We had exorcised the [Black] Demon Lord out of Belial, and then brought Belial to Avalon to treat the wounds he got from Kuina in the process.
Thanks to Aura's healing powers as well as her improved version of [Viscosity] Demon Lord Ronove's viscous liquid, we managed to get Belial out of the certain death.
That said, he was far from being out the woods.
Aura was still in the middle of treating of treating him. We were in my new residence where all her medical equipment was installed.
So that we wouldn't get in her way, we decided to wait outside of the room.
I had wanted to let his monsters know beforehand that we were taking him to heal him, but I feared they would all rush to their lord's side. Worse yet, if they decided to see me as an enemy, they might want an unnecessary fight which could cause casualties. Such a fight would delay Belial's treatment, so I decided to just take him away silently.
With me outside was a pouting Kuina.
"If Oto-san let me in on the plan, I could have held back more."
"We needed Belial to look like he's done for though. Otherwise, the [Black] Demon Lord would have just gone back to Belial's body instead of going after me. So, sorry again, but we really needed you to be in the dark. I'm glad you kept your promise though."
I told Kuina beforehand to not kill Belial, no matter what happens in the meeting. If Kuina didn't hold back, there would be nothing but ashes left Belial, perhaps not even that. Killing Belial would have still led to the [Black] Demon Lord being totally erased, but would have obviously removed all hope of saving him.
Kuina keeping her promise was what I pinned my hopes on.
"Yeah, but only barely. When Kuina saw Oto-san seriously wounded, I 90% killed him."
Kuina 90% killing Belial was no exaggeration. If anything, it was an understatement.
Without Aura and the mucus she developed, Belial wouldn't have made it this long.
After a while of talking with Kuina like that, Aura went outside.
"How is he? Is Belial alright?"
"It was close, but yes, he's safe now. A scar might remain, but I don't think there would be any other lingering effects."
"Oh, thank goodness. And thank you too. Really."
"My pleasure, master. I suspect he'll regain consciousness by tomorrow. If he were to remain here to bathe in the revitalizing atmosphere produced by the First Tree, drink as much of the best-quality golden apple potions as needed, and then be given almost constant medical care by me, he should make a full recovery in a month's time."
"Spare nothing then. I owe him, so please prioritize his recovery."
"Understood. I will do everything in my power to make sure he makes a full recovery."
I was so relieved to hear Belial was safe.
Around noon of the following day, Belial woke up.
Having just woken, it was understandable he would have difficulties in talking while sitting up. As such, I told him we could postpone our talk for when he has recovered a bit more. However, he told me now was fine and bid me to stay.
And so, even though pain was visible in his face every time he opened his mouth, we talked.
"[Creation] Demon Lord Procell, I am very grateful to you for releasing me from the [Black] Demon Lord's control."
"So, it's just Procell now, not Procell-sama?"
"…well, it's quite creepy, isn't it? But please know that the respect I have for you is genuine. You walked a path similar to mine, but you have reached a different conclusion."
The face he showed while looking at me was a complex one. It was of both frustration and admiration.
"I've heard about your story from Marcho…oh, I mean, from [Beast] Demon Lord Marchosias. According to her, just like me, you showed outstanding talent among the new Demon Lords at the time. Pretty soon, you were able to go toe to toe even against older Demon Lords. However, this resulted in getting the attention of a few of them who then banded together to crush you."
"Quite so. Back then, the only thing on my mind was getting stronger. I was so preoccupied by the joy of winning that I failed to consider the consequences brought by my reckless pursuit for power. And when I was attacked, my allies did not have the courage, the inclination, or both to fight with me, forcing me to rely on another's power in order to survive."
His bitter tone said to me he was still regretting his past actions.
"And that led to you becoming the [Black] Demon Lord's puppet?"
"Yes. He said to me: 'I'll give you enough reinforcements to repel your enemies. In exchange, when the time comes that I'll need a new body, you'll submit yours to me.' A delayed death was much preferable to an immediate one, so I accepted his terms…it was only much later on that I found out that the one that organized and led the group that attacked me was none other than him."
That was such an underhanded move.
Belial having an A rank medal, a very useful unique ability, and a body with a still long lifespan made him a prime target for the [Black] Demon Lord. And I was supposed to be next. Much like what he did with Belial, he gathered others to crush me and then bided his time until my desperation was at its maximum.
Thinking about it now, he really was quite the fearsome Demon Lord. By claiming the bodies of one Demon Lord after the other, not only could he prolong his life but also amass war potential.
It was great thing to have dealt with him now rather than later.
"Thanks for sharing. That really clarifies a lot. Something's still bothering me though: why help me at all? …and you were aware of the listening device I planted, right? I mean, I'm confident you spouted all those things for the device to record. And then, there were all those out-of-place facial expressions as well as those unnatural tones that made me conscious and vigilant."
I was so surprised when I listened to what was within the listening device.
