Warning: I took a lot of artistic liberties with certain things, including Maou's backstory. I'm mostly up-to-date with the LN spoilers but I'm not totally filled in. So yeah. Don't give me too much hate for it.
Also, Maou is a little more snarky. Because devils should be snarkers.
"You... are an absolutely horrible, evil being..."
"Yeah, I know... The epitome of darkness, the focal point of all bad deeds, the cause of despair wherever I go..."
"Take your sarcasm and shove it, Satan."
"Get off my case, Emi," Maou grumbled. "This was out of my way too, you know." The heroine scoffed angrily.
"It wouldn't have been out of my way if you would stop making me your loan buddy every time you break your stupid bike."
"Don't call Dullahan stupid."
"I'll call it whatever I want after you put me through this paperwork hell on one of the hottest days of the year."
And indeed it was. Thirty-nine degrees centigrade and sixty percent humidity was tough on everyone in Sasazuka, not just the Hero and Demon Lord. Maou pitied Chiho for having to work that day. MgRonalds was sure to be busy and crowded, having to fit both normal customers and those merely wanting to escape the heat. At least she wouldn't be one of the unlucky souls having to go around waiting tables. Who wanted to walk around in the clammy mosh pit with trays of food?
Nope, Chiho definitely had it lucky behind the counter and in a room temperature she wouldn't be sweating in. Him and his broken bike, not so much. Just another reason to hate the hot weather. More money needed for repairs, more loans to take out, and more angry ranting from his favorite hero while waiting for the elevator to come. It was good that a frustrated Emi was an amusing Emi, otherwise this situation would really suck.
"Hey, I didn't want to be here either," Maou replied flatly, "and I especially didn't want both my tires to pop from the friction."
"You're an idiot for not thinking the friction temperature would be greater in this weather. And an even bigger idiot for somehow managing to break your chain along with your tires."
"Shut up. At least the police station is cool."
"Barely. They need to invest in some more air conditioners to replace those little fans."
The elevator bell rang, signaling the end of their conversation. Emi ducked through the doors before Maou, hoping to close the doors faster than he could get in. She didn't want to spend anymore time with him than she had to. Unfortunately for her, the former overlord was just as quick and followed her in before he could be blocked off. She groaned loudly.
"You couldn't have waited for the next one?"
"I want to get out of here as much as you do. I need to get Dullahan fixed before I need to head to work tomorrow. Grin and bear my presence for a minute, will you?"
"Don't expect me to actually grin."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
Emi briefly thought about shoving him through the elevator's escape hatch and then sealing it shut. She doused this idea for two reasons.
One: It was insanely hot that day, the AC-lacking elevator even worse than outside, and she barely had the will to make that threat; nevermind carry it out. Being semi-permanently angry at the humanized demon took up a lot of energy on her part and the heat wasn't helping.
Two: Said humanized demon was right, something she begrudgingly admitted to herself. It was a short elevator ride. All she had to do was bear it for a few more seconds, and she'd be free of this guy and his bike problems until next time. (Although she sincerely hoped there wouldn't be a next time.)
Her thoughts came to a halt when the elevator suddenly shifted and knocked the two of them off balance. Maou grabbed Emi's midsection before she could fall and braced himself against the nearest corner. Slowly, to their mutual relief, the shaking stopped and everything went silent. The only evidence that anything had happened in the past few seconds was the darkness.
"Well..." Maou looked around the elevator in confusion. "Looks like whatever that was knocked the lights out."
"Guess so... Hey, get your hands off me!" Emi pushed away from Maou violently, scraping for the opposite side of the space. "Who said you could grab me like that!?"
"You're welcome," Maou muttered. "Care to be a little nicer to me while we're both stuck here?"
"We are not stuck here," Emi insisted, pressing the unlit 'Open Door' option on the side. "That would imply that my luck is even worse than I first imagined." She stubbornly continued to press the button as fast as she could, only growing more frustrated when each time didn't work.
"It's broken," Maou offered helpfully.
"I can see it's broken!" Emi snapped. "Why is it broken, though!?"
"Something must've blown out somewhere from the heat. Not impossible, considering what kind of day today is."
"I was right. This place needs more air conditioners. Especially one in here." Emi wiped the sweat from her face with her uniform's sleeve. "It would be embarrassing if I died of heat... I hope they're going to get this fixed soon."
