Dungeon Defense: Volume 3 – Chapter 2 (Part 2)
Chapter 2 – Winter (Part2)
▯The Northern Guardian, Margrave of Rosenberg, Georg von RosenbergEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 12Polles
— A rumor has been going around that the end is approaching.
— They say the Demon Lords are going to arrive while steering the Black Death to us.
— That’s a false rumor, a false rumor……
The Saintess of the Empire coughed out blood and fell unconscious.
The saintess claimed that she had witnessed the end of the world in her dream. The soldiers gathered in twos and whispered among one another that the saintess had been possessed by an evil spirit. The fear on the soldiers’ faces was apparent.
— Black smoke shall engulf the mountains. It shall swallow the empire and, at last, consume the entire continent. The gray clouds shall have no limits or bounds, and thus, the winter shall continue with no limits or bounds. Freeze in this continuous winter. Everything shall freeze. The black smoke shall not clear. The black shall……
Speaking up to that point, the saintess then vomited blood. The blood was sticky because of the content that was mixed together with her blood. The reason I was able to detail this incident so confidently was because I was there in person to hear the prophecy during the previous night.
As I was the commander in charge of the northern region, I participated in the conference for the highest leading members of the government. We had received information that the Demon Lord Allied Forces were going to invade soon. We had to prepare against the invasion. I was not the sole person to partake in the strategy meeting, but the authority figures, His Highness the Crown Prince and Her Highness the Imperial Princess, and adding to that, The Saintess, were present as well. In that location, the Saintess was possessed by a spirit.
— The black shall, the black shall, the black shall……
The saintess coughed blood. She vomited repetitively. Her eyes rolled up to the back of her head and revealed the whites of her eyes. There were many clumps from her intestines mixed into her blood. The saintess convulsed. We urgently called for the clerics and healed her.
The Imperial Princess made an entreaty.
— This incident is confidential. Only we must know of this. Do not divulge this information outside. If the soldiers were to hear the saintess’ prophecy, then they will be heavily shaken, thus meaning, we cannot allow our morale to drop in our current situation where the Demon Lords plan to invade. No matter what cost, watch your words.
The Crown Prince, while consumed by fear, nodded his head as well.
With that, the case was supposed to be buried, but—for some reason, not a day had passed before the prophecy ended up being leaked. At the entire front, at that.
From the veteran officers to the new recruits, they all knew of the news that the saintess had vomited pitch black blood last night. Even the peddlers at the bottom of the military camp knew the contents of the prophecy. People whispered that it was an ominous omen.
Throughout the night, I wandered through the crowds and reprimanded the captains. There was nothing more terrifying than a wild rumor. Nothing more horrifying than the sound of words. Since soldiers lose and injure their lives effortlessly, they felt fear and dread just as easily. That is the core of a soldier. Since I have lived for more than 60 years now, I have seen many occasions of an army falling apart due to a groundless rumor. There was nothing which assured that it would not happen this time as well.
I wished to decline being defeated before even engaging with the Demon Lord Allied Forces. Measures must most likely be discussed immediately. Above all else, I cannot fall until I have avenged myself for the humiliation I suffered last autumn……
“Your Highness the Imperial Princess, I am here on this morning to pay my respects.”
The Imperial Princess spent her time enclosed by a white tent. She disliked going under a roof to sleep. The Imperial Princess declared that if the troops were being struck by snow and rain, and if one was unable to prevent the fall of that snow and rain, then it should not be avoided. The soldiers held that Imperial Princess in high esteem, and worried for the Imperial Princess’ health foremost when it rained or snowed.
……Of course, the Imperial Princess’ action was most likely a political scheme, but the majority of nobles were unable to properly carry out even this simple ploy. Separate to the Imperial Princess’ personality, I respected her ability.
Pushing the white cloth to the side, I became surprised by the sight of the Imperial Princess.
And the scene that was utterly unexpected.
Inside the tent, a long table was placed.
This was fine.
That was a normal scene.
But if there was a corpse of an alligator spread out on top of the table, and additionally, if the Imperial Princess was personally holding a knife and butchering that alligator, then the scenery went a thousand miles from being normal.
“For the margrave to come pay his respects. What a rare occasion.”
The Imperial Princess silently stripped the skin off the gator.
She did not glance towards my direction even once.
“Did you not dislike me?”
“Nothing of the sort, your highness. This general has always respected your highness.”
“That isn’t a lie. Not a lie. However, you also do not revere me. Is that not so?”
“You respect me. However, occasionally the word ‘respect’ is nothing more than a slightly safer and milder way to pronounce the word ‘scorn’. Words are trivial.”
The Imperial Princess shaved a piece of fragrant wood and scattered it into a brass incense burner. The brass, heated by a charcoal fire, slowly lit the chunks of wood aflame. The aromatic wood burned. As smoke formed, the fragrance spread. The aroma covered the smell of the alligator’s blood. While hiding the scent of blood, the fragrant smoke rose up densely. The fragrance seeped all the way down to my gut.
The Imperial Princess skinned the alligator within the smoke.
The Imperial Princess peeled the skin by severing the outer layer of muscle and stabbing into the inner layer of muscle. The boundary of the outer and inner layer was clearly visible to the princess. I unintentionally marveled at the skillful hand movement that was able to establish a border in the flesh and carved that boundary out naturally like a professional butcher. I could not imagine when and where the lady, who was born into the highest lineage in the world, had learned how to skin an alligator. The Imperial Princess, who resembled the secluded place in which she was born and raised in, was difficult to handle.
“Do you not think that the majority of the conversations we have shared can be condensed into more simple terms? I like you. I hate you. A person’s mind may start from there, but they are unable to arrive at this location in the end. Although people may refer to this as the path or course of life, I honestly call it a waste of time. Sir Rosenberg. Let us not waste each other’s time. Why did you come find me despite your animosity towards me? Tell me the reason why I have to listen to the words of a man, who does not revere me, while it is still noon.”
Was it a threat? Or was she serious?
I was unable to figure out the emotions of the other party. There were no expressions on her face. It appeared as if she was purely focused on the task of skinning the alligator. Even though the Imperial Princess was outside, it felt as if she was still residing within the palace. It even felt like she was the palace. If the amount of nobility she had purged did not reach over the dozens—then I may have had already been deceived by her outer appearance by this point.
“Your highness. You cannot gain the admiration of nobility automatically.”
“Oh dear. I do not desire for your admiration.”
The Imperial Princess shed her feelings and laughed.
It was a sound of laughter with no temperature.
“I was merely asking what meaning your respect has. The word respect contains 5 different meanings and 10 variations of tone. That is why I do not trust words. What I demand from you is not words, but actions. Distinct-Evident-Articulate-actions. Of course, you would not listen even if I were to order you to like this. You are a stubborn old man, after all.”
“……Information that Demon Lord Barbatos, Demon Lord Marbas, and Demon Lord Paimon, as the key individuals, are calling together an army has arrived. Although the total military strength is uncertain, it is clear that they have more than 50,000 but less than 70,000.”
