‘Ah, damn it.’
In a children’s storybook that Zich read when he was little, there was a passage that described a great hero's fall. According to the passage, even the heavens filled with grief at the sight of the dying hero, and rain began to pour down from the sky. He didn’t know exactly why, but even after many years passed, this passage remained stuck inside his mind.
‘As expected, the heavens don’t seem to love me.’
Looking at the bright sun without a cloud in sight, Zich was sure that the heavens must have despised him instead, let alone love a person like him.
‘Well, it’s pretty understandable why.’
Zich couldn’t even count the number of people who cried because of him or remember how many people he had killed. People called him the Demon Lord, who had brought chaos and despair into this world. He didn’t particularly like to dine on blood or flesh, but he also didn’t refuse it when they were offered; and he had lived a kind of life where he used whatever means to achieve a goal.
If the heavens really loved him, they would’ve slapped Zich across the face and told him to change his ways.
“Is it over?”
Zich heard a voice. It was such a heroic and noble voice that it was irritating. He lowered his gaze from the sky and looked forward. A man wearing shiny armor looked down at Zich with a haughty look on his face. He was the man called ‘Hero Among Heroes’.
With a cringy, almost disgusting, title called ‘The Sun Warrior’, he was the human named Glen Zenard.
Zich wished he could spit on a face like that at least once.
‘Should I give it a try?’
Zich considered the angle, his left-over stamina, the guy’s evasion speed, and so on—even in his dazed state, he was able to calculate these kinds of things fast.
‘No, I shouldn’t.’
This was his end. Zich didn’t want to lose his cool at the last moment to something like this. He still had some pride, since the people in this world called him the Demon Lord.
‘Ah, but wait. When did I have pride in something like that?’
Zich was moving his mouth to fire a spit right at the tip of Glen’s perfectly-shaped, sculpted nose when Glen suddenly exclaimed—
“Your evil deeds will come to an end now, Demon Lord Zich Moore!”
‘What a cheesy line to say.’
It was uncreative. Really uncreative. As if he was really a hero from a storybook, Glen reiterated lines that only characters from a moldy, third-rate hero novel would say.
‘Shouldn’t he have stopped reading children’s storybooks by now?’
However, Zich didn’t even have the strength to respond to him. He could only blink at the glorious hero before him and stare.
“Quickly finish him! Our opponent is the ‘Demon Lord of Strength’. We don’t know when he will regain his powers!”
“Yes! That’s right!”
‘No, I don’t have any powers left. My body hurts, and I don’t want to move.’
Zich wanted to explain this to the hero’s companions, who were telling the hero to finish him off. But it was tiring to even open his mouth. Furthermore, he wondered if there was any purpose in explaining this to them.
‘They can be on their guard if they wish.’
He thought it was a bit funny to see them fuss over his dying body.
Yet, it also made him feel a bit pleased. Didn’t their words mean that he posed a huge threat?
“No, he no longer has the power to harm us.”
Zich’s enjoyment suddenly evaporated with Glen’s words.
‘This guy is really not fun.’
‘I should’ve tried to destroy him first instead of spending my time doing useless things.’
Zich wasn’t thinking along the lines of, ‘If only I had gotten ridden of this guy, I…!’
He just purely wanted to tear this annoying guy’s face apart.
The hero lifted his sword and pushed it up against Zich. The holy sword’s edges looked sharp enough to rip even a soul in half.
“Listen, Zich Moore! Before you die, I will recite every evil deed you have committed!”
‘What kind of bullshit is this?’
The hero began to spout nonsense, and Zich looked at the companions around him.
‘To think that they hung around a guy like him. Indeed, they are very impressive guys.’
Compared to the giant fireballs that they shot at him, the shields that blocked his attacks, the arrows aimed at his vulnerable spots, or the miracles that had maxed out their companions’ skill stats or instantly healed their companies’ injuries, staying around a guy like this seemed more impressive to Zich than anything else.
‘Well, it can’t be helped. I guess I have to listen to this.’
Even if his opponents had formed a party to fight him, Zich couldn’t deny that he, who was called the ‘Demon Lord of Strength’, was defeated.
‘What can a loser do but let the winner do as he pleases?’
Zich strained to pry his eyes open and stared at the hero. As if he was completely immersed in his role, Glen spat out words without even looking at Zich.
‘Did he come here prepared with everything memorized?’
If that was the case, Zich thought he should applaud Glen for his efforts.
‘No, wait. If I think about it, isn’t this something that should hurt my pride? He must have only thought of beating me.’
For a moment, emotions began to erupt in Zich, but he repressed them.
‘Forget it. It’s true that I lost.’
If he won, it would’ve been different, but to get angry about something like this after losing would only make him seem like a sore loser. It was only appropriate that he should act like a loser if he lost. Thus, he lay down lifelessly and listened to his ‘evil deeds’.
‘Oh, that’s right, something like that happened. Oh yeah, that too. This is making me reminisce. He must have done a lot of research.’
Like an old man trapped his past memories, Zich listened to all of the things he had done. They described a bloody path which befitted his nickname, ‘Demon Lord’.
