The 12th Story: Peace and Unrest
One of the Hell Castles, Astarte Castle.
The morning light came into Astarte’s bedroom, which was on the top floor.
I pulled the bedroom’s curtain open with all my might.
“Wake up Astarte-sama. It’s morning.”
I forcefully stripped the blanket off the girl’s curled up body.
My lady Astarte was sleeping in polka dot pajamas.
“5 more minutes……”
“It’s no use.”
I, who was openly recognized by the Count, would work under Astarte’s direct control.
I woke Astarte up, cooked her meals, and prepared her for necessities like studying.
I supported my master from morning to night.
It was the duty of a knight.
Still, Sebastian was the one who was giving lessons, since I had less knowledge of this world than the 10 year old Astarte.
“Yes, yes. Please get up, Astarte-sama.”
“Just Astarte is fine!”
“No, I am working.”
Astarte hated it when I assumed a cold attitude, but because I did not know if that overly doting father could see us, I used appropriate speech and conduct for the time, place, and occasion.
At least, during the day.
A female frog-human, Totoman, helped Astarte change in the morning.
I didn’t really know what the frog’s actual sex was, but it was wearing a maid uniform, so it was probably a female.
As expected, as a man, I could not help change a little girl’s clothes. Honestly, I was saved.
For breakfast, I prepared Astarte’s favourite meal, which seemed to be the bacon of some mysterious purple animal.
We took a break after breakfast, and then Sebastian’s lesson began.
I, who was inexperienced, took the lesson with Astarte. When noon approached, I left early to prepare for lunch.
In the afternoon, Astarte continued to soak in knowledge, while I went around doing different tasks behind the scenes.
In that manner, the real “first day” finished without anything happening. Then came nighttime.
“Haa, I’m tired!”
I finished showering and Astarte leapt into bed.
“That is bad manners, Astarte-sama.”
“That’s bad manners, Astarte.”
Honestly, using proper language was bothersome.
I looked at Astarte, who was rolling around on the bed for some reason.
That reminded me, I still hadn’t thanked her.
Had I missed the timing to say it?
“Thank you, Astarte.”
Astarte became confused.
“I became something like a knight thanks to you. Really, thank you.”
“That is…… I wanted to be with you……”
Astarte squirmed like a caterpillar on the bed.
Her voice was really small.
What? Were you embarrassed?
Astarte’s suddenly got up, like she had remembered something.
“Other than that, Blood!”
“You should stop that!”
“Adding things like ‘Or something like that’ or ‘Anyhow’. Blood should have more confidence!”
“Do I use it that often?”
“Always” she said……
Being concerned about such things was troublesome if you were close.
Astarte patted the bed, beckoning me.
Ten seconds later, I found myself sitting on the bed with Astarte.
“I like Blood a lot!”
“Is that so?”
She suddenly declared that she liked me.
I was grateful for it.
I did not know how to continue this without being hated by her.
“I like Blood, so I don’t want Blood to be disapproved of!”
“Blood…… Do you like me?
Suddenly, the child spoke.
“Of course, I do not dislike you.”
“No, an adult man publicly saying that is a moral problem.”
The 10 year old little girl approached with “I like you”, so the 18 year old me was grateful.
This was what I envisioned.
I backed away, pushing both of my palms out with a “NO!”.
“You can’t escape!”
Astarte’s palms entwined with mine.
Astarte’s small fingers went in-between two of my own.
Palm and palm were glued together with zero distance. I could feel the sensation of Astarte’s skin.
There was no escape.
Or should I have said, holding hands made me go stiff.
Astarte’s hands felt hot. Was a child’s temperature supposed to be this high?
Even so, it was soft.
Even her heartbeat seemed to be transferred through the palm.
I sat on the bed, holding hands with a little girl who declared “I like you”.
What kind of situation was this…
I didn’t feel embarrassed though.
“Fine……I like you.”
I summoned courage and said so.
However, Astarte’s pursuit was not over yet.
“Even if you say ‘How much?’…”
“As much as father?”
“No, much more.”
“As much as Sebastian?”
“As much as Rinne?”
“A little more.”
“Then, who’s next?”
Astarte started at me with upturned eyes.
In that moment, I felt that all of my barriers were completely destroyed.
“Possibly…… there is no one?”
I thought an arrow pierced my heart.
I was seen through.
Astarte’s statement might have been received in excessive self-consciousness if taken incorrectly.
However, for her, it was different.
It was just the nature of a child.
The stiff me looked at Astarte, who shone with expectation.
“Then I am the favorite!?”
“No, that is……”
“Tell me! Please! By all means, I want to know!”
Straightforward! Astarte closed the distance.
As expected, Astarte pursued and made further attacks without mercy for me, who was faltering in shyness and mumbling.
Astarte’s face was full of expectation for the next sentence.