“It seems it is not as fearsome as I had imagined. They do not have Baal nor do they have Agares. Barbatos is ignorant, Marbas is indecisive, and Paimon is…… well, Paimon.”
“Your highness is currently underestimating the enemy forces.”
“That is not so.”
At that moment, the Imperial Princess looked at me for the first time.
My mind felt needlessly restless because her purple eyes felt like they could pierce through a person’s psyche.
“No. Oh dear, by the Gods. That is not so at all! Why would I possibly underestimate the enemy forces? Never in my life have I ever devaluated someone.”
“Is that the case?”
“Of course. As proof of that, you are still alive.”
“You are a man of talent that is essential to our empire. The House of Rosenberg has been loyal to the imperial family for the past 500 years. And they have protected us from the invasions of the Demon Lords coming from the Black Mountains for 1,000 years. You are a competent individual, Georg. I respect you. If perhaps, I did not respect you, then—something like a province warlord in command of troops could not possibly still exist, is that not so?”
“This is what it means to show one’s purpose through actions. It is distinct, evident, and articulate. Georg, I at times ponder how outstanding it would be if people lived without ever using words.”
The muscle was torn.
The Imperial Princess plunged her knife into the neck region of the gator. The neck was more tender than any other area on an alligator’s body. Once the Imperial Princess moved her blade, the leather on the neck was skinned off just like that.
“It is fortunate that that situation is not now. Be at ease and continue. My ears are prepared to listen courteously.”
“If the Demon Lords are going to invade, then they must choose one of three paths. The first path is the passage in the mountains……”
“A passage that leads to the Kingdom of Teuton. That has no relation to us.”
“……The second path is through the plains.”
“The path to the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. That certainly does not matter to our empire as well. For goodness’ sake, we’ll have to pray for the Gods to influence the Demon Lord armies to go towards the mountains or plains. We’ll be able to catch our breaths while they are going to war, after all.”
(TL note: Politunia has been changed to Polish-Lithuanian)
I furrowed my brows.
I could not stand that sort of response.
“I apologize, but if this general is correct, they are the same humans as us.”
“And there are no other animals that can kill humans as efficiently as other humans. Sir Rosenberg, please stop trying to act refined on your own!”
The Imperial Princess gave a timid laugh.
“Exactly how many villagers have burned to death on the mountains this winter? 100? 200?”
I closed my mouth.
“Or was it 300? I’ve heard that the number effortlessly surpasses 1,000, and if my memory serves me right, those villagers were also the same humans as we are. What did our great Sir Rosenberg do while thousands of villagers were massacred as humans? You observed. You only watched.”
“Do you not consider the word ‘observed’ to be the same term as ‘fire watching’, but expressed in a more elegant manner? Oh, Northern Guardian, One of the Four Margraves, the Controller of both the Black and White Fortresses—Sir von Rosenberg.”
I stared at the eye of the gator. Since my head was lowered, I could not meet the eyes of the Imperial Princess. Instead, I intended to at least glare at the beast.
The Imperial Princess let words flow out.
“It seems I have mocked you severely. I apologize. I am apologizing for the fact that I do not feel particularly sorry. Continue to keep that in mind.”
“……I shall bear that in mind.”
The Imperial Princess gripped the back skin of the gator and tore it off. The leather came off instantly. The skin smoothly peeled off following the line which she had lacerated earlier. Once the leather was gone, a light pink inner-flesh was revealed. The color of alligator meat was modest and light.
“Do not concern yourself with the passage in the mountains or the path in the plains. All we have to do is defend the path leading to the empire. Do you require the assistance of the imperial family?”
“The North does not require help from anyone.”
I responded as clearly as possible.
“But I shall express my gratitude to your highness’ offer to help.”
“Oh dear, it seems he’s become upset because of my teasing…… It is only your loss if a beautifully aged man like yourself were to lose your temper towards this shameful girl. Just obediently accept the reinforcements.”
“I apologize, but your highness, I truly do not require reinforcements. This one shall defend the mountains, so your highness should solidify the home front alongside His Highness the Crown Prince. That way, if we are forced to, we will be able to make contact with either Teuton or Polish-Lithuania and spread out a strategy.”
“With my brother? You sure know how to make me laugh.”
“Do you see that fellow as someone who knows how to manage military affairs? He is a man who is unable to properly conduct his own mouth and bottom. Did you not see it as well? I warned everyone to remain silent about the saintess’ prophecy to such a degree, and yet, the rumor spread within a single night.”
“Your grace is immeasurable, your highness”
The Imperial Princess closed her mouth. I was unable to grasp why she had shut her mouth. Shortly after, the Imperial Princess spoke again.
“My brother’s mouth is more loose than a whore’s bottom hole. Even the privates do not respect my brother. Are you telling me to gather an army with that sort of man?”
“……For this general, the Crown Prince is an equal commander. His Majesty the Emperor ordered this general to manage the north, and did not treat the Crown Prince any differently there.”
“Forsooth, it seems you are loyal to my father, the king. I understand. I respect your loyalty. ……But by the way, Margrave, do you not think that the term filial piety shines the brightest when dutiful towards a parent with no worth, and the word loyalty shines brighter when faithful to a lord with no value? Your loyalty to the emperor is quite marvelous. It is impressive.”
The Imperial Princess stabbed the knife into the table.
With a washcloth, the Imperial Princess cleaned her blood soaked hands. Once she had done so, she lightly patted my shoulder. The Imperial Princess’ face was far, but her voice almost felt as if it was being whispered directly into my ear.
“You are a loyalist, Sir Rosenberg.”
“But you cannot buy my respect with fidelity. If you wish for me to respect you, then over all else, you must obtain victory. Although I may be accepting the military orders since you are the supreme commander of this upcoming war, if by the low chance, you were to commit a mistake…… Well, I’ll most likely be very disappointed, will I not?”
“This general shall not bestow disappointment.”
“I shall trust you.”
And the Imperial Princess spoke the words.
“Habsburg grants their faith a single time.”
“The North shall not forget.”
The two of us exchanged the maxim passed down in our families from the House of Habsburg and the House of Rosenberg respectively. The very act of exchanging the proverbs which were passed down for nearly 1,000 years was sacred. The vow of the Imperial Princess, who appeared like the one person who would not place her trust in others the most, felt that much more substantial. The moment I break that single faith, she will purge me without a doubt……
The Imperial Princess stabbed the alligator skin onto a rod and raised it up in the center of the military camp.
Alligators are known as the descendants of dragons. Dragons are the symbol of Demon Lords. While staring up at the gator skin, the soldiers whispered among one another that that monster was caught by Her Highness the Imperial Princess personally.
After examining that the signs of the soldiers still being afraid had disappeared, I thought about the armies of the Demon Lords that were approaching from over the mountains. Whether they will be a strong army or a rabble, and what fate they were going to bring with them, it was difficult to make an assumption. Like the Imperial Princess whose face was hidden by the smoke, the armies of the Demon Lords were similarly hidden by the mountains, and yet, I was unable to judge whether I should be afraid of the thing which could not be seen despite being by my side, or if I should fear the thing that could not be seen because of the distance. Surrounded by the fear from behind and dread in front, my body languished.
