Lilith felt a comforting warmth around her. She slowly opened her eyes.

As usual, the dark and oddly beautiful landscape of Royal Makai came into view. And as usual, she found Adam's arm wrapped around her.

Even now… after it's been like this for weeks… I still have trouble believing that this is actually real. I never thought I'd ever be allowed to feel this kind of happiness.

But it's not time to settle down just yet. Not until we can do more to fix this damned world.

Lilith thought back to the confrontation with the hellhound, Orthrus, yesterday. It was still infuriating how their work could be undone so easily, but that was almost impossible to avoid.

Unless I became the next Demon Lord… and that's not something I ever imagined myself doing. But, with the strength me and Adam have now… and the monsters who'd be willing to support us… could that be possible? We've made it this far, won against opponents who should have been far above us, seen things that were supposedly impossible…

Or should we stop now? Leave the seeds we've planted to sprout, find somewhere quiet to live and hope things get better without us having to fight any more?

It was an attractive proposition. Lilith wouldn't have been unreasonable if she didn't at least consider it. There was no guarantee that she could succeed at becoming Demon Lord or, if she did succeed, there was no guarantee that would let her stop monsters attacking humans completely. Nor did it guarantee that humans would let go of their—quite justified—hatred of monsters. There was always the option of accepting that two people could only do so much, and running off to somewhere to spend the rest of their lives in peace.

But I can't… we can't do that. Even now, people are dying for no good reason, for the sake of an evil god. There can never be any peace as long as that goes on. If I give up this opportunity, will someone else be willing to try it? And will they have the power and support to succeed?

No… I can't give up. I, and Adam, need to follow this through until the very end.

Adam began to stir. He looked so cute as he slowly opened his eyes. Lilith made a heroic effort to look away, but she just couldn't help herself.

"Good morning… Lilith," Adam said.

Lilith quickly looked away to hide her face, which was undoubtedly very red by now. "Good morning, Adam."

Adam got to his feet and the two of them began their usual morning routine. They washed themselves in a nearby stream—which was an opportunity for some fun of an adult nature—gathered wild herbs and small animals, cooked breakfast and then ate.

It was while they ate breakfast that an interruption came. A presence that they were familiar with… and one that brought nothing but fear and dread.

A human woman with short brown hair, pale skin and watchful blue eyes approached. She wore masterwork armour covered in a few flecks of grime and blood, and had a greatsword sheathed on her back.

Of course… this isn't her first time here, so we should have seen the possibility of her coming back, Lilith thought. Especially after we've been doing so much here, attracting attention…

Adam was clearly thinking the same thing, judging from the look on his face. He and Lilith stood up and drew their weapons. Justinia, however, did not draw her own sword.

"I never expected you to survive our last encounter," Justinia said calmly. "Then again, perhaps I was underestimating you too much. I also survived several things that should have been certain death, along with my old companions."

Lilith felt her eye twitch in annoyance. Justinia couldn't have been doing it on purpose, but it was still irritating for her to highlight the similarities between them.

"I've heard about what you've been doing, here and elsewhere," Justinia said. "What I tell you next is no lie: I admire your work. It's something you couldn't have achieved without immense effort."

Justinia drew her sword. There was an expression of clear regret on her face.

"But that does not change the fact that this path will not solve anything. If monsters refrain from attacking humans en-masse, humans will grow too abundant and a new Demon Lord will soon arise. All of your work will be undone in an instant."

"Not if I become the new Demon Lord!" Lilith retorted.

Justinia froze. This was clearly a possibility she hadn't considered—but why would she? The Demon Lord she'd defeated, along with all others in history, was a brutal tyrant and mass-murderer.

"That… while it's quite possible you could succeed at that," Justinia conceded. "But even if you could rein in the monsters—itself not an easy task—the Chief God would never allow it. The only way to truly minimise the suffering of this world is to keep the human population down, as the Chief God desires—"

"Humans are not weeds or vermin to be cut down!" Adam shouted, incandescent with rage. "Neither are monsters! We can be better than that!"

"Do you think I don't know that!?" Justinia retorted, now shouting as well. "Do you think I'd be doing this if there was any other option!? Do you think I'd be betraying all of my lost friends if there was another way!?"

