
 
All the time it was saying.
 
[I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t belong here, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to come, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I won’t taste good, I’m sorry─]
 
…Mumbling so.
 
Huh!? Why?? I didn’t do anything! I just want us to be friends! I’m nice! I won’t eat you!… Really!
 
So come on, lower your guard a bit, show your face…
 
─Crack!*
 
“Oh, my God! Wah!?”
 
“The earth spirit!”
 
Suddenly, a cracking sound with screaming comes from the opposite booth, so I wonder what happened,
 
and it seems the earth spirit there noticed us and tried to escape underground, but failed halfway, leaving everyone desperately calling under the floorboards to try and summon it again, both the water and earth spirit booths now marked [Closed Today].
 
“…………”
 
Whyyyyy.
 
Me? My fault? At least look at me!
 
Better than them, of the spirits that were said to be the most hot-headed and violent, the fire spirit that met my gaze looked like a fire salamander, staring right back at me without avoiding my eyes.
 
The fire spirit was better than the others. But not good.
 
“…Nice to meet you, Sir Fire Spirit.”
 
[…………]
 
Poof!
 
“The Fire Spirit has vanished!?”
 
“Whyyy, why’d it disappear!?”
 
With the other stalls closed, the unemployed Spirit Magic examiners are in a frenzy.
 
…Suicide out of nowhere!?
 
While spirits will immediately rebuild in the spirit world even if they are destroyed in the material world, they won’t destroy themselves! Destroying material bodies reduces power and sometimes reconstitution mixes different elements creating different individuals from before!
 
How scary am I!
 
“I sincerely apologise… It seems the young lady has the worst possible compatibility with spirits”.
 

 
Well, next up is the main event, summoning magical arts!─ Nope, not even remotely depressed. Demons don’t get depressed about much. Really!
 
“Please try to touch an appropriate part of this magic circle.”
 
Says the [Professor]-like old man with the stiff spine at the Summoning Magic Arts booth.
 
While Veo helped me sit down, the professor gave me a lecture-like explanation, but… was it directed at me?
 
To sum up, this [General Purpose Summoning Circle] on the table can’t summon large creatures, but it can link to wherever and lure nearby insects or small animals, depending on your magic power. A definite all-rounder.
 
“Mm!”
 

I nod vaguely, trying to touch the summoning magic circle with my small hands when─
 

 
GraaAAAaaaaaaaaaaWWRRrrRrRrrr
 

YOU ARE READING STOLEN TRANSLATION. READ THE ORIGINAL TRANSLATION AT GADGETIZEDPANDA.COM

 
Seemingly echoing from the depths of hell, a familiar beast’s echoing growl rumbles out of the magic circle.
 
Smack!
 
Unconsciously or not, I smack the summoning circle, extinguishing its light and leaving foul smoke and stench in its wake, that ‘voice’ gone as well.
 
Both Mother and Veo saw me make that face and heard it up close, while the Professor paled considerably and inspected the magic circle, looking much older but still looking back at us curiously, tilting his head.
 
“Please accept my apologies. The general summoning circle must have been defective, connected somewhere strange.”
 
“I-I see. So how about the test?”
 
Though pale herself, Mother worries about me asking the Professor. Huh? Does that mean the test failed?
 
“Not failure. It managed to connect, so while uncertain, young miss seems to show summoning magic aptitude.”
 
Hooray! At least I got a passing grade. Seems like anyone could activate it with magic alone, but I won’t nitpick.
 
But… that was dangerous! No doubt that voice belongs to “him”. “His” voice sounded super very angry. So no house calls for a while. Not that I know the way back.
 
Hope the kids are safe though…
 
“How nice, Eur, you get to go to the academy.”
 
“Yay!”
 
I thank the professor who administered my test as I leave the summons booth, and my mother, happy that her daughter will be attending her alma mater, and my mother happily carries me to the last booth.
 
“Congratulations, young lady.”
 
Beaming mother and child are praised by Veo, whose expression seems subtly sombre.
 
As expected, she finds sacred magic a formidable obstacle. I can’t help but pretend to be an oblivious toddler and pat her worriedly, only to be gently rebuffed by a smiling Veo.
 
Does she really hate religion so much?
 

 
So there is no need to test for this last sacred magic, if Veo dislikes it so much. My acceptance into the Academy is already set, frankly meaningless one way or the other.
 
“No. As Milady said, we shouldn’t limit the young lady’s opportunities because of someone’s ulterior motives. Milady… Please continue with the test.”
 
“Understood.”
 
I can’t refuse, lest Veo take further protest.
 