I beheaded the two military personnel responsible for circulating the wild rumor among the troops and hung their heads.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, DantalianEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 12Yotvingian Plains, Demon Lord Allied Forces Garrison
— Where are those vulgar people crawling from?
— Ah, don’t you know? Isn’t that His Honor Dantalian? That pink haired bitch is a peasant, and the blonde bitch beside her is a human.
— Sheesh. Does that guy have some idiosyncrasy of only bedding peasants?
— They say that people from a low birth are tight down there, you know?
— Human? Are you saying that’s a human? That?
The Demon Lord Allied Forces were a rabble. Since the term rabble is incredibly old-fashioned, there was a need to be a bit more honest.
I believed that there is life in words. For example, words similar to ‘universe’ were too antique for me to use. I preferred the world over the universe. If you were a refined individual with common sense, then by distinguishing a dead language and a contemporary language, you must at times revitalize a half-dead language, and at other times, beat a half-dead language to death.
With no room for debate, I was a splendidly refined individual. Therefore, I elegantly expressed the word rabble in a bit more fresh language.
The Demon Lord Allied Forces were a bunch of damned pieces of shit.
As soon as we entered through the camp gate with our banners held out in front of us, for some reason, soldiers who were pitiable like bums approached us and spoke nonsense.
— Your Honor Dantalian! To bring a human bitch in front of us humble fellows who are gathered here to suppress the humans, we are able to understand your honor’s immeasurable motive. If your honor has had enough fun with that harlot, then please allow us lowly ones to have a taste as well!
— That human harlot’s presence is dignified, so her being the imperator is evident. If she’s so robust during the day, then just imagining how boyish she’d be during the night is putting me at a loss.
Looking at the soldiers blocking our path, I let out a sigh.
Seeing that they were coming at me without any fear, it was clear that they were the subordinates of a Demon Lord of a much higher rank than myself. To the demons, the humans were the enemy of our kind, and their social status was considered as peasants. To them, for a Demon Lord like myself to make a human like Farnese into my acting general was definitely a mistake. I rebuked them moderately.
“It seems you fools have lost your minds. Move aside before your balls are removed and shoved into your mouths. Or in reverse, do you want your throats to be slit and your dicks shoved in there?”
The soldiers laughed loudly.
— For your honor to say that you will personally jack us off. We are so gracious that we do not know where to place our bodies.
The crowd split in half, and thus our path was finally open.
Commanding Lapis and Farnese to move to my side, the three of us moved forward with the heads of our horses aligned next to one another. Lapis quietly spoke in a tone that only I could hear.
“You did well to endure, your highness.”
“What do I have to endure? You are the ones to have received the ridicule, so you two did well holding back.”
“What could your highness be talking about? This one is later on going to take the lives of those soldiers in secret, so your highness did well in enduring right this moment. The insult this one has received will, of course, be repaid by this one.”
Those soldiers were piteous. I still vividly remembered the method where a certain maid was poisoned to death for having insulted Lapis. These fellows should be happy if their corpses were at least left intact.
“This young lady cannot understand. Why does every officer who looks at this young lady wrongly assume that this young lady had slept with your lordship? Thinking logically, there is no chance that a man like your lordship could possibly be allowed in this young lady’s bed.”
“Take the situation more seriously, you idiot.”
I’m not sure whether it’s because this child had always shut herself in a library to read history books all day, but she didn’t have the sensibility to accept reality.
Leading my vassals, who I could not say had a strong distinct characteristic since they actually had nothing but distinct characteristics, we went into the deepest part of the encampment. The demon soldiers poured jeers on us by shouting ‘Boo— boo—’. They called me ‘The King of Peasants’, Lapis as ‘The King’s Whore’, and Farnese was referred to as ‘The King’s Slave’. It felt like we had all of a sudden become a popular idol group.
For them as well, every day was shit, thus their lives should have been spent enduring this kind of days, and yet instead, they scorned peasants and slaves. They most likely suffered because of the nobles and were pressured to look down, and the only thing below them were peasants and slaves. It became a state of affairs where the things they received from the nobles were passed straight down to the people below them. What could possibly console them? Was there anything more to say to the reasonability of these low people, who could not gather together, but fought among each other instead? The ones pressuring them to not look upwards were the nobles and royalty such as myself, so the right to punish them for belittling the things below them was something which I did not possess.
“It seems there are a lot of people to kill.”
……Except for Lapis.
Since Lapis was a girl born at the absolute bottom, to her, she had more than enough rights to send the heads of those above her flying. She was a girl who even I could not stop. No one could stop her. I prayed for the repose of those poignant souls in advance. Please have an easy passage into eternity.
It was at the moment we were docilely passing by one of the military camps. The soldiers started to throw clumps of snow at our ranks. My men became bewildered and stopped their advance. The 11 members of the Berbere Sisters, who could be referred to as my royal bodyguards, instantly covered the area around me.
The snow collided against the witches. Being hit by snow on their foreheads, cheeks, and torsos, the witches became soiled. The witches silently endured the barrage until they became a complete mess. They did not utter a single word while being hit. Just like the time they were abused by Demon Lord Andromalius in the past.
From the other side, the demon troops made invidious remarks.
— For your honor’s mistress to be an outcast, general to be a human, and royal bodyguards to be witches, your honor’s good faith impales the sky. Indeed, it’s befitting of the King of Peasants.
— You must be very fortunate to be so popular with women, your honor! Please teach the people how to bed lowly harlots and spread the information throughout the world.
Snow continued to fly towards us. They were not aiming at me but were throwing the snow in order to hit the witches. Despite that, the witches, in concern for the worst situation, did not leave my side for even the slightest moment. The witches merely guarded me with a stoic expression on their face.
“Yes, your highness?”
“Where are those bullock bones from?”
“It appears a three-legged goat is drawn on their flag. That belongs to the rank 12th Demon Lord, Sitri. The soldiers led by Sitri are renowned for their rough volubility and coarse speaking habits.”
I let out a sigh.
“Then if I were to slit the throats of those soldiers, that’ll be the same as making the Mountain Faction into our enemy.”
Sitri was a loyal subject to Paimon. Even if they had provoked us first, a big incident would occur if I were to kill them thoughtlessly.
No, they may be starting this ruckus in order to cause a big incident on purpose. If the current situation were to get any worse, then there will certainly be a faction who will use my decision of putting a human as my general as the problem, and place it as the public opinion. That the privates were probably dissatisfied just because I had made an individual with no prestige into my general.
If that were to happen then I would be at a disadvantage. They would be taunting me and dragging me into a situation where it was favorable for them. What should I do? How should I deal with this mess……?
I wonder if it had detected that I had fallen into deep thought. With a jaunty sound effect, a selection window appeared before me.