"You just said your luck was horrible. Stop jinxing yourself. If you jinx yourself, you're jinxing me and dooming me to a cramped elevator with no lighting and no cold air too."
"Says the king of bad luck himself..."
"Since when have I been associated with bad luck?"
"For humans? A while."
"Can we not bring this up now?"
"Why? Feeling uncomfortable?"
"Just as much as you are, in here." Maou squinted at the ceiling. "You think we can climb out of here and find the nearest doors to climb up to?"
"I think that would be too difficult for a skinny wimp and someone in a pencil skirt to accomplish."
"You could've left the 'wimp' part out of there."
"Don't ignore my point. If you could access your full magic potential, that plan might work. However, you're useless without some kind of disaster or large-scale confusion."
"And what about you, Great Hero Emilia? What about you? You have those supplements for your magic, don't you? What's stopping you from busting the door open and flying out of here?"
"It's too dark to aim anywhere, and I don't know if I could control my magic in such a small space. For all I know the walls could crumble and you'd be dead almost instantly after plummeting to the bottom of the shaft."
"I thought me being dead would make you happy."
"I will not allow my greatest opponent to be killed in such a pathetic manner. Your death will be at my hands, not at those of some contraption like this. Either way..." Emi folded her arms. "I'm currently waiting for Emeralda's next shipment of magical supplements. They take about a day to get here depending."
"So you're as powerless as me right now. Great."
"Shut up! I still have magic in my body! I'm just trying to preserve it for desperate times!"
"This doesn't count as desperate to you?"
"This is not a life-or-death situation. It's merely an inconvenience. A large, annoying, irritating inconvenience." 'Irritating' had been said through grinding teeth, easily letting Maou know just how frustrated she really was.
It was a different type of frustration than he'd seen back in the hallway. For some reason, he felt any amount of teasing at this point would cause her to really snap; and, while it was absurd for the Demon Lord Satan to be scared of Hero Emilia Justine, Sadao Maou being scared of Emi Yusa was completely reasonable. Especially in a tiny little space like this. Oh, the harmful things this woman could do to him when he couldn't run... He preferred not to think about it.
Putting on the best reassuring smile he could muster, Maou chuckled lightly and said, "Don't worry so much. I'm sure they've realized by now that an elevator has broken down and are working on repairs this moment."
"Stop being so positive," Emi muttered. "It's creepy."
"Hey, one of us has to remain positive... And clearly it's not going to be you."
"You expect me to be positive in this situation?"
"No, that's my job. Also if I expected you to be positive, I'd also expect you to grin."
Emi's forehead met the wall.
Fifteen minutes later, both Hero and Demon Lord realized that getting out of there would take longer than they originally thought.
"Don't these places have back-up power in case something like this happens?" Emi muttered from her corner seat. "Or a way of cooling off the circuitry?"
"It's not the most advanced building in Sasazuka," Maou reminded her as he sat against the opposite wall. "We can't expect much from it... Though as a police station, you'd think safety would be a priority. I almost miss the station Ashiya and I were taken to when we came here..."
"You checked their circuitry?"
"No; but it was definitely a lot cooler there... And I was wearing my Ente Isla uniform at the time, too."
"It's an elevator. They're usually cooled by the rest of the building's air conditioning." The rosette sighed heavily. "Again, they need to get rid of those little fans. They aren't helping one bit."
"Complaining about the fans isn't going to get us anywhere. Nothing we do in here is. I'd suggest yelling for help, but the chances of anyone hearing us are slim."
"Not to mention it would only raise the temperature in here." Emi brought her knees to her chest and scowled. "I was supposed to meet Rika for lunch, too. She's going to be mad if I don't show up. Or worse..." She growled. "She'll think I blew her off to be with you." Maou raised a brow.
"But you are with me... So she wouldn't be wrong."
"You're completely missing the subtext."
"Nevermind. Boys are terrible with subtlety."
"What was subtle there?"
"I said nevermind. If you can't figure it out, there's no reason to explain it."
"You're in a bad mood again, aren't you?"
"Being with you puts me in one."
"I'm not doing anything, you know. You don't have a reason to be pissed at me like this."
"I have plenty of reasons to be pissed at you!" Emi turned to Maou in a huff. "Our current situation being only one of them! If you hadn't made me a cosigner for your bike loans-! Better yet, if you would stop breaking the stupid thing in the first place-!" Maou glared at her.
