Merilyn said that her music interfered with people’s emotions, amplifying the most prominent emotion they were feeling at the moment.
And that meant making other emotions, besides the amplified one, fainter.
Just like how I exerted tremendous focus on the will to survive when I heard the music, everyone who heard it would surely feel a surge of emotions.
“I-I can’t take it anymore. I can’t hold it back anymore…!”
Demons, true to their desires and aggressive tendencies, would fall into a craving for slaughter and combat.
“I don’t want to die. I don’t want to!”
“Everyone stay still. If we run from here, we don’t know what that orc will do!”
Humans, at a disadvantage compared to them, would be consumed by fear, inevitably enveloped in the urge to escape this place immediately.
Yet, there was only one reason why they had all been quietly waiting until now.
It was because an overwhelmingly strong figure among them controlled this space merely with their presence.
“…Human Woo Hyo-sung.”
An orc who rose to the ranks of the Demon King’s army and was strong enough to instill fear even in aggressive demons.
“Do you know what it means to point a spear at me?”
But if such a strong figure also felt emotions and immersed in them, wouldn’t there be a possibility of them leaping into action here for the honorable combat they sought?
“Damn it… Just because I’m being a bit polite, you see me as a pushover?!”
Of course, I was aware that this was madness, but if the one before me was also engulfed in emotions.
It might just turn out that, despite our previous promise, he could rampage here and destroy everything.
“Move aside right now. Otherwise…”
“If not, what are you going to do?”
If it was a life fading away meaninglessly, I’d rather struggle than sit and wait.
As I, losing my composure, was caught up in such impulses, he stood there still, quietly speaking to me.
“Are you saying you’re going to charge at me with that nearly dead body and extinguish the life you barely managed to save?”
“Shut up! You think I can’t do it!?”
A throbbing heart and an overheating head.
These rampant emotions eventually made me throw the spear in my hand at him.
The spear plunged into his chest without resistance.
But it only penetrated slightly, not even piercing his skin properly.
It was an expected outcome. No matter if it was a Mithril Ego Weapon, it was still a weapon I used.
If my strength was feeble, then neither the sharpness nor the explosive power of magic would function properly.
“Yes, I can feel it.”
Despite such a trivial throw.
The monster blocking my way, without a single sneer, just continued to assess in a cold voice, clutching the spear.
“From your current attack, how desperate you are, and how much you have endured… And that this moment’s audacity is not just from fear, but exerted for something more precious than your own life.”
He pulled the spear out from his chest.
Then, Helkry, looking down at it as if lost in thought, quietly continued speaking.
“I too, was like that once.”
It was a reminiscence.
Seeing my current struggle, as if recalling the path he had walked.
“I fought desperately from a lowly birth, and feeling that was insufficient, I pursued greater things and rushed to this place. Leaving behind kin who believed in just sowing seeds and dying… to leave something more meaningful in this world.”
Step by step to that end.
He, with steps bearing no threat, soon extended the spear in his hand towards me.
“…So that’s why you’re seething at this moment.”
Though his words were quiet, their weight felt even heavier than Sloth, with whom I had staked my life in battle.
Also, it was accompanied by even more patience.
“Rather than trampling someone who makes my chest swell with pride in front of me, I want to see how you grow from this place… That desire to see your future is what dominates me now.”
He wouldn’t kill me.
He even suppressed the urge to kill with mental strength surpassing my sense of crisis towards him and the spear I threw.
“So I ask everyone here!”
Yet, he erupted the boiling emotions he held in his throat.
“Did you all really feel nothing from this fight!?”
He cried out loud.
Erasing even the spirit that had been suppressing them, he made those watching this scene focus here, calm their emotions.
“Seeing a hollow existence, just living because he can’t die, accepting his end without resistance. What did you feel watching that?! Even though he is living just because he can’t die, what did you feel seeing this weak warrior desperately struggle to prolong his life!!”
Without the continuously raging pride or fear.
Just by seeing him receive my weapon, showing agreement as if being absorbed in his voice.
“Yes, whatever you feel, all of it will surely influence the path you’ll take forward! To leave one’s mark on others, to influence their lives, and take pride in that. The world calls that honor…”
Having drawn empathy from the crowd, he, who had handed me the spear, turned his body and gripped his mace that he had thrust into the ground.
Lifting the mace, he spoke to me,
“I, Helkry, acknowledge you who have proven the possibility of grasping such honor. Though your body is still frail and the fight was desperate, you who have clinched victory in the end are not at all pitiful.”
He gave meaning to my desperate struggle.
In this moment, he added the desire that dominated him to the power of swinging his mace, wishing to pour it into paving a path towards the future.
The soil and rocks piled up on the collapsed cliff all flew away.
When the remaining dust was swept away by strong winds, revealing open ground, Helkry, who opened the way I must go, thrust his mace into the ground and shouted,
“I pay respect to the possibility you have shown, and sincerely congratulate your survival as you leave this place! And remember, after you leave here, next time we meet, this respect will turn into a battle between warriors, a fight for our destinies!!!”
His trembling hands still signified his lingering longing for battle.
Yet, he did not rush in, instead dreaming of a reunion with me and exercising patience.
Thus, expecting the future and bestowing mercy upon the current me, I felt respect for him from a corner of my heart.
Yes, he was a warrior.
Despite being born into a species that pursued reproduction and belonging to the Demon King’s army that threatened humanity, he had realized what honor was.
So, I did not offer him any thanks.
This was merely a reprieve.