Ο[1. Punish the insults.] [2. Endure the insults.]
I carefully gazed at the words floating in mid-air.
Even if the soldiers were wretchedly throwing clumps of snow towards a Demon Lord, such as myself, I did not feel any particular anger because of it. Insults were disgraceful when done by someone of a similar standing. So what if some soldiers tossed snow at me?
The problem was face. The issue was always one’s honor. The witches were being hit by the filth in my stead, but if I were to do nothing and pass the situation by like this, then my honor as a monarch would be damaged. Farnese, who must have also been concerned of this, whispered to me an advice.
“Lord. Should we not kill those men immediately? Even if we do not kill them, if we bind them and shove their faces into the ground then they’ll shut up on their own.”
“This one disapproves.”
Lapis whispered to me in a low voice on my other side.
“Seeing that mere privates are openly insulting your highness, there is no doubt that Demon Lord Sitri is supporting them from behind. There is no benefit your highness can gain by colliding against Sitri. Refrain from doing something rash.”
“How could enduring be a king’s only method? Miss Lapis. You never close your eyes towards the ridicule you receive, and yet, how could you request for his lordship to turn a blind eye towards the humiliation he receives?”
“Since this one is a humble vassal, it is fine for this one to behave basely. A humble individual’s generosity is the act of forgetting oneself and behaving with impudence. Disgracefulness is a shallowness befitting this one’s place. However, his highness is different. Please be tolerant.”
“This is not something that can be solved by stopping, lord. This young lady is an illegitimate child of a lowly servant girl, so it is appropriate for this young lady to receive insults. However, how is this young lady supposed to endure the situation where her lord is unjustly being ridiculed? Please order this young lady to take their necks.”
“Your highness. Miss Farnese is still young. Do not listen to her. Even if the people were to praise your highness, your majesty will not rise, and even if people were to jeer at your highness, your dignity will not be damaged. Please understand.”
“Sheesh. I told you two to stop, and yet you two continue to bicker.”
I raised my right hand.
The moment I did so, the witches all raised their staves at once. My troops also broke apart from their marching ranks and lifted their spears. It took no longer than a couple of seconds for my troops, which consisted of 4,000 soldiers, to display their vigor.
The encampment became quiet. An aggressive silence, which felt as if a fight could erupt at any second, flowed. Even the soldiers who were tossing snow at us had pulled out their swords with their muddied hands. They continued to babble on narrow-mindedly.
— Does your honor plan to cut us lowly subjects down? That’s fine. Since your honor had stabbed the throat of His Highness Andromalius in order to save the life of a succubus whore, then killing tens or hundreds of us lowly people for those witches should be possible, right?
— Please step over our corpses with your honor’s grace.
I dismounted from my horse. I wiped off the mud smeared on the witches’ faces with my clothes. The mud was smudged on them rather excessively so it did not get wiped off easily. Moistening the lower end of my clothes with the snow, I wiped clean the skin of the witches.
The sight of a member of the noblest stratum in the demon world cleaning the face of a peasant, hundreds of thousands of soldiers watched while holding their breath. Within the heavy atmosphere, only the witches chatted and giggled quietly.
“Ahah, really our master……”
“His way of thinking is really abnormal, isn’t it?”
I deliberately whispered to them in a serious tone.
“Be quiet. Do not ruin the mood.”
The witches responded faintly. Although my facial expression was stoic like before, it was not the same impassive expression as before. I sincerely cleaned all 11 witches.
The mud that was trickling from the witches was all moved onto my clothes, so now I was the one that was filthy. I took my mantle off and draped it over the leader of the group, Witch Humbaba. After brushing her shoulder twice, I remounted my horse.
“Let us depart.”
The soldiers who were enthusiastically ridiculing us could not stop our march. As if they were embarrassed, they lowered their heads. The bottom line in the selection window glowed brightly and dispersed in mid-air.
Ο[A kind and merciful decision!] [Witch Humbaba’s affection went up by 3.] [Witch Stheno’s affection went up by 9.] [Witch Euryale’s affection went up by 8.]
Looking up at the words that broke apart like a flurry of snow, I smiled. I was already doing well, so was there really a need for it to compliment me about it? 100 points is already 100% so there’s nothing more to add, after all.
“95 points, your highness.”
“Ara? That score is subtly suspicious. What are the grounds for the deduction in points?”
“A man who is too perfect is aggravating, is he not? This one was concerned that your highness would become bothersome, so this one was being slightly considerate. Since removing 5 points is, in truth, the same as adding 5 points, this is this one’s method of displaying her loyalty to your highness.”
Good for you!
▯Demon Lord of Benevolence, Rank 9th, PaimonEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 12Yotvingian Plains, Demon Lord Allied Forces Garrison
“What should we do, sis……?”
Sitri asked with a teary voice.
We quietly watched Demon Lord Dantalian go by with his troops in tow. There was nothing we could do. This lady’s plan of provoking Dantalian, in order to someway or another delay the start of war, was thus a complete failure.
“I’m sorry, Big Sis Paimon. I chose the most vulgar mouthed soldiers among my troops and spread them out, but it seems that wasn’t enough.”
“No. It’s not your fault Sitri. The other party had merely handled the situation smoothly. I tried provoking him since I had heard a rumor that he cherished his subordinates, but for his expression to not shift even once……”
My mind felt heavy.
Ever since last year, the feeling that this lady, no, not only this lady but all of the Demon Lords as well, were being swept up by Dantalian’s pace did not disappear. Was it merely this lady who was mistaken?
It was fine to consider Dantalian’s reputation to be the absolute worst. He had declared an outcast as his fiancée(This is illegal), made a human into his acting general(This as well is illegal), and furthermore, his Demon Lord Castle, which was his stronghold, had fallen. In the public eye, the assessment of Dantalian was horrendous. A fool blinded by love, a filthy debauchee……
However, this lady thought differently.
There was no other choice but to think differently.
Within half a year, Dantalian was able to rise up to one of the highest positions among the richest individuals in the demon world. If that man were a fool, then that would be impossible to achieve. If you looked further into it, the trigger to start this upcoming war originated from Dantalian’s Demon Lord Castle having been invaded. Was this a coincidence?
If anything, should one not look at this backwards?
That that man had personally induced his public image to appear like a fool and a parvenu.
My face became stiff.
If this lady’s intuition was correct, then that would mean that Dantalian was playing around with the entire demon world at his own will. To always achieve what he desired, while at the same time making that achievement appear like pure chance. He disguised everything to appear as if it had flowed like that because of luck. There were a countless number of people who fail but pretend to have succeeded. However, people who have succeeded but acted as if they had failed were rare. Furthermore, the occasion where that act would be carried on and continued was even more uncommon.
If we don’t deal with him by any means then.
“Big sister. Are you alright?”
Sitri looked at me with a worried expression on her face.
Oh dear, it seems this lady’s face had unintentionally become excessively serious without her knowing. Following my long time habit, I moved the edges of my lips and formed a natural smile.