Justinia's aura burst forth from her body, causing every animal nearby to flee and even causing Lilith and Adam to flinch. She drew her greatsword.

"What I want most is to fall upon my sword, so I can finally bring an end to this miserable life!" Justinia continued. "But I cannot do that—and I cannot oppose a goddess, either! So my only option is to delay this cycle of death—no matter what it takes!"

"…Then, perhaps, you should try to work with us to persuade the Chief God," Adam said, more softly than before. "To find a way to approach her, and persuade her that there is no need for this cycle."

"It might sound ridiculous, and to be fair, I think so as well," Lilith said. "But we already have one god who agrees with us, Poseidon! We know that it isn't impossible to talk to gods! No matter how hard it is, there has to be a better way!"

Justinia hesitated, her sword wavering in her hands. She looked down at the ground.

"It's true, there's still some potential there," Justinia murmured. "For one thing, the current Chief God is not the one who began this cycle. There's still much we don't know about that situation, but… perhaps it might be possible to persuade the current Chief God."

Lilith internally breathed a sigh of relief that things were heading in a more peaceful direction. While she didn't like the fallen hero for all the crimes she'd committed, that didn't mean it was smart to have her as an enemy.

Then Justinia's next words caused Lilith to swear out loud.

"But there is no guarantee of that," Justinia said, gripping her sword more firmly and looking at Lilith and Adam. "There's a good chance that we would all simply be erased from existence for the blasphemy of trying to speak to a god. Can you deny that?"

Lilith couldn't, no matter how much she wanted to. The fact remained that she knew essentially nothing about the Chief God, current or former.

"Only the method of population control is guaranteed to work… no matter how distasteful it is," Justinia said. "So I cannot accept your suggestion. And it's clear you will not accept mine. Thus…"

"Thus we have no choice but to cross blades," Adam said. He then chuckled. "In my childhood, I always wanted to meet one of the legendary heroes in person. I was so saddened when I heard that they'd all passed away… as far as most knew."

Justinia smiled, ever so slightly. "I apologise for not living up to your expectations. If it's any consolation, I felt the same in my own childhood. And now… I am honoured to meet a hero like you. No… I should say that I'm honoured to meet two heroes like you. The title of 'hero' isn't something that should be limited to those blessed by the Chief God, or even to humans."

There were a few moments of silence. Lilith thought that, if she'd met Justinia in another life, with none of this baggage weighing down on them, they might have become friends.

Then a young hero and succubus clashed once more against a hero of legend.

Lilith didn't take to the sky immediately, since Justinia would obviously expect that. She instead ran to the side while Adam ran towards the fallen hero.

"Haaaahhhh!"

Justinia swung her sword in a wide arc, creating an immense wave of blue energy that sliced through the air. Lilith avoided it by ducking low to the ground, while Adam cut open a gap using his own sword. Behind them, the wave vaporised several trees and boulders.

We're not the same as last time—now we'll show you what we can do!

Lilith thrust her spear into the ground with her right hand, causing the earth around Justinia to rise up and try to entomb her. Justinia dispelled this with a pulse of blue light from her hand. However, Lilith also cast a fireball from her left hand, and this flew towards Justinia's direction.

Adam reached Justinia at the same time, so the fallen hero turned, presumably considering him a greater threat than one measly fireball.

That's a big mistake!

Lilith ran towards Justinia in the wake of her own fireball, as it would obscure not just her appearance but also—due to being infused with her demonic energy—her demonic energy signature.

Then the fireball struck, covering both Adam and Justinia in licks of flame while harming neither. But although the flames died down from Justinia's armoured body, they clung to Adam's.

This was something the couple had discovered recently while in Royal Makai. Just like how Adam couldn't hurt Lilith with his Evil Obliterating Incantation despite her being a monster, she couldn't hurt him with any her spells. On the contrary, they could strengthen each other using spells normally just meant for attacking. The reason for this remained a mystery, but that wouldn't stop them from using it.

Lilith didn't give Justinia any time to ponder this mystery. She thrust her orichalcum spear wildly at the fallen hero's head. Justinia dodged by twisting her head to the side, but this left her unable to dodge a flame-strengthened slash from Adam, which hit her armour and knocked her back.

