Chapter 3 – Hell
“⎯⎯⎯Look here, Your Lordship.”
It happened late in the night.
We were making our way through a woodland path. Farnese, who had been marching as the spearhead of our troops, steered her warhorse towards my direction. She dismounted from her horse and pushed something out towards me. It was dark, so I could not see properly. Whatever she had in her hands looked similar to rubbish or gunk.
Once I examined it a bit more carefully, I realized that it was a kitten.
“Its life has been injured.”
To be exact, a dying kitten.
Half of the kitten, the other half of which having already declined into being a corpse, was also diving into the River Styx minute by minute. I wonder what sort of terrifying beast had gotten to this little critter. Despite it being late in the night, the sight of its internal organs oozing out from between the cracks of its injuries was being shown without any mosaics.
Speaking of no mosaics.
In this world, things such as adult videos, a modern convenience that is also referred to as porn, obviously did not exist.
According to the classification of sociology, a society where porn has yet to be invented was, at most, nothing more than a society that was on the border of being referred to as primitive. Despite my looks, I am also one of the Demon Lords who represent demonkind, so is this situation not woeful? This great one has the duty of enlightening these barbarians as quickly as possible.
I had immediately gone into action.
Among the many magic tools, there was an item that recorded the scenery before it. The high-priced commodity known as the Memoria Artifact was an item which had a bad past record with me as it had screwed me over on various occasions. I had utilized this. The price was disgustingly high, but who cares? The billions of perverts of the past, present, and future all combined were cheering me on, I was certain of this.
That was why I had filmed it. The several times where I had slept together with either Barbatos or Lapis. In secret, without having received any sort of prior agreement with them.
‘What is this, Your Highness?’
The very first adult video in the world was discovered in less than half a month since it had been completed.
‘Calm down, Lapis. Compose yourself and listen to my explanation. Even you will end up praising this lofty invention.’
Lapis nodded. Fortunately, there were no signs that showed that she was upset. As expected of my lover who boasted a coldness that lasted all year round.
I harbored hope. If it’s Lapis, then she would definitely appraise this item accurately for its political value.
‘However, before listening to Your Highness’ explanation, there is something this one wishes to talk about. Your Highness, this is a rather serious topic.’
‘All right. Ask me anything. Be it the influence this invention will have in the world from now on, or the impact it will have on the continent⎯⎯⎯.’
‘Give this one at least a single reason why she should not kill Your Highness right this instant.’
She was incredibly pissed off.
I completely ignored something like my honor or whatever and prostrated. Everything was my wrongdoing and crime. In particular, the fact that I did not receive her consent was most likely the worst part.
The artifact that contained Lapis was disposed of on the spot without debate. In the end, I had forever lost the opportunity to leave my name in the history books of mankind as the founder of adult videos······.
And then, Farnese called out to me who had become lost in thought about the lack of mosaics.
“Why are you suddenly staring out into empty space with eyes that appear as if they had given up on everything in the world? Has Your Lordship’s brain perhaps become vacant? Hurry up and heal this life.”
The cat’s breathing was nearly at its end. At the soonest, within 30 seconds. At the latest, its life will most likely come to a complete halt in less than 3 minutes.
I had also just sent the witches out on a reconnaissance mission. Even if I were to call them back in order to make them heal this critter, there would not be enough time. As this was a fact which anyone could tell simply by looking at the kitten, Farnese surely was not unaware of this either. Despite that.
“This young lady wishes to save it.”
Farnese looked straight up at my face.
When we had entered the Crescent Alliance and carried out an opening ceremony for our newly enlisted soldiers, you were the one who had personally cut down the miserable pack of dogs which you had cherished and raised with care, so how could you be opening your heart to the death of a kitten which you have no connection with······I, did not ask her this.
Through war, you have taken the lives of others repeatedly. Just the number of common soldiers you have slaughtered already reaches the tens of thousands, so what is your intention behind now referring to a single kitten as a life and requesting me to save it······I, did not inquire this.
Even now, the kitten’s wound is causing it to languish and suffer eternally so, if anything, the kitten would be better off if you put it out of its misery with your own two hands. What do you think about carrying that small life, putting it in your memory, and holding a funeral for it within your mind······I, did not give her this piece of advice either.