“Yes, I am fine. You are very kind, Sitri.”
Once I stroked her head, Sitri rubbed her cheek against my hand. How cute.
That night, I sent away every soldier who was in the vicinity of my quarters and called for the spy. The spy was a short girl. With a pitch black cloak wrapped around her entire body, the spy lowered herself to one knee.
“Did your highness call?”
“Yes. Was there any inconvenience on your way here?”
“Ahah, it’s alright. Sir Dantalian’s camp is currently having a drinking party, so the security is lax. There were no cumbersome gazes while concealing myself all the way here, so it’s fine.”
“A drinking party, is it……?”
“He threw a banquet saying that everyone did a good job for marching through the snow and rain for a week. Since alcohol and boar meat are being served indefinitely, the privates are going wild. Normally, the night watch would be managed by a girl named Lazuli, but she was caught by Sir Dantalian and is currently pouring him his drinks. That’s why this one was able to sneak out easily—.”
That was most likely not the only reason for throwing a banquet.
Although Dantalian may have sagaciously gotten past the situation from this afternoon, the likelihood that Dantalian’s soldiers were still harboring in their minds the humiliation that their monarch had received was high. The banquet was held to disentangle their frustrated minds.
Dantalian was not a foolish fellow. This lady’s instincts were warning her as so.
In the world, something with a million to one chance could always occur. The path that Dantalian had walked until now could truly be nothing more than a coincidence. A method to identify whether it was an inevitability or a coincidence did not exist for this lady. If the ability to discern whether something was an inevitability or a coincidence was not available, this lady tended to lean towards it being an inevitability.
That was why I had bribed the spy in front of me.
“Show me the evidence that you claimed could slander Dantalian.”
The spy took out a pocket watch from inside her cloak and laid it on the floor. As soon as this lady flicked her wrist, the pocket watch floated to her hand. Since this spy’s stratum was so low that it could be compared to that of an outcast, in accordance with the laws in the demon world, direct contact with her was forbidden.
“Is this a Memory Play artifact?”
“Yup. Setting it to 12, 7, 5, 4, 2 ,3, and 11 will do.”
“This lady is looking forward to seeing what sort of content lies within this.”
I turned the hour hand of the pocket watch according to the sequence the spy had stated.
A white smoke leaked out from the watch and a video was projected onto the fumes. Dantalian’s figure appeared within the scenery displayed on the smoke. Dantalian was holding the human girl, who he had made into his acting general, in his arms. Witches could be seen as well.
— Turn this place into Hell.
— Aha? By ‘Hell’, does master mean?
— I can smell a scent somewhere. It is the smell of fat emanating from disgusting masses of flesh. It is the smell of greed and hypocrisy
Is that…… a market?
Seeing that there were iron cages around them, it seemed to be a slave market. What appeared to be the corpses of guards were collapsed on the ground. Dantalian grinned towards the witches.
— If they are pigs, then it would only be appropriate for them to behave like pigs and oink in a pigsty, and yet, why are they striding so boldly along the streets? What are you to do when these pigs are arrogantly trying to imitate people and shove their noses everywhere?
— Naturally, you have to imprint onto them that they are pigs!
— Only people can possess slaves. It seems those runts are arrogantly going against the moral of beasts and trying to handle slaves.
— Please give us the order. We shall make this place into a slaughterhouse tonight!
— Yes. The command that I shall order is slaughter. Slaughter those bastards without giving them the chance to even scream. This is not murder. Do not let your conscience weigh down your heart and hesitation take over your hands. As you are lords of all creation, with the authority granted to you all by the Goddesses, slaughter these livestock for our extensive cause.
— As you command, master!
And the slaughter began.
Shooting through the night sky, the witches killed every last human. It was not only humans. Even the demons caught as slaves were put to death. The market instantly degenerated into a burning hell, and people burned between the flames. I watched the figures of them wailing while dumbstruck.
“What is this……?”
“The scene of the slaughter that Sir Dantalian had ordered.”
The spy responded.
“Although the rumors say that Sir Dantalian had picked up Miss Farnese, who was wandering around aimlessly, by chance. Ahah. That is actually a lie. Sir Dantalian had personally gone to rescue Miss Farnese who was confined within the slave market in Pavia.”
“But why the order to slaughter……?”
“Since there can’t be any evidence.”
This lady became speechless.
For that reason alone.
The massacre was still taking place in the video. Regardless of their race or age, the witches got rid of every figure that came into their sight. There were even the tremendously weak sirens and children among the slaughtered.
The screams of a child and the laughter of witches mixed together. It blended together like smoke. Endlessly, endlessly…… my head became so dizzy that I ended up closing my eyes. Until the video had ended. This lady could not contain the tragedy in her eyes.
“……Is this not fabricated?”
“Fabricate a video of this size? Surely your highness is joking-. Even if someone were to use disguise magic to imitate the core individuals, Sir Dantalian and Miss Farnese, then what about the rest of the people? Does your highness think that hundreds of mages would use disguise magic to make this sort of video?”
The spy laughed.
“Ahahah, if that were true then a rumor would have spread a long time ago. Your highness should know well since your highness Paimon is a mage much more outstanding than this one, but utilizing hundreds of mages in secret is impossible. Additionally, the screams from the children are extremely realistic, so to consider that as an act is—.”
The spy fell to the floor. The spy, who was slapped by my hand, tumbled onto the ground. Because this lady could not bear it any longer, while forgetting everything about the demon world laws, I kicked the spy.
“Aha, ah hah haha……ahahahahahah……”
Even while being kicked, the spy continued to laugh. What could possibly be that funny? Could the sight of innocent children being killed be nothing more than a joke to this spy? The sound of this spy’s laughter was detestable. The sound of giggling unpleasantly latched onto my skin. This lady stomped on the spy with more force in order to strip herself of that unpleasantry. I felt disgusted at myself for having hired someone like this as my spy. I was the fool for having believed that they were pure at one point.
The bunch who had sold their souls.
The absolute bottom of everything inferior.
The prostitutes of souls.
With her face planted into the ground, the spy grinned.
“Your highness-? It is fine to vent your anger, but didn’t your highness hire us since you needed this sort of evidence-?”
The head of the Berbere Sisters, the possessor of the Triphyllous Badge, Witch Humbaba.
Even after her platinum blonde hair was covered in dirt, she did not lose her amusement. There was no madness in her laugh. Whether witches laughed normally, laughed because something was funny, or laughed when they were feeling anguished, their laughter was constantly the same. Therefore, it was constantly disgusting.
“……You are a bunch who should not have been born into this world.”
“We hear that often-.”
“Is there truly no feeling of sorriness for the lives of others in your minds?”
“This one apologizes, but we’ve already sold our souls—?”
It seems words would not get through to her.
Although people considered it regrettable that we could not converse with beasts, beasts did not care about being unable to converse with people. Similarly, witches did not even contemplate the idea of sharing a conversation with us people.