So for the sacred magic test, for some reason, a fish-shaped, white-and-red goldfish-spotted creature was waiting for you when you entered the booth.
 
[I-I’m a…f-fish…]
 
“…………”
 
It talks. I don’t need my Demon translation to go that far…
 
What’s with the goldfish spots? Natural? Or disease? Ah, I see. The examiner explains that the vivid spots indicate freshness for sacred magic.
 
The little fish seems to be suffering, placed on a sort of chopping board, its goldfish pattern gradually fading.
 
The test is to use Sacred Magic to heal the dying fish.
 
“Sacred magic has no techniques or incantations. Only your pure desire to compassionately save the weak and infirm activates sacred magic. If you want to eat this mackerel fresh, you must heal it until the spots are alive again.
 
Totally out to eat, eh?
 
Despite being an Examiner, this guy’s from some denomination, right? What happened to all that talk about compassion and saving the weak? Poor Fishy, forced into this…
 
So I say.
 
“Oh, great!”
 
The tip of my grasped staff casts a strong light, causing the fish to flop wildly on the chopping board.
 
“Looks fresh and delicious.”
 
[Gwaaahh!]
 
Unable to breathe, it endured excruciating thirst and agony. Fascinated by its pitiful struggle, clinging desperately to life, I wished for the little fish to live on.
 
As a result, it turned out like this…I’m terrible., aren’t I?
 
///
 


 
scene transition
 


 


 
///
 

“That young lady has a strong aptitude for sacred magic.”
 
Seriously? Me, a Demon?
 
As I listen to the death throes of the fish writhing in agony at the moment when they had just gained the will to live, all I can do is sit here with my utensils, waiting for the examiner to serve me their mackerel dish.
 
I might just be…a Demon after all.
 


 
The Holy Kingdom of Taliteld, considered a major power among its neighboring countries, coexists with nature.
 
As part of the national religion that worships the Goddess of Fertility, there is a teaching that states, “My child, become one with nature.” As a result of the pious Taliteld people putting this into practice over many generations, trees line the streets, and the cities are built with lots of greenery, preserving pockets of nature like parks.
 
For nobles and wealthy people, it’s natural to have trees on their estates. Especially affluent individuals typically own a second house nestled in nature in addition to their urban residence. This is the case even in the Tul region of western Taliteld, where several manors are built amidst the beautiful, forested landscape with a flowing creek.
 
On the way to one such manor deep in the tranquil forest was a two-horse carriage. Plain yet meticulously crafted, those who know would recognize it as belonging to quite an esteemed family.
 
If this were an isolated forest road, it could attract thieves or bandits, but judging by the coachman yawning, seemingly doubling as a guard, this appears to be a relatively safe area.
 
However, no amount of patrolling guards can ensure perfect safety.
 
While there may not be wild wolves, feral dogs still roam. And while bandits may not emerge, there are always ne’er-do-wells lurking about.
 
For such unscrupulous sorts, a let-their-guard-down adult with a young child makes for desirable prey on their trip home from the city. But—
 
The forest feels different. The air feels different. All people feel a vague sense of discomfort, yet no one realizes the true identity of this strangeness.
 
Hearing no buzzing insects or chirping birds, perhaps sensing something humans cannot, beasts hold their breath, and those lucky few who notice the peculiar atmosphere of the forest leave without needing to approach any closer.
 
As birds and animals flee disaster-prone regions and small creatures hide from famished predators, the living things of the forest cower in fear of this nameless something, praying to God as they nervously wait for it to pass like a natural disaster.
 

 
Near this eerie forest was a group of mercenaries camped out in tents.
 
Initially war refugees from southern nations, refused asylum everywhere they went, those with militia experience banded together as a “mercenary troupe”, escorting merchants for travel funds while waiting for some country to take them in.
 
Hoping the reputedly compassionate Holy Kingdom may accept them, they came here, but while offered work as mercenaries, were denied entry as refugees.
 
Some younger members suggested continuing as wandering mercenaries, but having a nationality and homeland remained desirable. Fifteen people across four families included young children, so for their sake as well, a place to call “home” was needed.
 
But with eight able workers out of women, children and merely grown adults, accumulating enough funds to purchase national housing would be no easy feat.
 
Of the three minor children, two were over ten years old, but one young boy remained.
 
With soft, chestnut hair and cherubic features, the endearing four-year-old had a sharp mind and readily pitched in to help his family without being asked.
 
“Oy, Noel! When you’re done, I’ll give you some training,”
 
“ ‘Kay!”
 
Noel gathered the branches he’d collected for firewood and rushed over, selecting a suitable one to present the man.
 