Now to finish this!

But before either Lilith or Adam could close in for a finishing blow, Justinia thrust both of her hands forward. A wall of pure, invisible force slammed into her opponents, knocking them back and giving Justinia some space.

Lilith stabbed her spear into the ground to come to a stop. She quickly pulled it out, ready to fight again immediately, and then she saw a tremor of fatigue from Justinia.

Of course—even if both of us have been fighting through Royal Makai, we can replenish our energy just by having sex, but she can only replenish it with rest and food!

There was no way for Lilith and Adam to match Justinia's strength, skill or experience. She was a hero who'd slain the previous Demon Lord, while they had trouble against a mere Demon Lord contender. Even if they outnumbered her and had equal equipment, they might have lost… but with this advantage, they could potentially outlast her.

Winning with the power of sex isn't something you hear about in the legends—but I'll take any advantage I can get!

Justinia charged at them again. She was certainly aware of her own disadvantage in stamina, so she would be aiming to end this as soon as possible.

Lilith waited until Adam was close to their enemy again, then cast an overcharged sleep spell over the entire area, leaving no room for either to dodge. Justinia swayed for a moment, while Adam moved as smoothly as usual—if anything, he seemed to be moving a little faster, as though Lilith's sleep spell had made him more alert.

Then Adam and Justinia began an exchange of blows. Each time their swords clashed, explosions rent the air and the earth creaked beneath their feet. Despite her disadvantages, Justinia actually seemed to be pushing Adam back slightly. However, she was grunting with effort and dripping sweat with every movement. Unlike last time, she was actually fighting with her life on the line.

Not that it matters if we still can't beat her! We can't fall here! We must win!

Lilith thought back to one of her lessons back when she was growing up in Melipon. This was something she'd avoided for most of her life, due to the terrible memories associated with it. But after settling the score with her home once and for all, she was prepared to use even these lessons.

"When conjuring illusions, it's important to understand what you're trying to represent on a fundamental level. By knowing what it is, inside and out, you can conjure up illusions that no one can see through. You can make a man think you're just the most beautiful woman in his world, allowing you to—"

Lilith returned to the present and began focusing on a major spell. In the distance, her lover continued fighting against the greatest enemy that they'd ever faced, but she did not let that distract her.

What I understand the most in the world…

Lilith lifted her spear towards the sky, channelling a massive quantity of demonic energy into it.

…is you!

An army of illusory Adams appeared from thin air, and rushed towards Justinia as a unified mass.

"That's—how can that be!?" Justinia exclaimed.

These Adams weren't just visually identical to the real thing, nor did they just make the same sounds. Each and every single one of these Adams was emitting both spirit energy and demonic energy. In all of Lilith's training and experience, she'd never heard of or encountered anyone able to create such lifelike illusions… and judging from Justinia's reaction, neither had she.

I couldn't do this with anyone other than Adam—but that's all I need! Do you understand him like I do!? If you don't, you'll never be able to see through this!

Justinia performed the most logical action for someone in her situation. She thrust her sword into the ground, yelling as she did so, and a blue explosion erupted from her body.

But that wasn't enough. Lilith made all of the illusions copy Adam's next action precisely: she made them stand their ground and block the explosion with their swords—though for the illusions, it merely looked as if the explosion was blocked. And when the explosion reached Lilith herself, she simply stood her ground and endured the explosion, possible thanks to her dragonium armour.

I can't cast any other spells while keeping this up—it's up to you, Adam!

-ooo-

Adam began attacking alongside all of his illusory copies, forcing Justinia into a desperate defence. Even if the illusions couldn't harm her, she had no way of knowing that until an illusion actually made contact. Adam, on the other hand, just needed to move in and out between each of his attacks, meaning Justinia kept losing track of his position.

It's certainly surreal, fighting alongside so many illusions of myself, Adam thought, while waiting in the middle of the army of illusions. But at the same time, it feels oddly similar to when I fight with Lilith's support under usual circumstances. I can feel her presence from these illusions… even it seems like Hero Justinia cannot.

I have nothing to fear with Lilith here. Now, it's time to end this!

