The Demon King. That is, the King of all Demons. It was a title that signified the strongest amongst that race identifiable by their black horns and innate magical gifts that surpassed all of the other races.
In ancient times they had warred against the realms of humankind and even now Imperial propaganda painted them with a wide brush as tyrannical and evil, hellbent on destroying the world… Of course, it was all barefaced lies.
It’s true that the race of demons are naturally blessed with stronger magical power than the other races and the one who could declare themselves as king of such a race would have to be very mighty. But, they are nothing like the barbarians they’re described as.
Just like human societies, there are laws, working societies, people living peaceful existences and even some there who worship the Goddess. Although they were once hostile to humanity, ever since the advent of the Golden Witch there has been a trade network across the world that has connected people like never before.
The point being, they weren’t much different to the other sentient races like humans, dwarves or elves. Yet despite these facts, and that it should be impossible for any adventurer to truly challenge the Demon King, there were two shadows that darted back and forth as they clashed, running along the outside of that wall in the Land of Demon’s capital.
One of those two, rushing along the wall as sparks flew from the clash of blades, was a woman with beautiful white hair the colour of snow.
Completely ignoring the laws of physics as she ran along that sheer vertical wall without a single imperfection, it was the pride of the adventurer’s guild, the Demonic White Sword. The person who had defeated a Dragon King by herself, Shirley.
And the one who blocked the blow from her blade then countered with a bombardment of magic was a huge and fierce-looking man with swept-back silver hair and black horns characteristic of a demon. The true leader of the Land of Demons, the Demon King.
“Now, eat thiiiiiiiiiiiiis!!”
As the mass of flaming magical power flew towards her, that swing of her blade tore it in half followed by an explosion, with the subsequent debris raining down on the Demon King’s castle.
The training ground in the castle’s courtyard where their fight had begun had turned into a ruin pockmarked by craters and rubble. After he laid the unconscious adventurer Leia in a hallway that had escaped the damage and desperately attempted to pull Cudd out of the wall he had been blasted into, Kyle looked to the sky and screamed.
“How…. How did this happen!?”
That sorrowful scream reverberated into the night sky. Shirley and the Demon King both landed on small conical roofs of two different spires of that castle. Even their landings showed just how at odds they were, as the Demon King flattened the tiles beneath his feet as he slammed down, whilst Shirley landed so lightly you couldn’t hear her footstep.
“…You stubborn woman. Why don’t you just admit it?”
“I should say the same to you, why won’t you accept the facts? If you’re a king, you should at least be able to do that much.”
“That’s my line. I am always upright and just, seeing the truth that’s in front of me. It’s you that can’t realize the truth in front of your eyes. Are those famous eyes of yours just for show?”
“…So obstinate. It seems that there’s no use in talking with you any further.”
“Fuu… Seems so.”
Shirley crossed the two blades in front of her, whilst the Demon King clasped a spear that fell into his hand from the sky.
“There’s no more use for words. I’ll prove it in one strike.”
“Bark all you like, human. With my power, I shall force you to admit the truth.”
And so, the two of them jumped high in the air. As their weapons clashed, their true feelings that they could never give up rang out like a battle cry.
“My daughter is the cutest in the world!”
“My daughters are the cutest in the world!”
…So, just how did this happen? To answer that, we have to go back to when the summer holidays had just begun.
Summer holidays. It was a long term vacation period granted to those students who had managed to survive the relentless hot weather as they attended school.
For those children once so embroiled in classes and study, once they were released from the curse of early nights and having to wake up early for school, most of them would play from morning until night. And it would only be at the very end of those summer holidays that they would suddenly realize in utter despair what they had been unconsciously pushing to the back of their mind until then.
Yes, the assignment over the summer holidays. The amount of work given by the school in that frontier town was quite appropriate for a forty-day break. Most children would despair at having left it until the last ten days, whilst as for those children who left it until the last weekend, they would either give up completely or run crying to their parents.
“So, the answer is ‘but’, then you can use the word ‘therefore’ in the next sentence. That’s what the author is trying to say.”
“Mm… I see. I got it.”
“Oooi, Mira. Which one do you think has the same meaning as the underlined sentence?”
“Hmm… I think it’s this one.”
But, there were some students who were trying to get through as much of their homework as they could at the very beginning of the holidays. They were Sophie, Tio, Mira, Chelsea and Lisa.
If they can finish their homework straight away, then they can play without any worries for the rest of the holidays. It’s an even better idea if you add in the fact they won’t have to worry about getting nagged by their parents over it either.
Compared to the hot air outside, the air conditioned room at the Deficit Inn was incredibly comfortable. Compared to studying in that sweltering classroom back at school, this was like paradise.
