Lying down in the middle of a grassy plain, Julius Goldforge stared up at the night sky. A part of him began to wonder when he would die.
He had been lucky so far, but, given his unenviable task of mentoring the new heroes, it was only a matter of time before he wound up getting killed. Just like the mentor for his old party, and the one who mentored his mentor, and so on and so forth.
It must be some kind of curse.
“Hey, old man, get up and help us set up camp!”
In more ways than one. Sitting up and looking back, Julius spotted the current destined hero, a tan, black-haired young man named Adrien Dro. A handsome kid of nineteen years, Adrien was the spitting image of a complete and utter rookie, the solid steel armor he was wearing doing very little to dissuade that impression. The kid was too relaxed, a boyish grin on his face as his curly hair tangled up around his head, though he’d definitely get better in time. He was able to handle himself pretty well already, but he had a long way to go before he could actually save the world.
Like the chosen heroes before him, Adrien wielded the legendary holy blade that could slay the Demon Lord: Iginia. A fairly fancy name, so long as you didn’t know that the sword was only named that by a hero about a hundred years after it was forged, mainly so she could score points with her girlfriend by naming it after her. According to the stories, she really didn’t appreciate the gesture.
A part of Julius wondered just how the blade managed to stay sharp despite being used hundreds of times. He knew magic was used to keep it from growing dull, but one would assume the enchantments would fade away eventually. Maybe there really was something to that whole ‘blessed by the gods’ thing?
“Sorry, this old man's hip isn't working right now, but I'm sure a strapping young lad like you can make do.” Really, Julius wasn't that old, even if his swept back blonde hair had started to grow gray, and his skin darkened from years as a blacksmith had started to be worn out. Thankfully, his thick mustache still remained mostly gold. He was only forty-two, and still as well built as he ever was under the gray plate armor covering everything below his neck. He had to be if he wanted to swing the massive broadsword lying beside him.
“Oh wow, to think the legendary dragon slayer would get so bri-gah!” Cut off mid-taunt, Adrien held his side as he fell to his knees, wincing in exaggerated pain as the brawler of the party, a blue-haired girl named Sue wearing her own set of platemail with specifically reinforced gauntlets, her hair cropped short in a pixie cut, stood over him. Julius wasn’t particularly worried about that hit. Sue, a tall, pale, freckled and quite muscular nineteen-year-old, a couple months older than Adrien, according to the two of them, had a tendency to swing first whenever she was irritated, but never hit anyone above a light tap. It could come as a surprise if you weren’t expecting the hit, but she didn’t hurt anyone she wasn’t actively looking to hurt.
“If you're going to bicker, then you’d better be working while you do it!” At the very least, Julius was grateful that someone kept Adrien in line. He probably should have done the same for his own mentor, now that he thought about it. He and Douglas always seemed to fight about anything and everything.
“A-Ah, um, sir…” Glancing over he found the party’s mage, a black-haired young woman named Sophia Rama. Dark-skinned and green-eyed, she was a small and shy girl who formed the backbone of the small group’s support. A lofty task for the pony-tailed mage who kept a set of chainmail on under her pale blue learner’s robe, but she seemed to handle it pretty well so far. He’ll need to look into getting her a few proper teachers on their future visits to the larger city-states around. “If you aren't feeling well, would you like me to heal you?”
“No, no, I may be getting on age, but I'm still as spry as I ever was.” Chuckling, he rubbed her head, before lying down on the grass. At least his final days would be entertaining, he thought to himself. However, as he looked back at Adrien and Sue, he couldn't help but frown as he saw the two start to flirt, both smiling cheerfully.
Even after all these years, he had never found anyone to settle down with. Sure, it wasn’t like he had never been with someone, but...it never seemed to last. At least those flings were enjoyable while they lasted. And this way, no one would be left heartbroken when he died.
However, before those dark thoughts could continue, Julius stiffened as his senses began to scream at him.
“Everyone, RUN!” Getting up, Julius grabbed the handle of his broadsword as his eyes scoured the trees surrounding the plains.
“Eh? What are you talking about old man? Are you starting to go senile?”
“Now isn't the time for arguing! Leave! NOW!” However, before anyone could move, demons began to flood in from the trees surrounding the grove. Gritting his teeth, he charged the demons, slashing right through the first wave as more continued to appear. Bringing his sword down into a large bull-like demon, he could only curse as the still-living bull pushed forward on the blade, its thick flesh keeping him stuck in place as a bat flew at him, its bladed wing ready to cut off his head.
However, right before the blade touched his face, an arrow flew from behind him, piercing the bat and sending it flying backward, several more arrows skewering several more demons in turn soon after.
“You of all people should know better than to rush in alone,” came the monotone voice of their archer, a young man by the name of Sergio Fin. Since a fight wasn’t the best place for mental description, a quick rundown would be necessary: tan skin, really short–basically shaved–hair, blue tunic with greeves and gloves, plus much looser bits of plates around his chest and joints. Kid insisted he needed to be mobile, though full plate was plenty easy to move in and shit far too many demons-!
“I told you all to run!” However, even as he shouted, the young heroes converged on the demons, easily decimating them with sword, fists and arrows while Sophia cast strength and defense enhancements.
“Come on old man! Don't tell me you're afraid of these pipsqueaks!” Easily slicing through several ogres at once, Adrien smirked as he stood by Julius, their severed heads dropping to the ground before erupting into smoke.
“These aren't what I'm worried abou-” Freezing, Julius senses were immediately overwhelmed by a suddenly all too familiar sensation.
