Dale is a cool, composed, and highly skilled adventurer who’s made quite a name for himself despite his youth. One day on a job deep in the forest, he comes across a little devil girl who’s almost wasted away. Unable to just leave her there to die, Dale takes her home and becomes her adoptive father.
Devil or not, Latina is beyond adorable, and the adventurer soon finds himself head over heels with being a parent. But why was she out in the forest to begin with, and why does she carry the mark of a criminal?
1: The Young Man and the Little Girl Meet
There was a young man walking through the depths of the forest. Even though the sun was still out, this forest, untouched by humans, remained dim and gloomy. Aside from the occasional chirping of birds, there were no sounds to be heard. The place definitely had an oppressive atmosphere to it.
With a look of great displeasure on his face, the man glanced down at the sword in his hand.
“Ugh, damn it...” he spat, wiping his blade off on some nearby grass. The sword was absolutely coated with a foul-smelling mucus. “This is why nobody wanted to take this job... Man, I’m gonna need to wash myself off or something before heading back.” When he saw the mucus was stuck to his leather coat as well, the look on his face grew even more pained.
It hadn’t been long since he’d gotten to the forest, having taken on a request to cull the frog-like magical beasts that had overpopulated it. While the task itself wasn’t much trouble, as he had confidence in handling both his weapon and magic, the trip here and back was time-consuming.
"I took it on since I had time until my next job, but... I guess this was a mistake, huh?" Hearing the splish, splash of his own sticky footsteps on the grass, he let out a sigh and drooped his shoulders.
The main reason he’d taken on this job was because he could make the round trip from and back to the town he was currently based out of within the course of a day. He cursed himself for having made the decision so lightly.
The work itself hadn’t really been anything of note. It had been easy for him to find the colony the magical beasts had made in the depths of the forest, and wiping them out had been simple as well. If only he hadn’t gotten coated in their bodily fluids and the mucus they spat up. The only saving grace was that the horrible stench had quickly numbed his sense of smell. But if he returned to town like this, even the gatekeepers he was friends with would be taken aback.
In the town he was currently based out of, he was making something of a name for himself as an adventurer. He had just turned 18, the age at which one was considered an adult in this country, but back in his home town, he had been treated as though he’d come of age ever since he turned 15. Because he’d decided on this occupation back then, he’d been able to build up a few years’ worth of achievements and earn a reputation beyond what his youth would imply.
His hair was black with a bit of light brown mixed in, and he wore a long coat made of magical beast leather. On his left arm was a magical device gauntlet. Those were the outward traits that people would use to describe the man named Dale Reki.
“Oh water, by my name, I order you to heed my call. 〈〈Search: Water〉〉” He recited this spell, and his magic activated. Sensing the strong presence of water, Dale changed his route and pushed his way through an animal trail.
As his field of vision cleared, he saw a small river running before him. Having found what he was seeking, Dale breathed a sigh of relief.
He took off his coat and plunged it into the gushing water. This one good coat of his was endowed with magic, so the mass of mucus washed away. Because it repelled water, it would soon be dry, so Dale hung it on a nearby branch to air out.
He stopped and thought for a moment. Dale looked over his body again and remembered the unpleasant smell and mucus. Thinking that he should wash himself thoroughly, he took off his stab-resistant tunic. He could afford to act so confidently because he knew the magical beasts and other animals in the forest proved no threat to him.
His coat dried quickly enough, but his tunic and pants were still dripping wet. And so, Dale started a campfire, sat down on his spread-out coat in just his underwear, and began cooking the fish he’d caught while he’d bathed in the river.
By the time the savory smell wafted through the air around him, his clothes had mostly dried. Keeping his eyes on the fish, Dale quickly slipped on his clothes. After all, he wasn’t quite bold enough to enjoy a meal in his underwear in a place like this.
That was when he heard a rustling sound.
He figured it was a small animal drawn by the smell of his meal, but when he looked, he was shocked.
A small child was staring at him from the other side of the thicket, with their tiny head just barely peeking out from a bush.
At first, Dale was surprised that he’d misread the presence he’d felt. Then, he was bewildered that he’d found a child aimlessly wandering around a forest filled with magical beasts. It was when he was thinking that there shouldn’t be any villages around here that he realized something: there were curved, black horns on top of the child’s head.
A devil, huh...? What a pain... He mentally clicked his tongue.
Devils were an insular group, and they possessed the greatest abilities out of the seven races. As for distinguishing physical traits, devils had horns on the top of their heads.
Should I kill her...? He figured that would be the quickest way to deal with this. Devils were nothing but trouble, after all.
Dale grasped the handle of his sword tight... and then let go. He’d just finished washing himself off, and he didn’t want blood splattering all over him. It was only a quick thought, but that was his reasoning.
Looking like she was about to break out in tears, the girl kept her big grey eyes fixed right on him.
Having let go of his sword, Dale calmed himself down enough to observe the child, and that was when he finally realized why he felt so uneasy when he first saw her: one of the devil girl’s horns was broken off at the base.
Seriously? A kid like this is a criminal...?
Taken aback by this realization, Dale cringed at how ridiculous that would be. In the past, a fellow adventurer had told him one of the devils’ customs:
Devils considered their horns sacred, as they were symbols of their race. So when a devil committed a crime, one of their horns was broken off, and the criminal was exiled.
Even knowing that, Dale couldn’t help but have questions. After all, the child before him was far too young to be capable of a crime. Devils had lifespans far longer than humans like Dale, and while he didn’t know if human ages were equal to theirs, the height of the girl staring at him from within the bushes made Dale guess that she was about five or six. She most certainly didn’t look old enough to be capable of making her own judgments.
Dale suddenly remembered the fish in his campfire when he realized that the devil child was glancing at it, and he hurriedly pulled out the skewer. It had gotten a little burnt.
As he moved the skewer left and right, the child’s gaze followed. It seemed he hadn’t imagined it; she appeared to be quite interested in the fish as well.
“...Do you want some?”
He’d feel bad about eating in front of her, like he was flaunting his meal. And because of that thought, he called out to the girl almost without thinking. At the same time, he dumbfoundedly wondered what he was saying.
When she heard Dale speak, the child’s gaze moved from the fish back to his face, and she tilted her head slightly.
“***? ***, ****?”
“Huh? Um...?” Now it was Dale’s turn to tilt his head. It was too quick for him to follow along, but he felt like he had heard that language somewhere before. “Hmm, if I remember right...” He dragged out the words of the fellow adventurer who had taught him about devils from the depths of his memory. “He said that the language of the devils was the same as the one used in spells, right...?”
He decided that was it.
Spells were words used to utilize the power of the phenomenon known as magic. The number of people who could employ spells were limited; it wasn’t like everyone could use such words. But devils were apt at speaking them, and thus able to use them as their mother tongue. That was precisely why it was said that devils were all “natural-born magic users.”
“Hmm, then... ‘Come, beside, need, this?’”
From the language used in spells, Dale picked out vocabulary that seemed like it would convey the meaning he wanted. He’d never intended to use the words to hold a conversation, so he hadn’t the slightest idea how to do so correctly.
When she heard his words, a clear look of relief appeared on the girl’s face. With a rustling sound, she moved through the thicket and drew closer.