Belial acted like there was another person in the room, but the voice of this other person was just his own. His conversations with himself revealed a lot to me. Then it hit me, 'what if he's aware that there's a bug in his crystal room and are dropping these hints intentionally? …wait, really? He knew what my listening device is and made use of it???'
"Because the [Black] Demon Lord was wary a monster who was adept with reading minds might notice his presence, he gave me autonomy. That said, if I was to blatantly go against him, he wouldn't hesitate to take full control. And so, to avoid notice, I had to get creative in helping you. As for why I helped you, I didn't want you suffer the same fate; I wanted myself to be the last he could possess. Of course, I also had selfish reasons such as enjoying meddling with his plans and having my revenge on him."
"But if you didn't help me and he possessed me, you would have freed yourself from him. Has that not crossed your mind?"
"Of course it has. It's just that it's not my way of doing things, I guess."
That made him a good person in my books.
Coupling that with his intelligence, his fortitude, and his war potential, he was quite ideal as an ally.
"Alright, I'd like to ask something. You might have approached me because of the [Black] Demon Lord, but do you want to become my ally?"
"Listen, even if I tipped you off, shouldn't you consider me an enemy?"
"Your help outweighs whatever offense you made. So, let me invite you once again: be my ally and fight together with me, [Despair] Demon Lord Belial."
I said so and then stretched out my hand.
He looked conflicted whether to grab my hand or not.
Could he be feeling undeserving of my offer?
"Belial, let me be frank. I think of you as my benefactor, and I want to somehow repay my debt to you. To that end, whether you accept my offer or not, I won't stop your treatment, take revenge, or ask you to return the [Creation] medal I handed. What I want to say is I don't want you to worry about anything else except how you want us to move forward."
At that, Belial smiled wryly and looked me straight in the eye.
"…and here I thought I was soft-hearted. How could I say no after that? Very well…no, let me do that again. [Creation] Demon Lord Procell, I humbly request permission to join your faction. I feel like I could accomplish anything so long as you're by my side."
And so, Belial grasped my outstretched hand.
He gripped it with such force that it was hard to believe he was on the verge of death just a while ago.
He was finally, truly, and fully an ally.
Once his condition has improved a bit, I planned on introducing him to Stolas and Ronove.
"Procell, I realize it's too soon, but I have a request to make."
"What is it?"
When I replied, he took out a monster from his [Storage].
It was Ubel, his [Monster of the Covenant].
"Please get this girl back to my dungeon. I just don't want the rest of my monsters to worry about me. There's no need to update her. She's special in that even though she's inside the [Storage], she knows what's happening outside."
While Belial was explaining, Ubel made a graceful bow.
"It vexes me to no end that all I could about Belial-sama's dilemma was watch. [Creation] Demon Lord Procell-sama, on behalf of Belial-sama's monsters, I thank you for breaking Belial-sama free of the [Black] Demon Lord's curse."
At first, I thought she would resent me for causing his master to almost die, but thankfully, that was unnecessary worry.
"It's nothing. Well then, let's set up that Transfer array…Tiro, come."
Upon my call, Tiro who was resting on the floor stood and walked toward me.
"Tiro, I'd like you to bring her back to her dungeon. Oh, wait. Belial, I'd like you stay here until you've made a complete recovery. According to Aura, that'll take about a month's time. Unless, of course, you have a monster with better healing capabilities than Aura..?"
"No, I don't think any of my monsters can treat wounds this grave within a month. So, I'd like to take you on your offer and stay here."
"Understood. There you have it, Ubel. Please relay that to your comrades."
"Certainly. Well then, I'd be borrowing your cute little puppy."
Tiro barked and then constructed a Transfer array that led to another one that's in Belial's dungeon.
Soon after, she and Ubel left.
"……Sorry, but I think I'm at my limit for now. I think I better go lie down. But before that, Procell, I place myself in your care."
"And I in yours."
Belial smiled and then proceeded to rest.
The real Belial talked intelligently, such a far cry from his frivolous tone before. Having said that, I found myself curiously missing his old way of talking.
"Alright, this case is officially closed."
Finally, I could concentrate my efforts into preparing for the upcoming [Evening Party].
It was, after all, our faction's grand debut.
A thorough meeting with my allies was therefore in order. Moreover, since that Creator would likely propose a sideshow much like he did the last [Evening Party], I should also consult with Marcho.
…oh shit, I knew I was forgetting something important. The deadline for using [Rank Up] is also almost here!
[Rank Up] was a reward I had received from the Creator.
If I don't use it within the given deadline, I would be penalized.
But then, who should I use it on? There were risks to it, so my S ranks monsters, who were the cornerstone of Avalon, were out of the question. I was not keen on subjecting one of my B rank monsters to its risks either.
I'll have to be smart about this. I guess I still can't fully devote my attention toward the [Evening Party], huh.