"I've come to kill you and end this once and for all."
"Yes, please do so. I've been waiting for this for all my life."
"Of course I can—wait, what?" The young man paused, confused. His longsword was held before him in a fighting stance and the magical runes inscribed upon the blade were glowing fiercely. A plume of bright blue fire had been conjured in his free left hand, ready to be unleashed upon his enemy at a moment's notice. In this sort of situation, he had naturally assumed his opponent would reply with something like, "You can never defeat me!" or, "You don't stand a chance!"
But what he had heard was quite different from what he had expected.
He regarded the individual before him properly for the first time. Curved, dark horns were located at the top of her head, accompanying the clearly demonic white hair and ruby-colored eyes. Her risque, figure-hugging outfit was made of black leather and made no effort to conceal her long tail. She sat on a throne of skulls, her improbably long and sharp fingernails looking more like claws than any human body part.
In other words, as far as appearances went, she ran completely true to type. Male Demon Lords had been popular in the distant past, but it soon became clear that females were just as good in combat due to magic, and they had a much more significant advantage thanks to their feminine wiles and charms.
However, it didn't seem like she was going to be putting those skills to use.
"Come at me, hero!" she cried. "Take me and my life!"
The young man blinked as the Demon Queen got off her chair and spread her arms wide. Her eyes sparkled with an eagerness that was greatly discomforting. It was true that he had been pronounced as the destined hero to defeat the Demon Queen and drive back the growing demonic forces. But it left a strangely bad taste in his mouth to find that the enemy that he had put in so much effort to reach and defeat was offering absolutely zero resistance.
He had never been interested in a concept such as 'protecting the world', or, indeed, even in the concept of doing anything. The only reason he had accepted the quest to defeat the Demon Queen was because of his troublesome friend, who had forced him into it. It had simply been easier to go along with her rather than resisting. But still, it was somewhat disheartening to go through all those trials and battles, only to discover that his work had alsmost been for nothing. His supposed mortal enemy was asking for him to kill her.
He slackened his stance and lowered his longsword. "Wait just a moment here! Just why are you so eager to die? Aren't you trying to destroy us humans to take over the world for demons?"
The Demon Queen placed a slim finger upon her lips and winked.
"That's what most of the world thinks. But the human sages and the Demon Queens know that that isn't the case. Most demons are bloodthirsty beings. We always need something to fight against. If we really did conquer the world, we would just end up destroying ourselves. That's how this little arrangement came about between us and your sages. The humans defeat the demons every so often to check the demons' growth and ensure their own survival. In return, the demons never grow strong enough to actually conquer the world."
"So in other words, the previous heroes also knew this."
"Yes, that's right. They were told this by the previous Demon Queens before killing them. Now come, hero! It's your turn! Plunge that blade deep into me!"
The young man scowled and sheathed his sword, the glow from the runes fading as he did so. The collection of flames on his palm disappeared as he turned around to walk towards the exit.
"I'm not going to do anymore work. In fact, I'm already angry now because I trained and traveled all this way for something as pointless as this! Why don't you just disappear somewhere? That has the same effect, doesn't it? And I won't need to do anything!" His final sentence was exclaimed with an unusual sense of triumph.
The Demon Queen let out a desperate wail as she tackled him to the floor from behind and clung to him tightly.
"You can't! We need to leave a corpse behind to make a clear statement to the demons!"
"Buzz off! Find someone else!" snarled her captive, but she refused to let go. With a resigned sigh, the young man rested his head against the cool, hard floor and closed his eyes in contentment. For the first time, a smile appeared on his face.
"Ah, this is surprisingly comfortable. I'm tired. It's not a bad time for a nap."
"Nooooooooooooo! What kind of hero are you?!" screamed the Demon Queen as she shook his shoulders fiercely, causing his head to smash into the floor over and over again.
"Ouch! Stop! STOP!"
Irritated, he placed both of his palms on the floor and flipped himself around to face his tormentor.
"Look you, if my bothersome friend hadn't harassed me every day for three straight months, I wouldn't even be here! If you ask me, this entire affair sounds highly suspicious. There aren't that many demons that are going to see your corpse, even if I kill you. It's almost like you want to be murdered for your own personal satisfaction rather than for the noble reason that you told me about earlier."
The Demon Queen froze for a brief instant. It could have been nothing, but the swordsman was too observant not to notice it. A pink flush gradually crept up her cheeks and her tail began swishing back and forth violently.
"Wha—? I-I have no idea what you're talking about!"
The young man narrowed his eyes and grasped his chin with one hand. "In fact, come to think of it, you sounded strangely ecstatic while discussing how I was going to kill you."
"Wh-wha—? N-no way! It's not like I spend every day dreaming about how you'll kill me or anything!" Even as she declared this, the Demon Queen blushed and placed her hands on her cheeks.
The two counterparts, demon and hero, stared at each other in silence.
"Oooookay," said the hero slowly. "Let's leave it at that…" Using his palms, he subtly began to push himself backwards towards the exit.
"Noooo!" howled the Demon Queen. "Now that you know my secret, there's no point in hiding it! Now you absolutely have to kill me!"
"So you're really just a suicidal person after all?!" the young man yelled as she wrapped her arms tightly around his torso again to prevent him from escaping.
"I'm not suicidal! I just want you to kill me, hero!"