This lady took out a pouch of gold and tossed it. The moment the pouch fell to the floor and gave off a metallic jingle, Humbaba immediately turned her head towards the sound. She embraced the pouch as if it were the loveliest child in the world.
“Your highness’ kindness is immeasurable. Thank you very much. Hehe.”
“I put in half the amount of the promised gold.”
I coldly gazed down at the witch.
“I will give you the remaining half once the task is completely over.”
“That’s a little bit different compared to the promise that this one had heard previously-……”
“Dantalian had personally wiped the dirt off of you all earlier today, and yet, you all had betrayed that Dantalian. Do I have even the slightest reason to place my trust in you?”
“Mm-, well-, hm-. Ahahah? That’s right. Of course. Your highness is correct.”
Humbaba straightened her cone hat. The witch’s face was no longer visible because of the wide brim of her hat.
“But at least the other promise……”
“Yes. On a Walpurgis Night, I will petition for every witch that had participated in this war to receive a Leaf Medal. You’ll then be a veteran in possession of a Quadriphyllous. Congratulations.”
“Ahaha. That is a great favor.”
The witch beamed brightly. The medal with a leaf shape on it was proof that an individual had devoted oneself to their kind in a field of war. No matter how many times one were to participate in a civil war between Demon Lords, you were not granted a leaf. As much as our current situation was going to become a massive war against the humans, it meant that it was going to meet the conditions for the witch before me to be given a leaf.
Regardless, people of the low class were originally unable to receive medals, excluding the extremely rare cases. Despite that, just like they had done now, these witches were able to somehow gain medals through constant repetition of betrayal and trickery. One’s honor should be established by one’s self and not by relying on others, and yet…… They were a despicable group.
This lady waved her hand.
“I do not wish to see you any further. Get out.”
“My apologies for sullying your highness’ eyes.”
Humbaba wrapped herself in her cloak and left. Just like she had done when she arrived, her footsteps had no sound while leaving as well. It felt as if she was still somewhere in the quarters because of her noiseless footsteps.
This lady silently stared at the pocket watch. The problem now was where I was going to utilize this strong evidence. Unfortunately, it is clear that this video will not have any particular use in bringing the war to a halt. Currently, the person holding the lead position for the advocacy of war was Barbatos. Even if Dantalian were to be accused, Barbatos would heed it no mind and execute the war anyway. However, even if it was unable to stop the war then……
My worries became deeper along with the night. Thinking about the destiny of the ones born as monarchs, this lady’s head became numb. I shared the responsibility in the proclamation of war, and yet, only the lives of the soldiers will be taken away through it. My heart pounded by the thought that no matter what occurred, I will remain alive.
A massive war.
At the very least, a devastating war must be prevented……
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, DantalianEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 2, Day 13Yotvingian Plains, Demon Lord Allied Forces Garrison
“I heard you personally wiped clean some witches. You crazy bastard!”
The words shouted after barging in here abruptly during the middle of the night was that.
I put down my fountain pen and sighed.
“Thank you, Lapis. You may leave now.”
Lapis, who was helping me throughout the night with documents, left without a word. While Lapis was my woman, I was Barbatos’ man, thus Lapis behaved as if she were invisible while in front of Barbatos, and Barbatos treated Lapis as if she were not there. The distance between Barbatos and Lapis was too vast for them to connect with each other for the reason that they shared the same man. Once Lapis left the tent, I spoke.
“Rumors spread quite fast.”
“I’m here to compliment you. You did well holding back. Ten to one, I’m certain that incident was one of that bitch Paimon’s schemes.”
“Probably. That’s why I endured it.”
“It’s impressive to say you’ll endure it and actually be able to endure it. If it were me, then I would have punched Sitri right in her face. Dantalian, you’re a big shot.”
As if something was funny, Barbatos cackled. She was the type of person to not tell people why she was laughing, and I was the bastard who didn’t disregard it and made sure to ask what was so funny.
“What’s so humorous? Let’s laugh together.”
“It’s hilarious since the upright guy who believes in witches just looks like a retard. Hey, do you want to know something amusing? You know I constantly place agents around that bitch Paimon, right? She’s the type of bitch who pretends to be pure and coy while doing everything she wants, after all. If I don’t spread observers around her, then sheesh, I can’t feel reassured.”
“Well, that bitch probably has agents planted around me as well, but that isn’t what’s important right now. Do you know who just went into that bitch Paimon’s tent?”
I gazed at Barbatos. Excluding the white candles placed on top of the table, there were no other sources of light in the tent. When the candle light trembled, the shadow covering Barbatos’ face shook as well. Regardless of that trembling, Barbatos smiled grimly. I shook my head.
“That isn’t possible.”
“How innocent. That’s cute.”
“Who knows? I don’t know well enough to know their name. I only know that after leaving that bitch Paimon’s tent they disappeared into your camp.”
“Give me the evidence.”
Barbatos raised her middle finger.
“Eat shit, Dantalian. I won’t give someone like you evidence. Whether you believe my words or not, that’s something you’ll have to decide on your own. My duties were finished the moment I didn’t turn a blind eye towards this matter.”
After leaving those words, Barbatos left casually. There was no farewell. It was truly like her to not give a refined greeting, and simply toss aside something that she had started on a whim. I became as awkward as a preschooler who was suddenly faced with a drawing paper that was forcefully given to him because of a teacher’s discretion. How was I going to deal with this?
Betrayal was a social response which occurred when a single contract was not fulfilled adequately. However, I have never infringed on the contract shared between myself and the witches. Although I did not doubt the fact that betrayal was an obvious occurrence in the world, I was suspicious because I believed that a betrayal without reason could not exist. A sudden thought occurred to me. Could this not be a type of signal?
I quietly exited my tent and headed towards the witches’ quarters. The witches had built a large tent for themselves and resided in it together. I wondered if they were controlling the temperature with magic since the inside of their tent was humid despite the blizzard outside. The witches were playing around with each other and entangling their bodies with one another. Even after seeing me enter their tent, the witches did not put on their tops.
“Ara, Master? What brings you here on this night?”
“Did our master finally start to yearn for our blooming bodies and has come to visit us in order to grant us your Royal Grace—?”
The witches giggled. Among them, there were three or four witches who were pressing against one another and licking the others’ skin. A strong flowery fragrance emanated from the air. It was the smell of decadence. Because the fragrance was so thick, I could not distinguish whether I was breathing through my nose or being waterboarded by extracts. The heaven and earth on all four sides were being enveloped by the winter, making the world white, but the witches had separately made this place into a small red-light district.
I clicked my tongue.
“It appears this place isn’t a military camp but a licensed quarter instead. Do I have to pay an entrance fee?”
“Of course not. Our master is always welcomed.”
“Tsk, these obscene fellows……”
I sat down anywhere that felt convenient. The witch who was suddenly sat on by me let out a playful yelp.
“A yin and yang should be fusing together in order to form a union, and yet, you girls seem to be in quite the fine state with lewd fellows playing around with other indecent fellows.”
