Why I Quit Being the Demon King Chapter 68

Why I Quit Being the Demon King

Chapter 16. The Growing Hero (3)

Among the equipment he possessed, the only thing that had been fully recognized as his own was the Doomswarp Boots. And it was these very boots he was wearing now. In the past, Yulgum had enchanted the Doomswarp Boots with the Blessing of Haste—a permanent magic that accelerated his movements by absorbing Zik’s mana.

As he dashed across at full speed, the scenery streamed by behind him. Zik sprinted through the several hundred meters of the cave in an instant and arrived at a vast cavern where a fierce battle was already underway.

About a hundred soldiers and a party of around ten heroes were surrounding a monster. The creature, sheathed in glossy black carapace, had pincers on its tail. Its long, flexible abdomen turned abruptly, slashing the soldiers’ waists in a single swipe. Terror had already devoured the place.

The hero Kanadin raised his shield to block the monster’s direct assault. But rather than holding a shield, it would be more accurate to say that he was hiding behind it. The nearly forty-year-old hero was barely keeping his body together, creaking under the brute force of the monster’s body slam.

Kanadin’s comrades fought desperately to aid the hero. The magician cast healing and strengthening spells while the archer blinded the enemy’s eyes with mana-imbued arrows. A giant wielding two axes in his two-meter-tall frame hacked away at the monster’s carapace like a storm, only to increase the number of axe handles without blades.

The soldiers were merely extras, dragged there out of a sense of duty to protect their village. Bodies severed by the monster’s pincer tail were already piled up like a mountain. Fearful eyes were the only thing that filled the cavern, heavy with a stench far worse than sewer smells.

No one noticed Zik’s arrival.

“Erog…,” whispered someone, mentioning the name of the monster.

Zik took the shield off his back and gripped it firmly—a plain steel shield that made one wonder how many of Erog’s powerful attacks it could withstand. Just as futile was his ordinary steel sword, which couldn’t make a single scratch on the monster’s carapace.

Should he give up?

No.

Zik thought of Deus. What expression would he have in this moment? He let a slight smile curl on his lips and looked down on the monster with a raised chin. Even though it was mismatched, imitating him seemed to lend Zik a fraction of Deus’s strength.

“Haah!” Zik’s shout echoed through the cavern.

For that brief moment, Erog’s movement halted. Hidden under its skin, the black eyes turned sharply towards Zik.

Their eyes met.

In that instant, the monster must have realized.

This diminutive foe…

…was not scared in the least.

Zik rushed forward with all his might, leaping towards the monster’s head with his shield ahead.

A thunderous boom as if a drum had been struck filled the underground space. It was only then that those gathered took notice of Zik.

“Zik!” shouted the head of the Hollyoak family, Kanadin, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Lord Kanadin!”

“What are you doing here…?”

“A granny from the neighborhood said her son had gone missing.”

After the brief exchange, Zik pushed forward with his shield raised.

“You look quite tired. Allow me to take over for a moment.”

Kanadin looked at the young hero. His memory flashed back to the time when giants had invaded the castle, and the castle’s overseer proclaimed Zik’s potential above a D-grade hero. Even if he did not take those words at face value, Zik’s arrival in their dire situation was undoubtedly like rain after a drought.

“Join us.”

Kanadin steadied his stance and shouted to his companion, “Lanai, cast your magic on Zik immediately.”

“Got it!” With those words, countless magical forces enveloped Zik—a help not comparable to the magic of Yulgum but still significant.

Raising his shield, Zik called out to everyone, “I am the last shield! I shall not fall!”

His shouting was not an empty boast. Because the situation had become so desperate, Zik’s mere appearance had turned the tides.

Zik stepped forward, ahead of the weary Kanadin, almost feeling the monster’s breath on him.

The monster swung its front claw, aiming to strike him down, but Zik blocked the sharp blade with his steel shield, immediately being pulled in by the hooked claws caught on the edge.

Instead of trying to struggle out, Zik closed the distance even further and struck back with his shield.

A loud bang resonated as Zik’s shield clashed against the monster’s body. Erog slammed down its leg for the second time, hitting Zik with an impact like a giant’s hammer blow, causing his entire body to tingle with pain. Yet, Zik did not step back. Instead, he pressed forward, lifting his shield to block the monster’s view.

Erog, the creature, coiled its long body and thrust forth its tail. The sharp pincer aimed for Zik’s waist—a blow that could cleave a boulder in two, let alone a thin steel shield.

Without a second thought, Zik countered the pincer with his foot.

Of all his gear, only the Doomswarp Boots could withstand the pincer’s might. A sharp metallic noise echoed through the cave as the material grated against each other.

Zik swung his sword down, wanting to sever the pincer, but to no avail. The blade could not pierce Erog’s carapace. Yet, startled by this unexpected counterattack, Erog withdrew its tail and attempted to target another enemy.

At that moment, Zik lashed out at Erog’s face with his shield.

Erog stumbled back a step—a tiny victory. The assault did not cause significant damage or change the battle’s direction, but it completely altered the atmosphere on the battlefield.