This man was not Noel’s father. To them, living united as one, all children belonged to everyone, and they were all each other’s family. Having known no other life, to Noel, they were his family, his irreplaceable “comrades”.
 
Thus, rather than rely on them like a child, wishing to serve his family as a comrade, Noel yearned to quickly grow into a capable warrior.
 
Childish yet sensible, his thinking was anything but normal.
 
Perhaps wanting to equip Noel with survival skills should they die prematurely, the adults trained the boy, who came to dream not of sheltering behind his family, but contributing to their group as a warrior.
 
“Not bad Noel, keep this up and you’ll make a fine warrior.”
 
“Really?”
 
“You bet. And to do that, you gotta eat a lot and grow big fast.”
 
“Yeah!”
 
Not so poor they couldn’t buy food, yet not so comfortable they could lodge in the city, Noel had gone to purchase ingredients for their evening meal and was told to wash some potatoes in the nearby creek.
 
They camped here and let the young boy wash alone only because they’d heard this area was relatively safe.
 
In their old countries, camping by nobles’ manors would be unthinkable, but the local lord was said to be tolerant, turning a blind eye provided they moved on when work stopped coming.
 
“Brr…cold,”
 
Noel muttered as autumn evenings grew chill, the creek water feeling icy. Another month, and frost would make camping difficult. They’d have to rent cheap accommodations somewhere to wait out winter.
 
If they still had nationality from another countryIf they still had nationality from another country, they could rent for a year before being granted rights, but as stateless refugees, they couldn’t send their children to school without owning property.
 
The older kids attended school for years, but at this rate, only Noel would miss out.
 
Oblivious to the misfortune, tales of legendary “heroes” and “holy maidens” kindled longing in little Noel for the histories he heard the children learn at school.
 
Wielding a shining sword as the Hero, protecting a beautiful blonde Princess Saint—battling evil. To Noel, a [Saintly Maiden] was the princess from his picture books made real.
 
“A Saintly Maiden…sure is pretty, huh?”
 
As Noel whispered this to himself—
 

 
“There’s a kid here!”
 
“That a refugee?”
 
Suddenly, men appeared from the other side of the stream, and upon seeing Noel, they uttered those words.
 
“Who… who are you?”
 
They didn’t look like common bandits; at least, they were dressed like commoners. However, they were unnaturally well-groomed, and their movements resembled trained soldiers.
 
Judging from their conversation, it seemed they were aware of the presence of refugees here. Seeing them silently crossing the stream and spreading a large sack, Noel immediately concluded that they were “thieves.”
 
“Someone—”
 
“Shut up!”
 
As Noel tried to raise her voice, one of the men forcefully extended his arm and, at that moment, Noel threw a poorly washed sweet potato from her hand.
 
“Ngh…”
 
Knocking it aside with his arm on pure instinct despite no real need to dodge, the abrupt retaliation from a mere toddler caught the man off-guard, eliciting trained reflexes.
 
“Wait!”
 
Noel pivoted to dash off. Giving frantic chase, he could’ve escaped common thugs, but these were no petty abductors.
 
“Wah!”
 
“I said quiet!”
 
Catching up effortlessly due to the adult-child difference, one kidnapper grabbed Noel’s head and hoisted him aloft. But Noel’s warranted alarm and loud shouts were not in vain.
 
“Noel!”
 
Two rugged mercenary men wielding weapons charged from camp in response to the commotion.
 
“Let Noel go! Kidnappers!”
 
Although still in casual attire, the two men wielding spears frowned upon seeing the men who seemed to be kidnappers. They tossed aside Noel, whom they had grabbed, and the man at the back spoke for the first time.
 
“Do it.”
 
“Yes!”
 
The kidnappers drew short swords from their waists. Despite their short swords clearly inferior to the mercenaries’ spears, the trained posture and confident expressions made the two mercenaries wary.
 
According to the merchant with whom they had chatted during their escort job, there was an [Incident of Demon Summoning] in this country two years ago, where a large number of children were abducted for sacrificial purposes. Given the recent rumors of travelers’ children being kidnapped, the mercenaries were filled with anger, suspecting that these people might be involved.
 
There was a sharp clash!
 
The kidnappers parry the young mercenaries’ spears with their daggers.
 
Drawing shortswords from behind them, the unfazed kidnappers also flaunted professional training, gradually pushing the mercenaries back by adeptly exploiting their blades’ shorter reach despite the spear’s advantage.
 
Who are these men? Soldiers? Why abduct children?
 
“Is everyone okay?”
 
