▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
“You know the old saying ‘Know thyself’? Dantalian, I believe that this proverb roughly translates to this.”
“When you’re screwed, you must quickly realize the fact that you’re screwed.”
“That is correct. What is important is how fast you realize this. However, the issue is, Your Excellency Barbatos, is that in order to know whether you are currently screwed or not, you must have had the experience of it beforehand. If one has not already experienced being screwed, then they will either end up being incapable of realizing that they are in a screwed situation, or even if they do realize it, they will realize a step too late. Therefore, in order to know thyself, you must experience being screwed many times.”
“Hm. If you consider the fact that I’ve experienced an incredible amount of screwed up situations in my life, I can’t really disagree with you there.”
“Yes, Your Excellency. In conclusion, the term ‘Know thyself’ roughly translates to ‘Be screwed as many times as possible’. However, what is the reason we are trying to listen to proverbs in the first place? Is it not precisely because we do not wish to be screwed? Not only is the proverb ‘Know thyself’ meaningless, but it also destroys the meaning of existence for proverbs themselves. You could also say that it is the most worthless proverb in the world.”
“Dantalian. You’re reasonably good at sex and your face isn’t that bad either, so you have a lot of talents, but among your many many talents, the talent you’re best at is your technique to disguise bullshit so it doesn’t sound like bullshit. Even if the most nonsensical bullshit in the world were to flow through your tongue, it would sound like rubbish that is somewhat worth listening to, or it might even sound like trash that is really worth listening to. I, Barbatos, Rank 8th Demon Lord and the lord who boasts immortality, acknowledges this fact. Your smooth talking is easily on the level of being extraordinary.”
“I am honored, Your Excellency.”
Paimon, who was quietly listening to our conversation from the side, appeared as if her mind was blanking out. She then muttered.
“······What exactly are you two currently discussing?”
We both turned to look at Paimon.
“Nothing, Your Highness.”
We then turned back to each other and continued.
“If you think about it, proverbs aren’t particularly useful. Proverbs are, in other words, pieces of advice that were made to be useful to as many people as possible, right? Then that means tons of people already know about these proverbs, and in the end, proverbs provide us with pieces of advice that you, I, and everyone else already know, so there’s no actual need for these pieces of advice in the first place.”
“Your words are reasonable beyond measure, Your Excellency.”
“Let’s say that I had said that the last thing which you can trust the most is money. If you simply listen to this line, then you’ll probably think that this is a somewhat obvious fact. However, if I were to splendidly write ‘
The last thing man can trust the most is money’
and engrave this line into a pillar of a temple, then not only would this strangely sound like it wasn’t obvious, but because it feels obvious at a glance, it’ll instead appear as if it didn’t sound obvious at all. I, Barbatos, Rank 8th Demon Lord and the most distinguished lord in the demon continent, present this opinion. Are proverbs not all like this?”
“Surely. As expected of Your Excellency Barbatos. A wisdom that befits the lord who boasts immortality and is also the most distinguished Demon lord. Lowly foot soldiers would have no other choice but to stand in awe at Your Excellency’s insight. Let me try testing it out as well.
You cannot win a war with tired soldiers, more so with hungry soldiers.”
“The enemy of my enemy is my ally.”
“If you think that you are an idiot, then you actually are an idiot.”
“Play. You will have fun.”
“Live. If you really want to live.”
Paimon looked at us with a face that appeared blanker than earlier.
“This lady has no idea what the two of you have been doing since earlier······.”
“Paimon is a whore.”
“This damn bitch······?”
Paimon struck Barbatos’ left cheek. Barbatos kicked Paimon’s right shin. Paimon struck Barbatos once more. Barbatos kicked Paimon once more. The space was then infinite.
10 minutes flowed by.
It was a meaningful 10 minutes.
“In any case, we have to know the fact that we’re screwed.”
Barbatos spoke while massaging her left cheek with some ice.
“That’s all I wanted to say. That we’re screwed. That old and bald-headed Marbas may be mad, but he’s firmly upset right now.”
“That is your problem, Barbatos. The fact that you talk needlessly crudely.”
Paimon wrapped a bandage around her right shin.
“Truly. Do you know how inefficient you are when speaking to people? Every time you utter a word, it becomes a waste of time.”
“Like how you waste your life every time you utter a word, bitch?”
“See? Again with your crude manner of speaking······. When this lady was going out with you in the past, this lady believed that it was because you were still young, that your way of speech had become aggressive because you had gone through a lot of perilous experiences at a young age. Thus, this lady thought that, with great magnanimity, she should be understanding of your behavior. However, seeing as there was no change despite 500 years having passed, it was not your experiences that were the problem, but simply your personality itself that was the issue. Your tongue is unnecessarily promiscuous.”
“Heeh. Like how your crotch is unnecessarily promiscuous?”
Paimon slapped Barbatos’ right cheek. Barbatos kicked Paimon’s left shin. Paimon slapped Barbatos once more. Barbatos kicked Paimon once more. Time was then eternal.
15 minutes flowed by.
It was a beautiful 15 minutes.
“Old man Marbas sent a letter a short while ago.”
Barbatos spoke while rubbing her right cheek with some ice.
“Should I even call it a letter? Plain and simple, it’s an ultimatum.”
“Marbas has always been a bit hard-headed.”
Paimon wrapped a bandage around her left shin.
“Although the things which he thinks are allowed do not always have to be allowed, the things which he has determined to be not allowed are unallowed no matter what. In good terms, he is a principlist.”
“In better terms, he’s a damn aggressive old fossil.”
“And he is a bald old man.”
“And he’s a bald old man.”
Was that last comment absolutely necessary?
While internally giving all of the bald people in the world my deepest sympathy, I spoke.
“What was written in the ultimatum?”
“Seeing is believing.”
After unnecessarily uttering that line in a cool fashion, Barbatos tossed me the piece of parchment that was rolled up into a scroll. On the piece of parchment, a rage-filled handwriting was grandly strewn about it.
······I have set up camp in the fields and mountains a fair distance away from the battlefield. When you two had sent me to these fields and mountains, we had discussed a stratagem to strike at the enemy supply lines in order to create breathing room for our kind. However, looking at things now, you two had cast me away in order to strangle our kind.
The military order I was given was to smite the enemies. Now that you two have killed our comrades, I shall ask the two of you who my enemies are.
You two, who had unbecomingly argued when discussing the subject of conquering the human armies, became harmonized when slaughtering our own troops. Did you two start this war in order to behead our own kind? I ask you two this, is it the territory of the humans which you two desire or is it the territory of the demons?
Saying that my faction has the most cavalry, you two are the ones who had assigned my troops as the detached force. I now intend to gather this large number of cavalry units together and direct them towards the two of you. Do I have a reason why I should not do so?
Striking you two from behind and straightening the laws of the demon continent is an easy task. However, as we have fought together on the same battlefields for the past several hundred years, I have sent you two this final letter in order to tell you.
Be ashamed of yourselves. Wear the clothes of criminals and crawl your way to these fields and mountains and await your judgment. Answer everything which I have asked. If you two await your judgment and answer my questions, then I shall decide whether to behead you two or not······.
“I see. I understand now.”
“So this is why Your Excellency had mentioned the saying ‘know thyself’.”
“This is why you said that when you’re screwed, you have to realize the fact that you’re screwed.”
“Since we have grasped the situation, let us immediately discuss countermeasures. How does Your Excellency plan to resolve this? I recall that before carrying out the purge, Your Excellency had said that you would handle His Excellency Marbas.”
“Even if you believe that things will work out, not everything will be resolved—.”
“Although I do want to continue listening to Your Excellency impersonate the voice of some middle-aged old man since it is interesting, the situation is a bit too dire for it to be ignored by simply saying a proverb.”
Barbatos stuck out her lips and nodded.
“I don’t understand. How did he hear about the purge already? According to my calculations, no matter how fast the news got to him, we should have still had another quarter of a day left before he found out. This means that someone had secretly sent him a letter and told him about it.”
“A secret letter, huh······.”
For an instant, Demon Lord Sitri came to mind. The only reason for this was because I had clashed with her only a short while ago before coming here.
It was just after midnight.
Barbatos and Paimon were seated in chairs that were prepared for them outside. Even now, the subordinates of the traitors were being dragged in front of us before then being executed. From time to time, when the executioners turned to glance at Barbatos and Paimon with a ‘Should we really kill them’ look on their faces, the two Demon Lords would nod lightly. Barbatos and Paimon had nodded their heads several times already since a short while ago, and each time they did, the heads of the subordinates would be sent flying.
One of the subordinates had a frantic look on his face as he stretched his arm out towards us.
“Y-Your Highness! O Greater Being! This one, this one had met Your Highness when he was little! In Niflheim! When Your Highness was carrying out a triumphal celebration⎯⎯⎯.”
“Yeah, a confidential letter. If one of us didn’t hand over the information beforehand, then there’s no way that old man Marbas could have reacted this soon.”
There was a death throe and then there was the sound of something falling and rolling on the ground.
I stroked my chin.
“Does Your Excellency have an assumption on who it was?”
“I have noooo idea. In the first place, didn’t we do this purge in order to get rid of those types of bastards? How is it that the instant we wipe them out, there’s already another bastard present to sell us out? Is it perhaps that? Do the other Demon Lords have a hobby of selling people out whenever they’re bored? Is betraying your comrades trending right now?”
“Comrades refers to enemies who have yet to betray you.”
“Ah. That sounds somewhat like an actual proverb. It’s a bit fucked though.”
Haaa, Barbatos let out a sigh.
“Forget it, fuck. Let’s just forget everything. Those human bastards are swarming at the front and those traitors to our kind are flocking at the rear. Furthermore, among those who you think are your comrades-in-arms, there are insects who hastily write secret messages. Makes me wonder why I’m making myself go through this much hardship by going to war······.”
“This lady had told you so back when we were going out. That you should not behave impetuously with everything. You must broaden your mind a bit, Barbatos. The problem is that your mind is unnecessarily stiff.”
“And your problem is that your crotch is unnecessarily loose. Your crotch is so broad that even if all of heaven and earth went in there, it feels like there’d still be enough space for the universe. The foul stench which flows throughout the world every time you spread your legs can probably make those already dead corpses come back to life before twisting their limbs and dying once more.”
“In other words, you mean those corpses that had died because of the convulsions which had occurred due to having intercourse with your incredibly stiff crotch? This lady heard that the numbers reach approximately seven thousand. They say that the God Hades sends his regards to your crotch annually in order to show his respect, but have you considered visiting the underworld in order to express your gratitude to him? Right this instant, if you must.”
“What are you going to do about it, you barren girl?”
“Why is it that there’s never a time where our opinions match? Since our opinions are the complete opposite no matter what the topic is, whenever we talk, it feels as if there’s a demon continent inside of us that’s split in half.”
“This lady has to reveal that she too feels the same way. That is why it feels as if the demon continent could live in unity if you were to disappear. However, this lady does not wish to go out of her way to dirty her hands so it would be wonderful if you went to some location unseeable to this lady and died on your own.”
“What’s worse is that our opinions differ even here. I want to just kill you with my own two hands after all. Even if you commit suicide, I’ll be happy if you do so after getting hit by me a bit first, and if you commit suicide before I can even hit you, then I’ll feel so cheated that I’ll just hit your corpse.”
“Most rotten thing in the world.”
“And you’re the biggest bitch in the world.”
And then another obscure nobody shouted.
“This humble servant has an old mother and a young daughter waiting for him back home, so this servant cannot possibly die yet. Please show mercy and⎯⎯⎯.”
“Do you truly wish to live like that? Barbatos?”
There was a death throe, and then there was the sound of something rolling.
A marvelous staccato.
“Can you not live a life that is a bit better? This lady is referring to a more beautiful life. An elegant way of speaking. If you do so, then even your irremediable personality will become slightly beautiful.”
