Welcome to the Impregnable Demon King Castle - Chapter 207
207 – The Ideal World?
Ten years have passed since my Job was identified.
My party has made it to the world’s 4th rank, and we aim to rank up even higher…by challenging the Demon King Castle.
The world’s 4th ranked party, the Lem party, has broken through the first stratum.
「Yo, why the long face, Lem?」
Said Alba, the Warrior in my party.
A gruff young man with short, gray hair and a sharp gaze. In addition to his sleeveless tunic, he has on a breastplate over where his heart is.
He freely exposes his trained upper body with his light armor, allowing him to move quickly, which is a selling point of a Warrior.
We graduated in the same year at the School.
As a country boy Flame Hero who formed a contract with one of the Four Great Spirits, the way I spoke with restraint didn’t get me any admirers. I was either watched from afar or approached out of obvious self-interest, and the other Heroes would openly hate me.
Among the students, Alba brazenly challenged me to a match.
After the battle, he said「Man, you’re strong! Hey, let’s form a party!」and laughed.
When I told him that I was aiming to be 1st rank, he said「Well, duh! If we’re going to do this, we gotta aim for the top!」.
There are actually very few people who think like him.
Even if they say it, those who understand the current state of the industry just aim to survive. The majority are just trying to make it as an Adventurer.
Most students were attending just because they have combat-oriented Jobs, most of them weren’t that interested.
Among them, for him to seriously challenge the Flame Hero thinking he could win and say that aiming for 1st rank is obvious, makes him a part of a minority.
This makes him admirable and like-minded.
His foul mouth is a problem, but we decided to form a party.
After graduating, we gathered three new allies and made our debut.
「Hm? Oh, I’m fine.」
It’s become a tradition for us to celebrate after a successful Dungeon Clear.
In a noisy tavern, we sit around a round table.
「We’re counting on ya, leader. We’ve only Cleared the first stratum, yknow?」
「I know, I know.」
The first stratum of the Demon King Castle is the Watchdog’s Realm.
It was a wasteland field where packs of Hellhounds appeared.
The rare Monster was the Invisible Slaughterer Glasya-Labolas.
The Floor Boss is the Watchdog of Hell Naberius.
Glasya-Labolas’s ability to make his allies invisible was annoying, but it’s not like their Magical Energy signatures disappeared.
I burned the ground just the right amount, then the Hunter Lily pierces them with her honed eyesight.
After Glasya-Labolas was defeated, Alba used his Extending Magic Sword to sweep the area.
The Paladin Lark was as stable as a rock today too, and the newbie, the Frost Hero Bella, was in fine form.
「If I may, I wish I could have been given more chance to shine.」
Long blue-tinged white hair, ice-like eyes, and an outfit that contrasts between black and white, all of which give her an ephemeral look. She is only thirteen years old, yet she has already graduated.
Her Holy Sword was a rapier type.
A little while ago, one of our members had to leave the party to return to their hometown, so she is a newly accepted member of the party.
「Ahaha, is that so? Then maybe I’ll give Bella time to shine next time.」
In order for the viewers to accept Bella, it is necessary for them to get to know her.
「You gotta be more aggressive, Bella. You gotta go in thinking about defeating the enemy before any of us do.」
「…Alba’s Magic Sword is quite the nuisance, so if I were to awkwardly freeze everything, I would freeze your sword along with the Monsters.」
「What was that?」
「Enough with the glaring, Alba.」
「Hey, this doesn’t involve you, ya Tsun Tsun Elf.」
Alba and Lily don’t get along.
And yet, they can coordinate very well, so I don’t see it as an issue.
「There you go again with your indecipherable descriptions… At any rate, Bella has a point. Knowing that this team structure is still new to us, we must fight having understood Bella’s strong points.」
「…Tsk. Yeah, I know…」
Lark just stares into empty space by himself, carrying food to his mouth.
It’s rare for him to actively participate in the conversation. He replies if you talk to him, so it’s not like he hates conversations.
「By the way, Leader…」
「What is it, Bella?」
「Well…pardon me if I misunderstood, but it seemed like you were having a bad day today.」
「…What makes you say that?」
「Oh no, it’s just… You looked like you were having difficulties fighting. My apologies, I’m just a newbie, and yet I…」
「No, it’s fine. It’s good to speak your mind because I believe that to be the foundation of a healthy party.」
「Then…how are you feeling, truly?」
「I feel fine. It’s just…」
「You were right. As you said, I felt like it was difficult to fight. I thought perhaps that was due to how high level the Monsters of the Demon King Castle are.」
It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either.
When I defeated the Hellhounds, I saw strange images flash through my mind.
Images of me petting them…fighting alongside them.
I saw the same thing when Glasya-Labolas was defeated, and I had visions of me having a friendly conversation with Naberius in Demi-Human form rather than the Cerberus form.
There’s no way I could have discussed such mysterious visions with my allies.
To dodge the question, I carry the jug of beer to my mouth, and for some reason, I look at the contents of it.
I saw the reflection of my face on the liquid’s surface.
For some reason, there was a single horn growing from the side of my head…
I involuntarily let go of the jug.
It hit the table and spilled beer everywhere.
「Whoa, hey, what’s the matter?!」
Alba looked at me with concern.
I quickly put a hand to my head, but of course, there was no horn growing there.
「S-sorry… I think I’ll head back first.」
「Huh? The hell? You alright, Lem? You really are acting weird today.」
「Huh? Right now, I…」
What was that…?
I don’t want to be here anymore, so I quickly escape the tavern.
Wait…which way was the inn?
We just used it this morning, yet my memory of it is vague.