"That sounds awfully suicidal to me! If you wanna die so badly, then get someone else to kill you, not me! Just let me go already!"
"No! It can't be anyone but you, hero! You're the only one for me!"
"Don't say such pure and innocent things when talking about something as morbid as murder!"
The back-and-forth argument between the two was interrupted by the growing sound of footsteps approaching them. They both looked up to find a redhead dressed in white robes standing behind them. She clutched at a long and crooked wooden staff in her right hand, while her left hand was clenched tightly into a fist. Her brilliant sapphire eyes were so narrowed that they were barely open.
"Oh. 'You're the only one for me', eh? And all this time I was wondering why you finally decided to take on this quest. So it was all for the sake of your lover..." she said, her voice trembling with barely suppressed anger.
"Hold on just a minute here," protested the young man, waving his arms about wildly. "I thought you were fighting the other demons! And didn't you hear what I said right after that? She was talking about murder, not love. Besides, how could I possibly be lovers with the Demon Queen when her castle is more than a hundred thousand miles away from the village we've stayed in all our lives?"
The young woman shook her head and redoubled her grip on her staff, "I'm sorry, there appears to be some kind of magical red haze in front of my eyes now, and I can't hear anything because of it."
"How could you have possibly answered me then?!" he shouted back.
The Demon Queen pushed her body further up to better prevent the swordsman's escape, which also had the unfortunate side-effect of further emphasizing the compromising position that he was in. "Oh. Is this the bothersome friend who kept harassing you that you were telling me about?"
"NO!" He scrambled to salvage the situation, but there was, most unfortunately for him, already nothing left to salvage.
The young woman shook her head and redoubled her grip on her staff, "Oh. So I've been bothering you so much that you had to let out your frustrations and confide in your secret lover. Even though all I wanted to do was to allow you to properly use that unbelievable martial and magical talent of yours...So I've been harassing you too much?"
"Don't repeat your previous action like that! It's scary! And I thought you said that you couldn't hear anything?!"
"Don't worry about small things like that. I'll cleanse the world of your traitorous, unneeded existence right now." The redhead dropped her staff onto the floor with a clatter, raised her hand above her head, and conjured a massive fireball of black flame out of nowhere.
"No! You can't kill the Hero! He has to kill me first!" The Demon Queen snarled and got off the young man, rising to her feet. She jabbed her tail at the young woman, and large crackling bolts of blue lightning began to take shape around it.
"Out of my way, demon whore! I'll kill him first and then I'll kill you."
"There's no point if he's not the one killing me!"
The young man snapped his fingers. Now that the Demon Queen was no longer restraining him, he was able to pull himself into an upright position and was now sitting with his legs crossed on the floor. The large sphere of fire and the stream of electricity faded away into nothingness. The two women looked at each other in confusion as the energy from their spells dissipated.
"What did you do?" they asked at the same time.
"I nullified all forms of magic within a 1km radius of this place. It's a huge pain in the ass and takes a lot of energy so I don't usually do it," replied the young man nonchalantly, but the dark scowl on his face was more than enough to indicate that he was not as calm as he appeared.
He glanced at his companion. "Just to make it clear, I am not the Demon Queen's lover. Honestly, calm down a bit and think it over. You're usually much more level-headed than that.
"And as for you." He rounded on the Demon Queen and pointed an accusing finger at her. "Just why do you want to be killed by me so badly?"
She stared blankly at him. From time to time, her tail would twitch. Perhaps that was her way of fidgeting. Finally she muttered, "But what else is the reason for my existence, if it isn't to be killed by you?"
Now it was the young man's turn to be caught by surprise. "What?"
"Since the creation of our two races, the Demon Queens have existed solely to be killed by the Heroes. I'm no different; that's why you have to kill me. I would rather die than be denied my reason of existence."
The young man eyed her carefully, but there was no trace of hesitation in her determined expression. Her eyes were firm and her lips formed a thin, straight line that left little doubt on that point.
"That's crazy, you know. I'm sparing your life! You can find a new purpose, a new reason to exist."
"I can't; ever since I was born, I've been continuously prepared for what was to come. I know nothing else—there shouldn't have been anything else."
"...Are you going to keep bugging me to kill you forever?"
She inclined her head. "Yes. There is nothing else that is more important to me."
The young man scratched the back of his head and exchanged glances with his companion. "Well, how about it? You're always going on about how I should try to help others with my abilities. Does that extend to the Demon Queen, too?"
"I don't know exactly what's going on, but it seems like she's not actually an evil person. You can explain it to me later, but don't think that I'm unaware of your true intentions." The redhead gave the man a sharp glare. "You exposed yourself with that question earlier."
He smiled innocently in reply. "I don't know what you're talking about."
The Demon Queen raised her eyebrows. "What do you plan to do?"
"It's simple, really," said the swordsman with a grin. "Since I can't get you to leave me alone, I'll just help you find a better reason for your own existence. There has to be something out there that you want to do with your life."
"How are you going to do something like that?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. But you're going to follow me anyway, aren't you? Since this quest is pointless now, the two of us are gonna return back to the village we grew up in. I'm sure that you'll find something, along the way."
"If I don't, then I'll keep following you until you kill me," said the Demon Queen stubbornly as she followed the Hero to the exit.
"There's no way I'm going to let something as annoyingly tiresome, bothersome, and troublesome as that happen."
"I-I'll be counting on you, then."
The Hero just nodded and smiled.