“I wonder. I’m not sure if I’m living like this because I want to live like this, but the fact that I don’t want to live like you, bitch, is clear. Rather than how I want to live my life, not wanting to live like someone else is the staple of leading my life. Especially when I look at you, the thought ‘let’s not live like this bitch’ is so strong that, in that regard, you’re the bitch who’s continuously extending my life and, in that regard only, are you a bitch that’s of any use.”
“The fact that your life is like trash is not surprising at all.”
Barbatos and Paimon nodded at the same time.
“So how should we deal with this?”
“So how should we respond to this?”
There was a death throe, and then the obvious sound of something rolling followed after.
A beautiful harmony.
“Marbas has military insight. He is experienced. If he becomes our enemy, then it would become troublesome for us in no small measure. Normally, we would resolve the situation through dialogue⎯⎯⎯.”
“He’s firmly pissed off right now. More than anything else, we don’t have a lot of time. The news about our purge will soon hit the entire region of the demon continent hard and the Demon Lords in the back will hastily try to gather troops. We have to cross the Black Mountains as fast as possible and return home before that can happen.”
“We do not have enough time to persuade him.”
“And we don’t have the leisure to fight and win against him even more.”
“Although there is the possibility that he will forgive us if this lady and Barbatos were to wear white mourning garments and prostrate ourselves before him⎯⎯⎯.”
“We can’t. If we do that, then that would end up meaning that our purge was wrong. Why are we apologizing? Didn’t we just kill traitors? People who doubt us will start to appear and we’ll lose our justification. I don’t like that. We have to lead our punitive expedition through the demon continent with a fight of justifications anyway, but we’ll be at a disadvantage if we apologize.”
“How are we going to deal with this problem?”
The two Demon Lords then gazed at me.
Me, the very person who had set this purge in motion.
“Of course, I’m not telling you to give us a solution right this instant.”
“However, we are pressed for time.”
If by a very slim chance the purge were to end in a failure, me, the one who would receive a blow more severe than anyone else.
With cold eyes.
“Midnight has passed. I’ll give you until
“At the least, we will also have to devise a countermeasure before Marbas takes action, after all.”
“Until then, we’ll be handling the after-measures of the purge.”
“This lady apologizes. The time limit is excessively pressing.”
One of them was my sex partner,
and the other was my political partner.
The two were also figures of authority who both could purge 7 Demon Lords without any hesitation whatsoever at the same time.
As they were figures of authority that could blame someone without any hesitation if they had to blame someone, they could be cold when they had to be cold, and they were well aware of when to set themselves ablaze if they had to be hot. In other words, the lords of all of demonkind were obliquely staring at me.
“No matter how smart you are, I’m aware that this is a difficult request. But.”
“We must ask this of you, Dantalian. All of our fates are on the line.”
I pressed my thumb against my chin as if I were patting it.
The scenery of the night flowed smoothly.
As if time had forgotten about its own speed.
Soldiers roamed around the encampment while holding torches. The military camp was illuminated by the torches located here and there, making it seem like summer fireflies were randomly flying about. Below each light, the subordinates of traitors had been caught and were being dragged. They were either dragged off and killed or dragged here and killed. A single group of soldiers snickered. A dark night. The snickering easily spread from the shadows. The underlings howled until their heads were severed, and in an instant, a death throe would resonate before coming to an abrupt halt.
Who is it?
Who is trying to bite me right now?
The purge had proceeded with extreme secrecy. If you did not have a high-ranking post like a Demon Lord, then you could not have found out about it. The traitors were all punished without exception, and yet, a letter had still reached Marbas. Although there were no traitors, there was a betrayal. Who was it? How?
Marbas had gathered his dispatched force and traveled a long distance away. Since he was constantly on the move, it was difficult to pinpoint his exact location. Despite that, the letter had properly gone straight to Marbas and⎯⎯⎯Marbas immediately believed the report of treason that was written in the letter. Why? Who was it?
How could he have trusted the report which stated that his comrades-in-arms of 500 years, Barbatos and Paimon, had caused a disaster without doubting the report even slightly? Is there someone he trusts more than Barabtos and Paimon? If there is, then who exactly is it? Who could possibly receive that much trust?
The last thing a person can trust the most is money.
I tapped my chin with my index finger.
Within the sensation and velocity of touching my skin, time became slower. I hastened my thought process.
Money. Military funds.
In the end, Barbatos, Paimon, and Marbas occupied the top government positions in their provinces. The financiers of the armies. Even this expedition of leading our troops for barely half a year had wasted a tremendous amount of supplies. However, these leaders had repeated expedition after expedition for more than 400 years. They should all be well aware of how important military funds are down to their cores.
You cannot win a war with tired soldiers, more so with hungry soldiers.
Thus there were a lot of firms throughout the demon continent. Groups of merchants that took full charge of the provisions and supplied them. Firms that loaned money to those who were lacking in military funds. There was a firm that was in charge of each respective Demon Lord, and in my case, it was the Keuncuska Firm. In the first place, the reason why Lapis Lazuli and I had met was due to that.
To merchants, war is an opportunity to make money.
I tapped my chin with my middle finger.
I searched through my memories. There was no doubt. There was a time and place where I had heard this. The information regarding which firm and merchant were in charge of Marbas. It was not because I had a particular interest in Marbas. It was a survival instinct. The firm and the merchant were coincidentally both quite important to me at that moment, and they were also in charge of ‘the person who was once severely hostile towards me’. Impressively, my survival instincts were forcing me to remember⎯⎯⎯.
I then looked at the Demon Lord before me.
Rank 9th Demon Lord.
The woman who had accused me of the matter regarding the Black Death.
Once I looked at her, Paimon opened her mouth.
With a voice that sound three or four times slower than usual.
Paimon tilted her head ever so slowly.
I then remembered.
— Your Highness.
It was around the time I had met Lapis for the first time.
— If Your Highness does not repay the debt and interest or declare bankruptcy, then the Keuncuska Firm will have no other choice but to take Your Highness’ property and body by force.
The me at that time was in a completely different situation compared to now. I had no money. My life was hard-pressed. The urgency of my life had brought upon the criticality of time. I had to escape from my debt as soon as possible. In order to survive, I had hunted the game that was the easiest to tear apart.
— The Keuncuska Firm has a countless number of supporters. Amongst them, there are other Demon Lords like Your Highness.
— Rank 5th Demon Lord Marbas.
— And Rank 9th Demon Lord Paimon are also included.
A dark night.
Soldiers were going back and forth throughout the camp while holding torches. Similar to how the light was lengthily connected from torchlight to torchlight, my thought process was connected from point to point.
Underlings let out their final cries of agony. Decapitated heads fell endlessly. Lapis Lazuli’s voice flowed between the endless screams and boundless cries.
— Our firm is famous for being merciless to debtors who fail to make their payments.
— In the past, there was an incident where Rank ······ Demon Lord Glasyalabolas received a loan of ······Libra and did not pay back the interest for ······.
Screams. Cries. Noise.
But not yet.
Similar to a steel sword that had rusted due to the passage of time, my memories were scratched in various places. Since a long time ago, I have always been weak at memorizing numbers and doing calculations. Those parts of my memories were always the first to be worn down.
However, as a steel sword was still a steel sword even when rusted, it was sharp enough to kill a person and save my own life.
There are still words left for Lapis, for my memories, to tell me. What was said? What did Lapis tell me?
It was a dark night. Because Lapis was standing in a place that could not be seen, the sensation of her opening her mouth and whispering silently flooded over me. Within the space where torchlights and torchlights connected and swayed, I solely connected the light within the light.
— Your Highness.
— At that time, our firm had hired a small number of 9,000 mercenaries.
— And left them in the command of Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
— Glasyalabolas could not even hold out for ······ before surrendering.
I tapped my chin with my ring finger.
The wind blew. The torches flared up.
As they flared, the light created a long line.
Who wishes for the war to not end? Merchants.
Who is trying to interfere with the war right now? Marbas.
Which firm is in charge of Marbas? The Keuncuska Firm.
If that is the case, then who rules over the Keuncuska Firm?
I asked myself this.
I immediately answered.
An ancient vampire who has lived for several hundred years,
and the merchant who held the most hostility towards me before anyone else.
Oho. Oh dear. Would you look at this?
I quietly gazed at the band of light that was surging in our military encampment. Barbatos and Paimon, while slowly drawing their brows together, no, they were still endlessly drawing their brows together slowly, stared at me as I did that.
As I thought, Barbatos, Paimon, you two are clever. However, I shall offer you two my deepest condolences. The two of you have wound up misunderstanding something at a decisive area.
It was not a Demon Lord who had sent Marbas that letter. Ivar Lodbrok. It was the vampire who was in charge of Marbas and also did not desire for the war to end who had sent it.
I cannot blame these two Demon Lords for this misconception. Barbatos and Paimon had sincerely kept the matter regarding the purge under strict confidentiality. Only their close aides knew about it. If the information was leaked, then it was undoubtedly another Demon Lord who had done it, these two had jumped to this conclusion as if it were an obvious fact. This was their mistake.
Even if the only people who knew about the purge beforehand were the other Demon Lords⎯⎯⎯there is no reason whatsoever that the person to have sent the letter to Marbas had to have been the Demon Lord themself.
Instead of personally informing Marbas about the secret, all the information leaker has to do is lightly toss the information to the merchant who Marbas trusts. Because.
The enemy of my enemy is my ally.
Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
Paimon’s close aide. The person who had learned about the purge faster than anyone else.
Most importantly, the enemy who is hostile towards me and is trying to bring me down.
— Your Highness.
— At that time, our firm had hired a small number of 9,000 mercenaries.
— And left them in the command of Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
I do not know exactly when, but it was definitely since a very long time ago.
A relation that was close enough for the Keuncuska Firm to hire an army and leave them in that person’s command. A rare relationship that was so close that the person would strike other Demon Lords for the Keuncuska Firm and make those Demon Lords cough up money.
Since a very long time ago⎯⎯⎯the Keuncuska Firm and Demon Lord Sitri were ‘accomplices’ with a cozy relationship.
After Sitri had passed on the information regarding the purge to Ivar Lodbrok, Ivar Lodbrok had sent the letter to Marbas.
It was at the moment my pinky had tapped my chin.
The world finally released an anxious sigh. The light returned to the light. The many sounds returned to the throes of death. Time had recovered its beating pace and flowed quickly.
As expected, Barbatos and Paimon stopped slowly drawing their brows together and spoke to me.
“Dantalian? What’s up with you all of a sudden?”
“Are you perhaps unable to hear this lady’s words?”
I hear you loud and clear. So clear that I cannot hear you any better than this.
I raised the corners of my lips and smiled.
“Your Excellency ordered this one to take care of this matter before midday, correct? It is all right. Do not worry. I have a rough grasp on how things have proceeded after all.”
Both Barbatos and Paimon tilted their heads in the opposite direction from each other.
As expected of the two women who were each other’s first love, their thought processing speed was also similar. Even the angles which they had tilted their heads in were alike. In short, they were the exact same degree of slowness.
Albeit, despite this fact, their thought processing speed was on the fast side. Is this not regrettable? The original speed is bound to be relative.
I spoke once more while matching their pace.
“Your Excellency Barbatos. Your Highness Paimon. This one has a general grasp of the situation. There is no need to wait until midday today. I shall take care of it within an hour, so please handle the preparations to withdraw with haste.”
“······Whaat? No, wait. Wait a second. ······What? You grasped the situation? What are you talking about? Don’t tell me, are you saying that you figured out who it was that leaked the information?”
I knit my brows slightly.
“That is the case, Your Excellency. I have said that with that exact meaning in mind. What other meaning could it possibly have? Have I ever ridiculed Your Highness with nonsense before?”
Barbatos shut her mouth.
Paimon spoke up from beside her.