"Hey, that's enough. Call Dullahan stupid one more time and your life will be filled with such a numbing despair you won't be able to find words for it." Emi glared back.
"I've already suffered despair like that. You killed my father, remember?"
It was the one thing Maou didn't know how to reply to. Any amount of sarcasm would have been in terrible taste and a cheeky comeback would only make Emi furious. Demon or not, he knew when a sensitive topic arose and when to avoid it.
This was one of those times. The elevator fell into a tense silence.
The silence was broken not too much later when Maou attempted to remove his T-shirt.
"What do you think you're doing!?"
Maou quickly leaned his head to the side to avoid being hit with an incoming purse.
"What am I doing?" he asked flatly. "In case you haven't noticed, it's hot."
"So you start undressing!?" Emi continued to screech. "In front of a lady no less!? You have no tact whatsoever!"
"There's a lady in here with us?" Maou snarked as he lifted his shirt over his head. "I hadn't noticed."
That time, the Purse of Doom did make contact with his head.
"You-! You-!" Emi seethed. "You are such a-!"
"Alright, alright, I deserved that one," Maou sighed, hoping to placate her. "Sorry. Anyway, how did you know I was taking my shirt off? You can see in here?"
"Not particularly well, no," Emi admitted angrily, "but removing clothing isn't a completely silent task. I heard something being taken off. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and figured it was your shirt and not your pants."
"I was thinking about it, actually-"
"What difference does it make?" Maou frowned skeptically. "It's just a way to cool down, and it's the clothing equivalent of a swimsuit. Besides, you can't even see me."
"Knowing you're stripping is enough for me," Emi snapped. "Fine. Sit here with your shirt off. Don't even think about taking off your pants, though."
"I'll take that compromise." Maou rolled his Unislo top into a ball and threw it to the corner at his right. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"You were complaining about the heat, too. You could-"
"I am not undressing in front of you! I may not be able to see, but you can!"
"No worries. I don't have super-great eyesight in the dark anymore. Probably still above the average human's level, but nothing close to what it is when I'm fully powered."
"Right. Like I'm about to take off my shirt in front of you, perverted lord."
"You didn't seem to have much problem walking around in a bikini."
"That's a bathing suit, stupid."
"It covers just as much. I don't understand the difference..."
"You wouldn't. You're a guy."
"So now you're a feminist hero?"
"No! The point is I'm not taking anything off! I wouldn't even do that if I were alone in here!" Maou shrugged.
A minute later, the sound of shuffled clothing was heard.
"Taking your shirt off?"
Suffice to say, the following moments were very awkward for Ente Isla's Hero. Despite the heat, she still had her shirt draped across left shoulder - As to her left sat Maou not even four feet away - To protect her modesty. What was left of it, anyway.
Taking her shirt off in the presence of the Demon Lord Satan... The Devil, of all people... She'd have to spend two hours scrubbing the shame from herself in a shower once she got out of here. Going to the nearest church to purify herself didn't sound like a bad idea, either.
Maou was rather indifferent towards her attire. He didn't care if she had her shirt on or not. Facts were facts, and the most prevalent fact here was that it was entirely too hot. He didn't blame her for taking his advice. Besides, it wasn't like he was going to look. He had more decency than that.
… Well, okay. He'd looked once through his peripheral vision. He hadn't spent much time doing so. Less than a second, as a matter of fact. It was out of curiosity to see if she was really taking off her shirt in front of him. (Something he knew she was vehemently against.) She definitely had been, and that's all he needed to confirm.
That, and seeing her face turn a color that vaguely reminded him of her hair was entertaining. She was - Admittedly - Cute when her face was flushed.
Not that he'd ever say that out loud. No, no, no. Never out loud. Ashiya would give him the worst chewing-out of his life if he heard such thoughts from his master. Chiho would probably join in right behind him. Urushihara would make some snide comment and then ask for food. Suzuno wouldn't care.
Emi would probably think he was lying. Or trying to trick her. Or trying to lull her into a false sense of security for when his big elaborate evil plan to destroy the world came to fruition. (Which it never would. He had no such plan.) Or trying to do away with her. How she would come to that conclusion, he'd never guess. She always seemed to think the absolute worst of him no matter what.
He supposed, in some ways, it was justified on her part. The issues regarding her country, her people, and her father ran deeper than a coal mine.
Her father was the most sensitive topic out of the three without a doubt. He could never make up for that. There weren't enough apologies in the world that could make up for a dead parent. Family members were irreplaceable.