Adam emerged from the illusions to strike at Justinia again. The fallen hero whirled around to block his sword, but she was caught in a suboptimal posture, causing her to step back. Then Adam retreated into the illusions again.

Come to think of it, succubi are originally known for using indirect methods of attack, like illusions and telepathy. They can still use direct offensive spells, but are less effective with those. It seems that after coming here, Lilith has been able to accept her identity fully.

It had been less than a year since he'd first met her, yet it already seemed like an eternity. They'd gone through enough trials and tribulations together for several lifetimes. Now, Adam couldn't imagine himself anywhere except at her side. And he was willing to follow her anywhere, even into the depths of Royal Makai or to a confrontation with the gods.

Adam attacked again. This time he almost knocked the sword out of Justinia's hands, though she maintained her grip and countered with a slash that grazed Adam's breastplate. He withdrew again, not about to take any chances; his opponent, even cornered, could easily kill him if he let his guard down.

I'm still not sure what we'd say to the Chief God… though could anyone be sure of such a thing? Perhaps Poseidon could give us advice?

Adam attacked yet again, managing to score a cut against Justinia's pauldron. Had his sword hit just a few inches to the left, he would have cut through her neck instead. But he calmly withdrew again to await his next opportunity.

But that's something to consider later. Now, we must deal with the enemy before us!

Adam watched as Justinia whirled around, trying to block and counter the attacks of Lilith's illusions. She didn't say anything, but Adam knew she had to be frustrated—he'd be feeling the same if their situations were reversed.

Her armour is as good as ours, so landing a fatal blow will not be easy. My only option is to wear her down until the opportunity arrives!

Adam charged up his own sword with spirit and demonic energies. Around him, several illusions did the same. The rest did not; presumably, Lilith was trying to confuse Justinia by making the illusions perform different actions.

Then Adam and several illusions swung their swords, unleashing waves of white light.

"I won't fall—not from this!"

Justinia formed a magical barrier all around herself. It flashed a brilliant blue when Adam's attack struck it, scattering the energy. Then Justinia released her barrier, allowing Adam to see how she was breathing heavily.

Before Adam could capitalise on this opportunity, he sensed danger from an entirely different direction. Judging from the look of annoyance on her face, Justinia had sensed it as well.

Lightning bolts began pouring from the sky like rain. Adam raised his sword to the sky, and any bolt that struck it was harmlessly scattered into sparks. The remaining bolts struck his armour and were similarly scattered.

Through a gap in the lightning, Adam saw an immense serpent slithering into view. It had red scales and fearsome golden eyes, and a forked tongue flicked out from between massive jaws. Moreover, an army of other monsters—of all shapes and sizes—followed closely behind.

An echidna… Adam realised. One of the rare Mothers of Monsters… Come to think of it, one of them was striving to become the next Demon Lord…

Finally, the lightning stopped. Adam quickly glanced over to Lilith to be certain that she was alright. Then the echidna opened her mouth and said in a booming voice:

"You survived that? Hmmph, seems you're worthy enough to become prey. I am Zalamandrix, the greatest echidna to ever grace the earth, and I—"

Adam had heard similar speeches many times before, so he tuned it out entirely. He did, however, notice that Zalamandrix's army—or were they her children?—looked clearly fearful. After seeing the battle of Adam, Lilith and Justinia, they were reluctant to get involved.

Then he glanced at Justinia, who'd clearly heard even more such speeches judging from the look on her face.

"What do you wish to do?" Adam asked.

"I wish to kill both of you and return to my usual activities," Justinia replied bluntly. "But I cannot do that with this interference."

A few moments passed, during which Zalamandrix continued to elaborate on how she was destined to become the next Demon Lord. Then Adam, Lilith and Justinia all made their move.

Lilith cast a spell with no visible effect, except in that it immediately caused Zalamandrix to flinch and incapacitated all of the echidna's army. Monster after monster fell to the ground heavily.

Zalamandrix widened her eyes in surprise at what just happened. Still, she retained enough presence of mind to breathe a cloud of purple mist at the approaching Adam and Justinia.

Adam simply reinforced his body with spirit and demonic energies, causing him to glow white. A blue glow from nearby showed that Justinia was doing the same. The two heroes thus passed through the purple mist without harm.