“······How exactly? We have yet to carry out any sort of investigation. There are over 10 Demon Lords who could have possibly leaked the information. How could you have figured out who it was without having interrogated anyone?”
“My apologies, Your Highness Paimon, but investigations are actions that are carried out when one lacks information. Although this one may not know a lot of things, this one at least knows enough to figure out what must be known.”
There was a moment of silence.
I let out a sigh.
“All right. When this one was born, this one was born possessing reasonable intellect. This one can easily figure out things which Your Excellency and Your Highness still do not know. As this is simply a fact, please accept it as so. For what reason is it that this one, who is at the tail end of ranks among Demon Lords, is able to have a private audience with lords and monarchs such as Your Excellency and Your Highness? Is it not because my noggin was appraised highly? It is nothing new. Please accept the fact that my brain has more creases than Your Excellency and Your Highness’ and let us first discuss countermeasures.”
“······That’s right. I completely forgot because I shoved you in a cell for the past week. Dantalian, although you’re reasonably good at sex and have a reasonably good-looking face, more than anything else, you’re a fucking annoying bastard.”
Barbatos sighed heavily.
“The Heavens are quite disturbingly fair. Even though they gave this bastard a good head and tongue, they forgot to package him with the most important thing, a good personality. Hey, you black lamb, if you were a bit more modest, then we would probably have had sex a hundred more times every time we did it.”
I don’t need that kind of bonus. Seriously.
The ‘play’ which you forced me to do was so extreme that I honestly got freaked out every time we did it. Master or whatever. Telling me to treat you like a slave or whatever. It felt like she had a few loose screws in her head. I apologize, but even someone like me, who has both common sense and refinement, finds this to be difficult to endure.
“······So who is the culprit?”
It seems Paimon had regained her composure as she covered her mouth with her fan.
“No, rather than that, what did you mean when you told us to handle the preparations to withdraw with haste? Please explain it to us in a more calm and orderly manner.”
“I apologize, but I cannot tell Your Excellency or Your Highness about the culprit yet. Just know that this one promises to handle this issue perfectly.”
“Ah. Again. Look at this bastard roll his tongue again. Fuck, it wasn’t just once or twice that that had gotten the best of me.”
“How do you plan to deal with it? Are you telling us to simply believe in you with no questions asked? And what do you mean by withdrawing already? Do you not see us still dealing with those remaining pieces of garbage over there? Just those guys alone number in the thousands. The thousands. It’ll take the entire day just to wipe them all out.”
“That is what I wished to talk about, Your Excellency.”
“Do we really have to go out of our way to cumbersomely kill them all?”
“Your Excellency and Your Highness. Please allow me to borrow your ears for a moment.”
Barbatos and Paimon looked straight at each other’s face.
They then, as I had expected, leaned their ears towards me at the same angle and speed.
I smiled benignantly as if I were presenting enlightenment to a couple of people who were lost in a cloud of thick dust.
“⎯⎯⎯Crazy bastard. Insane bastard. Fucking bastard. No, seriously, when did you make something like that? You’re crazy, right? You’re insane, right? Fuck. How could you do that without my permission?!”
Barbatos struck my cheek as if she intended to chew me alive right this instant. Paimon was simply gazing at me with a ‘woooow······ wow, woooow······’ expression on her face. Even though the directional nature of the two was the complete opposite, what they actually wanted to express was the same.
The fact that I was a crazy bastard.
“No! Absolutely not! Are you insane, you son of a bitch? Do you think I’d just sit here and allow that?! Get rid of it right this instant. No, hand it over. Hand it over to me!”
“Dantalian, this lady also believes that that is a bit too much······. No, of course, this is a fact that this lady was already aware of, but for your information, the only ones in the world who know of this fact are you, Dantalian, and this lady······. Barbatos had killed the rest.”
“And I’m going to kill you now!”
Barbatos grabbed me by the collar and shook me intensely.
A man like myself was a man that had found that reconciling two Demon Lords who were once lifetime enemies was not enough and had the caring heart to even bring their personal opinions together in perfect harmony, but before I could be in awe with my own greatness, mm. I felt nauseous. I felt like I’d really throw up if she continued to shake me any more than this. My gastric fluid was shouting that they wanted to see the outside world as well.
I spoke calmly.
“Nevertheless, even if you say that. The method which this one had informed Your Excellency and Your Highness about is the most effective.”
Barbatos froze in place.
Thanks to that, my urge to vomit was able to subside. I displayed a fresh smile. Every time I smiled like this, Lapis Lazuli would advise me in a serious tone, ‘······Your Highness, since that smile easily calls upon one’s desire to commit murder when witnessed, please refrain from doing so as much as possible’, but how could that possibly be the case? Since a long time ago, Lapis’ aesthetic sense was somewhat lacking in certain parts. When I smiled refreshingly, I knew how to actually smile refreshingly.
“Is that not so?”
“Most importantly, there is no political burden whatsoever. What could people possibly say on the outside after having witnessed it? Could they even go around to places telling people about it? There are no losses and only a lot of merits. Even if Your Excellency requests me to suggest a stratagem that is more splendid than this, it would only trouble this one······.”
“······Shut up. Damn it. Since you’re the one talking, this bullshit doesn’t sound like bullshit.”
“Of course, that is because this is not bullshit. Your Excellency, accepting the truth as the truth is also the virtue of a sovereign.”
“I told you to shut your damn mouth!”
Barbatos let go of my clothes and groaned. She had started to contemplate while pulling at her hair, but it felt as if she was quite Bhuddistically exploring who I roughly was, where I had come from, and where I was going.
“Do what you want, you son of a bitch······.”
After magnificently accomplishing the three steps of Buddhism, Barbatos gave herself up in despair. Although, regrettably, it felt like she was unable to accomplish the actual last step which was enlightenment. It was fine. I did not severely rebuke the lack of virtue of all creatures. Despite my appearance, I am quite merciful.
I spoke with a mindset that accepted all of the unsightly things of the world.
“A most accurate decision, Your Excellency. This one is always in awe when hearing Your Excellency’s voice. Although Your Excellency occasionally makes very bad decisions such as when Your Excellency had threatened me and even thrown me in prison, that is no more than occasionally, so I can confidently say that Your Excellency makes the correct decision the majority of times.”
“······Dantalian is, what should I say?”
Paimon muttered from behind her fan.
“His head is good, but he is slightly, or perhaps an incredibly unfortunate man······.”
This was quite the heated criticism.
“In any case, this one will take it as having received Your Excellency and Your Highness’ approval beforehand, so this one will be taking his leave······ Ah, right. Your Highness Paimon.”
As I was lowering my head and about to depart, there was something that I had suddenly remembered, so I whispered to Paimon. As Barbatos was still asking herself what the root of her existence was, she did not show any concern to us.
“Was it perhaps Your Highness who had spread those booklets throughout the military headquarters of the Crusaders?”
Paimon tilted her head prettily.
“Booklets······ is it?”
“Yes. Books that have gray covers. They are incredibly thin.”
“Mm? This lady does not know. This lady is not sure of such things.”
Paimon hid the sides of her mouth with her fan and knit her brows. Her expression appeared as if she were trying to think of something, but was unable to recall anything at all.
“What exactly are those booklets supposed to be that you are asking this lady about them, Dantalian?”
“Please do not be surprised. I heard that the humans in the army of the Crusaders had written down my speech on their own initiative and are reading it as they pass it around. That is the booklet which I had mentioned.”
“Oh dear, is that true? It has been a long time since this lady has heard such good news.”
Paimon was visibly delighted.
“As expected, people will understand if spoken to. If they do not understand even if they are told, then the majority of the time, it is because their education is incomplete. Their lack of education is due to the unworthiness of the monarch so the subjects cannot be held responsible. When one’s subject does not understand, it is only appropriate for the monarch to lament instead of rage. In that regard, the fact that the humans are passing the booklets around on their own volition······ that is truly, truly a joyous event.”
Paimon spoke with a complexion that was dyed with elation.
“Is there something which this lady could help with?”
Is that how it is.
I courteously held my smile in my mouth.
“Is the sight of the people trying to stand up on their own not beautiful? Would it also not be beautiful to silently watch over the people trying to stand up on their own? If they are no longer able to endure and end up reaching their hands out, it would not be too late to take hold of their hands at that time.”
Paimon muffled her laugh. Beyond her fan, her voice was dyed in endless joy. It was a smile that was gentle because it was beautiful.
“Indeed, that is right as well. Your words are correct, Dantalian. This lady will hope that the lovely scenery will be prolonged for as long as possible.”
Perhaps, Sitri was moving behind the scenes solely for this smile.
Right when we were about to say our goodbyes while smiling at one another, Barbatos glared at us with murderous eyes like a chihuahua that had starved for roughly two days.
“Hey. Do you not see me suffering here? What are you two so warmly whispering about?”
We both turned to look at Barbatos.
“Nothing, you washboard child.”
“Nothing, O Lord who has realized the virtue of destitution.”
I’m saying it again, but this was quite the heated criticism.
▯King’s Mistress, Mixed Blood, Lapis LazuliEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
“······Has His Highness Dantalian not arrived yet? Why has he yet to come despite having called for me?”
“His Highness will be back soon.”
I spoke smoothly.
“Please wait calmly, Chief.”
“Do you know how many times I have heard that line now? After a while, in a short bit, soon······ tsk.”
We were in a tent that was shrouded in the night.
The Chief of the Keuncuska Firm, Ivar Lodbrok, clicked his tongue. He has been tapping his cane against the floor since a while ago. It is rather unpleasant.
“Chief, this one had requested you to wait.”
“If it is difficult for you to wait, then this one will separately notify you when His Highness has returned. Do you wish for this one to see you out?”
Chief Lodbrok glared fiercely in my direction. Did my words hit a nerve, I wonder. That is surprising. I was simply being considerate towards the old and infirm merchant.
“This youngster who is still wet behind the ears······. For someone who is simply the child of a common whore, with what courage are you babbling so proudly?”
“This one sees that you possess a marvelous talent, Chief. Yes. My biological mother was indeed a harlot. It has not been that long since this one had discovered this truth either. How did you find out, Chief?”
“Do you think that I would not have attached even a single spy on you? I am also aware that you were the one who had personally taken the head of your own mother. How interesting. Your behavior of imprecating others is a glory that you are able to bask in solely due to Demon Lord Dantalian.”
“Do you not look forward to seeing if that glory of yours is simply a brief moment behind the scenes?”
That is so.
A foul stench is destined to emanate from things that have stagnated.
This is one of the horribly rotten truths of the world.
“Your words are harsh, Chief. Please be more mindful.”
“Ha. The day when Dantalian’s age of prosperity comes to an end will also be the day when your descent down to Hell begins. What would happen if the world were to find out that you had murdered your own biological mother? Since he has made such a boorish woman into his lover, His Highness Dantalian’s reputation will most likely plummet as well. Are you aware? There is not a single man in the world who would like a woman that could make them fall from grace.”
The Keuncuska was the leading firm of the demon continent.
As people would say, they were a group that was referred to as the Great Keuncuska.
Even now, the firm was carrying out the role of warehouse keeper and was providing supplies for the Crescent Alliance. Adding to that, Lodbrok was a big merchant who was in charge of both Demon Lord Marbas and Demon Lord Paimon. If you were not one of the higher ranking Demon Lords, then you would most likely be incapable of even standing against this vampire who was sitting in front of me.
“When that time comes, I shall observe how violently an outcast like you will behave against the world.”
I let out a sigh.
⎯⎯⎯I see that he is hardly worth my time.
My sigh must have irritated him as the chief drew his brows together.
“Who do you think you are to be sighing before me?”
“You should also be well aware since you said that you had placed spies on this one. Although it may be more than this one deserves, this one receives deep affection from His Highness Dantalian. This one will not deliberately point out the issue regarding the fact that you are speaking informally to the mistress who may or may not be capable of exerting her influence to His Highness.”