Farnese tilted her head.
Farnese expressionlessly looked down at the kitten held in her arms and then gazed up at my face, she then repeated this motion over and over again, until eventually, an entire minute had passed. The kitten had a small head. Before long, the faint breathing of the small creature stopped. Once the breathing stopped, Farnese’s gaze also got caught there and paused.
I slowly got down from my horse. Since I had not given the soldiers a separate military command, they forked around the two of us and continued their march. Dirt continued to crumble underneath the feet of the soldiers.
I knelt down before Farnese’s feet.
I sat up straight.
I then lowered my head all the way to the ground.
“I am sorry.”
“The reconnaissance mission was urgent. I had temporarily sent all of the witches out. It was my decision. I did not predict that something like this might occur.”
The soldiers passed by us and continued to advance. I could tell because of the footsteps that were shaking the dark ground around me.
Although the footsteps occasionally hesitated and tried to stop next to me at times, the footsteps had no other choice but to continue onward because of the marching of the comrades behind them. From time to time, instead of footsteps, the low sound of whispering could be heard as well. I left those alone and allowed them to pass by.
I heard Farnese’s voice after a very long pause.
“Why are you apologizing, Your Lordship?”
“Due to my decision, you were unable to save a life.”
“It is a coincidence. Is there responsibility in a place where there are no intentions? How can an apology be spoken in a place with no responsibility? Sending witches on a reconnaissance mission is an everyday occurrence in military affairs. On the other hand, trying to save the life of a small critter is not related to military affairs at all. As Your Lordship’s general, this young lady is a personage who carries out the military affairs of a general. Rather than Your Lordship, would it not be appropriate for Your Lordship to reprimand this young lady for being unfaithful to her military duties?”
“I would have admonished you if you had requested that of me as a general. However, did you not come to me merely as a child with hope?”
“Currently, the witches are unable to utilize their familiars too much. This is also an order that I had given to them the other day. Because they do not have enough familiars to use as scouts, the witches have to personally fly up into the night sky. I am sorry.”
I could vaguely hear the sound of a war song coming from the line further ahead of ours.
Uhu uhu······ like that, the soldiers attempted to alleviate their struggles from marching throughout the night by singing. Since our forces were making their way out of the woodland path, the singing easily mixed together with the sound of the wind that flowed through the forest. Woosh······ uhu rya······. The song which mixed together the sounds of the wind and forest sounded more like the disconsolate cries of a feathered creature or a wild beast than the sound of a person.
“Why does Your Lordship have to apologize?”
“Because I am your lord.”
“And is it because Your Lordship considers this young lady to be your daughter?”
“And because I have taken you in as my adopted daughter.”
“This young lady understands.”
Farnese laid something down beside my head. It was the kitten’s dead body. The internal organs which the kitten could not completely let out while it was dying were finally all released once the kitten had died. Like so, because the distinction between the inside and the outside was gone, the kitten was now going to return to the soil.
“This young lady wishes to forgive Your Lordship.”
Farnese sat up straight with my head held in her hands. As she stretched her knees and stood up, she lifted up my body as well. Farnese stroked my cheek.
“So this young lady shall forgive you. Father.”
I was forgiven.
I gazed down at the life that had ended and spoke.
“Child, are you not going to create a grave and give it a burial?”
“What are you talking about, Your Lordship? What a weird thing to say.”
Farnese pointed towards the kitten’s dead body, the soil which the dead body was placed on.
“Did this young lady not bury it in this world just now?”
The child was smiling brightly.
I stayed silent for a moment while I stood before Farnese who now knew how to smile well.
When I looked around, the soldiers were marching.
Similar to a bunch of will-o’-the-wisps heading towards the afterlife, tens of thousands of soldiers were illuminating the night sky with the torches held in their hands. The radiant torches connected with one another and further intensified the illumination. The shadows shone by the torches easily hummed war songs.
It was a barbaric scene. Many of the goblins snickered while they moved their bodies around. Whenever the wolf people at the front of the formation raised their maws and howled, the wolf people behind them would follow suit, causing the military march to be lengthily connected by howls. The shadows danced and howled on the roadside.
Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. These words automatically came to my head.
(TL note: Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, also known as Hyakki Yagyou)
“I see that demons have quite the amount of nocturnal habits since they are not growing weary during a night march.”
“Even if nocturnal habits are a part of their physiology, does that make a march any easier? They are most likely joyous because they are returning home. The soldiers who leave on an expedition always welcome the order to go home the most.”
“Surely. If that is the case, then that would mean that the soldiers without a home would be less joyous.”
“That is so. We have a long way to go. Let us go quickly.”
We remounted our horses and grabbed onto their reigns.
If one were to turn around, then you would no longer be able to see the outline of your home.
▯Kinslayer, Imperial Princess of the Empire, Elizabeth von Habsburg
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11
Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crusaders
Our army led our soldiers and approached the enemy encampment. It was quiet. The enemy troops that should have come out to oppose us were nowhere to be seen, but instead, only a dreary atmosphere loomed over the camp.
Since the nobles were strangers to this sort of bleakness, they did not utter a single word even as they scoured the enemy base while on horseback. Even though this was the very enemy base which they wanted to crush and destroy so much, now that they were actually here, there was nothing to crush or destroy. One of the nobles simply pointed at the lofty tower of human bones that was located in the center of the enemy camp once they noticed it.
“What exactly is that supposed to be? How bizarre.”
“That is a tower which the enemy general, Farnese, had collected and piled up.”
I answered. The enemy general was not considered as a noble since she had been sold as a slave and had murdered her own biological father. Perhaps she was not even considered as human.
“They all appear like skulls in my eyes.”
“Be grateful that your eye sockets are healthy. That is a tower made solely from the skulls of humans.”
“I heard that the enemy general has a hobby of beheading humans, skinning their heads, and making them a part of her eternal collection if they are to her liking.”
We brought our horses close to the tower of skulls. The sky was low since the fog had yet to recede, so the tower was tearing into the center of the low sky.
The nobles murmured. Their voices were filled with fear.
“Was the enemy general not a youngster who was clearly either 17 or 18 years old?”
“A 17-year-old girl with beautiful blonde hair. With her charming beauty, she would have received a lot of adoration if she were to have gone to social circles.”
The nobles went silent.
“Is there a problem, noblemen?”
The ones who could not stay silent vomited at the feet of the tower of skulls.
In the place where the Demon Lords must have rested as recently as yesterday, the leading figures of the Crusaders held an emergency meeting.
— The enemy has evaporated.
With the current situation of the Crescent Alliance having abruptly retreated before them, this is what the nobles had declared. That they evaporated. Because the way the nobles played with their words was foolish, I slowly knitted my brows.
“The word you noblemen are using is unusual. The enemy forces did not disappear spontaneously after being here for a moment. They have led their troops towards the opposite end of the Bruno Plains. Therefore, it would be correct to refer to this as a retreat and not an evaporation.”
“Your Highness, regardless of whether you refer to this as a retreat or an evaporation, is this still not a peculiar occurrence?”
“Sir, since your breath still reeks of vomit, I suggest you go and wash your mouth out first. Once you have washed it out, do it once more. I am unsure as to whether you have always had a foul breath or not, but your breath is severely rancid at the moment. It is making me dizzy.”
“Could it be that your wife has to smell this stench every morning? Your wife’s mornings must be quite blessed now that you are out on a distant battlefield. Since you are gifting happiness to your wife even while a long distance away, you are indeed worthy enough to be known as a model husband throughout all ages. Please give my regards to your wife.”
Shortly after, the noble returned.
The imperial family of the Habsburg Empire is no different to a rotten pile of garbage among piles of garbage as their basis is in incest and they have also made a side-branch in adultery, but there is a single good thing about being born there as the imperial princess, and that is the fact that I am able to freely berate aristocrats. I am not boasting, but I am an imperial family member that has a lot of expertise in berating nobles.
Once we had thoroughly investigated the enemy camp, the day had already become dark. Soldiers were illuminating the surroundings of the meeting room with their torches.
“······What should we do now?”
A noble from the Republic of Batavia opened his mouth.