If I lived on from here, if I failed to seize this opportunity, the death that should have occurred at this moment would be realized by his hand.
“I’m looking forward to it. The next time we meet… I’ll give you something satisfying.”
So, having only conveyed what he wanted to hear, I ran beyond the cliff to honor the reprieve I had just received.
There was no hesitation.
My body, pushed to its limits, was in agonizing pain, but there was something left to accomplish that couldn’t be done if not now.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“You really survived and won against that monstrous guy… Uh, uh!? Where exactly are you going?”
Despite the shouts of fellow adventurers who survived with me, I just looked ahead and ran towards the dark forest.
I didn’t know what lay ahead.
Roaming through the darkness where not even an inch ahead was visible, my head might fall off before I even realize it.
Yet, I chose to move forward without hesitation.
Even though the music had stopped at some point, to remain faithful to the greatest desire I had at this moment.
“Merilyn… You’re safe, right?”
Hoping that my connection with the woman who saved my life would continue even after this moment.
A fresh wind blew through the dark forest as the music ended.
The minstrel, who had been silently focused on the enthusiasm of the performance, quietly opened her eyes and looked around at the scene that unfolded around her.
The place was drenched in blood everywhere.
Below lay demons, beastmen, and humans, without any particular distinction, all equally sprawled out.
Most of them were demons or beastmen.
The relatively smaller number of humans was probably because their desires, faced with this situation, were focused on survival.
Unlike the demons and beastmen, who had been keen on killing and fighting each other, they were just desperate to get out of the situation.
The fact that she had inadvertently saved humans felt a bit ironic to her.
Yes, it was an emotion that would end momentarily.
She traveled to create stories that would please her master.
In the process, the humans she encountered on her travels were insignificant enough to just momentarily fuel the last flame and then extinguish.
The same was true for demons and beastmen.
If there was anyone memorable among them, it would be someone who had the mental strength to stay sane even after hearing her music…
“You are really strong.”
The frenzied battlefield where they forgot the fear of death and fought, faithful to each other’s desires.
The only one who survived the intense fight was the White Bear beastman, the leader of the Anti-Human Alliance.
“Now that we’re facing each other directly, let’s introduce ourselves. What’s your name?”
The White Bear beastman, who had trampled the bodies strewn on the ground with his heavy feet, coldly looked down at the minstrel who was smiling at him with her eyes.
In such a very quiet manner…
He just introduced himself to the one who had incited the current tragedy.
“I am Phobia Homer, the Assault Team Leader of the Anti-Humanity Alliance.”
“Yes, nice to meet you, Mr. Phobia.”
With a cheerful voice, and a twanging lute string,
“My name is Merilyn Sutherland, a humble minstrel traveling the world in search of stories.”
Phobia, who suppressed the strange power emanating from her with his mental strength, growled lowly and glared at her.
“Cut the crappy joke. I already figured out that someone exuding such a disgusting stench couldn’t just be a mere minstrel.”
“Disgusting stench, that’s a bit harsh…”
No, although he lost consciousness when he first intruded, now that he had barely regained his composure, the smell was distinctly perceptible.
Though appearing human on the outside, even that was merely a disguise.
“Ah, by the way, did you hate homosexuality?”
The minstrel, with her feigned appearance, smiled calmly and casually brushed off Phobia’s anger.
“I think you misunderstood it, but that person approached me on their own accord. I have no interest in that way. I’ve never loved anyone before.”
A feeling hotter than anything else, but accompanied by dedication for the object of affection.
For a race born to pursue desires and develop power through such desires, love was considered a poison.
If such a race were to feel love, it would merely be mistaking lust for an attractive opposite sex as love.
“Yeah, demons wouldn’t know anything about love.”
Phobia, who identified her true nature by the smell, began to grind his teeth in anger as memories surged in this moment.
“If she had known love, that damned woman wouldn’t have so ruthlessly trampled my homeland and family.”
“…Did you lose your family to my kind?”
“I have no personal grudge against demons as a whole, just against those who oppose my power. If I despise anything, it’s the disgusting homosexuals who trivialize the act of raising children, like the woman who trampled my homeland.”
It wasn’t uncommon for demons to trivialize others’ property and connections by nature.
However, among them, preferring homosexuality and yet being powerful enough to annihilate the Furry Tribe superior to humans, she could recall only one such person.
That person’s status was the only one equal to her own.
“Even setting aside personal grudges, I am the Assault Team Leader of the alliance. If you’re involved with that damned Demon King’s underling, as long as there’s a possibility you could threaten our forces, I can’t just let you go.”
“Related? That’s a bit off. Not all demons belong to the Demon King’s army.”
“No, you surely belong to the Demon King’s army. The foul stench emanating from your body proves it. You possess a power incomparable to these nobodies strewn around here.”
Phobia’s eyes narrowed sharply.
His gaze, which had remained cool since regaining his senses, began to gradually take on a murderous hue.
“And you introduced yourself as a minstrel. To my knowledge, in the Demon King’s army, there was only one person who called themselves a minstrel despite possessing such strength.”
The fact that those who heard her performance at this scene fell into madness and tried to kill each other was also proof of this.
From the lips of Phobia Homer, the only survivor of that massacre and the Assault Team Leader of the Anti-Humanity Alliance, her true identity was soon revealed.
“The highest-ranking officer of the Demon King’s army…”
“The Four Heavenly Kings, Mephisto Rage.”
Alias, the Frenzied Young Jester.
The current second in command of the Demon King’s army.
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