He knew that well.
"... Hey, Emi."
"Your dad." He saw her shoulders tense in the darkness.
"Like it helps," she bit. "At least it's a proper apology this time. No nonchalant 'I guess' added onto the end of it. But if you think that makes up for what you did, you're dead wrong."
"What did he look like?"
"Your dad. Was he big, tall, short, heavy...?"
"Why do you care? More importantly, why do you need to know?"
"Just tell me. It's not like it's information that would get you killed if you shared it; and it's nothing I could use for my advantage. I'm curious, is all." Emi bit the inside of her cheek, obviously not wanting to speak to the former Demon Lord about her father. Nonetheless, she responded.
"He was tall," she said in a quiet voice. "Taller than most people in the country... Muscular too, from having worked his whole life... I never saw him without a beard... Dark hair, darker eyes..." The memories constricted her throat. "Even in the winter... His arms were so warm..." The absolute nicest man she'd ever know, and he was gone...
"... Don't remember..."
Even with her emotions running about freely and her mind in the past, the heroine still heard Maou's mumbling. Her head turned in his direction, where the humanized overlord was sitting with his hand to his chin in thought.
"What did you say...?" Maou's hand returned to its resting place on his leg.
"I would've remembered if I'd killed a man like that," he explained. Traces of joking were lost, replaced with a serious expression Emi didn't see often. "Are you sure you aren't mistaken?" The rosette glared at him.
"I'm not mistaken. You aren't lying to me, are you?"
"I can hear the threat in your voice loud and clear, trust me. You can also trust that my memory isn't wrong. I didn't do much work on the front line after I assembled my four generals. They and the rest of the army carried out field operations after that. It didn't take long for that setup to be complete, so there was little I did before sitting back and commanding from afar; but thanks to that, I remember the faces of every person I killed with my own hands.
"As B-rated as this sounds, I have no reason to lie to you. Especially if it doesn't benefit me in some way. And believe me... Having you even angrier with me isn't a benefit. I'm not masochistic." Emi scowled and readjusted her shirt before it could fall off her shoulder.
"I guess I wouldn't know," she began begrudgingly, "if it were you or not... I'd already been taken from my home to train when the Church gave me the news..."
"The Church?" Maou couldn't hold back the contempt in his voice. Snorting, he continued with, "And you believed them." It wasn't a question; rather, a very sarcastic way of saying he already knew the answer yet couldn't believe it. Emi furrowed her brows.
"Why wouldn't I believe them?" she challenged. "You think I should take your word over theirs?"
"Let's for a second say that that's not what I'm saying... But after all that's happened with the supposedly 'right and just' and the corruption going on back in Ente Isla, don't you think you taking their words at face value is a little bit stupid?"
"They haven't been corrupted for that long," Emi protested.
"Oh, come on. They didn't just up and decide one day that they wanted things their way. The Church has been pulling strings and causing pain for decades. Centuries, even. You probably never noticed it because you're so sheltered."
"Okay, wrong word. You're definitely not sheltered as a general statement; but you've been sheltered from their true motives since you arrived at their headquarters to train. The fact that you were surprised by Olba attacking you shows this.
"I'm going to be blunt here... If they didn't present you with a body - If you didn't have a chance to confirm for yourself whether your dad really is dead or not - You shouldn't believe them. You're their Hero, Emilia Justine. The way I see it, the least they could've done for you is bring him to you and give him a proper burial."
"They were probably just afraid I'd react badly if I saw his corpse," Emi suggested. "I was small at the time, after all. Who knows how I would've reacted to his death if I'd seen him?"
"You're stronger than that. Clearly. If you weren't, you wouldn't have been able to pick up that sword and snap off one of my horns. If anything, seeing your dad probably would've given you even more of an incentive to kick my ass. It's likely I wouldn't have made it to Sasazuka." Emi stared at him incredulously.
"Are you... complimenting me?" Maou shrugged.
"Take it that way if you want. I'm just giving you my best guess at a parallel situation... while also trying to show you why believing everything the Church tells you is a terrible idea. They're not the best people in the world to be involved with." Emi's frown returned.
"I'll believe you when you say it wasn't you who killed my father... But it was one of your army that did. You're still at fault here." Maou sighed heavily.
"Were you not listening to me when I was explaining that the Church is corrupt?"
"I was. However, I know lies when I hear them."