“I was dispatched from my country after being given the order to defend the Bruno Plains at any cost. If the demons have given up on the plains and retreated, then regardless of any military merits, I have already performed my duty faithfully.”
“With all due respect, but that is the same for this major general as well.”
A young duke from the Empire of Francia continued.
“The royal command His Highness had given to this major general was to protect the humankind that resides beneath the plains. If the enemy has retreated, then would that not mean that they had run away to the other side of the Black Mountains? There is no humankind there that this major general has to protect. No, it would be troubling if there were······.”
The young duke let out a sigh as he shrugged his shoulder. The other nobles chuckled.
I raised the corners of my mouth.
“I have no idea what you noblemen are saying. The enemy forces have urgently retreated in the middle of the night. How large were their forces? Were they not lacking a little under a hundred thousand? An army of a hundred thousand had curled their tails between their legs and retreated, so how could they possibly be in good order?”
“······Nevertheless, Your Highness. Even if they are no longer in good order, their military strength is still a hundred thousand. If they take thirty thousand from that hundred thousand and attach those troops at their rear, then breaking through that would be an incredibly strenuous task.”
“Are you now trying to make me laugh to death? If someone else were to hear you, then they would most likely assume that our military strength is only twenty thousand and not a hundred thousand. Whether the enemy forces make thirty thousand troops defend their rear or situate fifty thousand troops at their rear, why would that matter? All we have to do is sweep their troops and overwhelm them in a single moment. I am asking you all this just in case, but noblemen.”
“Are you perhaps afraid?”
I looked around.
All of the nobles avoided my gaze.
It was strange, so I rephrased my words.
“I asked you all. Are you noblemen trying to take it easy because you are afraid of Farnese, the enemy general?”
These noblemen were trembling.
It has only been a couple of days since our entire army of a hundred thousand had been toyed with by the seven thousand troops led by Farnese. Their memories of that day were still clotting their hearts with fear. These fellows who respectively claimed to be generals and boasted about being knights were quite the impressive sight.
“The other day, I had rescued you noblemen from a crisis. Since the crisis of that day was a crisis where your lives were on the line, you could say that I had saved your lives. The person who had saved you is now commanding you to pursue the enemy. Do you intend to disobey?”
One after the other, the nobles opened their mouths, but they soon shut them. They repeated this several times until eventually, they all began to speak indiscriminately.
— The favor which Your Highness, the Honorable Imperial Princess of Habsburg, had done for us is so deep that there is no true path of paying back our debts, however, Your Highness is not this major general’s king. If the order from this major general’s own country and Your Highness’ order were to go in the same direction, then this major general would more than gladly obey Your Highness’ commands, but in a situation like this······.
— Your Highness, and my fellow noblemen. I am ashamed to be the one to say this, but more than anything else, we must always consider the worst-case scenario. What will we do if this were all simply a stratagem to lure us into desperately pursuing after them······?”
— The general is right. If the enemies are not defending themselves with twenty or fifty thousand soldiers, but instead, they are protecting themselves with all one-hundred thousand of their troops, and by that, if we are not the ones in pursuit but are actually the ones being lured into an ambush······.
— This one apologizes to Your Highness, but······.
— We are honored, but······.
Underneath the place where you could clearly see up the tower of skulls, underneath the pitiable skulls that were dead and thus had no eyes in their eye sockets and no mouths in their mouth holes, the nobles continued to speak in a tone that sounded as if it did not matter what they talked about or what they looked at.
I slowly shut my eyes. Once they were shut, the blood and guts that were spilled by the corpses during the purge yesterday approached me as a scent. Even though there were a lot of still living demons tied up in the enemy camp, the nobles before me were delighted since they were treating those demons as free exploits of war.
Do they intend to be satisfied with the trash given to us as a free share from the enemy army’s winnings?
Do they intend to behead the prisoners whom the enemy had left behind as a contribution and use them as exploits? If they split this up among the nations here, then each nation would be able to take several hundreds. If they hang up the hundreds of demon heads and return triumphantly to their own countries with them, then it would make for quite the pathetic pretext. Instead of trying to win as defeated dogs, these men were already desperately trying to not be defeated······.