“Oho. That is quite the high horse you are on there. What are you trying to say?”
“In the end, this one will not make His Highness Dantalian fall.”
The chief snorted after hearing my words.
“And here I was, curious as to what it was that you wanted to say. What a foolish child. Is that something that will not happen simply because you wish for it to not happen? The mere act of spreading the news of your lowly and immoral crime would be enough to immediately drop the reputation of······.”
“I apologize for cutting you off in the middle of your sentence, Chief, but how exactly could that possibly make His Highness fall?”
The chief knitted his brow. Was he unable to understand? Or is he feigning ignorance despite having understood?
Regardless of which side it was, there should be no problem with playing along with the scrawny disposition of an elderly man. He is a precious guest. I am a person who welcomes precious guests with my utmost devotion.
“His Highness is not an individual who cares about his reputation to the world. To be more precise, as His Highness is a person who exercises caution towards the increase of his own reputation, His Highness is an individual who will instead try to lower his own reputation by any means possible. By doing so, he is able to bewitch the many beasts that live in blindness.”
“His Highness had risen to the ranks of millionaires within the shortest amount of time in history. His Highness was the fastest person to have ever broken through the Black and White Fortresses. When Demon Lord Marbas was defeated and Demon Lord Barbatos’ forces were in danger of being breached, it was also His Highness who had obtained the achievement of rescuing the Crescent Alliance. Despite these facts, how are things like, Chief?”
I was simply speaking in a voice that was neither high or low.
“Despite these achievements, are the sounds of praise towards His Highness resonating throughout the demon continent?”
That was not the case.
His Highness’ fame was not even remotely high. Demon Lord Dantalian, who was ranked 71st, was so insignificant that he was a monarch whom the majority of the people living on the demon continent have never heard the name of. Although it felt as if his fame would begin to spread around the time the Black Death had started to spread, that was only for a moment. By making a half-breed such as myself into his fiancée and appointing a human girl as his acting general, His Highness’ reputation had fallen to rock bottom
A lecher. A fool among fools.
That was the standpoint which the majority of demonkind had towards His Highness.
“His Highness’ wealth is attributed under this one’s accomplishment as his head handmaiden. The meritorious deeds of breaching through the Black and White Fortresses and rescuing the Crescent Alliance are set as services carried out by Lady De Farnese. Chief, do you consider all of these things to be a coincidence?”
“You threatened to widely spread the news that this one had murdered her own mother, correct? That is fine. This one will not stop you. If anything, His Highness would most likely give you a round of applause and thank you, Chief. He will presumably say something along the lines of ‘You have done a good job doing this great one’s task in his stead’.”
“In the end, there is no way that this one could ever make His Highness fall. Because His Highness has always desired to reside in the low shadows. His Highness is an individual who prefers to dwell in the shadows whenever the noon sun is shining in the sky. This one is graciously one of those shadows for His Highness.”
Acting General, a human child.
Captain of the Royal Guards, an immensely lowly witch.
Head Handmaiden, a half-breed succubus.
As vassals, we serve His Highness for life. His Highness is a fire that will burn the world. If the fire is going to burn and shine its light as far out as possible, then, more important than anything else, a night, a dark night was undoubtedly necessary. An illegitimate child, a slaughterer, and an outcast, we are His Highness’ dire night.
“The likes of us are nothing but humble beings, but we attend to His Highness with our humbleness. As we know that this is our duty as his vassals, we have no reason to change our despicableness.”
The vampire became silent.
The cane that kept tapping against the floor of the tent had stopped as well. Even the occasional noise of him clicking his tongue had ceased. This is a good disposition. This most likely means that he has sufficiently understood my words. I nodded my head towards the chief one more time before turning around and resuming the task which I was taking care of.
A lot of things cannot be seen at night. You can only make assumptions of the places which you cannot see by using the sounds that can be heard, and in the distance, the creaking sound of wheels was echoing over the tents. Creak······. Grains of soil broke apart underneath the wheels and the sound of a person’s voice overlapped it.
— Cheap services. Will throw away, dead beggars for you. Will throw away, dead corpses lying in the corner for you. Will pick up any kind of corpses. Cheap services. Will throw away, all dead beggars······.
It was a homeless person wandering around the military encampment.
When the sun rises, these beggars gather together and gamble in a place where there is less sunlight, and when the sun sets, they search for tents with bright torches and stick out their bowls. Although the beggars who had lost even their bowls in gambling would stick out both of their hands, the beggars who had even lost their fingers in gambling would stick out their three or four fingers.
I can confidently assert that having less than three fingers on a single hand is not exactly pleasant news to a beggar. As that means they cannot retaliate properly if someone were to kick them, even if they could retaliate, it means that their efforts would be insignificant. Moreover, who would not wish to kick a beggar? From time to time, when the common soldiers kick at the beggars, the ones who have less than three fingers are assaulted without being able to do anything to defend themselves and this occasionally results in their deaths. The deaths of those beggars is natural and trivial. Similar to how normal people use their fingers to count numbers, beggars use their fingers to count the remainder of their lives.
One at a time.
One at a time.
And then it ends at one.
Corpses are thrown away in the corner of tents and left to rot. Flies gather around those rotting corpses. The annoyed soldiers kick the corpses further into the corner, but the corpses simply continue to pile up in every corner. This provides another type of livelihood for the beggars.
Sturdy-shouldered beggars, whose fingers were still fine, roamed around the military camp while pulling cheap-looking carts that came from only God knows where. On a cycle of every couple of days, they would roam around and collect the corpses in the corners. They then took the corpses far away in order to throw them out. Is this not brilliant? As someone who was originally a merchant, I rate these sorts of things highly. Until the day they gamble away their carts, they had managed to obtain a job for even the shortest amount of time by themselves.
Whenever the beggars pass by this tent while dragging their carts,
— I wonder if it’s because that incredibly dreadful bitch lives here. Spit, there’s a damn ton of dead chaps and bitches······.
they always say something as they do so.
Even their method of begging was highbrow in quite the number of ways.
I simply tossed two coins outside the entrance of the tent. There was no need for me to go out of my way to step outside. The wheels would then momentarily stop in the vicinity of this tent’s entrance before letting out another ‘creak’ and departing.
“Why did you toss those coins to that person?”
A voice that sounded as if it were lost in thought.
Chief Lodbrok was glaring at me firmly.
“They would have taken care of those corpses even if you left them alone.”
“That would not be leaving them alone, but pushing them away. The people do not easily forget the ones who have pushed them away.”
I answered in a subdued tone.
“The ones who are not forgotten by the people can easily fall into ruin. If you can buy the apathy of the people with a couple of coins, then it is basically like having bought it for free. Although this one may be engaging in the business of a Demon Lord’s feudal government, there has yet to be a time where this one was unfaithful to the duty of a merchant.”
“Are you trying to buy the contempt of the people because you are a merchant? Is that an item which can be handled by merchants?”
“If it cannot be handled, then why would they be revering His Highness Dantalian?”
The candlelight flickered and dimly lit the interior of the tent.
Many things cannot be seen at night. In the places that cannot be seen, there are beggars who die while begging and beggars who live by begging. When a fellow beggar dies, there are also beggars who beg by doing the job of picking up corpses and throwing them away. In the world, each place that cannot be seen is a corner, each out-of-the-way corner is a gap, and each gap is a wall. It is possible to escape from the corner of the world by climbing up that wall, but I do not blame them for simply hanging off the edge of the cliff and spending their days shaking.
It is simply an occupation and merely a physiology.
I do not blame them, but I use them instead. Beggars, harlots, and mercenaries, these were all things that lived while placing their occupation in a crevice. Similar to how a beggar uses the corpses of beggars on a daily basis in order to live, I continue my profession while leaving the crevices of the world as crevices. The note that was being illuminated by the flickering candlelight was also a part of my job.
— Loud noises outside. Violently killed. The soldiers are going through the bordello. It is scary. A lot of fire is burning outside.
I wonder if they had written this in a hurry. The words on the memo that was sent by the spy were crooked. I checked the next letter.
— The soldiers suddenly shut up. It’s quiet now.
— Sudden inspection. All of the girls who had hidden the books were taken away. I survived because my lover had told me about it beforehand. I’m saying this because I’m lacking money this half of the month, but please send more. Would that be okay?
— My sisters are being dragged away. They still haven’t returned. I’m scared. I can’t do this any longer. Please do not contact me anymore after the next payment. I’m sorry. I won’t tell anyone.
These letters were all sent by harlots.
Whether to plant spies inside of the military tents or to plant spies in the vicinity of the military tents. Although these two options both have their own respective merits and demerits, I cannot help but prefer the latter. The lives that live while hanging off of a piece of rope that is dangling off the side of a cliff are the ones who will be the very first to realize when that rope begins to shake.
The only things which they can barely understand are signs and vague omens. The tasks of seizing the signals that are sent by them and interpreting their messages are solely my duty as His Highness’ head handmaiden.
It is fine. I am a modest peasant.
A peasant knows best about the livelihoods of other peasants.
— Increase my pay starting the next half of the month. I’ll snitch you out if you don’t.
The life which will be forfeited after snitching will undoubtedly be your life and not my own. Since this was something the person directly involved knew best, there was no need for me to be concerned. Next.
— Are you the one who had spread these booklets as well? I want to go to that side. General Farnese is a human, right? I’m a human as well. It should be fine since a human is just going to another human, right?
Occasionally, there are harlots who get confused as to whether they are doing spy work or if they are philandering. If you comfort them with gentle words, then they will provide precious information later on. There is most likely no more need for this harlot to continue following the Crusaders around.
I implicitly replied that although you are a human, you will not be able to cross over to another human. Next.
— It’s been crazy since earlier. I don’t know what the fuss is, but it’s noisy. Even the soldier that was pounding me had to stop mid-way because his superior called him. Stop mid-pounding. This is strange. Really strange.
— He still paid me properly. He was nice.
I see. It was indeed strange. Although there are occasions where soldiers stop in the middle of killing other people, there is never a time where they stop in the middle of having intercourse with a harlot.
As that was the case, if this truly did happen, then it was most likely because they were under pressure. The harlot who had sent this letter was not placed in the army of the Crusaders, but a girl who was situated in the dispatched troops of the Neutral Faction. Not only was her personality rather unusual, but her flaw was that she always sent two memos.
The speed of both the Imperial Princess of the Habsburg Empire and Corps Commander Marbas was not normal. They were targets of interest that required one to be apprehensive about in no small measure.
In our current situation, we lack the time to be able to leisurely appease the Neutral Faction. Before we can even persuade them, the Imperial Princess may rally her forces and attack us. If we do not persuade the Neutral Faction, then safely withdrawing to the demon continent would become impossible.
I see that this is a battle of speed. Will we be able to avoid the Neutral Faction and carry out our retreat first, or will the Imperial Princess lead the human armies to pursue us first······? One day. Or perhaps two. This meager amount of time was going to determine the fate of the two armies.
— Although there is nothing to send, it feels as if I am sending it. If there is something to send while sending something, then it feels as if I would. Ah, if this is life, then it is hollow.
This parasite flat out wrote a poem and sent it.
This is a girl with a somewhat strange head.
I sent a reply saying ‘I apologize, but you do not possess poetic talent’.
— My older friend was caught and killed. It’s because of you. It’s all because of you.
— No. I did what you told me to do. All of it.
— Please, can you save my friends who are imprisoned? The older soldiers said that we have to provide bail. I just need this much.
Crows upon crows began to take flight. Each crow scattered throughout the night sky with a memo wrapped around their ankles.
At the latest, the harlots will receive the letters from the crows by tonight and read my reply while relying on a candlelight. The act of reading a letter which had been written in a place illuminated by a candlelight while also in a place that was lit up by a candlelight feels beautiful to me.
“What have you been continuing to send?”
A deeply thinking voice.