I wandered around until I spot a clothes shop.
This is my first time seeing it, yet I feel like I’ve been here with someone before.
The vision of a beautiful blonde woman flashes in my mind. I can’t see her face clearly.
In the next instant, my reflection in the shop window…changes to that of a Black Sorcerer-robed figure.
「…?! Wh-what the hell…?!」
This is genuinely strange.
I have no relation to a Black Sorcerer. I have never once worn their garb.
And yet…I look far more suited in them than in a Hero outfit.
I walk away from that place and ended up wandering into the marketplace.
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「Fruits! Would you like some fruits…!」
It was a child’s voice.
I look to the fruit stall…no, it’s coming from beside it.
There was a child selling fruits spread out on a piece of cloth.
A modestly clothed dog Demi-Human little girl.
She had fluffy brown hair, and her cute round eyes were a pale green.
Her voice and expression were stiff out of shyness.
「Whoa, aren’t you Flame Hero Lem?!」
The bald man next door called out in surprise.
「Ah, uhm…yes, well…」
「Holy cow! What are you doing in a place like this? Oh, before you answer that, ya gotta give me your autograph!」
Pressured by the man’s enthusiasm, I give him my autograph while also asking him to lower his voice.
I pulled over my hood, surprised that no one else had recognized me by now.
「…That girl, does she work here?」
「Yeah, she’s a hardworking girl who wants to help her family in any way she can.」
I lean over in front of her and ask「May I have one?」.
Her ears stand up in surprise and she hurriedly but carefully selects a fruit.
Without meaning to, my expression relaxes at the sight of her serious face.
「Yes, that’ll do. Thanks.」
I pay for it and receive the fruit.
「Huh? Ah, aha…I wonder. I’m an Adventurer.」
「Ah… I…don’t have a TV at home…sorry.」
「Ahaha, no, it’s fine. Thanks again for the fruit.」
「S-sure. Uhm, thank you very much!」
Although, I don’t think I’ll be meeting her again.
For some reason, the fruit I took a bite out of tasted nostalgic…
『I…wanna form…a contract…with Lem…』
Why…do I feel like I’m about to cry…
Since then, we continued Clearing the Demon King Castle one stratum after the other.
The second stratum, the Realm of the Necromancer.
While fighting Zombies and Skeletons, I was fortunate that no strange visions flashed before me.
However, I did get them when fighting with the Black Wound Hunter Leraje and the Spirit Commanding General Kimaris.
Visions of going to a strategy meeting and talking with Leraje and…Lily, for some reason.
The third stratum, the Realm of the Vampires.
This is where things felt really wrong.
We defeated the Vampires, solved the puzzles in the mansion, and faced off with the Floor Boss in the underground chamber.
The Vampire Queen Haagenti.
She was a fearsome foe, but all I could think was…
It’s not her.
The Floor Boss of the third stratum isn’t Haagenti. That incomprehensible feeling would stay in my head and never go away.
I could hear a voice gently calling my name, it was enough to make my head hurt.
I couldn’t suppress the pain in my chest.
I felt a warmth every time I could hear that voice, but it soon fades because I can’t grasp the identity of the speaker.
I feel like it’s someone incredibly important, but I have no memory of them.
The more I advanced through the Demon King Castle, the worse my headache became.
The fourth stratum, the Realm of Werewolves.
They all look alike, yet I am able to distinguish every single one of them. How do I even know their names?
I even relive an impossible memory of training together with the Chief of the Werewolves Marchosias.
The fifth stratum, the Realm of Dream Demons.
Just like the previous stratum, I am able to distinguish each of these lovely Dream Demons. What’s more, I knew who the Floor Boss was at a glance.
A cat-like girl with pink hair. She said she was the Demon of Love Sitri.
The sixth stratum, the Realm of Aquatic Monsters.
I am no longer surprised that all the mermaids and fishmen look familiar to me.
My memory of how kindly the Sea Monster Forneus talks or how great it felt to ride on his back are just my imagination playing tricks on me.
The unexpected side of the Ruler of the Waters Vepar that I know of is just an illusion.
The seventh stratum, the Realm of Sky and Trials.
I recall being carried by the Birdmen or the Phantom Thief Crow Raum.
I recall solving riddle after riddle created by the Eloquent Thrush Lord Caim.
The eighth stratum, the Realm of Warriors.
I remember asking the Dragonkin for a match.
I know that the Reaper Knight Furcus is actually a small framed girl and that she pilots that suit of armor as a Magic Tool rather than wear it like armor.
She’s a glutton, a woman of few words, yet can crack jokes and a harsh yet kind swordmaster.
The ninth stratum, the Realm of Space-time.
I know how strong all the Majins are.
I know that the Time Demon Agares boasts tremendous power, but has a weakness for small children. Particularly little girls.
I feel like I’m going crazy.
There’s information in my head about things I have no way of knowing.
Memories of things I have no way of experiencing pop into my head like it’s second nature.
And yet, it disappears when I try to remember more details.
Like trying your hardest to recall the contents of a fading dream you had as you awaken.
In a room in an inn, I am holding my head in my hands.
「My head feels like it’s going to split open…」
Just a little more, and we’ll have Cleared the Impregnable Demon King Castle.
A feat that even the Aerial party could not accomplish.
Once we have, we’ll aim for even greater heights.
Knock knock There was a knock on my door.
That voice… It sounds so familiar.
I hurry to my feet and rush to the door.
When I opened it, what I saw was the face of my best friend who I haven’t seen in a while.
「It’s been a long time, Lem.」
My best friend, who turned out to be a Priest ten years ago, had a gentle smile on his face.