This is the teaser for Demon Count and the Maiden of Flames. The main story really starts at Ch.1. Though this is a teaser, I may work on this project a little bit more in the background, but it is open for anyone to pick it up.
“…It’s become thicker, huh.”
My friend sitting in front of my eyes muttered. What he was talking about was the fog he saw from outside the window.
When nighttime falls, a fog the color of rich milk settles in the city of Rosetta.
Isis, the large river that divides the city from the east and west, brings the cold, massive clouds of it from the sea. For that reason, the people of Rosetta call their city, “The Foggy Capital.”
A breeze flowed into the room from the open window not facing outside and weaved through the small opening between the thick curtains. At this time, the open air of Rosetta was slightly chilly, but it was comfortable for those bodies warmed by alcohol. The chimes of a bell that could be heard faintly from afar were from the Griflet Cathedral located on the western side of the city.
“Those chimes are no different from the ones a hundred years ago.”
My friend calmly whispered and carefully listened to the timbre that probably wouldn’t change for another hundred years as well.
“There is only a quarter left before we reach the turn of the century. It happens so quickly.”
“The country on the other side of the sea appears to have created a machine to play instruments called a ‘gramophone.’ Really, it is such a frighteningly fast pace. The changes happening in this world.”
My friend muttered words full of earnest emotion, so I chimed in.
“Perhaps an era when humans may be able to fly through the sky will come soon. But, by the time that comes along, I probably won’t be alive anymore.”
While I laughed in self-mockery, I poured a deep crimson alcohol from a bottle into glasses and presented one to my friendly conversational partner.
“I envy you.”
It was a Soluille wine aged for 56 years. I presented my cherished drink that I had let ferment for over 20 years so that my friend wouldn’t complain about the taste. It was a scarlet darker than chicken’s blood and had a brilliance that hid some kind of vibrancy, so even my friend who would usually complain, “Human food doesn’t fit my palate,” wouldn’t find fault in it.
“I have to inform you that I will soon depart from this world, but you can enjoy your own life the way you wish to.”
There was only the two of us in this room. Whenever my eccentric friend comes to visit me, all the people inside the estate will always be asleep this late in the night.
With an imitation of a human’s hand, he gulped down the contents, and after it moistened his throat, he snorted pompously.
“‘Tis monotonous, my life of no ups and downs. There is only boredom.”
—I hate boredom the most in this world.
These were the words he always said. He often scoffed, “Humans smell extremely terrible, and they’re always sulking somewhere in the world,” but I always found this to be strange. I questioned whether he, the only inhuman being I became acquainted with during my less than 20 years living, was the only one of his kind to have such thoughts.
“Have thou heard the expression, ‘Boredom kills people’? ‘Tis the same for us. Living for a long time does not necessarily bring forth good fortune.”
“No, even so, it’s a line that holds something I envy.”
I didn’t gulp down the wine like my friend but rather gently swirled the glass in my hand, enjoying the color and scent of it—then I asked.
“If you’re bored, shouldn’t you just make things interesting? Or am I mistaken?”
“‘Interesting,’ is it? ‘Tis simple for thou to say such. If we were to express such a concept as ‘interest,’ it will not be the same as thou.”
He told me stories of how to bring about some amusement in his long life, he had gone ‘human hunting’ more than once or twice. The look on his eyes was somewhat ironic as he made that snide remark at me.
“Well, of course, I know that they’re different.”
As easily as stealing candy from a baby, he most certainly could tear my body apart and devour my soul. But he wouldn’t do such a thing. Well, rather than he wouldn’t, he couldn’t.
The reason being that it would be nothing more than a mere moment of amusement; in exchange, he would have to spend his long days of boredom without a friend to listen to his complaints. He was convinced that the humans who would accept an existence like himself were rare.
Simply put, he was the predator, and I was his prey. Our relationship was naturally incompatible, and the way we conversed like this here was the same as how a lion looked at a rabbit.
“In that case, do you want to try to live as a human?”
“…What was that?”
My abrupt suggestion made my friend stared back in wonder. It was rare for him to make such a face.
“Human lives are short, but that of itself is what makes it interesting. O Great Demon King, it wouldn’t hurt to experience just a little taste of it, eh?”
“What is there to experience?”
My friend had a suspicious look on his face, so I explained this strange proposal, and that it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment idea. He pondered on this for a while then gave a quick nod.
“I see. ‘Tis indeed interesting.”
His reaction wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. I secretly chuckled in my head.
In the beginning, he started to become interested in the existence of ‘humans’ through me. He didn’t initially show any disapproval or anything like that in his judgment…but perhaps I may have conveyed something better than imagined.
“At the very least, it should help you kill some time. A few decades to you is the same as a blink of an eye, right?”
I poured more wine into my friend’s empty glass as I continued to spout words of persuasion.
“If you end up thinking that human lives are truly uninteresting, go ahead and destroy everything then. I’m sure that if you really want to, you could turn this entire city into scorched earth in a mere night.”
“Might as well make a bet, right? —Let’s see. If there are no humans who can’t prevent you from being bored while you live as a human, go ahead and destroy everything.”
My friend showed a slight surprise at how unhesitant I was as I said those words.
“A gamble, thou say? What would be the objective of all of this?”
“That’d be the Human World of course.”
Since I, nothing more than a human, had used such a drastic tone, I could see why my friend was looking so troubled. Troubled—or rather, suspicious.
This wasn’t looking good. Maybe because I was too caught up in the moment that he saw through my true intentions. I gave a huge grin.
“Well, as a human, I can only pray that you won’t fall out of love with this world.”
For this world’s and your own sake. And for the sake of this body of mine.
“Won’t you say you want to try it out? I promise to offer my body and cooperation. I only have a short life ahead of me anyways. It’s not bad to use whatever I have left for a friend’s sake.”
“…I see. If thou say this much.”
He nodded, willing to give it a shot. As I earned his consent, my heart jumped for joy.
“All right, it’s settled!”
I raised my hand holding the glass. Caught up in the momentum, my friend also grabbed his glass.
“Drink, my friend. This shall be a celebratory wine. Let’s make a toast now, to your new ‘life!’”
Like singing a song, I cheered, congratulating him on setting out for a new life.
—May your path be filled with fortune.
—May this world not bore you but grant you curiosity and zeal.
This may have been close to what people call ‘a prayer.’
“Friend, do your best to savor this. The pleasure of a short life.”
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