“Does it seem like those birds will come back with the things which you desire just because you had sent them?”
“This one simply wishes to feel out the world.”
“How foolish. Does the world feel as if it is being felt out simply because you claimed to be doing so? Lapis Lazuli. While one half is a harlot, your other half is a human girl. Even if a lowly girl like yourself were to feel out and spy on the world, it will all be in vain once the Demon Lord’s affection for you has faded. Do you believe in that Demon Lord? Or do you believe in people? Similar to how you are trying to feel out the world, will you also feel out the very bottom of people’s hearts?”
“Your worries are deep, Chief. Revealing your deep concerns is a dangerous thing to do as it will also reveal the deepest part of your mind as well, Chief. Are you trying to leave your heart with this one because you trust her? This one is the type of person who does not care even slightly about the hearts of others, and of course, your heart as well, Chief.”
“Not only does this one not have a reason to do so, but this one does not try to pry into the foundations of other people either. This one is satisfied with simply the surfaces of people. Did you ask what His Highness’ foundation was, Chief? That is a silly question. As this one’s base is the same as His Highness’, there is no need for this one to be concerned.”
I wonder how concentrated he was.
It was around the time the wax of a candle had melted down and formed a white, glazed pond. The sound of footsteps could be heard outside of the tent.
Seeing as how the guards are not trying to stop them, it seems another beggar has come to beg. The beggars who beg during the afternoon are the strongest and happiest, the beggars who beg during the evening are the second happiest, and the beggars who beg in the middle of the night while searching for a place that is bright are the most unfortunate. The disabled, who are among the lowest of beggars, are mostly like that.
As per usual, I picked up a coin and tossed it outside. The moment I was about to turn away since I was sure that the person would naturally leave, a voice seeped into the tent.
“Oh dear. I am finally observing the world after a week, but am I being told to take this pocket change and leave? I see that my love is cold-hearted.”
It was the voice of His Highness Dantalian.
I took out a pocket watch and checked the time. It was past midnight. I heard that he was going to be discharged yesterday evening, but what has he been doing until now and where? The witches that were sent to fetch him had already returned with Farnese and were now sleeping in a corner of the tent.
“Has His Highness finally honored us with his presence? An individual who is quite difficult to see the esteemed face of. After having aged four generations and experiencing the eighth Crescent Alliance, I am now having a bitter experience at last······.”
Chief Ivar Lodbrok, who was seated beside me, also stood up slowly. He was grumbling in a voice that was just low enough to not reach the outside of the tent.
I ignored him and straightened my clothes tidily.
“Welcome, Your Highness. Chief Lodbrok of the Keuncuska Firm had received Your Highness’ summon and is waiting for you inside.”
Lord Dantalian then arrived at the tent.
“Oho, Chief. I apologize for summoning you so late in the night.”
Lord Dantalian greeted the chief the moment he entered the tent.
“Regardless, I believed that it would not matter since you are a vampire, Chief, so I had sent that express messenger. I am worried that I may have possibly upset your mood.”
“Far from it. A greater being had summoned this one so why would it matter whether it was in the middle of the day or the middle of the night?”
“Yes. You are right. Only when you meet with someone when you have to meet with them would it then be called a meeting. So? Have you been doing well?”
His Highness pleasantly welcomed the chief with a smile, a smile which he had once told me was his charming smile, but in my personal opinion, it was a smile that looked unbelievably wicked.
I wonder if he believed that the atmosphere was not bad. Chief Lodbrok’s expression naturally relaxed as well.
“Yes. This one should be the one to ask if Your Highness has been in good health. This one can only apologize for not being able to send his respects often.”
“It is fine. Are you not the financier of our Crescent Alliance, Chief? I have also just returned from having an urgent discussion with Her Excellency Barbatos and Her Highness Paimon. I wish to discuss that topic with you as well, Chief.”
“At once. If this one can be even the slightest of assistance to the greater beings, then this one would be honored.”
“Take a seat first. Even if we shall be conversing, we should do so while seated.”
It is night.
I can hear the sound of crickets through the sides of the tent. It seems that the crickets are letting out every last bit of reverberation in their bodies as if they absolutely had to tell someone right this instant that it was currently night. As I believe that bugs are all lives that hang off the side of a cliff and tremble, I do not think it is weird.
Although the night is a time that is easy for some people to fall asleep in.
For others, the night is a time that is easy for them to kill other people in.
“I shall cut to the chase. Ivar Lodbrok.”
“Yes, Your Highness. Please tell this one anything.”
Chief Lodbrok bowed his head while seated.
His Highness smoothly spoke towards the crown of the chief’s head.
“How dare you betray the Crescent Alliance.”
In an instant, the air inside of the tent became paralyzed as if the tongue of a large snake had just passed by. Since it felt as if the shadow that was being illuminated by the candlelight was that of a snake, I held my breath. What did His Highness Dantalian say just now?
“Your Highness, just, what do you mean······?”
I am most likely not the only person who thinks that they had misheard. Chief Lodbrok looked up at Lord Dantalian with a deathly pale face. Lord Dantalian still has a smooth grin on his face.
“What is the matter, Chief? Your complexion does not look good. Even if I did say those words in order to make your complexion rot, it is embarrassing if it rots so fast. More wrinkles will form on your already old face.”
It is those eyes.
The faint and partially opened eyes he would always display whenever he was looking for a prey to tear apart.
The same look which Lady Farnese, the girl who His Highness had taken in as his adopted daughter, had learned perfectly.
At times like this, His Highness would hum as if he were in an incredibly good mood.
“To be honest, I like you. You are open in both a good and a bad way. As you are able to conceal yourself well while in other places, at the very least, you cannot hide anything while you are before me. Oho, how profound. In a way, are we not already in a relationship that is somewhat similar to that of lovers?”
His Highness chuckled.
“I cherish you in a special way, Ivar Lodbrok.”
His Highness’ elongated shadow which was being illuminated in the tent was scoffing.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, DantalianEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
How long did the silence last, I wonder?
There was a color to people’s emotions. There was also a fragrance. As it was the color of their voice, it was the fragrance of their heart. Ivar Lodbrok trembled with his entire body while his voice exuded his heart.
“······This one’s hope, this one’s life aspiration, is to solely work for the Crescent Alliance. This one does not understand why Your Highness would reprimand this old soul. Please be more mindful, Your Highness.”
If you quibble over purely the time, then Ivar Lodbrok most likely panicked for no more than 1 minute. He was able to compose himself after the unexpected attack. To that extent, he was worthy of appraisal.
Regardless, it was unfortunate for him. My surprise attack had yet to even begin. Ivar Lodbrok, at most, all you had experienced just now was similar to having listened to the faint sound of horns starting to be blown on a battlefield.
I opened my mouth.
“Have you been secretly communicating with Demon Lord Sitri?”
The vampire, who was trying to do whatever he could to continue speaking, stopped moving. However, the only thing that had frozen in place was his visible movements. The color of his breath became hazier. The fragrance of his heart became thicker.
I stood up and approached Ivar Lodbrok. Then, as if I were appreciating a piece of art that consisted of color and scent, I slowly walked towards the chair that the vampire was seated in. As if I were putting a wooden fence around the vampire with the sound of my footsteps. As if I were creating a boundary and trying to trap him inside.
I enunciated with a voice that contained noble affection.
“Ivar Lodbrok. Starting from yesterday, I shall tell you what you had done before coming here today. Do listen carefully.”
I raised my thumb and gently pressed down on the exact center of Lodbrok’s shoulders. His shoulder flesh, which was covered by his mantle, felt softer than it did firm, and it was crunchier than it was soft. To be exact, his shoulders possessed the same softness and crunchiness of an apple. If broken up well, then a thick-scented juice would most likely flow out.
“You were most likely bewildered when the purge began yesterday evening. Following after that, you moved around hastily because you did not know what exactly was going on. This is obvious. As the life of a merchant depends on how fast you can obtain information, there is no one out there who knows this better than you.”
“But oh dear. There was a big problem. Who could you possibly go to in order to ask for the truth? Will you go to Her Excellency Barbatos and ask her? Darn.”
I raised my pinky on top the vampire’s shoulders.
“No, you could not do that. Barbatos is a terrifying Demon Lord. She also has the tendency of valuing farmers more than merchants. Normally, you would laugh at this sort of person and call them outdated for being behind the times, but the situation changes when that outdated person has an executioner’s blade in their hand. Naturally, your desire to laugh would go right back in. Aha, it is a problem. It is a problem.”
“Now what could you do? Even if you approached the low-ranking Demon Lords, they would most likely claim that they did not know what was happening, and in truth, they truly did not know. Oh dear, what could you do in this situation? Should you just run up to Her Highness Paimon and ask her? Darn.”
Continuing from my thumb and pinky, I pressed my ring fingers down on his shoulders.
Similar to how a spider steps on its webs. Not too strong or too weak.
“No, you could not do this either. By all means, this was something which you surely could not do. With what face could you possibly request for a personal audience with Her Highness Paimon and ask her about the ulterior motives behind the purge? Her Highness had yet to even forgive you, this old vampire. If you were to infuriate Her Highness because of a slip of the tongue, then it would make matters into an even bigger issue.”
“Aha, it is a problem. It is a problem. It cannot be helped. Barbatos is a woman who would even keep a secret from her own close aides. Paimon is also a discreet Demon Lord. ‘However’, is what you must have then thought. Paimon may be a discreet woman, but is she not open to a single person, her close aide and pet, Sitri?”
I added my middle fingers.
“You then contemplated. Were you not also longtime associates with Demon Lord Sitri? The two of you have a relationship where you would exchange miscellaneous requests with one another. Surely she would share this information with you······.”
“Your prediction was on the mark. It was probably thanks to that long relationship of yours. Sitri provided you with the information about the purge as if she were paying back an obvious debt. Your brain must have then operated busily. Aah. Would things not become quite busy?”
“A purge had ended up occurring. It was obvious that the demon continent was going to be thrown into a state of chaos in the near future. It was an important issue. Will you utilize this confusion and profit heavily off of it, or will you not? If you are going to do business, then how will you go about doing so? It was truly an important issue······. And, while you were in the middle of your thoughts, Demon Lord Sitri had spoken to you.”
In a tone that sounded as if she had just remembered something.
While putting her unique smile on top of it.
I tenuously attempted to speak in a falsetto. I was not particularly used to this, but this was simply an extra effort in order to provide entertainment for the opposition. I could not refuse something like this. Let’s see, would it not have been this sort of tone?
Now that I think about it, you also hate the Demon Lord known as Dantalian, right?
The vampire’s complexion was ingrained in the breath he was letting out.
“Just, how······ no, what is Your Highness saying······?”
I saw this as a natural course of action. This person’s trap was a maw that had drained a tremendous amount of blood from others throughout the passage of time. He was simply breathing out the fragrance which he had swallowed until now.
I was incapable of immediately seeing what sort of expression was on the vampire’s face right now because I was standing behind the chair which he was seated in.
Not yet. I cannot appreciate this person’s final expression yet. Fear had the same kind of charm as red wine. I had to wait patiently for the fragrance to flourish sufficiently.
“Indeed. Sitri has a pure charm by nature. She must have persuaded you like this.”
······No, it’s not much. Ehehe. It’s really a simple thing.
······Ei, really, Chief. You’re going to be like this despite our relationship? Hmm? If anything, this is close to being something you have to be the one to do, Chief. You have at least one method of urgently getting in contact with old man Marbas, right? Yeah?
“You are the merchant who is in charge of His Excellency Marbas. Since that is the case, if an incident which needs to be hastily reported to His Excellency Marbas were to occur, then informing him of it would naturally be your duty.”
Like if a purge had occurred.
Like if a bunch of Demon Lords had died like a group of beggars.
Since it was an incident that was on the same level of a calamity.
······Informing him of things like this, Chief.