(TL note: Yin(Female Energy), lewd, and indecent all start with the same first letter. So he’s referring to the witches as them being both obscene and getting along with only other women.)
“Eeh. Why is our Master being concerned when this isn’t the first or second time you’ve seen us like this?”
“Is there anything that Master had done in order to supplement us for being obscene, disorderly, and slovenly-?”
“Be quiet. You girls are being too bold since you are not even concerned about dying by a sword on a battlefield, but instead, you’re preparing to die by coition first. Hurry up and go put on some undergarments. I have something serious to discuss, that is why I have come all the way here myself.”
The witches pouted and draped clothes over their shoulders. In truth, it was an outfit that was more befitting to be called cloth than actual clothing. The nape of their necks were wide open and their chests were completely revealed. Seeing that they were exposing themselves while in my presence, it was clear that they were trying to tease me. I didn’t feel like reprimanding them any further, so I let it be.
The witches adjusted their clothes slowly. They seemed to think that if they did that, then I would turn into an animal of passion and pounce at them. Seeing their ridiculous behavior, I let out a snort, and once I did so, the witches grumbled with a face that displayed discontent. At any rate, these fellows did not know their limit.
I gazed at Humbaba who posed as the leader of the witches.
“Is there any inconvenience while residing in the camp?”
“We are endowed with both something to eat and a place to sleep, so something like inconvenience couldn’t possibly exist-.”
“I am worried since you all used to be abused commonly. Are there no vulgar fellows who mistreat or beat you?”
“Yes. The people who abuse us are normally nobles, but as your lordship already knows, there are no nobles in your camp, and even if there are, only minor nobles who stink of piss on the family tree are present-……”
The witches’ complexions gradually became darker.
There was no chance that their lord would come pay them a visit past midnight just to inquire them of their well-being. There was a sequence in conversations, so a ground must be spread out first. However, since the ground kept being set down, the witches were worried about what sort of talk was going to come next. Once I closed my mouth, the tent became silent. The quarters was still humid, yet it was no longer a pleasurable warmth but just plain heat instead. I spoke.
“I heard that you girls betrayed me. Why did you do it?”
“I do not wish to quibble over the improperness of you all and the information given. Tell me the reason behind the betrayal.”
Over the tent, the sound of an owl hooting could be heard. The witches’ tent was thin so the sound of the bird felt nearby. It was forbidden for witches to wear or use the leather of animals. That was the law in the demon world. The tent was made completely out of cotton. Once the owl’s hooting ceased, Humbaba spoke.
“This one shall atone for the crime with her death.”
“I asked for the reason of betrayal. Would I not need to know something before being able to determine whether if I am to accept your apology or not? There would be no meaning if you were to die on your own.”
“We craved money-.”
“Money? If you desired for money, then you could have asked me, could you have not? You all should know well that I possess so much money that it is nearly unmanageable.”
“As there is nothing more terrifying than free money, it is also uncongenial to us. Rather, doing spy work is more efficient and clean.”
“Oh, these imbeciles.”
I placed my hand on my forehead. My brain started to hurt.
I understood that since these witches lived their entire life being scorned by the other races, the only place they could put their trust into was money. People did not consider the act of breaking a promise with low-class individuals as shameful. As long as it was not a business relationship, betrayal was a peasant’s destined fate. It was heartrending to see these girl use their destiny as an excuse.
“And so? Did you get some money?”
“Nope. We only got half the promised amount-.”
“What? ……After having betrayed me, you were embezzled half the amount?”
I was taken aback.
“Dear God. I already knew that you all were imbeciles but I did not consider you would also be a bunch of pushovers. If you’re going to stab someone in the back, then do it properly. Just what are you doing?”
“We heard that Miss Paimon was kind towards even peasants, so we were a bit hopeful. But it turned out that she was less kind than the rumors. Ahahaha.”
“You’re laughing? Does laughter really come out right now?”
The witches’ shoulders trembled.
I pressed them for answers in order to find out what information they had sold. ‘No, it’s nothing big. It really is nothing’, and the crime which Humbaba confessed ended up belonging to the category of being something big. After hearing the truth that they had passed over the entire process of retrieving Farnese and the process of ordering the slaughter to Paimon, I grabbed the back of my neck. When I asked them how much money they were supposed to receive, they responded with 3,000 gold. Since they had lost half of that, they were barely able to get 1,500 gold after having sold me out.
The sight of a mantle hanging on a clothesline within the tent came into my vision. It was the black mantle that I had gifted to Humbaba yesterday. All of the dirty stains were gone and the mantle was dried stiff, which made me wonder if they had washed it with the snow outside. It seemed that to the witches, the sincerity of washing the piece of clothing that I had given them and the lighthearted act of betraying me for money, easily coexisted together.
The amusement on the witches’ faces was gone. I was able to see the witches with an emotionless face for the first time. That did not appear awkward to them at all. People who were always smiling were supposed to be people with a reason to constantly smile, but the very fact that they had to constantly laugh was not that humorous to them. That was the reason.
I spoke as if I was letting out a sigh.
“Girls, politics misbecome you. The Demon Lords and I are currently moving behind the scenes, and if a bunch of girls as pure as you all were to try and squeeze in, then you will only be injured greatly. Since you all have gone against the military order, you must pay the penalty.”
“Bring a cutting board. I will cut a single finger from all of you.”
One by one, I sliced off a finger from the witches with my dagger. It was the same dagger that I had used to commit my first murder after having fallen into this world, the blade that had killed Andromalius.
When the ring finger on their left hand was being severed off, the witches did not appear as if they felt any particular pain. A sense of pain and mind that should have fallen along with their ring finger did not exist in the witches. While cutting their finger, I spoke.
“Since your lifespans are long, you will one day meet your life-long partner. Even if that life-long partner were to confess their love and propose to you, you now no longer have the finger to put a ring on. You are forever crippled. Repent in dust and ashes for the foolishness of not having cherished a bond and having hastily betrayed it. You will understand this feeling when you meet the one you love.”
“Come find me when the day is bright. I shall give you the rest of the gold which you were unable to receive.”
I wiped the dagger with the edge of my coat and left the quarters. Once I returned to my own tent, Lapis was arranging the bedding. Through some method, Lapis had listened in on the conversation shared between myself and the witches, so she knew everything.
“5 points, your highness. The penalty was excessively weak. It would be better off to have killed them.”
“They got caught on purpose.”
I lifted an alcohol bottle and drank straight from it.
“Would witches who have lived for over 200 years be that naive? They clearly know that Barbatos is intimate with me, so if they were to do spy work, then they would have behaved more carefully. Despite that, did they not go back and forth from my and Paimon’s encampment without any disguise whatsoever?”
Lapis supported her chin with her hand.
“Is your highness saying that the witches had betrayed your highness on purpose in order to get caught? This one does not understand. What benefit could they possibly gain from doing so?”
“It’s a test. They were testing to see whether if I am truly a good person to depend on or not.”