"Really? Past evidence suggests otherwise. Why is it so hard for you to accept that your dad might still be alive?"
"Why should I take your word that he isn't dead?" Emi retorted. "Why should I believe your accusations? How would you know if the Church is corrupt?"
"... Do you really want that question answered, Emi?" Maou asked, red eyes narrowed with caution. "Do you really want to know why I know they're corrupt? Because you won't get the answer you're expecting... And you probably won't like it."
"No, please. Continue educating me in why the Demon Lord thinks the Church is in the wrong."
"Fine, I will. Just remember: You asked."
"Let me give you a piece of history, Hero Emilia. The Church has been a corrupted organization for a long, long time. Before I could even think for myself. That's a while, you know. They've been off their original goal for simple peace since your ancestors were alive. The Church that I know is the reason I came into the spotlight in the first place."
"Hold on," Emi interrupted him. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but... Are you telling me the Church is the reason you began terrorizing the country?"
"You aren't wrong. That's pretty on the mark." Maou paused. "I told you it wasn't something you'd like. I can stop there if-"
"Go on. Finish what you started," Emi insisted. "I want to hear this." Maou gave a nonchalant shrug as if to say 'Suit yourself'.
"Alright, then. A question: Do you believe the theory that everyone is born with both good and evil in their hearts?" Not for the first time, Emi stared at him in confusion.
"What does that have to go with anything?"
"It has to do with everything. Let me ask you another one: Do you think I was born with the intent to conquer Ente Isla? Do you think that a small child is capable of plotting such things?"
Emi paused. "I... I guess not."
"The answer is that. Nobody is born inherently good or evil. Circumstances and life experiences are what shape someone. I wasn't born the Demon Lord. I was born Satan Jacob, just another poor soul of the time. Don't give me that look, Emi. Hear me out to the end before judging.
"One thing that hasn't changed over the years is the Church's quest for peace. However, their path to it became more warped with time. Unfortunately for me, I happened to be born during a period where the Church's influence was greatest and their idea of peace was heavily twisted. Instead of true peace, they'd merely pushed us demons under their thumb. They were in charge and demons were the repressed ones.
"It became a rule for the area where I lived, you see. Every male child would be sent to camps for immediate training once they grew their horns. I was pretty damn young at the time, though it was too long ago for me to remember just how young. A human equivalent would be somewhere around ten years old I think. Maybe younger.
"I hated those camps. I didn't want to fight. I was a horrible soldier-in-training, always three steps behind the others. I had no will to risk my life in a war I wanted no part of. Early on I learned that will was something you had to abandon in that place. Speak out against your superiors or try to escape and you get punished. For you, punishment probably meant more study time or more repetitions, or being forbidden from leaving your room. Am I wrong?"
"... No," Emi replied quietly. "If I was punished for any reason, they would lock me in my room outside of training time. I didn't get food until I realized my mistake." Maou scoffed.
"In the camps, punishment was much more than that. They were looking for soldiers to fight back against the Church's rule, to create such a powerful army that it would be impossible for even holy magic to stop. If you didn't want to fight, or if you protested against the rules, you were beaten. You were beaten over and over again, even after you agreed to never disobey again. In truth, that was the best possible outcome. Usually they just hung you by your wrists or ankles for days and didn't bother giving you food or water. Sometimes they hung you by your thumbs, too. Underground imprisonment was also popular, as was flagellation. Do you know what that is?"
"Methodic whipping," Emi answered sourly. "... Usually across the back."
"Oh, it wasn't just the back. It was anywhere they thought it would hurt. Multiple times. If you bled, they moved to a different body part and continued. When you stopped bleeding in one place, they'd flog you again in the same area until you began bleeding again. It was a disgusting pattern. Nobody ever patched you up after it, either. They told you to suck it up and get back to training." Maou's expression darkened. "Guess which of those punishments I received as a trainee."
"You... you weren't...?" Emi grimaced. She felt sick. The image of a child - Even a demon child - Being beaten in such a way was repulsive. As horrible as he was as an adult, as a child he'd done nothing wrong. Undeserving of that kind of treatment.
"If you were going to guess whipping, you'd be wrong," Maou continued. "It's all of the above. Let that sink in for a moment, Emi. Better yet, picture a human going through all of that from a young age up until early adulthood. A human would've died from something like that quickly. Demons can live through much, much more. It wasn't just me suffering, either. It was thousands of us. All because we needed a strong army to overthrow humans."