······Is this not your bounden duty?
These were not excessively incorrect words.
Because they were not excessively incorrect words, Ivar Lodbrok had done so.
There will be a great profit if the war lasts longer. That was it.
He did his duty as Marbas’ exclusive merchant. That was it.
He was able to deepen his personal connection with Demon Lord Sitri. That was it.
⎯⎯⎯The price for thinking ‘that was it’.
Although someone may be pierced in the chest and die by an arrow that had been casually shot by someone else, the person who simply believes that all they did was casually shoot an arrow despite that, must receive an appropriate punishment and pay the price.
That was so. Punishment and price. I have always insulted the beasts that have tried to bite at my neck light-heartedly.
Even if that beast were the Rank 9th Demon Lord, it would not change.
Even if that beast were the Rank 5th Demon Lord, it would still not change.
Even if that beast were the vampire who controlled the greatest firm on the demon continent, it would still not change at all.
I spoke the name of the beast that had fearlessly walked straight towards me today.
I then finally added my index fingers on top of the beast’s shoulders.
With my five fingers alone.
I divided my strength into five parts.
And pressed down on the bulky fruits that the vampire’s shoulders were harboring.
The things which reverberated after being flattened by my fingers were most likely his blood vessels, and the things which groaned after being pushed down by my hands were most likely his bones. The thing which I had pressed deeply inside and pushed aside was the elderly greed which this person had held onto and lived with until now. While grasping this person’s blood vessels, bones, and elderly greed with my five nets, I spoke.
“Are you aware of what you had done?”
After reciting this old saying, I slowly whispered into his ear.
“You are a filthy traitor who had dropped the entire Crescent Alliance into a bottomless pit.”
I gently grabbed Ivar Lodbrok’s chin. He endured by hunching up with a strength that was unbefitting of his old bones. Although he was hunched up, he was doing so while trembling. I forcefully turned the vampire’s head.
A gaze that appeared as if he were looking at the Devil was there.
Aah. I grinned in satisfaction.
I released the old man’s chin. Like a person who had taken a single bite out of an appetizing dessert and spat it back out.
“⎯⎯⎯Huuk, haa······ haa······.”
I wonder if he had been holding his breath until this moment? Once Ivar Lodbrok was released from my grasp, he exhaled roughly. I lightly tapped his shoulder.
“You will lose your neck, Chief. Is one’s necks not important? You should look after your own better from now on.”
I could hear the soft sound of Farnese and the witches’ breathing as they slept in a corner of the tent. In this very moment, that was most likely the only sign of life that was flowing through the tent. The crickets outside had also stopped crying, so it was silent all around us.
Ivar Lodbrok opened his mouth after a significant amount of time had passed.
“There is, no proof. This one is not in a position that is weak enough to be punished without proof.”
I laughed. Was this not nearly at the same level of a baby’s cute antics?
“What a surprising remark, Chief. It is an especially surprising remark for you to use as a method to defend yourself if you consider the current situation. Did the heads of seven Demon Lords not depart together on a group trip down the pathway to Hades just half a day ago? Her Excellency Barbatos and Her Highness Paimon had even sent them on that trip for free. No matter how I look at it, it seems that our honorable chief.”
I tapped the side of the vampire’s head.
“It seems that you are confident that your own single head is heavier than that of seven Demon Lords’, huh? I see that you calculate things with quite the amazing scale. Indeed, as one would expect from a big merchant, their scale is also incredibly special. Have your customers never complained to you that you should use proper weights?”
“Yes. There is no evidence. But why would having evidence or not matter? Is this some formal court? Do you think that our two corps commanders would hold a special trial just for you, Chief? We are leading a purge, not a trial. Moreover, the reason why purges are purges is due to the fact that you are able to exterminate things simply because of your beliefs. Ah.”
I smiled slightly.
“Of course, the excuse that there is no evidence will last only momentarily. If we simply ask His Excellency Marbas whom he had heard the information about the purge from, then would the proof not be brazenly made? Ivar Lodbrok. Vampire who has built a tower out of blood-stained gold coins. Your position has become quite pitiful.”
“······This one has never sent a letter to His Highness Marbas. Your Highness can confirm this yourself. His Highness Marbas will also say that he does not know. Not only that. For Your Highness to say that this one had secret talks with Her Highness Sitri······. That is simply a forced deduction.”
Would you look at this?
Is this his desperate struggle in order to hang onto the rope until the very end?
However, it wasn’t just the rotten rope. Even if my assumption were correct, just as the vampire had said, Marbas and Sitri would adamantly deny the charges. There was no evidence and there were no witnesses.
Although beheading people because of one’s beliefs alone was what purges were, as expected, it was nothing more than a purge. If one were to try and swallow a large group like the Keuncuska Firm in a single bite, then your jaw would nearly crack.
Therefore, I decided to open the mouth more.
“All right. I shall accept your excuse. By the way, Chief. There is something this great one has been curious about for the past couple of days.”
“I heard from a spy that the speech which my acting general had given was made into a small booklet and is running rampant inside the army of the Crusaders. The common soldiers have been passing the booklets around among themselves, so this occurrence in itself is not suspicious.”
I gave Lapis a glance.
Lapis understood the meaning behind my look and took out a single booklet from within a pile of documents before handing it to me. It was a booklet with a gray cover. The book where my and Farnese’s speech was written down on. I received the booklet and tap, tap, I patted the vampire’s shoulder.
“This happened too fast.”
“It has only been a few days. Within those mere few days, it had been made into a booklet and circulated. As the hungry soldiers do not have the surplus strength to do something like that, the poor harlots lack the money to do so even more. As long as the one behind this does not move systematically, would it not be difficult to pull off?”
“Would the people not have made a united effort in order to make them? Since the cover is ragged and the pages are pitiable······.”
“Still. It was much too fast.”
Ivar Lodbrok closed his mouth. Did he intend to plead the Fifth here? If I were his lawyer, then that was an action which I would have heavily advised against in a moment like this.
“I shall acknowledge something, Chief. I have been pushing myself forward too much for a while. I had pushed myself forward incredibly too much despite being someone who did not know much. However, after piecing together the information, I was able to see an outline.”
“If one wishes to circulate the books this fast, then there needs to be a hole in the Crusaders. A massive hole. A massive hole that will not disappear even if one were to capture some common soldiers and procurers. Do you know what that is, Chief? If it were just a few days ago, then even I would not have been able to figure out what this was.”
The Republic of Batavia.
Not a country with a couple of spies planted here and there, but an entire country that was in the hands of a Demon Lord. Furthermore, not only was it the only republic in the human continent, but it was a land in the west that was secretly established by Demon Lord Paimon.
The words of the speech were copied down inside that country’s army, copies were printed, and they were then circulated. There was no need for them to hand the booklets out one by one either. All you had to do was simply dump a bunch of the booklets in some out-of-the-way corner of a tent. Similar to how the corpse of a beggar goes to another beggar, the discarded booklets would flow from the hand of one soldier to another.
Does this not naturally call upon sympathy? The leading members of the Crusaders will most likely huff and puff as they attempt to root out the source of the circulation, but their efforts would be pointless. Similar to how there were 7 traitorous Demon Lords in the Crescent Alliance, an entire nation was the joker in the army of the Crusaders.
I twisted the ends of my mouth.
“Have you still not grasped the meaning behind my words?”
“······Yes, Your Highness. This one truly does not know.”
“I heard that you are the consultant of quite the number of Demon Lords. Marbas, the leader of the Neutral Faction and the ranked 5th Demon Lord is one of them, and so is the person whom I hold in high esteem, Her Highness Paimon. Moreover, oh, would you look at this? Surprisingly, do you not also lead the greatest firm in the demon continent and carry out trades with each and every country? Of course, your firm is just great enough to print out something like a couple of booklets with ragged covers and pitiable pages as many times as you want.”
The sound of Ivar Lodbrok’s breathing gradually died down.
It was simple. Since there was a massive hole somewhere in the army of the Crusaders, it was possible for the booklets to be distributed. This gap was undoubtedly the army of the Republic of Batavia. The monarch who had founded the republic was Demon Lord Paimon.
Adding to that, the vampire seated before me was the merchant who acted as Paimon’s exclusive consultant.
Was this not quite the impressive coincidence?
“Nevertheless, Chief. Is this not the rather strange occurrence? As I had said earlier, I had just returned from meeting with Her Excellency Barbatos and Her Highness Paimon⎯⎯⎯ and when I had questioned Her Highness Paimon about this matter, she stated that it was not her.”
The vampire trembled.
The trembling in his shadow was more intense than his actual body.
“Chief. Oh dear, Chief. Is this not strange? Is this not bizarre and peculiar? The location of where the seditious booklets are circulating from has been determined and the location of where the booklets are being printed from has been determined as well, but alas. How could this be? Only the person who had given the order for these booklets to be printed and circulated is nowhere to be found.”
“Chief. I am a rational person. Even if a situation that does not make rational sense were to be pushed into my face, I am sensible enough to still deduce a rational answer. Chief Lodbrok, do you perhaps know what the rational reasoning would be in this sort of situation?”
“Oh dear. It seems that you do not know. Your head is rather lacking despite being referred to as the ruler of the Great Keuncuska. How about you, Lapis? If it were you, Lapis, how would you infer the answer?”
Lapis answered briefly.
“There is most likely someone in the middle who has superseded control, Your Highness.”
“Oh my. How could this be? How could someone dare to supersede control from the leader of the Mountain Faction? How could there be such a wretched fellow? I see that my love is able to say quite the terrifying things.”
I chatted while intentionally acting as if I were frightened. It was a cheap performance. However, if there is an audience, then even a cheap performance would seemingly have a smidgen of value. Lapis played along with my antics and bowed.
“This one apologizes. This humble one has said something which she should not have.”
“No, it is okay. What is there to apologize for when all you had done was make an inference? In any case, this is strange. As Her Highness Paimon is not a fool, if there is a person superseding control in the middle, then would she not have noticed?”
“Yes. Her Highness would have realized without fail.”
“And yet, she has not.”
“That is the case.”
“What does this mean?”
“It means that the culprit is someone whom Her Highness Paimon trusts completely and entrusts with tasks.”
Lapis answered immediately.
“It is most likely a personage who Her Highness is at ease with, as she believes that they would not dare to supersede control and deceive her.”
In other words, Paimon’s close aide.
Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
I lamented deeply.
“If such a personage does exist, then it would be quite scary and terrifying. Would that not truly mean that there is a person out there who is able to freely ridicule both the demon and human continents? For them to impudently utilize the intelligence network which Her Highness Paimon had constructed however they please and deride the Crusaders. Although their real intention may have possibly been to please Her Highness Paimon, since they had proceeded with the insurrection while keeping it as a secret from Her Highness, it is an immense ridicule and a substantial disloyalty. How is this different to covering both of Her Highness Paimon’s eyes and playing tricks? Alas. I am deeply concerned.”
“Nevertheless, how were the traces of disloyalty not caught? Since the intelligence network which they had used is solely the intelligence network of Her Highness Paimon, the reason why the intelligence agents had listened to that person’s orders is most likely because they misunderstood that it was an order from Her Highness Paimon. If we were to summon the intelligence agents and question them, then the truth will easily be revealed. What type of person the culprit is, what name they have, and whom they had secret talks with, this will all be exhibited out in the open.”
I asked once more.
Similar to the act of stabbing a spear into a beast that was already bleeding from an arrow.
I, however, questioned him smoothly and with gentleness.
“Are you still unable to fathom a guess?”
The ruler of Keuncuska collapsed.
▯King’s Mistress, Mixed Blood, Lapis LazuliEmpire Calendar: Year 1505, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
······I see, this is the end.
I thought while gazing at the chief who had fallen into silence. The leading power of the Keuncuska was now done for. He may continue to live, but that will merely be a life of servitude as His Highness Dantalian’s slave.