“…Hey, why do we have to do class work even though it’s the summer holidays…?”
“Haa… Haaa… I’m going through withdrawals…! Since I can’t play even though I’m on holiday, my hands are trembling! Be still, my right hand…!”
Although for Tio, Lisa and Chelsea, this was proving to be a hard task.
The truth is, for these three people finally free from that hated prison called school, they wanted to spend their summer vacation as they liked. Who in their right mind would prefer studying over playing? They lost their motivation the moment they saw just how much work there was.
A collection of math and language problems that totaled over thirty pages. In addition to a booklet of history questions, there was a task to make a poster warning about the dangers of suspicious people. And there was also a free research assignment and a diary task on top of all that, there was no way they could get it all done in a day.
It had only been a matter of time until the concentration of those three who much preferred playing around to concentrating finally broke down. Lisa fell to the floor with her eyes shut tight and her face like the expression of a dramatic mask, Chelsea struggled desperately to stop the shaking of her right arm that threatened to break loose at any moment, whilst Tio fell asleep where she sat.
“Jeez… You guys remember just how much you cried at the end of the last summer holidays, right?”
“Ahaha… It really got bad then…”
The last summer holidays. Even though she wasn’t good at studying, Tio had finished her homework early with Sophie because she was conscious of how much her tuition cost, but that one morning with only three days left before school started again, Lisa and Chelsea were crying miserably over their untouched problem books.
In those three days, Mira had gotten wrapped up in their personal hell. For the problem book, they simply answered the most obvious questions throughout the book to make it look more filled out, whilst as for the handicraft assignment to make something from clay, they lumped together some crude thing and insisted it was supposed to be cheese.
“Well, I don’t think they’re going to get anything done like this, so maybe we should take a break?”
As their teacher, Sophie, said that, those children who had seemed so out of sorts just a moment ago suddenly jumped up in joy.
“Oh, Shirley? What’s the matter?”
“…I’m getting them something sweet for their break.”
As Shirley had sat in her room doing some maintenance on her adventuring tools, she strained her ears to listen in on Sophie and the rest in the living room. When she heard those children finally break out of their concentration and decide to take a break, she left the room without a word and headed to the inn’s kitchen, taking the ice cream that Martha had made before hand out of the refrigerator.
“I brought some ice creams, does anyone want some?”
“Ooohh!? Shirley-san, you’re the besssss!”
Only about thirty seconds had passed. After Shirley had used her skills as a master swordswoman in the most unnecessary way possible to get back and forth that fast, Chelsea yelled out in delight.
“It must be nice, right? Being beautiful and making sweets like these, you guys have the ideal mum, you know.”
“Ehehehe… You think so?”
“Mm… You’re probably right.”
Shirley pretended not to notice their conversation, but there were actually fireworks going off in her heart. She gazed at the children with a good mood, but she didn’t let it show on her face.
“How is the homework going?”
“It’s not too bad. We might be able to finish the maths and language problems today and the diary and free research should be done by the end of the week.”
“Uwaaa, she said it. Like a real honour student!”
“I-Isn’t it fine? It’s not hard to do if you work properly.”
“Sophie… Not all human beings are carried by those same winds, you know?”
Tio attained some strange kind of enlightenment. And that girl, when she heard the word ‘free research’, she looked a little confused.
“But what are we actually supposed to do for free research? I don’t know since it wasn’t part of last year’s homework.”
“Ah, then what about a growth record of those two?”
Following Mira’s line of sight, they looked at the blue feathered bird called Beryl and the red-plumed bird called Rubeus, who were pecking at the cold ice cream in their bowls with furious momentum. Those two birds that were eating at a speed that made them look possessed by something otherworldly were, in fact, age-old spirit birds created by magic that had become the familiars of Sophie and Tio respectively through a magical contract.
Although their chance encounter with these two birds were what had triggered the emergence of the twins’ dormant abilities, they have served as excellent bodyguards against villains like Gran, and whatever scoundrels there might be in class. That being said, they hadn’t used their beams in the latter case, just their beaks. It’s best if no one died.
They were two creatures that seemed to transcend the laws of nature. As a subject for a free research project, there were worse things to pick, but Sophie shook her head.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea? There wouldn’t be anything to write about since all those two do is eat and sleep.”
Basically, unless there was some kind of emergency, Beryl and Rubeus were the laziest creatures in the world. A free research assignment done on those two would just detail how much they ate and how long they slept, not exactly exciting reading. Obviously, they couldn’t just invent some emergency to make them interesting either.
Shirley fell into deep thought as she watched the children who were faced with such a troublesome task. Surely there was something she could do to provide Sophie and Tio a good research subject, but what? For the Demonic White Sword, she felt like this would be the defining problem she would face as a mother this summer.