“…With all of these sins in mind, I lay down my judgment of justice to the Demon Lord, Zich Moore!”
‘What? It's already over?’
Zich woke up from his pool of memories and nostalgia that the hero’s speech reinvigorated. He licked his lips in pity.
‘Well, I received quite a good gift on my way out.’
This was really his end. Zich carefully scanned the figures around him again.The young magician was glaring at him with contempt, the swordsman was on guard to protect the hero if an emergency arose, and the archer was also still on high alert with a cold-hearted face. The female saint was crying and praying for even a complete stranger like Zich. And finally, the hero was confidently holding his sword.
The hero’s sword slowly rose above Zich, and he would die the moment it fell. Zich knew that he couldn’t escape his end. He didn’t even think about struggling to survive.
He began to gather up the last remaining amount of power he had.
‘Since I am called the Demon Lord, I can’t just die.’
Like the other demon lords in storybooks, he cast a curse on the hero.
Among the magic tools that he had collected while traveling the world, there was an item that had a similar effect to that of a curse.
‘They definitely said it was called ‘The Key that Distorts Destiny’.’
It was the name of the small blade that he had inserted inside his index finger. It had been very troublesome for him to stick the thing inside his finger while not experiencing discomfort in his daily life. But thanks to that, he now had the opportunity to give the last blow to his annoying opponent—making the trouble worth it.
‘It won’t be enough to kill him.’
This item wasn’t for something like that, but for someone like Zich, who loved to fuck his opponents over, it really fitted him.
‘It’s a small blade that can change the future of someone whose destiny has changed. I don’t know how his future will change though.’
But it didn’t matter. All the other demon lords were already dead. It wasn’t hard to imagine that Glen Zenard, who had finally killed the last Demon Lord, Zich, would be guaranteed a heroic future. Even if Glen’s future changed for the better, it just meant that his already heroic future would shine a bit brighter. But if his future changed for the worse…
‘Let’s take a test, hero. If you continue to walk a heroic path even if you get hit by this, it’s your win. But if the destiny you are about to face is full of darkness, it will be more miserable than anyone else’s.’
Zich really hoped for Glen to meet the latter. The only regrettable thing was that there was no way for him to see this happen.
“If you are born again, I hope that you will be someone who does good!”
Like a judge giving his final judgement, Glen yelled while swinging his sword down.
Zich, who had been lying down lifelessly suddenly got up.
“If I get the chance, I will!”
“But not now!”
Glen’s sword sliced across Zich’s body from his left shoulder.
Even as his body was getting sliced, Zich focused all of his attention onto his index finger. Then, a sharp, gold piece steadily popped out.
Glen looked surprised, and his companions moved in a hurry.
‘But I’m faster!’
It wasn’t a critical hit. Zich was in bad condition, and Glen’s magic barrier was too strong for him to land a critical hit.
But due to Glen’s carelessness, the tiny blade that he had poured all of his power into was able to slide through the barrier and leave a small scratch.
Glen’s stone-like face crumpled.
In contrast to Glen, Zich wanted to burst into laughter. But like a marionette that had lost all of its strings, he couldn’t move his body and face.
Glen’s body moved once again and sliced Zich’s neck off. Zich’s vision became dark. But before he completely lost consciousness, he thought he saw something shining.
“What! This…is…not pos…finally. Here…this time…perfect…!”
Glen was murmuring some things in terror, but Zich’s consciousness faded into darkness.
* * *
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!
It was noisy outside. Zich scowled and turned around.
“Ah, damn it! I can’t sleep with this noise…!”
After murmuring in annoyance, he stopped.
He quickly got up. While surveying his surroundings with a stupid look on his face, the fearsome ‘Demon Lord of Strength’ was nowhere to be found. He actually looked like a blockhead.
He began to touch his body all over. The wound that had been severe enough to cut him into two was entirely gone. There was not even a scratch; his skin that was rough from battle now felt soft and smooth.
Then he touched his neck. It had been completely severed; no one could’ve reversed it unless they were a god. But unbelievably, his head was still attached to his body.
‘What in the world!’
Although he had experienced the world to its fullest and went through all kinds of experiences to the point that he earned the title of the Demon Lord; he had never gone through anything like this. He wondered for a moment if all his stats disappeared and tried to calm himself to figure out the situation for now.
‘At least I am alive.’
He couldn’t believe it yet, but that was the important part. The future that had been closed off for him was open again. Although he had reluctantly accepted his death, it didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be happy to be alive again. Zich felt better after he rechecked himself.
He took off the thing covering him.
‘It’s a blanket.’
It was a soft, throw blanket of high quality.
Then, he looked around his surroundings. He was lying on top of a bed in some kind of room. There were many luxurious and high-quality furniture in the wide room. It didn’t seem like a typical family room.
‘It somehow feels pretty familiar.’
Zich got off his bed and began to explore the room. He passed by a mirror that was hanging on a wall.
Zich marched towards the mirror.
It was definitely Zich’s face, but also not at the same time. He rubbed his cheeks and scratched a pimple that had claimed a visible spot on his face.
“I became younger?”
As Zich screamed, the face in the mirror, which copied the shape of his mouth, was that of his younger self.