Lord Dantalian chuckled.
“Quite the entertaining event will most likely occur if I were to tell Her Highness Paimon about my rational deduction.”
The owner of the Keuncuska trembled his shoulders in silence.
“You had already abandoned Her Highness Paimon once back in the council chamber of Niflheim. Although the issue at that time was resolved because Her Highness was at fault as well, how do you intend to endure now? Ivar Lodbrok, will you stab yourself and take your own life like that goblin, Torukel, had done?”
“Now that I think about it, I should stop referring to you as a man, but as a girl. You are concealing your pretty little girl self with that appearance of an old man after all. Aha. Along with Sitri, since the two of you are miscellaneous things that no one knows whether you are a bastard or a bitch, birds of a feather flock together.”
Chief Lodbrok fell down.
He fell from his chair, collapsed to the floor, and finally, his body toppled. With his entire body, the vampire did his all to apologize to His Highness with the utmost desperation.
“This one, has never done anything that may be troublesome to the demon continent······. Her Highness Sitri has been the close aide of Her Highness Paimon for a very long time. How, how could this one have known that that was a fake command? Ever since Torukel had taken his own life, this one has been put in a state where this one could not possibly dare to refuse an order from Her Highness Paimon······.”
“An impressive excuse.”
Lord Dantalian grinned.
“Let us see if Her Highness Paimon also finds this to be as impressive as I have.”
“Your Highness······. This old man. This old bat beseeches Your Highness. Although the Keuncuska may be a group of humble merchants, it is a place that helps the rivers and streams of the demon continent connect and flow into a lifeline. Please, consider the five hundred years of service which we had done and grant us mercy······.”
Lord Dantalian smiled more softly.
“Since you have accumulated all of that gold from those five hundred years of prosperity, if we take that away, then our expedition funds will never fall short.”
“Your Highness, O Greater Being······.”
In the end, the chief broke down into tears.
While shedding an endless stream of tears, the chief kissed the top of His Highness’ foot.
“This one shall obey all of Your Highness’ commands. Please, bestow upon this one your royal grace, have mercy upon this one······.”
It is night.
I silently stared at a flickering candle in the tent. The flame continues to burn while completely oblivious to the fact that it was burning its own wick. On the floor where the wax drippings were falling, there was a single aged vampire.
Defeat is stigmatic and desecrating.
Because it has always been like that, that was what defeat was. If one is going to enter the gambling den of authority, then one must clearly know when to stop.
The gamblers who have had a peek at authority gamble whenever the sun has set and the night has begun. Betting their honor. Betting their wealth. The gamblers who have tossed their honor and wealth into gambling dens will, in the end, stake their own lives, but not only the life which they had lived until now, but the lives which they will continue to live from now on as well.
And then, one day, you realize that you no longer have any more days left to bet at the gambling den.
Until that day comes, Chief Ivar Lodbrok must devote the remainder of his life to His Highness Dantalian. That was the job which the chief had to carry out for the rest of his life.
His Highness stroked the head of the groveling vampire.
“From this day forth.”
And he then recited to him his new livelihood.
“You now have to kill the ones whom I command you to kill. Even if I were to tell you to throw away that old body of a doll, which you are currently borrowing, then you must do so without hesitation.”
“If there is someone whom I have ordered you to spare, then spare them. Sitri may have sent you here to spy on me, but I shall send you to do the exact opposite. You shall spy on Sitri and report back to me. Become a double-spy and follow my commands.”
“I advise that you do not even dream of betraying me. If I meet an untimely demise, then a rather interesting last will will be sent to Her Excellency Barbatos and Her Highness Paimon. I was considerate enough to make it so that even you, Chief, will be able to enjoy yourself to the fullest along with everyone else. You will also gradually come to know of this, but despite my looks, I am quite the considerate man.”
“This one has no questions, Your Highness······.”
“Tonight, the Crescent Alliance will withdraw.”
Without a sound.
A drop of wax flowed down the side of a candle.
“This has already been decided.”
His Highness Dantalian was smiling broadly.
The light formed a yellow mask on His Highness’ royal visage and trembled.
“Since you had sent that letter to His Excellency Marbas so soon, our schedule has gone awry.”
“At this rate, we will have to face against the main force of the Crusaders and the dispatched troops of the Neutral Faction at both our front and rear, but we do not have the time for this.”
“Then how will we persuade the Neutral Faction······?”
“Is there a reason for us to appease the Neutral Faction in a deliberately swift fashion?”
“Allow the Crusaders to chase after us from behind and also allow Marbas to be filled with wrath and try to interfere with our retreat.”
I also tilted my head at the words His Highness had just spoken.
For him to say that we had no reason to appease the Neutral Faction in a deliberately swift fashion. What did this mean? His Highness made an ambiguous smile and turned to look at me.
“Lapis. How about you try answering instead?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Starting from now, try thinking from a different perspective. Our present situation appears urgent because we are trapped in our own shoes. Now consider the enemies’ points of view. Which side is currently in more of a rush?”
“For Marbas, a purge had occurred in the main force during his absence. Would Marbas not be in a hurry due to this? For Elizabeth, she still does not know the intention behind our purge. Therefore, would Elizabeth not be in a rush?”
I could feel my eyes narrowing.
“Our forces are busy and their forces are busy as well, however, speed is always bound to be relative. Their forces are presumably more in a rush than our own.”
“That is correct. Lapis. In situations like this, what would be the appropriate way to act?”
I thought for a moment before answering.
“······Pacifying the Neutral Faction is, of course, important. However, it is not as important as pushing our enemies into a state of confusion. Persuasion is something that can be pushed aside for later. In our present situation, our forces must focus on throwing the situation further into chaos.”
This was it.
This is the answer that I had come to. In short, chaos.
Excluding our own forces, we have to impose a battle of speed in order to prevent any of the groups from recovering their senses. By doing so, we will cause a greater state of confusion. By withdrawing before even a day can pass after we had carried out our purge, and by crossing over the Black Mountains within several days after having decided the retreat, we will push ahead and stab all of the Demon Lords who had betrayed our kind.
An unprecedented battle of speed.
That was the sole thing which the Crescent Alliance should be aiming at achieving.
What Lord Dantalian had pointed out is correct. Both the Imperial Princess of the Empire and Marbas of the Neutral Faction had reacted faster than expected, but why does that matter?
There is no reason for us to be more panicked than necessary in our current plight. Essentially, the disconcerted side is theirs and not ours. We have the initiative. They will justly fear our latent energy as we were able to carry out our purge this quickly and this neatly.
We absolutely cannot lose this initiative.
In war, initiatives are secured solely through speed battles. The Imperial Princess of the Empire and Demon Lord Marbas are veterans. If we allow them to have even a moment of time, then they will immediately grasp the situation and attempt to steal the initiative. Time. It was solely a fight of time.
It was most likely because I had given the correct answer. His Highness grinned splendidly like a blooming poisonous plant.
“As expected of my love. That is so. Our forces will retreat immediately.”
“As it so happens, the Imperial Princess had decided to clean out her own army, so a small panic has also occurred in the army of the Crusaders. The army which the Imperial Princess leads will become stronger. However, that is a strength that will come a day after. Our current situation is to deal with our aftermath, but this is actually an opportunity for us.”
Lord Dantalian then asked.
“Good. Truly remarkable. Lapis, what should be done in order for us to add a day onto the enemy and turn their one day into two?”
“Shift the day which our forces are currently dealing with onto them. Our forces are currently executing the common soldiers of the seven Demon Lords, but it is troublesome. Killing is also a painstaking task. While sparing the common soldiers and leaving them behind in the military encampment, the rest of us shall leave.”
The candlelight swayed.
“Aha! For the Crusaders, this would be like a bunch of free exploits had fallen from the sky. An opportunity for them to obtain quite the number of enemy heads without having to shed a single drop of blood. During this war, if you exclude the Habsburg Empire, the Crusaders have fought quite pitifully. Would the other countries not be thirsty for exploits? This would be no different to a waterhole appearing before them while they are parched.”
The light flickered.
“Yes. They will undoubtedly become blinded. Although the Imperial Princess may see through the fact that this is all a trap, it does not matter. The Imperial Princess is the one who had obtained a monopoly of all of the glory by using the troops of the other nations. The other commanders are without a doubt jealous of the Imperial Princess. The time for them to pay the price for jealousy has now come.”
His Highness met his lips with mine.
“The enemy will become divided.” (Dantalian)
I met my gaze with His Highness’.
“The enemy will become weaker.” (Lapis Lazuli)
His Highness and I, for a long moment, overlapped our breaths with the sound of the other’s breathing. Lips slipped on lips and a moan went obliquely astray. Within the air where the candlelight was swaying, we held our breaths for some time. A senile vampire was staring at us, but it did not particularly matter. If a couple were to be concerned about the watchful eyes of their slave, then how would they possibly sleep together?
His Highness and I whispered to one another as if we were fornicating with our voices.
“Since our forces will have to push ahead, it will not be an easy path.”
“Our soldiers will have to march as lightly as possible.”
“How should we handle the provisions? I am not sure who, but would it not be difficult for you if we do not have a separate person to handle the supplies?”
“Yes. Although this one is not sure who.”
Without the need to say who was first.
His Highness and I turned our heads and looked down at the vampire who was kneeling on the floor. We stared at the top chief who had the most important role whenever the supply lines of the entire Crescent Alliance are pillaged. We gazed, at the person who had just recently become His Highness’ slave.
The vampire received my and His Highness’ gaze in silence. Even though he had witnessed the sight of one of the most sacred individuals in all of demonkind mix together with one of the lowliest, the vampire solely had a wretched complexion. It is most likely because he understands his position.
Chief Lodbrok lowered himself even further and yielded with a voice that the defeated had to have.
“Give this one your command, Your Highness. This one shall obey.”
It is late in the night.
The candlelight spread a crimson color over the low breathing sound of the witches, and the sound of Lady Farnese sleeping with gentle gasps flared out faintly.
While listening to the breathing of the shadows flowing in the night, I believed that this will be a long night.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, DantalianEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
Witch. Illegitimate child. Outcast.
They are all I have. I am all they have. Since a place where the only thing everyone had was the people around them, was a place that was strong on the inside, there was no way that it could fall apart. Similar to a flame that burned as a single mass no matter how many times you broke it apart, we were one. In the end, all we needed was a small pile of wood. And a certain amount of darkness.
Elizabeth. Sitri. Marbas. They were all obstacles that were complicated to deal with. Dealing with them one person at a time would be endless and boundless.
Therefore, let us burn them all at once.
“Are you done with your preparations?”
It was the end of the night before dawn could completely approach.
I put on my coat and exited the tent. In the wide open space where the executions had been taking place, Barbatos was standing there while chewing on an apple.
It wasn’t just Barbatos.
There was also a bunch from the Plains Faction and the Mountain Faction who had avoided the purge······. There were no traitors here. Everyone here was either loyal to the blaze known as Barbatos or dedicated to the flame known as Paimon.
They roared at their units and lined them up.
— Stop making a racket, you punks. If you were ordered to do something, then do it. What’s with all these complaints? Don’t make me whip your buttocks······.
— Are you hungry for breakfast? All right. If someone finishes their preparations slower than the Mountain Faction, then I will behead that person and personally perform an ancestral rite for them, so if you wish to eat memorial service food, then keep whining······.
The soldiers had wound up moving before dawn could arrive, so they were sluggish here and there. However, I could see with my own eyes that their limbs were gradually becoming swifter. Everything was proceeding smoothly.
“Your Excellency. My unit has finished preparations.”
“Our Sir Dantalian, whose profound plot and lofty stratagem can cause both the heaven and earth to tremble, I acknowledge your annoyingness and somewhat acknowledge the brightness of your noggin. However, military affairs isn’t something that can be easily managed with just your head. We will now be marching vigorously for an entire week. In the end, will deadwood like you be able to follow us without getting exhausted?”
