Why I Quit Being the Demon King Chapter 79

Why I Quit Being the Demon King

Chapter 18: A Fierce Struggle on the Battlefield (5)

Zeke had always been accustomed to the darkness, given his relentless training in the nocturnal mountains. Yet, something about the tree before him sapped his courage to approach it. Maintaining a cautious distance, he circled around towards the graveyard’s entrance.

In his hand were five silver coins. A song floated on the air, every word weaving its way into the night sky.

“For a single silver coin, please give way to a passing traveler. For one silver coin, heaven grows nearer. All I lack is a coin, so if you wish to pass, be generous with your silver. Just one silver coin.”

The voice, hoarse as if choked by phlegm, resonated through the night, and the sorrowful hoot of a night owl followed suit. Zeke and Lexia searched for the owner of the voice, their eyes darting around.

Beneath the tree hung a grotesque shadow, bent-backed and cloaked, his face obscured by a mantle. In his hand, he brandished a stick, twisted like a bow with a lamp at its end casting a ghastly blue glow.

Lexia whispered, “Reminds me of Charon, the boatman.”

“It’s just a story from mythology,” Zeke replied, stepping forward.

As a creepy breeze caused the hanging corpses to sway, the old man under the tree broke into a grin. “Welcome, traveler,” the cloaked figure greeted, leaving Zeke to ponder the fitting salutation.

Eventually, he decided to treat the figure as an ordinary old man. “Hello,” Zeke greeted, bowing his head in respect—a greeting met with subtle perplexity from the old man.

To say “hello” under a tree pregnant with death’s fruit to a keeper akin to death itself, the old man could never have imagined who Zeke was associating with these days. Even when confusing people, the Demon King was leagues above an odd old man.

Unbeknownst to Zeke, he’d been brushing shoulders with the Demon King’s audacity daily. Had he not been a hero, he might’ve wasted away in illness or given into a nameless fear and quit long before.

The ordinary people standing vigil in the graveyard felt bolstered by Zeke’s unintended courage, helping them persevere.

Reassessing Zeke’s shabby appearance, the old man reopened the conversation, “In my hand are five silver coins. Gift but one to ease your way. Then I will push you on the ferry across the afterlife’s squall.”

Smiling wryly, Zeke scratched his head, “Well, heading to the afterlife is just a polite way of saying ‘dying’, right? Doesn’t seem like a fair trade – paying a silver coin to die.”

The mood did not seem ripe for jest, and the old man insinuated as much with his silence.

Zeke continued, “The mood is… fine, I guess. I’m simply refusing a stranger’s request for money. Silver isn’t pocket change, after all. Starting next month, we need funds to pay for my siblings’ magical tutoring—money is tight.”

Nodding his understanding, Zeke excused himself, “We have other matters to attend to over there,” and walked off, guiding Lexia by the hand towards the graveyard.

At that moment, the old man bellowed, “Halt. I, Kelsthüm, guard the gates of the netherworld. Those who deny my silver coin shall die under the curse of the ledger!”

Zeke turned to face the old man, whose demeanor had taken a sinister turn. Green mist flowed from his dark cloak like fog and he raised his staff, chanting arcane words.

“It’s magic,” Lexia observed, drawing her sword and shield to assume a defensive stance.

Zeke promptly equipped himself with a weapon, and the two were suddenly engulfed by a torrent of black flames. Lexia’s shield was cinched by the fire, and the heat crisped the tips of her hair.

In that moment, Zeke called upon his manaring and, recalling Skatul’s teachings of spell manifestation, he pictured a wall of water in his mind.

“Water Wall!”

A column of water surged from the ground, enveloping them both and quenching the flames.

The old man, it seemed, was not a mere storyteller but a practiced mage, capable of spells that warped reality and bent the world to his dark whims. As he unleashed a torrent of fire and brimstone, the verdant woods turned to ash.

Zeke and Lexia threw themselves into the fray, their resolve bolstering each other. The old man’s true form as a powerful lich bore down upon them, his hallowed body revealed only by his parched armor, skeletal hands weaving spells of devastation.

Yet, with every ripple of malevolence, Lexia and Zeke’s resolve strengthened, and despite the ancient’s tricks, the lich did not go untouched. Together they wheeled and struck, holy sword and enchanted blade piercing the heart of decay.

When the lich fell, consumed by celestial flame, the pair caught their breath. The battle had taken its toll on their bodies, wounds borne of vile sorcery threading across Zeke’s flesh, but the triumph was theirs.

Lexia approached her compatriot, lamenting her lack of healing magic at that moment. Yet the will to fight on, to live past each harrowing encounter, was stronger than any spell.

“Are you alright?” she queried.

“Yes, senior,” Zeke replied, though his trembling hand betrayed the strain of their arduous battle.

“It’s time we head back to the village. I fear another onslaught of undead might be more than we can handle tonight,” Zeke suggested.

Lexia nodded. “Let’s go.”

As they readied to leave, a corpse that had been suspended from the tree tumbled to the ground with a dull thud.

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