"But you were tortured like that by your own kind," Emi reminded him sternly. "How do you connect that to the Church?" Maou kept a neutral face.
"Sometimes I think you forget just how smart I actually am. Even young, I knew the reason for all of that. We needed to be strong because we were being hunted and purified. Our kind were being killed off, dozens to hundreds every day, all because the Church had a warped sense of justice. In their eyes, anything not human was an abomination and a threat to their perfect society.
"Yes, some demons are horrible; but it's the same with humans. The Church seemed to have forgotten that. They generalized us, saying that we were all spawn of the deepest depths of the underworld. Cursed beings destined to be the downfall of mankind. Creatures meant to be cleansed from their utopia.
"It was their fault we were being treated like this, only to be sent into a war we had no idea how to win. I realized this as I went through my training. By the time I hit puberty, I had so much hatred and resentment in me that trying to cleanse it with any holy spell would've been a lost cause.
"I was smart. I still am. Unfortunately, intellect in a soldier wasn't something they needed. They needed, wanted, brute strength and the intent to kill. I only had one of these things. I was more than ready to take the head off the first human I saw, but I was enormously weak in comparison to those around me. I was supposed to become stronger through the exercises and training we were put through, but it was difficult for me to even complete the afternoon rituals.
Maou smiled grimly. "Yes, I was that weak at some point in my life. I'm sure you enjoy the image of me on the ground, promising my superiors I'll do better next time."
Emi didn't say anything. As much as she would've liked to have pictured a weak Demon Lord begging for his life... Somehow, it didn't hold the appeal it should have. Not with the given circumstances.
"Well, one day in my early teenage years... Think thirteen or fourteen years for a human... They decided that I was useless. I was clearly not making as much progress as the others. I wasn't meeting their quota. They decided I was trash, so they trashed me. Beat me senseless - Worse than they usually did. They were looking to finish me off for good. They were waiting for me to give up and stop breathing."
"I don't believe that!" Emi interrupted. "They were trying to kill you!? Why wouldn't they have just sent you home?"
"What difference would that have made?" Maou snorted. "I had no home. My parents were long dead by then. They were one of the unlucky thousands that had been killed by the sacred magic of the human priests."
Again, Emi found herself at a lack of useable words. She quieted and listened as Maou continued.
"As I was saying, they were trying to get rid of me. Trash, remember? Obviously, it didn't go as expected.
"They abandoned me about a mile away from any civilization. They figured I would just lie there and die. Essentially, they were right. I was so broken up that I couldn't move. I wasn't ready to die yet, though. I wasn't strong, but my will was; and I was not about to be thrown to the side just because I couldn't be useful in battle.
"Then, somehow... I don't know, a god must've been smiling on me that day because I was saved. There was some light, and... I blacked out. I woke up in some house, fit as ever. I was pretty much healed by that point. Later I'd learn it had been a few days since I was abandoned.
"My caretaker... I won't say too much about her since it'll just make this whole story unbelievable to you if you knew, but just know she's what gave me my start. She felt sorry for me, but she understood my plight. She also understood that there were different strengths in the world - Not just muscle, but also brains.
"She taught me things while I healed up; politics, diplomacy, warfare tactics... She wanted me to prove useful, even if it meant being off the battlefield. She had complete confidence that I could succeed in the military. I don't think I need to tell you that she was right."
Nope. Emi read that loud and clear. Further details weren't needed.
"When I was fully healed, my first thought was to perform a sneak attack on the ones who had beaten me to near-death. This wasn't a solution, I came to realize. It was only taking care of one problem. If I wanted to completely do away with people like that, I'd have to get to the root of the problem: The Church.
"True, I despised all humans at this point. Blaming an entire race for what one organization and its followers did - Petty, I know, and no different from them in reality. I knew that, but after being put through that hellish camp all I wanted was revenge. Excuse my not entirely correct thought pattern. I was furious and ready for action.
"I couldn't take action, though. I was smart, and I had the element of surprise since they all thought I was dead... But I was still weak. So I decided to use said element of surprise to gather followers.
"I started with Ashiya - Alciel. We weren't from the same land, but we were in the same camp with various other races of demons. Alciel was my elder, the only person I could call a friend in that place. He was extremely happy to see I was alive when I snuck into the camp to talk to him. It didn't take much to convince him, and - Thanks to his age and power - It wasn't hard for him to talk another handful into joining us.