“I have already experienced this sort of rigorous marching back when I was coming to Your Excellency’s rescue, but it turned out to be nothing special.”
“See? He’s an annoying son of a bitch.”
Barbatos burst into laughter.
Beside her, Paimon was covering her mouth with her fan. As these two Demon Lords respectively had pure, silvery white hair and red hair that was as crimson as blood, their figures could be clearly distinguished even during the night.
At that moment, a crow cried out from somewhere and flew up into the pitch black night sky. The crow flapped its wings above the area where the torches of the military camp could reach.
I let out an ‘Ah’ sound and spoke towards Barbatos.
“Please kill that crow.”
Barbatos munched on her apple.
“It is a trifling creature which a spy had sent.”
Barbatos snapped her fingers the moment I had finished that sentence. The sound of the air itself being split grew distant in an instant before lightly brushing through the air the crow was in. The crow sprayed black blood as it fell somewhere. Barbatos gave an order to her Royal Guards.
“Find it and bring it here.”
The soldiers brought the corpse of the crow and presented it to us around the time Barbatos had finished eating her apple and had tossed the core. There was nothing tied around the crow’s ankles. Barbatos looked at me.
I took out a dagger and cut its belly open. Brown and blue colors were mixed together in its entrails. I dug through it and cut its stomach open. There was something inside of the stomach. I grabbed it with my fingers and showed it to the two corps commanders.
It was a note that was folded many times over.
Barbatos and Paimon both leaned in to look at the note with interested looks on their faces. The note was small, so it only contained a single line. The handwriting was ugly so it was clear that the writer had written this desperately.
Month 4, Day 11. Midnight. Crescent Alliance, preparing to withdraw.
“We’ve taken care of the traitors, but now it’s spies. The state of this person’s army must be quite remarkable. Haa, I have no idea what hope I’m trying to bask in by going to war with these things.”
“A monarch is an ocean, Barbatos. You have to indiscriminately accept even the murky streams of the people.”
“Just like your crotch?”
“Are those actually the only words that have been inputted into your brain?”
“I don’t know. Fuck. What do you expect me to do when curses come out all on their own whenever I see your face? Either change your face or take responsibility for my death. I know. You can’t do either, right? Just take the curses.”
Even while Barbatos and Paimon were spitting out the dawn air into the heart of the night, the troops had started to gradually become more in line. The sound of metal and footsteps pushed their way into the air. The banners that represented each respective Demon Lord swayed in an orderly manner. Rank 12th Sitri, Rank 13th Beleth, Rank 16th Zepar······.
“This lady cannot believe that there was even once a time where she had had intercourse with you. With what belief did this lady ever consider you to be even remotely charming······.”
“What a coincidence. The same goes for me too.”
A couple of servants brought a bottle of wine and a pair of wine glasses to Barbatos. Barbatos poured a single glass and handed it to Paimon. Red wine. Before going to a large war, Demon Lords would always drink wine that is as red as blood in order to substitute formalities.
“So let’s go together, you fucking bitch.”
In the center of the troops. Barbatos’ Royal Guards raised their banners. In the sky, where the sun had yet to sprout, the torches acted in the sun’s stead and released a small gleam of light, and in that spot where the light illuminated was the maxim which Barbatos had formerly written fluttering in the wind.
Cultivate with my blood.
Befitting the supreme ruler who had declared she would present extensive plains to demonkind, it was arrogant. Barbatos was holding out the glass to Paimon.
Paimon lowered her fan and let out a sigh. She received the glass and slightly lowered her back. She then linked arms with Barbatos and⎯⎯⎯held the wine in her mouth. The two Demon Lords who had once vowed that they would live solely as enemies and die solely as enemies have, at this very moment, shared a glass that signified their renewed blood alliance.
I wonder if they had awaited solely this vow. The single group of flag bearers that followed Paimon raised their banners high.
Make glory perpetual and bask in eternity.
Befitting the supreme ruler who had promised the demon continent eternal peace, it was a haughty maxim. Once Barbatos and Paimon had raised their banners, similar to when a signal fire is lit and the other signal fires on a mountain range follow suit, the other Demon Lords raised their banners wholly according to their ranks.
Our devotion is for her······
My wrath is larger than your fear······
Thou shall ask after the enemy······
All at once, the soldiers threw their torches on the ground and extinguished them. Darkness enveloped the world. It was still deep in the night, and as all of the flames to kindle the deep night had been extinguished, everything became silent. The instant the flames had disappeared, the maxims which the banners were proudly displaying were all plunged into darkness. The banners were extinguished and only their outlines remained in the darkness.
And then, after several dozen banners.
Since my banner was the final signal fire, it was the final banner to waver as an outline. It was deep in the night. Since it was shrouded in darkness, I had no way to see the words written on my banner. However, why would that matter?
During this war, I have constantly faced against things that I could not see. As long as this war was my war, this world was also my world, and that banner will command this and that side of the Black Mountains as solely my banner. Similar to how I am able to figure out many things despite being unable to see them, I knew the words that were fixated there.
Authority for blood.
Blood for authority.
Like a fire that burned as a single flame even if it were separated into many parts.
Even when Barbatos and Paimon argued heavily, the expedition of the Crescent Alliance continued. There was no need to even say it now since they have joined hands. We were strong. And we shall burn even stronger.
Barbatos spoke as she sipped the wine.
“One day, one of us will probably die.”
“We will die eventually anyway. This is an undeniable fact.”
“Did you know? The way you or I will die has roughly been determined. If you die, then you will do so by my hands, and if I die, then I will do so by your hands. We have a relationship that has determined how the other will die.”
“So what? That is similar to the line which you had said to this lady 500 years ago when you had confessed to me.”
“No, I was just curious. As I said, if we die, then we will do so by each other’s hands, and as you had said, we’re going to die anyway. If that’s the case, then think about it. If I end up being the one to remain, then wouldn’t that mean I’ll be killed by someone other than you? Who would that be?”
“If it’s not you, then I wonder who’s going to end up killing me. I can’t imagine myself being killed by anyone other than you. The fact that it can’t be imagined, the fact that it can’t be predicted. Isn’t this the biggest problem for people like us? Hey. Paimon. Can you imagine it?”
“Stop talking bullshit and just drink the alcohol.”
“Haa, bitch. We don’t understand each other.”
The two Demon Lords emptied their wine glasses.
The Demon Lords threw their glasses on the ground and shattered them at the same time. The glass broke into a million pieces and scattered. Boisterously. Irreversibly. The wine which represented blood will go into their respective prayers and linger. Since the glasses were shattered and they had lost their way back, the vow was eternal.
“Well, whatever. Now then······.”
Barbatos took out a piece of parchment. It was the letter that was sent by Marbas. Once Barbatos held the letter tightly in one hand, a wavering that was like a pure white blizzard burst out and reduced the piece of parchment to ashes in an instant.
We are simply going to ignore this letter.
Whether Elizabeth pursues us or Marbas blocks our path, let them do what they want. We shall ignore them all and return deep into the Black Mountains. Pursue us and try to block us as much as you want.
Demon Lord Barbatos, the girl who always lived as the fiercest flame grinned.
“⎯⎯⎯Shall we go home, you dogs?”
Let us dance.
▯Kinslayer, Imperial Princess of the Empire, Elizabeth von HabsburgEmpire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crusaders
Our military encampment had become disorderly at night and we had beheaded twenty-two harlots. Seven small-fry administrators were made to disembowel themselves and two hundred forty-seven soldiers were burned alive. Once we had captured the two common soldiers who had escaped and dismembered them, the disorder in our army had vanished. A late spring fog had settled at dawn.
It was quiet.
It was excessively silent.
Since a purge had started yesterday evening in the army of the Crescent Alliance, it was only appropriate for a couple of crows to have flown over here by now and given us the news about the aftermath. However, the only sound that could be heard was from the birds that lived in the wild. There was not even a single crow flying over from the other side of the Bruno Plains.
On the open ground where the heads of the harlots were hung and the soldiers were burned to death, the priests sang all at once.
— Forgive them. Forgive them. O Goddess of All who resides in the clearest of skies, please do not toss away these deeply sinful children even if they rise up. We shall look into their deep sins and devote our lives to allowing their souls to pass on. Watch over the heavens with mercy and magnanimity. Please forgive them, please forgive them. Please take in the souls of heaven with the mercy of heaven······.
All of a sudden, the silence felt ominous.
When it is silent on all four sides and you are unable to grasp anything, there are people who favor that silence and there are people who are hostile towards it. I am a personage who always prefers the latter.
I ordered my commanders.
“Send in our scouts. Send them close. Since the morning fog is thick, it will be difficult to carry out espionage. Reconnoiter closely, but do so while crawling on the floor and not on horseback.”
“What should we tell them to scout for?”
Once the time it takes to have a single meal had passed, the scouts returned.
“We could not see anything, Your Highness. Loud shouting and screams could occasionally be heard, but we could not hear anything more than that. Although we could not see properly due to the fog, it appears that the enemy’s camp and wooden fences are still sound.”
“How close did you go to scout?”
“We had crawled just close enough to be barely in the firing range of the enemy crossbows.”
“Go further. Go further in and report back to me.”
Another feeling of unease was added onto my heart. The scouts returned after taking twice the amount of time than previously.
“Your Highness. We could not see anything. There are no enemy guards in their watchtowers. There are torches burning in each watchtower, but there is no enemy soldier looking after the fire, so it is extremely bizarre. The fog is indeed severe, but once we peered between the narrow gaps of the wooden fences, we were somewhat able to make out the enemy’s border area. There was no one wandering around the outskirts.”
“Were there even no patrols?”
“Were you still able to hear the shouts and screams?”
“Go in further. Climb over the fences and scout even the enemy camp. If it feels as if there are no obstacles, then go in deeply and take a look around. I shall allow you to go on horseback. I shall leave it to you guys, so move at your own discretion.”
The ominous feeling continued to stack and stack until it eventually blackened my heart.
The sound of Demon Lord Dantalian laughing softly attached to that blackness like a scab. ······Did that man. Did they. Around the time an ember had sparked and was about to engulf my heart in flames, the scouts returned after a very long period of time.
“Your Highness. In the center of the enemy camp, there were corpses lined up and common soldiers, the numbers of which reach up to nearly the thousands, bound in either chains or tied up by ropes. They were all groaning as they had fallen into a pit. They are not prisoners from our side, but solely demonkind. We had gone through a couple of the enemy quarters, but there was no one. There were several scarecrows awkwardly looming over the wooden fences and the torches were all burning, but that was it. Other than that, there was some tower of skulls that was piled up high, but other than that, nothing else could be seen.”
“Is there truly nothing at all?”
The commanders looked at each other with perplexed faces. It was then that the ominous feeling which was licking at only my heart had seeped out and flowed into the mouths of the commanders. The commanders carefully glanced at me.
“Your Highness. We cannot lower our guards. The enemy may be using a deceitful tactic in order to draw us in······.”
I shook my head.
“They have run away.”
“Inform the other armies of the fact that the enemy has retreated. We must tell them quickly. Inform them that the Imperial Princess of Habsburg wishes to have a conference with them.”
The group of priests was still performing their memorial service within the military encampment. While ringing their handbells, they conveyed their hymn past the fog which the eyes of the people could not see through. Since the deaths of humans were an urgent situation to the priests, it seems they had to notify the world of it with their hymn and bells.
— Forgive them, please forgive them. Even if these children do not know the depths of their sins, please do not cast them away. We shall bury these children, so, O Goddess of All, if there is a soul which we were unable to entomb, then please nurse them in Heaven. Please bestow upon us your benevolence. Forgive them, please forgive them······.
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11.
The army of the Crescent Alliance is retreating.
Christ, I normally don’t get this frustrated while translating, but this chapter was a doozy.
See you guys in the next release.