They were looking down on the people.
The soldiers you are returning to your countries with are no longer simple soldiers, but germs that have been infected by Dantalian’s poison.
Even if only one out of ten soldiers possessed the booklet with the speech written on it, that will spread to a hundred once they return to their homelands. That hundred will infect a thousand and it will run as rampant as the Black Death. Are the emperors and kings whom you all serve good and wise kings? We are currently in a turbulent period where revolts occur even when there are no epidemics, but do you believe that you can prevent those flames? With what courage are you trying to hold onto the flames which you are unable to block with even your bodies?
There is no other choice but to place an even bigger flame down.
I opened my eyes.
“You are all noisy. Stop babbling wantonly and give me a short answer. Those of you who will obey my military command and pursue the enemies, quietly raise your hands. The rest of you, shut up.”
The useless words naturally subsided.
While the majority of them kept their mouths shut, hands started to go up by ones and twos.
The General of the Kingdom of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Grand Master of the Kingdom of Teuton, and the mercenary captain who was working for the army of the Kingdom of Brittany, but was left in a vague situation as the queen had returned to her home country······.
Good. With these three people combined, we will just barely have a military strength of about thirty thousand. The three of them were all nations that had cavalry units, so it was perfect. They most likely raised their hands because they were confident in their ability of pursuit.
“I am the successor of the Habsburg Empire. I am not the successor of the family which you all respectively serve. Will you still heed my commands?”
The General of the Kingdom of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lowered his head.
“Since you have saved my life once, I shall devote my life to you once.”
The Grand Master of the Kingdom of Teuton put his helmet on.
“Our king had ordered us to put an end to as many demons as possible. As the major general, this is in spite of myself, but it appears that joining forces with Your Highness the Imperial Princess is the correct path to carry out our king’s royal command.”
The mercenary captain lowered his back slightly.
“Her Highness the Queen of Brittany had left without giving us the rest of our pay. I am only saying this because she is not present, but she is deplorable to a certain degree. If she were not present in this world entirely, then I would have said that she is really deplorable, but since she still resides in this life, I have to practice good manners. I heard that Your Highness the Imperial Princess provides generous compensations. If Your Highness the Imperial Princess pays the remaining half of our backed pay, then we will follow your orders.”
“Not bad. Since a person who knows honor, a person who knows loyalty, and a person who knows money have gathered here, with just us alone, we can easily rival the strength of a single nation. I order you, noblemen, to pursue.”
I then turned to look at the dogs and hogs that did not raise their hands.
“You all can rest easy here. It seems that there is no reason for me to tell you all to know shame. As there are expectations one should have towards others and expectations one should not have towards others, would telling you all that you are barefaced not be a part of the latter?”
“Regardless, there is a trivial request which I would like to ask you all. Share with each of us one of your banners. I know. It is a difficult request to heed. I shall request something more difficult. Take out one thousand and five hundred of the captured prisoners over there and hand them over to me. If you believe that these are truly difficult requests, then consider these requests as the same value of the lives which I had saved and let us call it quits with these.”
The nobles slowly bowed their heads.
The Grand Master then asked.
“When shall we begin the pursuit?”
I looked across the plains. The night was falling upon us.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 12
Polles, Army of the Crescent Alliance
A battle of speed. From now on, it was a battle of speed.
In our perspective, the Demon Lords who lived an idle life north of the Black Mountains were traitors, and in their perspective, we were a rebel army. Who the traitors are and who the rebels are, this will most likely be determined by the victors of the war. This was obvious. In order to become victors, we had to cross the Black Mountains and return home as soon as possible.
“Do not be concerned about whether it is day or night and simply continue marching. The armies of the Plains and Mountain Factions withdrawing, in and of itself, is what is important. Do not allow the group of traitors to even call together their soldiers. It should be fine to rest momentarily once you have reached the Black Fortress.”
It was exactly for times like this that I had captured both the Black and White Fortresses.
The bridgehead that was the fastest path to advance into the continent was also the fastest pathway back to one’s mainland. I did not capture this strategic point in order to simply attack the enemy. It was in order to easily receive supplies and also be able to calmly counteract if the situation in the mainland were to ever become problematic. Going through all that arduous effort in order to take the head of Margrave von Rosenberg was worthwhile.