"That was the start to my army. As I devised plans and more people began to take notice. It was all kept under the rug, and it would be until we were ready. In the meantime, Alciel began to put me through strength-specific training.
"It wasn't like what the camps dropped on you. Alciel only gave me what he thought I could handle. My stamina gradually increased, and eventually I was able to handle as much as him and the others combined. This happened over the course of about six or eight months.
"In that time, we'd gathered a group of about one hundred from just our training camp alone. Once I was more fit for battles, we set out. I sent some to go spy on other camps - What they were being put through, what the average level of every trainee was, which officials could be trusted, plus other information. The rest of us took the job of ridding the area of its human population. Again, this didn't just happen overnight. This was a time-consuming operation; and when it was all said and done, we dumped the bodies at the camp that had put us through hell.
"I will never forget the looks of the idiots who thought I'd died. The fear they shared when they realized I wasn't a piece of trash anymore. Most importantly, I'll never forget how these same idiots were some of the first to join us after I proposed a full-scale rebellion. Power-hungry bastards.
"After that, we gathered everyone we could from the different camps, trainees and officials alike. With an actual leader and a plan, everyone seemed much more eager to head into battle. From there, it just... took off.
"It was the dawn of a new era - One where demons would be the rulers and humans would be the ones living in fear. I, like many others, saw nothing wrong with this. It was the preferred outcome. Kill or be killed, rule or be ruled. Simple as that. And I enjoy being the one to rule.
"And then you showed up, made me flee to this place... And I learned something important. Physical features aside... At the core, demons and humans are the exact same thing.
"We have friends and families. We fight, for justice and for stupid reasons no one understands. We experience emotions, we want to survive... We know fear.
"Fear is something I'm well-versed in. I've felt it, I've lived it, I've been the cause of it; but not once before coming to Sasazuka did I realize just how similar the concept of fear was for both of us.
"However... There is one giant difference between our races when fear is involved; and it's the fact that humans will come together when they're scared. They stick by each other and utilize the 'power in numbers' tactic. Most of the time, they won't let someone stand alone in times of need... and that's where the line between human and demon sits."
"This world, Emi... This world, despite it's flaws, looks after their people. More than I've seen any authority in Ente Isla do." Even knowing she wouldn't be able to see him, the former demon did his best to meet the hero's gaze. "I have no reason at all to harm the place that's taken care of me so well."
The silence that followed made it clear that Maou didn't have anything else to say. Unfortunately, Emi was still having trouble trying to respond. How could she? She had never once thought of the Devil as someone capable of acting like a real person, as someone who had their childhood taken away from them before they could even realize it was gone, as someone close to human... And now she was being forced to think this way.
And she thought she was having a hard time finding the will to slay him before... She didn't know how she'd ever erase the image of a bruised and bloodied Maou, still yet a child, from her mind. (Of course, she didn't know exactly what he'd looked like when he was young; but she could take a good guess from his human appearance.)
She knew the answer. It was simple. She couldn't forget what Maou had told her. Not if she tried her damned hardest. In the future, she would have to decide whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. For now...
Oh, god. She really wished she hadn't been so eager before. She should've taken his warning.
"Sorry, by the way." Maou's pseudo-cheerful voice brought her back. "That was supposed to be a short example to show that the Church's corruption isn't a new deal. I never meant for it to turn into my life story. I'm sure most of that bored you... Although I'm sure some parts were probably to your liking."
"... … …" Emi fiddled with her skirt. "... Is that what you think of me?"
"Eh?" Maou blinked. "What are you-?"
"Do you think I'm some heartless witch?" the rosette continued, undeterred by his start. "Do you think I take pleasure in the mental image of a small child being beaten within an inch of his life? Huh? Is that where you think I get my kicks from?"
"Well... No, not particularly. I just thought that since it was me-"
"You are an idiot," Emi snarled. "I could never be happy with an image like that in my head - Whether you're my enemy or not! No one deserves being treated like that, especially someone that young! There is no justice in actions that cruel! Human or demon, that is just wrong! Entirely, wholly wrong! And if you think that kind of treatment of a person - Any person - Is something I'd approve of, or even enjoy-! Maou, you are the biggest dumbass I've ever met!"
"My point was supposed to be about the Church, though-"
"I got your point! Don't take their words for granted, I know! I definitely got that! But don't you ever, ever think for one second that I like the idea of you getting knocked around that badly as a kid! Got it!?"
