He was a substitute official. A substitute official who receives trust even while breathing.
In other words, the reason for casually mentioning the uncertain dream was not just a simple remark. It was clear that he had received some kind of trust, so he must have come to the Demon King’s Castle.
‘You left me and came here, causing uncertainty in the dream. It was a foolish act.’
In my mind, I wanted to say it like that, but he was the only one who could bring me out of here.
First, I planned to confirm whether he had forgotten about me, as the Demon King’s curse dictated.
I pretended to be kind and optimistic, but I cautiously spoke, conscious of his eyes that shone like a newly born deer.
“You came all the way to the Demon King’s Castle because of the uncertainty in the dream. You don’t seem like an ordinary person either.”
Adandito didn’t change his expression even at my words.
“Well, because I saw you in my dream.”
“…You saw me in a dream?”
“Yes, I saw you wandering around the vicinity of the Demon King’s Castle. Could it be a manifestation of the Demon King?”
“Is it even possible to manifest? You should know that based on the power I possess.”
Healing abilities were one of the abilities furthest from demons. However, Adandito answered without a trace of doubt.
“If it’s the Demon King, he can disguise himself. Ironically, he is the being closest to God.”
Adandito smiled with a sincere expression as if he truly believed that. Seeing his attitude as if he was inviting me to speak if I had something to say, it seemed that he truly couldn’t remember me.
In other words, it meant that I could be torn apart by him at any moment.
‘This is a big problem. What should I say to explain?’
If I were to be mistaken as a demon, it would be the end for me. I would probably undergo countless cruel tortures until my demon identity was proven. By the time it was revealed that I was human, I would already be a corpse.
But if I were to say, ‘In fact, I’m someone who joined forces with you all to subdue the Demon King, and I’m here because of the Demon King’s curse, making everyone forget about me’…
‘They will torture me until they confirm the truth. What should I do about this?’
As I made a troubled expression, Adandito took a step closer and asked.
“It’s a simple question. Please reveal your identity. Or do you have a reason that makes it difficult to reveal your identity?”
“That… It’s not such a simple question…”
“Why not? If you’re a human, you should have enemies in the temple. If you’re skilled enough to cross the Forest of Evil, you must be recorded in the temple.”
I thought hard, but I couldn’t come up with a suitable answer. It was because, as Adandito said, there was no way they would miss someone with enough skills to infiltrate the Forest of Evil in the temple.
But if I made vague excuses, it would only lead to misunderstandings.
‘And Adandito hates lies the most.’
As soon as it was determined that my words didn’t match, I would become the target for disposal. So, I had to be cautious even with a single word. It was better to remain silent than to speak clumsily.
While hesitating, Adandito took another step closer and spoke.
“Unless you fell from the sky.”
“…Fell from the sky?”
He said it with a quite serious expression.
“Why, such things happen occasionally, don’t they? Perhaps Eora, the god of mercy, has sent a savior to the world.”
Yes, I am that very savior! Can I shout that out loud? But more importantly, how did that guy figure out my true identity so quickly?
Even though I may not know, it seems the intuition of the official is not something to be ignored…
I smiled cautiously, and Adandito responded by raising the corners of his mouth in a smile. However, his eyes still held a distinct glimmer, a gaze sparkling with curiosity and anticipation. It was a slightly more chilling expression than before.
‘What exactly does he want from me?’
As I stared at him with a completely puzzled expression, Adandito emitted a surge of power from his body and muttered to himself.
“Well, let’s start with a light test.”
As soon as he finished speaking, a power resembling sunlight enveloped my entire body. It felt as if my starved and unwashed body was being purified in an instant, cleansed by a gentle divine power. Additionally,
The gem I had hidden in my sleeve fell to the ground with a clatter.
At the same time, Adandito’s calm eyebrows twitched.
With a slightly bewildered gaze, he glanced at the gem rolling on the floor and muttered to himself.
“…Seems like you’re human.”
“…I have to eat to survive.”
“That’s true. Although I’m not sure why you’re here, in the most challenging place to survive.”
Adandito covered his face with his large hands, then muttered to himself.
“Perhaps this is also the will of the gods. Whether you’re a demon or a human… I will gradually find out.”
Is this really okay? I thought Adandito, who was close to being a perfectionist, would be more suspicious for a while longer.