In the next moment, the two heroes leaped up and cut through Zalamandrix's eyes with their swords, showering the ground with blood.

"Ga-Gaaaaaaarghhhhh!"

Zalamandrix tossed her head and tail around wildly. Adam and Justinia easily dodged the blind attacks. In fact, the echidna would have crushed some of her own unconscious children if it wasn't for Lilith pulling them out of the way.

"Begone!"

Justinia ran along Zalamandrix's neck and removed the echidna's head with one slice of her sword. The head crashed to the ground, where Adam put his own sword through the brain to end the echidna's suffering.

The other monsters soon began waking up; it seemed Lilith hadn't put too much effort into keeping them down. When they saw the carnage all around them, they quaked in fear.

"Leave, and you may keep your lives," Justinia said.

The monsters immediately obeyed. They ran, scuttled, slithered and flew away. Less than a minute later, they were completely gone from view. Only the corpse of Zalamandrix remained.

Justinia looked at Adam and Lilith with an unreadable expression. "You had the opportunity to finish me, just then," she said.

"We could say the same to you," Adam pointed out.

For the first time since they'd met, Justinia laughed. It was a gesture completely at odds with the devastated battlefield they were in, yet it made her seem more human than anything else she'd done.

"It seems—that all of us can have moments—when honour overtakes reason," Justinia said.

In the first place, Adam had become a hero because he wanted to protect humanity from the depredations of monsters. To use a monster as a tool to kill another human… it didn't feel right to him. It was inconsistent and hypocritical, not least since he was previously fighting Justinia with Lilith's help, but that was simply the decision he—and Lilith—and made.

Perhaps we simply wanted to settle this ourselves, just the three of us.

Adam took a deep breath and raised his sword again. Justinia did the same, as did Lilith with her spear.

"Now there will be no more interferences," Adam declared.

The true battle resumed. Adam attacked, counterattacked, blocked and dodged, using his armoured limbs in addition to his sword, drawing on every single lesson he'd learned in his life. His muscles screamed at the exertion, and his heart throbbed within his chest.

I've been able to meet a legendary hero, just as I always wanted. I've been able to fight alongside a legendary hero. And now—now it's time to bring a legend to an end.

As the exchange of blows continued, Adam noticed that Justinia looked distressed, much more than if she was simply exhausted. He could also feel Lilith working her magic from afar.

While she's not using illusions now, Lilith seems to be doing something else. It might be a direct mental assault.

Adam continued his own assault. He aimed attacks at Justinia's sword and arms to interrupt her swordplay. He aimed at Justinia's legs to trip her up. And he aimed at Justinia's head and torso, hoping to land a fatal blow.

Yet Justinia would not fall. She met each of Adam's attacks with her own, fighting with the desperation of a beast left with no way to escape.

After what felt like over a hundred blows, the tide of battle turned. With a tremendous burst of effort, Justinia knocked the sword out of Adam's hands.

In the next instant, the tip of a spear erupted from Justinia's throat. Blood spattered Adam and the ground.

Lilith slowly withdrew her spear, resulting in more blood flow. Justinia fell to the ground, all of her strength gone.

Adam watched the fallen Justinia carefully, still keeping his sword at the ready. He could still sense the spark of spirit energy from her, even if it was fading rapidly, and there was no sense in taking chances.

But Justinia made no further attempt at resistance. The rest of her life bled away and her body began to cool. Those were the last moments of Hero Justinia, the one who'd slain Demon Lord Mallicant, and the one who'd slaughtered humans herself for the sake of preventing another Demon Lord.

Adam and Lilith were silent for some time. The former began healing the various minor wounds he and Lilith had suffered in the battle, his body moving on trained instinct rather than conscious thought.

When Adam finally broke the silence, he said, "At the very end… did she seem happy to you? Or at least, did she seem to be at peace?"

"She did," Lilith confirmed, staring at Justinia's corpse. "You could say that she would have won this battle either way. If she beat us, she could go back to her usual massacres. If we beat her, she could finally rest—"

"—knowing she could entrust her mission to us," Adam finished.

Even though they'd eliminated a threat to humanity, Adam couldn't find any satisfaction in this victory. The only thing he and Lilith could do now was to bury the bodies here, then continue their journey until the end.