“I also agree that we should retreat quickly, but what are we going to do about our rear? Dantalian, as you had said, don’t the Crusaders have an imperial princess who was born between a monster and a beast that had incestual relations and interbred?”
“It is fine. I shall do what I can to block the pursuers.”
“Hooh? Do you think you can manage the pursuers all by yourself?”
“If I am to be more exact······. I am incredibly sorry, but among the people here, the only military service member who is capable of managing the Imperial Princess Elizabeth von Habsburg is my acting general. Your Excellency Barbatos. Your Highness Paimon. Asking the two of you to do this would be asking too much.”
Even if you glare at me with such dissatisfaction, it cannot be helped. Before it was a matter of ability, it was a matter of talent. The kid, Farnese, had a gift that was capable of grasping battles themselves as melodies. Similar to how there are people who are lunatics since the moment they are born, there are people who are born while possessing these sorts of talents.
“There is also another reason why I must be the one to manage the rear more than anyone else. In the first place, for what reason did Your Excellency Barbatos keep me alive? Is it not because Your Excellency had keenly felt from your previous defeat the fact that it would be difficult for Your Excellency to handle the Imperial Princess of the Empire all by yourself? Since Your Excellency has spared my life, I should be worth my keep.”
“You’re barefaced as well. Why are you the one saying that?”
“All right. Dantalian. There’s no reason for me to stop you if you’re going to volunteer to take the short stick. Go ahead and try to obstruct the Crusaders’ pursuit with the seven thousand troops you brought with you.”
Paimon was looking this way with a worried expression. Her eyes appeared as if they were asking ‘would it really be okay?’ as they also worried about my safety. I smiled slightly.
“This is for the sake of the demon continent. Do not worry, Your Highness.”
A somewhat moved expression appeared on Paimon’s face.
I could hear the sound of affection points going up in real-time. At this point, my image has most likely been glamorized in Paimon’s head as a schemer who uses any means necessary for the sake of the peace of the demon continent. The comical thing was the fact that she was not excessively far from the point.
While Paimon and I were both imagining separate goals, a languid voice came from the side. Once we turned our heads, there was Demon Lord Sitri standing there with her left hand raised.
“Big sis. About that, can I also go to the rear and block the pursuers? The most difficult job in this retreating battle is obstructing those pieces of garbage that are pursuing us, so I feel like it would be shameful if we left that all in the hands of our youngest protege.”
“Oh dear. If you say that you are willing to do so, Sitri, then I would naturally feel reassured, but······. Is that all right? Sitri, you should be aware since you have also faced against the Imperial Princess. This will not be an easy task.”
“Ehehe. Well, I’m not exactly going to be stopping her by myself. I’ll be planning together with our protege here and the human girl. That’s okay, right, Skinnybones?”
Sitri looked this way and smiled gently. Her smile was as natural as the fragrance of dirt emitting from a country woman.
“Despite my looks, I’m confident in my fighting ability more than anything else. If we fight together, then I’ll definitely be of some help. Ah. Would I perhaps be a hindrance to you if I’m present?”
“That is not so.”
I bowed my head.
“If Miss Sitri provides this one with her assistance, then it would be like receiving a thousand troops and horses. This one welcomes Your Excellency with open arms.”
Since the Mountain Faction had sent a Demon Lord, the Plains Factions could not stay idle. Among her subordinates, Barbatos sent Rank 16th Demon Lord Zepar. The meeting was adjourned like that.
On my way out after the meeting was over.
Because we had marched throughout the entire day, it was already dark. After resting here momentarily, Barbatos and Paimon will resume their retreat. I gazed at the other side of the sky and imagined the hooves of the enemies that were approaching.
Was the Imperial Princess Elizabeth chasing after us without rest right now? How many troops did she have with her? We had purposely left the prisoners behind. How well did my dissolution tactic work, I wonder······.