“They must have felt anxious since I have been constantly treating them with kindness. They wanted to believe and devote their loyalty to me, but they were unable to because they were uncertain whether if I would cherish them or not. That is why they tested me. If need be, they may have harbored the idea of jumping ship and joining Paimon’s side……”
It seems Lapis was half in doubt after having heard my words.
Once dawn arrived, the witches came. Since they did not have the heart to enter my quarters, the witches were kneeling on the snow outside. Once I stepped out of my tent, the 11 sisters lowered their bare bodies on the snow. They were not wearing clothes.
On the witches’ pure white backs, permanent scars remained. Whipped marks, scalded marks from past tortures, and wounds that were healed then injured again until the scars remained fully intact, these injuries lingered on their bodies. Each witch, who was wearing nothing, had a necklace around their neck and hanging from that necklace was the ring finger that I had cut.
Humbaba lowered her forehead to the ground.
“Us Berbere Sisters, born without a home, raised in the back alleys of towns and villages, and individuals who have spent our lives as mercenaries for decades and centuries, wish to now forget our pasts and find value in our lives as solely Demon Lord Dantalian’s followers. Our hearts, our heads, our souls will forever be a part of your highness’ possessions. Therefore, your highness, please take care of our lost hearts, heads, and souls.”
An oath of fealty.
When nobles pledge their fealty, they devoted their hearts, a commoner devoted both their hearts and heads, and peasants devoted everything up to even their souls.
I brought out all of the mantles that I possessed and put them on each and every one of them. The witches earnestly adjusted their black mantles. I placed my forehead against Humbaba’s forehead.
“I vow, that I, Dantalian, shall never return thy advice with silence, and shall never return thy suggestions with scorn. If thou are to sweat and bleed for my behalf, then I shall repay thou the exact weight for every drop of sweat and blood.”
Ο[The Berbere Sisters have been recruited as subordinates.] [The degree of loyalty will appear in the witches’ statuses.] [A complete and firm allegiance. The other party regards you as their one and only lord. They will not betray you as long as you do not betray them first.]
By accepting these girls, it was the same as acknowledging that even witches had souls.
The witches sobbed into the snow. It wasn’t tears shed for me, but for themselves. They sat kneeling within the fluttering snow for a long period of time. I brushed off the snow that fell onto their heads with my hand.
On this day, the Demon Lord Allied Forces’ strategy was ultimately decided.
First Army. Rank 8th, Barbatos Advance with the Plains Faction and 21,000 soldiers under her command. Second Army. Rank 5th, Marbas. Advance with the Neutral Faction and 15,000 soldiers under his command. Third Army. Rank 9th, Paimon Advance with the Mountain Faction and 13,000 soldiers under her command.
Although the lineup of armies reached up to the Sixth Army, the armies written on the paper were only these. The rank 1st, Great Demon Lord Baal led the Sixth Army, but Baal did not lead an army to meet with us here. There were around 30 other Demon Lords who were also like that.
In other words, this was our entire army.
The dignity of the Demon Lord Allied Forces, which had at one time led a massive army of over 100,000 soldiers throughout the plains, had descended this far. Although no one would admit it, everyone already knew. That the era of Demon Lords was over.
The humans had slowly succeeded in a centralized authoritarian rule, and in this era where kingdoms and empires were being built up upon, the demons were still being managed by villages and clans. The demons pointed at the humans and looked down at them, referring to them as tamed livestock, however, the reality was the complete opposite. The Demons were miserable beasts that weren’t even able to be tamed.
This age has already become dark. The majority of the continent was occupied by the humans. The demons could either wither away while being surrounded by the humans or entrust their bodies on a hopeless final war. Either way, it was suicide.
Paimon, who suggested that we should huddle up since there was no hope in winning a war, or Barbatos who declared that there wouldn’t be a chance for survival if we were to stay docile so a war must be waged. They were nothing more than pioneers who had smelt the scent of annihilation and had become desperate.
Barbatos who shouted for dispatch, claiming that this was the golden opportunity given to us by the heavens since the humans were being exterminated by the Black Death spreading throughout the continent. Or Paimon, who warned everyone that there would be no end in a war initiated while believing not in the strength of our own army, but in the weakness of the enemies, so once war is commenced, it cannot be taken back. There seemed to be no elucidation in throwing open the doors to a new age.
In an era with no clarity, Barbatos discussed the duty of a monarch who had to lead their subjects, and Paimon conferred the fate of a monarch who had to fall with their subjects. Even if they followed their duty or accepted their fate, the thing to be thrown away was the lives of the people. Whether it was better to offer one’s life to one’s task, or to throw away one’s life by following one’s destiny, neither Barbatos nor Paimon could answer that question. It was an unanswerable question. In order to find the path which contained the answer, the Demon Lords led lives down their respective paths.
Barbatos went south. The ground was flat and vast in the southern region. It was easy to both lead an army through and transport provisions. It was also simple for battles to occur. It seemed Barbatos was searching for her path on the endlessly stretched out horizon. However, Barbatos most likely did not know what would be waiting for her past the horizon. She was not a monarch that questioned the end, but was simply a monarch that walked down the path.
Paimon went west. The mountain terrain was perilous in the west. It was difficult to both lead an army through and move provisions. It seemed Paimon was going to seek for her path after having gotten out of the rugged mountain range. However, it was clear that after Paimon escaped from the mountains, she would be unsure which direction to take. She was a monarch that searched for the end of the path, but got lost on the way.
And I obliquely traversed between the south and west.
The south-west was an easy and difficult route to pass through. It was a location where a single mountain range huddled down and another mountain range spread out. A path was placed between where the mountains ended and the mountains began. Once you’ve gotten past the narrow passage, you would immediately be in the heart of the human empire. It was a short path.
Even the humans knew full well of the shortness of this route. The humans built fortresses within the gap between the mountains. The fortresses blocked the ascending path by two layers. If one planned to cross over the mountain pass, which was neither plains nor mountains, one had to go through 2 strongholds. It was a short but difficult path. However, what lied waiting ahead past the mountain pass was definite, and where to go after making one’s way through was also clear.
The meeting was over. It was already the middle of the night when I had left the tent.
The moonlight was clear and permeated into the snowy fields. The night sky and snowy fields embraced the lunar rays and illuminated the distant mountains like twilight. The mountains were at the end of the field.
I tried to fathom why Hannibal had gazed at the Alps and tried to search for a path in an area that was not a path. The passage shall end at the end of the mountains and another path shall spread out before after. Hannibal most likely saw it as the end of an era and the start of a new age.
Lapis, Farnese, and the witches approached my side. Seeing that I did not respond to their call, they followed my gaze and stared at the night sky. The eyes of the girls who were born and raised in a dark place were well adapted to the night and could see far out. To us, the night was more cozy and relaxing than the morning.
Finally, the witches knelt down first, Farnese bowed, and Lapis lowered her head.
Lapis then asked.
“Your highness, where are we going?”
While looking at the mountains, I spoke.
“To the Empire.”