‘ You dreamt, and then my appearance appeared in the shrine, so is it because of that?’
If it’s the will of the gods, then he would accept even a demon, so I could understand why he’s acting this way.
Anyway, thanks to this, my situation has improved significantly. If Adandito acknowledges it, he will provide me with meals, considering how hungry I’ve been.
‘Then, when the opportunity arises, let’s make our escape!’
I clenched my fist tightly and my eyes sparkled. Then I followed him as we left the forest of evil.
Unlike the long three years it took to travel from the entrance of the forest to the Demon King’s castle, it only took a few hours to escape.
* * *
The Temple of Eora, known as the continent’s deity and the mother goddess, overseeing the beginning and end of the world, was painted red as the sunset. At the far back of the temple, a space reserved exclusively for the official, it had a reputation for being more elegant than a royal palace.
“As it seemed, I had somehow ended up here.”
This appeared to be a guest bedroom attached to the official’s private space.
‘Security is thorough, so it would be quite a struggle to leave.’
It was a space accessible only to those thoroughly vetted. In other words, even if I were to disappear without a trace, no one would notice.
So, before the serious questioning began, I needed to plan my escape. But there was something more important at the moment.
‘He said he would bring me food, so where did he go?’
I had sung about being hungry to the temple, and Adandito had disappeared to get food.
It seemed like an hour had passed, but I was still famished.
‘Surely, he wouldn’t starve me to death like this.’
There was no expectation of a meal at the temple, but I had hoped to fill my stomach with something from the market.
‘Just come already. I’ll eat everything you bring.’
I was desperately trying to calm my grumbling stomach while disguising my emaciated appearance when I heard a knock on the door, and Adandito appeared with a tray in his hands.
“I have brought the meal.”
The apron he wore over his priestly robes was bulging with muscle, ready to burst. However, I couldn’t care less about his appearance.
Although I still felt somewhat uncomfortable seeing him dressed like that, having been in the subjugation corps where he was responsible for cooking, I was used to the sight. Above all, as the aroma of the room filled with a savory scent, my stomach roared for immediate sustenance.
The food made by Adandito was consistently bland and tasteless, with the drawback of being strictly vegetarian. So, throughout my time in the subjugation corps, I had always complained. But now, just by looking at it, my mouth was filled with drool.
I quickly spooned up the soup and, at that moment, a shock ran through my entire body, as if all my senses gathered at the tip of my tongue.
‘Wow, it’s incredible.’
It was a taste that opened my eyes wide!
In that instant, memories from long ago flooded back without my control. It was a cold winter day. Even though I wrapped myself in a warming enchantment blanket, the wind was piercing enough to make my flesh crawl. I was hungry, cold, and sleepy—a day when I longed to return home and see my parents.
That was when Adandito made me a stew. He had simply put in some root vegetables and unknown leafy greens and fruits, but it warmed my freezing body in an instant, soothing the discomfort I had endured from the cold.
It was delicious, but as I reminisced for a moment, suddenly Adandito’s nagging voice came to mind.
‘You’re eating so much when we don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to get food. Are you all gluttons?’
‘…The past wasn’t particularly enjoyable, huh?’
So that’s why they say memories are beautiful when they’re memories.
I regained my almost-moved heart and looked down at the empty stew bowl on the bedside table.
It was a bit unsatisfying without meat, but it was excellent for a first meal after being empty.
I tapped Adandito’s shoulder without hesitation and praised him.
“You did well. It was really delicious.”
“But next time, let’s focus more on meat, alright?”
Adandito looked at me with a confused expression.
“But why are you using informal speech…?”
“Oh, sorry, I meant to.”
“…It feels even more awkward when you use honorifics. You can just speak comfortably.”
“…Is that so? Isn’t it more comfortable for you too?”
After three years of not speaking formally, it felt like my mouth was glued shut when I tried to be polite.
‘I was worried about how you would react if I said something wrong, but it’s a relief.’
I looked at Adandito with a sigh, and our eyes accidentally met.
He looked down at me with a complex expression, as if lost in thought, but as soon as our eyes met, he quickly turned his head. Then, with a dumber expression than usual, he mumbled.
“Why are you acting like that?”
“…It feels like it just started raining.”
After saying that, he cautiously approached me with an unusual tone.