When her tirade was done, Emi was out of breath and red in the face. The yelling had done nothing to make the elevator cooler - It'd done the opposite, in fact - But she hardly noticed. She was too focused on Maou to care.
Maou stared back at her with nothing short of complete, incredulous surprise. That definitely wasn't the reaction he'd been expecting out of the woman who had sworn to kill him multiple times over. Truth be told, he hadn't expected her to care at all. Hearing her say that much on the subject was hardly predictable.
"Also..." Emi bit her lip. "There's... nothing wrong with that, you know... Talking about your past. It... It helps get things off your chest. I know from experience. So..."
"You're not gonna tell me you want to exchange sob stories, are you?"
"N-No!" Emi stuttered. "Don't be stupid. I was only saying I didn't mind learning about you, okay?" The heroine folded her arms and huddled in her corner. "Presumptuous little..."
"... Hey, Emi."
"I need to tell you something."
"What is it?"
"You need to explain something to me first, though."
"I didn't even say what it was."
"I have a feeling I'm not going to like it, that's why."
"Fine. Then I won't tell you what I know. It's pretty relevant to your interests, by the way. Very. Take my word for it."
"... What do you want to know...?"
"About before." Maou scratched his cheek. "You said something about subtext, and Rika...? I still can't figure that out." The back of Emi's head made a loud thud against the elevator wall.
"Ugh. This again? Why do you even care?"
"Because it concerns me. I think. That's why you were getting bent out of shape, right?"
"... Sort of." Emi sighed. "Fine. If you must know... Rika is convinced there's some sort of unresolved sexual tension between us and will not leave me alone if there's an opportunity to tease me. There, I said it."
"... … … Is there any-?"
"Then just tell her she's wrong."
"Why not?" Emi groaned again.
"I was right... You really don't understand how girls work."
"I'm starting to think it's better that I don't..."
"So what was it you needed to tell me so badly?"
"Oh, right. I just thought you ought to know..."
"What about it?"
"It's on the ground."
"Eh?" Emi felt her left shoulder frantically before feeling the ground beside her. When she felt fabric to the side, her face exploded into twelve brilliant shades of vermillion.
"Ow! Why'd you hit me!?"
"Perverted demon! You said you weren't going to look!"
"I never said that. Anyway, I only mentioned it so you wouldn't yell at me later for not mentioning it to you. If I hadn't, you'd probably accuse me of voyeurism when this is all said and finished." Maou touched his cheek gingerly, wincing from the sting. "Yikes... This really hurts."
Not that he should've expected any different. Even her tired slaps were powerful enough to leave semi-permanent prints on his face in his fully-awakened form. Emi huffed as she pulled the shirt over her shoulder again.
"Serves you right."
"Sheesh. And here I briefly thought you were cu- Nevermind."
"You thought I was what?"
"I said nevermind. Drop it." Emi smirked.
"Now you know how I feel with your pestering."
It was shortly after this exchange that the lights turned on and the elevator started moving again. Both the Hero and ex-Overlord jumped at the motion.
"Is this thing finally fixed...?" Maou wondered aloud. "It's about time."
"Tell me about it..." Emi muttered as she shuffled back into her full uniform. "I'd suggest putting your own on, you know. I'm sure the station doesn't want to look at you topless."
Maou agreed and hastily unraveled his shirt. He definitely didn't want to be arrested for indecent exposure.
Outside the station, it was still bright outside. Bright, hot, and humid. Emi moaned.
"The weather didn't get better at all... Not only that," she broke off to look at her watch, "but I missed my lunch date with Rika and I'm late for work. I'd better hurry."
"Ah, Emi..." Maou started. "Before you go..."
"You told me to shut up. I'm not explaining anything else to you."
"Yet you're still talking. I don't think you care about me telling you to shut up. Also, I wasn't going to ask you a question."
"Then what is it? Get on with it. I need to run."
"I just wanted to say... You have a good heart."
"... … You..." Emi turned her head the other way to hide her blush. "I don't need the king of demons telling me something like that." She then dashed off in the direction of the Docodemo Customer Service building without looking back. Maou just grinned as he took off down the opposite path.
"Right, right. Of course you don't..."
I had something so, so different in mind for this oneshot... And then it turned into depressing backstory time. Ah, writing. Gotta love how it drags you around in directions you never expect.
I'll probably do a more romance-centered piece later.