“Oh, you’re here! “
 
Hearing the sounds, six more mercenaries raced over.
 
“Tch…”
 
Outmatched individually, with the numbers skewed outside their favor, the kidnappers lost dominance.
 
“Can’t escape now, scum!”
 
In an instant, the two kidnappers who had been in the front retreated, and the man who had been giving orders began something that seemed like an incantation.
 
“Magic is coming!”
 
The middle-aged man shouted to his comrades. The mercenaries had no opportunities to learn, and even if they had magical power, they could only perform simple tasks. However, among the thieves they had fought before, there were some who could use attack magic, so they were well aware of the danger.
 
“──[Wind Barrier]──”
 
As the man uttered the final words, the entire combat area was covered with wind, blocking off sounds from the outside.
 
The mercenaries, who had anticipated an attack magic, were slow to react, and the man immediately started chanting the next spell.
 
“──If my voice is heard, answer my call──”
 
But it wasn’t attack magic or supportive magic like before; it was “Elemental Magic.”
 
“Come forth, [Fire Lesser Spirit]──”
 
In response to his voice, a lizard made of flames emerged from the box hanging at the man’s waist.
 
“Fire Lesser Spirit, defeat my enemies!”
 
The fire spirit, initially no bigger than a puppy, transformed into a dragon the size of a tiger, not only raising the ambient temperature in an instant but also causing the mercenaries to break into a cold sweat due to its intimidating presence.
 
Even though it was a lesser spirit, dealing with spirits was troublesome. “Lesser Spirits” were on par with “Lesser Demons,” and just like Demons, conventional weapons hardly inflicted any damage. The only countermeasure humans had was to use magical attacks or, to surpass the spirit’s mental power with the force of will to [destroy] it at the moment of attack.
 
“……Damn it.”
 
TThe middle-aged mercenary who knew this information was on the verge of breaking down. With their feeble weapons, total defeat was a possibility. He hoped to at least let Noel escape, but Noel, who had been thrown aside, remained crouched and unmoving, perhaps having been injured when tossed.
 
The younger mercenaries, seeing the demeanor of the middle-aged one, held their breath. Seeing this, the kidnappers twisted their mouths into sinister smiles. At that moment—
 
[──────]
 
The fire spirit that was about to attack the mercenaries suddenly stopped.
 
Spirits also have their own will. While Demons are bound by contracts, spirits cooperate with humans based on their own will.
 
However, this doesn’t mean the spirit has awakened to justice. Spirits are the “positive” counterparts to Demons’ “negative,” but unless directed with malicious intent, they cannot comprehend the morality of humans. Even if the summoner is a villain, the spirit won’t go against their orders.
 
A spirit faithfully carries out its orders until its domain is defiled.
 
“…What’s going on!? [Fire Lesser Spirit]—go!”
 
[──────]
 
The summoner commanded the fire spirit again, but it didn’t budge.
 
Fire spirits are said to have stronger destructive impulses than other spirits, and they don’t seem to fear combat. Nevertheless, the flames that had burned with fighting spirit suddenly shrank, and with a face as if burned out, the entire body began to tremble, as if scared.
 
Did something happen that concerned the spirit so much? The fire spirit, with its unsettled gaze, focused on a point in the forest. At that moment, just for an instant, a noble riding in a carriage passed through the gaps in the trees.
 
[──────ッ!!]
 
In that moment, the fire spirit, with flames standing on end like a cat, broke through the wind barrier cast by the summoner and fled in the opposite direction with all its might.
 
“…………”
 
Everyone present watched in astonishment as it ran away like a defeated dog with its tail between its legs.
 
“……Ah.”
 
At that moment, a faint voice leaked from the fallen Noel, and the men, who were stunned, snapped back to reality.
 
“…Retreat!”
 
The kidnappers, bewildered by the inexplicable event, withdrew. The confused mercenaries also hastily secured Noel.
 

 
“It’s okay now. Let’s go back, Noel.”
 
“Yeah.”
 
Noel couldn’t move, but he didn’t have any major injuries. The middle-aged man lifted Noel, and as the mercenaries were about to return to their camp, a carriage passed by. When Noel raised her head to look as it passed, he saw a golden-haired young girl, even younger than himself, looking out from the carriage window.
 
At that moment, seeing the pure beauty of the girl, Noel felt his heart touched. He believed that the spirit, ashamed of assisting wrongdoers, had fled.
 
(…Ah, it’s the “Holy Maiden”…)
 
The image of her was etched into Noel’s young heart, and for the first time, the young boy harbored a small “feeling” in his chest.





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