“…Would meat be enough?”
Suddenly talking about food. Did I upset him by complaining about the side dishes?
Of course, meat was important. But I couldn’t ignore the reward I had agreed to receive after the demon king’s subjugation.
‘My three years of hard work!’
I am going to get what I deserved for my hard work and participation in the demon-slaying.
I knew that Adandito wouldn’t know what I was talking about.
“All right, I have to receive a castle that’s worth it. A castle made of gold, lots of it!”
“A castle made of gold…”
At that moment, whatever he was thinking, Adandito laughed warmly.
“Then, will you stay here until then?”
Of course, there was a teleportation gate here, and it was close to the Yellow Road as well. There was no reason for me not to stay here.
‘As long as Adandito doesn’t suspect me and torment me.’
Luckily, he didn’t show any signs of wanting to torture me yet.
I’m not sure why he’s so willing to overlook it, but talking about meat and rewards makes it seem like he’s favoring me.
‘But he’s not the type to just let things go so easily…’
Just as I was about to burst with joy, doubt suddenly crept in.
He’s always been cold, sensitive, and irritable, even hysterical.
‘But why is he suddenly being nice to me?’
I’d rather trust a passing thief to be kind.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I looked at Adandito with suspicious eyes.
“You’re hiding something from me, aren’t you?”
At that moment, Adandito flinched.
Looking into his widened eyes, I became even more certain of my suspicion.
I took a bite of the lukewarm bread and pondered, steam rising from it.
‘I guess… I’ll have to find out what Adandito is hiding.’
* * *
Adandito was a remarkable high-ranking minister who had dedicated a staggering fifteen years to silent meditation. He was an elite minister highly regarded even in the temple, revered as the predecessor’s successor. He was known for maintaining a calm demeanor. However, today he stood with his mouth agape, unable to say a word. It was all in response to what he had said.
Separate from that, Adandito’s actions showed an unusual level of composure, almost an abundance of leisure.
“Did, did I hear correctly?”
“Do I need to repeat myself?”
The gentle tone of Adandito’s voice sent chills down her spine. As a minister who knew well that there was a hidden blade beneath his innocent smile, he immediately bowed his head.
“No need. Just carry out my instructions as I’ve stated.”
“…Yes. Only with gold, you mean to build a luxurious castle, correct?”
“Yes. I will use my wealth for it. The scale… yes, it would be nice if it doesn’t bore a cute baby bird too quickly.”
“A baby bird… You mean the one staying in the nest right now.”
“That’s correct. Since it’ll be staying there from now on, please take special care of it.”
Adandito smiled gently and turned his gaze back to the pot. A large pot was filled with chunks of meat, simmering vigorously.
He was lost in thought as he looked at the pot, and thought to himself,
‘That must be for the baby bird.’
Adandito rarely consumed meat. To be precise, he was more of a vegetarian. He made a fuss about not liking the smell of meat, causing all sorts of trouble. At most, he would eat eggs, removing the yolk and only consuming the egg whites mixed with vinegar.
And now, he was personally boiling meat.
‘Three years… It’s been a long time.’
He concealed his bitterness and turned to leave. As soon as he was gone, a hint of joy appeared in Adandito’s cold eyes.
“…I wonder if this meal will be enjoyed.”
He had his reasons for saying that. It was because of the dream he had been having for a week. After completing the seal and returning to the temple, Adandito dreamt the same dream every day for a week. It was a dream of a woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a radiant spring-like aura.
‘Is she a goddess?’
At first, Adandito mistook her for a goddess, sensing a power resembling divine energy. However, upon closer inspection, her power was different from that of a goddess.
She possessed the power of a fairy, a formidable healer. But there was something even more surprising. The woman was in the Demon King’s Castle.
Forgetting that it was just a dream, Adandito held his breath.
“Why would she be in the Demon King’s Castle…”
The Demon King’s Castle was filled with poison, a place where an ordinary person would die just by entering due to its toxicity. Even with healing abilities, it would be difficult to withstand it to a certain extent. Yet the woman appeared to be completely unharmed.
Above all, the Demon King’s Castle was not a place that anyone could enter. It took the combined efforts of the three strongest individuals on the continent three years to break through.
And yet, a human woman was standing alone in that place.
‘Could she be a demon in human form?’