Fear was all he felt. Something he hadn't truly felt for twenty-five years, when he’d last fought the previous demon lord.
“Muahahaha! Is this pitiful party what I have to fight against?” came the booming voice of the new Demon Lord, coming from all directions. “And what's this? An old fossil trembling in his boots? Don't worry, you won't be for long~” And with that, the voice seemed to focus in one location, as the demon lord emerged.
At the sight, Julius could do little but tighten his grip on his blade.
Striding out of the treeline, pure darkness pouring out like mist behind her, was the current Demon Lord: Valondrac.
The woman who united the Dark Lands behind her reign, a feat her predecessor had been unable to accomplish, was right in front of them, clad in a black cloak trimmed with red. She chuckled darkly, raising a hand covered by a crimson gauntlet, shining white diamonds set into the metal along the back. Her fingers splayed, a sudden golden barrier flashed into existence around the grove, blocking them in.
“Valondrac!” Adrien shouted, pointing his sword at the demon lord, “I always knew demons were underhanded, but ambushing us like this? You really must be a coward! Come on! Fight me one on one if you have any dignity!”
“Now's not the time for taunts, kid,” Julius muttered, trying to keep an eye on Valondrac even as he glanced at Adrien. The rest of the kid’s party looked just as geared up to fight, despite the sheer gulf in power between them and the demon lord.
“Hm...tempting, but nope!” Valondrac’s voice was cheerful as she raised her hand again and a blast of pure force erupted from her palm. The kid’s whole party went flying back off their feet as Julius remained steady, gritting his teeth at the sudden push. Which meant he was the only one standing in front of the Demon Lord. Shit.
“Wow. You brats really are pathetic, huh? You’re not the best teacher, huh, fossil~?” Valondrac sounded all too cheerful as she started walking towards him, darkness licking at her heels.
Julius took a breath, steadying himself. In all honesty, he could see exactly where this was going to go. The demon lord would kill him. That was guaranteed at this point. But, if he hit her at the right moment, broke her concentration, then the kids could escape. Maybe find one of his old party, continue their quest...avenge him.
Dammit. He really didn’t want to die.
Valondrac didn’t seem to care though, stepping almost lazily towards him. “As for being a demon, I would say you’re only half-right, boy. Though, while I’m here, I suppose I should thank your teacher~”
Julius frowned, narrowing his eyes at Valondrac. “Why?”
“Because, if I’m recognizing you right, you’re one of those idiot heroes that killed the last fool who thought he could call himself the Demon Lord over twenty years ago, which meant I had plenty of room to grow my own empire~. So, really, thank you.” Well, she wasn’t wrong. Still, he wasn’t about to lose his head over a few taunts.
...He was sincerely hoping she didn’t decapitate him now though. Cyrus would never let him live down a terrible pun like that.
“And?” Julius asked, keeping his voice steady. “What does that mean for me?”
“Well, it does mean I truly am thankful to you~. So thankful, I think I’ll grant you one request.” Valondrac chuckled as his frown deepened. “What, you don’t believe me~? I can show you just how honest I am~.” With a flick of her wrist the barrier, surrounding them shrank, until only he and Valondrac were inside of it.
Continuing to chuckle, she lowered her hood-
Julius nearly dropped his sword. His jaw did drop though.
Valondrac, the demon lord, scourge of the kingdoms, was gorgeous. Long black hair, adorably frizzy, swept over her shoulders as she freed it from her cloak, smirking at him with black-painted lips. Her skin was a gorgeous shade of brown, a fearsome scar standing out as it traced over her right eye, and gods her eyes. Both were a bright yellow, like sunflowers, glittering with amusement.
She sauntered up to him, confidence and poise radiating from her as her smirk widened. “Well, hero? Too terrified for words? No taunts, no threats, not even a little plea for your apprentice’s safety? I did say I’d grant you one favor~.”
Valondrac paused, her smirk frozen. She blinked, a cute little chuckle slipping out as she stared down at him, meeting his eyes perfectly. “What?”
Julius paused too, considering for a moment what he had said. And then he decided to go for it. “Marry me. Please.”
She blinked that time, her smirk dropping in clear confusion. “...H-Hold on, what?”
“Please marry me.” Julius nodded, resolute in his chosen path.
The demon lord Valondrac blinked again, a bit more rapidly, a sudden blush creeping up her cheeks, barely visible but still present. “A-Ah, u-uh...u-u-u-um, I, u-u-um-That, l-l-l-look, I, uh, that’s, um, I-I-I-I m-m-m-mean-”
“Cute,” Julius unconsciously observed. That seemed to be a poor choice of words since Valondrac immediately squeaked, high-pitched and adorable, blushing even brighter.
“Wait wait wait! Th-Th-That, u-u-um-I-I-I-” She suddenly pulled her hood back over her head, letting out an embarrassed little whine as she turned away from him, her hands over her face.
“A-Ah, s-sorry, that was kind of sudden, I guess…” Julius raised a hand for a moment, realized he was still holding his sword, then dropped it with a *thunk*. Valondrac whirled around at the noise, staring down at the sword, then at him, before squeaking again and suddenly running. “H-Hey, wait!”
Red feathered wings suddenly erupted from the back of her cloak as Valondrac took to the air, leaving Julius standing there with his hand outstretched. “Ah…”
Behind him, on the ground, Adrien, the chosen hero, blinked, slowly realizing his mouth was open. He closed it, blinking again, then glanced at his friends, all of whom looked just as shocked as he was. “...What just happened?”
“...I think Teach got rejected,” Sue summed things up, sounding just as confused as they all felt.