The hero leading the front line against the enemy’s blows was an inspiring sight. The very belief that they themselves were not under attack was enough to bolster the morale of the spearmen and archers.

Zik continued to parry the monster’s attacks at near point-blank range. The disparity in strength was immense; Erog’s strike could squash a human like mush, and every hit could crack rocks.

Zik’s steel shield had been horribly mangled long ago, and his sword’s edge was nearly blunted, barely more than an iron club. Nonetheless, Zik’s will remained unbroken amidst the grim circumstances.

Watching from a small distance, Kanadin observed Zik’s fight, initially intrigued.

He hailed from a family of perennial contract heroes. Zik’s recent rise to prominence had caught his attention. As a fellow hero from the same Jorix Castle, it would be a lie to claim he had no interest.

But now his curiosity had turned into tension he couldn’t help but feel. Being a hero himself, he understood—where others would have faltered, Zik did not break.

A primal fear that should grip any human…

It appeared to have been cut out of him, as not even flecks of metal in his eyes made him blink.

And that alone…

“…is the power of a hero.”

“Pardon?” Kanadin, lost in his thoughts, was caught off-guard by a question.

“It’s nothing. Let me give you a stronger support,” he replied, before dropping his shield and gripping his sword with both hands.

With Zik stabilizing the front, it became easier to fend off Erog’s assaults. Finally, a warrior’s axe managed to sever the claw on the tail, and a spearman’s sharp edge pierced the monster’s side.

As Erog’s death screech cut through the air and was soon drowned out by the warriors’ cheers, Zik’s shield had utterly shattered.

Glancing at the half-piece of the shield left in his hand, Zik sighed shortly, “That’s five silver…”

Turning his gaze to the sword in his other hand, he continued, “Ah, this one too…”

The core steel of the sword seemed cracked, its life as a weapon spent. It would need to be melted down for scrap metal.

In total, that was a loss of one gold—a unilateral defeat.

Then Kanadin placed his hand on Zik’s shoulder.

“Zik, you fought well.”

Turning to face him, Zik saw that Kanadin too was not unscathed, with injuries scattered all over his body. Scabs of blood clung to his forehead, and his armor was broken open to reveal a shoulder so badly battered that the bone was nearly visible.

Though the magician continuously administered healing spells, aiding the wounds to close, it was still an injury that required several days of rest.

“Thanks to Lord Kanadin, I was able to hold out.”

A lantern-jawed warrior beside Kanadin replied to Zik, “Isn’t that obvious? Erog is a powerful underground monster on par with giants. It wasn’t an enemy meant for a B-grade hero like you.”

The magician concurred with the warrior’s sentiment, “If Lord Kanadin hadn’t weakened it substantially, your life would have been in jeopardy. You should first thank Lord Kanadin.”

“Yes, thank you for your help,” Zik said, recognizing the level he and his fellow fighters were at. They were first-class companions who could clearly assess Zik’s abilities.

Yet, they deliberately elevated their voices, belittling Zik in front of the soldiers to prevent any unwarranted rumors from spreading.

The notion of the patriarch of the Hollyoak family owing his life to the youngster from the Hollyjade family would cause more than just a stir.

The commander of the knights from Jorix Castle, known more for his political acumen than his swordsmanship, spoke up, “Zik, this is a place for military operations. Although I’m unsure why you’re here, I would ask you to kindly leave now.”

“Oh, apologies. I didn’t mean to intrude. However, I’m looking for workers from the sewer, a man named Jayce, who went missing a few days ago. Do you know what happened to them?”

The knight commander shook his head, “I don’t know who Jayce is, but everyone working here is dead. You might find them in the monster’s stomach.”

At this, Zik frowned, “Is that so?”

“Do you think a knight would waste time joking with you? You’re a hero, and I don’t treat you like an ordinary person in recognition of your valor. But I expect you to follow the rules as well.”

Zik glanced around at the assembled soldiers and heroes, feeling the unwelcoming atmosphere.

Nodding his head, he offered a final salute to Kanadin, “Then, I’ll take my leave. If by chance you find the body of a man named Jayce, please be sure to let me know.”

“Will do.”

Zik turned away, carrying his shattered shield and nearly broken sword, and headed back towards the stinking sewers.

“A hero in the slums, quite a symbolic sight.”

Someone addressed Zik, startling him. When he turned his head, there stood a man with a benign, smiling face.

“Mr. Kadencha.”

“I saw everything. It was quite impressive.”

“Ah…”

“Erog is a strong monster indeed. I would have helped had I known Lord Kanadin was going to have a hard time, but it seems Zik got there before I did.”

“It was by chance. I happened to enter while looking for someone I know.”

“And you swept away the laurels.”

“Stole the laurels…?”

“Jealousy, my friend.”

“Hahaha, you sure like peculiar stories, Mr. Kadencha.”

“Don’t you still understand your place?”

“I’m just a B-grade hero.”

“If you were only B-grade in ability, that would be one thing. But you know now, don’t you? Today, you cannot even make excuses about weapons. You hunted down a G-grade monster, Erog.”



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