Her eyes might burst into tears if I said, “I don’t like you,” here.
A man who held hands with a little girl in bed and made her cry.
I didn’t want to be seen as that person……
I already liked this child, so it truly seemed funny.
Not in a suspicious way, but as a human being.
Lolicon was a national misunderstanding!
I was different from the count!
No, the count thought that it was paternal love……probably.
I couldn’t affirm that yet.
I only wanted this child to find pure happiness.
I would watch over Astarte as her knight until the day a prince appeared for her.
Of course, if a half-baked man were to appear, I planned to knock him back.
It was my proper duty, as her knight, to do so.
Still, if you were asked how much you liked someone…
To ask that kind of question face to face, one’s mind must be on a whole different level.
Until now, I had been living by hiding my heart under normal circumstances. Open conversation needed some more work.
Go for it, me.
“I love Astarte the most……?”
I finally mustered the courage and said the words.
Really. The question, ‘How much do you like me,’ was unnecessary.
My unfiltered and shameful answer.
Still, Astarte’s face shone enthusiastically.
“Yes! I love Blood the most, too! Let’s be together forever!”
Astarte jumped into my chest at my answer.
Soft. Extremely soft.
A delicate body which seemed like it would break if I firmly hugged it.
In addition, it smelled good.
What should I do with this silly girl……
I thought to myself.
Didn’t we seem like some lovebirds at the edge of town?
My face turned red from embarrassment.
“But Blood should express his feelings more.”
Astarte continued to speak.
“Everyone shuns and hits you! Enduring this is no good! I hate it, I seriously hate it!”
“Ah, it is Astarte’s misunderstanding.”
“It is not like I’m excluded. I distanced myself from the other ghouls because they were noisy. Enduring the punching and kicking is seriously nothing.”
Astarte put her finger on her cheek and thought.
Such a lovely gesture.
“I was mistaken about the shunning and hitting?”
“I am being entirely selfish?”
“I misunderstood, thinking only of myself……nothing more?”
“But I was glad at that time.”
“When I was almost kidnapped by the old man with a mustache. It was scary for me, to such an extent…that my face flushed and I cried.”
“‘Do not let this child experience painful things’ was it? At that time, I was suddenly somewhat moved–”
Next, Astarte’s face turned bright red.
Her covering her face with both hands was somewhat amusing, so I decided to go on the attack.
It was revenge for a while ago.
“What! What happened to the assertiveness from a while ago!”
I provoked her intentionally.
Astarte scowled at me.
The expression that she was trying to hide came into my sight.
Her face was bright red with tears in her eyes, as many as there had been when the old man with a mustache had attacked.
“Blood, you idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot!! Leave, leave, leave!!”
“Yes, yes. Tomorrow, go to bed quickly.”
Astarte said so as she struck me with a pillow.
However, I didn’t feel any pain.
Then, knowing there was no effect, Astarte jumped into the bed face down and buried her face into the pillow.
However, she noisily moved both of her feet up and down, which wasn’t good for the bed.
I left the room with a backwards glance at this Astarte.
“Well then, good night, Astarte.”
“Goodnight! See you tomorrow! Don’t catch a cold!”
Astarte said so while burying her face in the pillow.
Ah, to give a polite goodbye.
In addition, to be worried about my physical condition.
I closed the door and confirmed that there was nobody around.
A smile had naturally become visible.
I went back to my room, covering my mouth so that it wouldn’t be seen by anybody.
In such a place, I would have been misunderstood as a Lolicon.
I spent sweet days with my cherished Astarte, and I could see her again tomorrow.
I could only say, I really was happy, being like this.
I thought so.
I seemed to be blessed with a comfortable life at the moment. There was a great difference from my previous life.
Could there be such happiness?
Such peaceful days should just continue forever.
I prayed so from the bottom of my heart.
However, before long I would have to depend on others.
The me of that time was convinced that this world would be unconditionally gentle forever.
Such a thing wasn’t possible.
The expectations of this world that surrounded Astarte were connected with each other in a much more complicated way than I had known. As for the present me, he knew nothing about these matters.
In that case… I had no other choice than to exert myself to get what I wanted.
Prologue “Running up from being a F-Rank Demon” is now finished.
Next time, Chapter 1: “Capturing Dantalion Castle!” Please enjoy.
[Rinne’s Research Journal]
Name: Count Sanjelman
Rank: A (a befitting assumption)
Remarks: My master.
Ikeman atmosphere, though the specifications are low.
Hobbies are unexpectedly wide.
Though he likes chess, his abilities are that of a growing amateur.
Unskilled, yet strict on people.
Sebastian “…usually, I go easy on him. For some reason, winning seems awkward.”
No, this is just playing around!
By no means am I a slanderer………!
What? “That’s funny. ‘A’ should have been ‘S+’! Right?”
…… I made modifications.