The pursuing forces will most likely have less than fifty thousand troops, but more than twenty thousand troops. The imperial army of Habsburg will obviously take part in the pursuit. The other nations I should be anxious about would probably be the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Teuton. Those two nations share their borders with the demon continent after all. No matter the circumstances, those two nations have no other choice but to be hostile towards us······.
If these three nations all participate in the pursuit, then their military strength will reach an astounding number of thirty thousand. This will not be easy. There was no reason for us to wipe out the pursuers. Holding on until Barbatos and Paimon safely cross the Black Mountains. A delaying tactic. That was enough······.
“Seems like you have a lot of thoughts running through your head in various ways, Skinnybones. Why is it that you have a lot on your mind whenever I see you?”
At some point, while I was heading back to my quarters while also in deep thought, Sitri was at my side. I put my thoughts aside and bowed respectfully.
“The Imperial Princess of Habsburg is a terrifying human. The pursuers will be precipitous and tenacious. There is a need for our side to also be fully prepared in order to fight back.”
“Mhm. You have to stubbornly declare that the Imperial Princess is a scary human after all. If you don’t, then no one will forgive someone like a human girl for going around acting like a general. Isn’t that right? The reasons why you should have a head attached to your neck would also decrease.”
“You’re really hardworking, Skinnybones. I don’t get bored no matter how much I watch you. Yup. How should I say it? Do you not have that kind of experience? Those times when you absently stare at an ant wiggling around on the ground for no reason whatsoever. That kind of feeling—.”
Ehehe, Sitri laughed.
“Sorry. You wanted to monopolize the exploits by blocking the pursuit by yourself, right? By doing so, you would have been able to raise the reputation of the human girl you bring around with you by that much. But that’s too bad, hm? I can’t sit around and let you monopolize the ball, Skinnybones.”
“Your Highness. I will not deny that I did not have that sort of intention, but······.”
“Yup. It’s not that you didn’t have that sort of intention, but that that was the only intention you had.”
“Insects are interesting. Just watching over them is interesting. Why do ants move around like that without taking any breaks? How are honeybees able to easily maneuver when hit by the rain even though they have hair? Why do fireflies live while illuminating their bodies and entice humans by doing so? Although there are times when I get so enthralled while watching these insects that I unconsciously end up sentimentalizing that they are all doing these things in order to make the world beautiful······.”
Whenever the soldiers walked passed the two of us with torches in their hands, they would salute us. We did not receive their salutes. Sitri was smiling with her eyes and looking at me only.
“Ei. That’s a misunderstanding. They’re just doing all that because they want to live. Isn’t that right? In order to live, they either become beautiful by chance or they become unsightly by chance. You’re the same, Skinnybones. To the exact same degree, you’re like a bug.”
“For the peace of the demon continent? For the glory of the Crescent Alliance? Ahaha. You may be able to deceive big sis with those words since she’s someone who sincerely believes in those things, but Skinnybones, I know for certain that you aren’t that kind of person. You reek. The scent of a bug that has rolled around in shit for all of its life emanates from people like you to an intolerable degree—.”
That was a fact which I could not deny.
Since a stench that could not be obstructed even with that innocent smile of hers was also exuding from the beaming woman before me.
People were capable of recognizing their peers. In that regard, Sitri and I were undoubtedly similar types of people.
It was a matter of course that people would be capable of recognizing others who have lived their entire lives in a way similar to their own, but there are times when those relationships work out well and advance into being first loves, and there are other times when those relationships make the two people into mortal enemies. The standard by which those relations were divided, was most likely excessively simple.
“Are you that afraid of being at Her Highness Paimon’s side and attending to her?”
Sitri tilted her head.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Is Your Excellency not also referring to yourself as a bug-like fellow?”
As the soldiers went further into the distance, the line of torches followed suit. Similar to how there was a lasting mute vibration after the end of a song, even as the light grew distant, it illuminated the darkness of the road before vanishing. Sitri became shrouded in darkness and stared at me with turbid eyes.
“Your Excellency enjoys reproaching this one, but this one apologizes. In the end, the words which Your Excellency spit at this one will simply return to Your Excellency as is.”
“This is strange.”
Sitri tilted her head further and become further enshrouded by the night. Her face was expressionless.
“This is really strange. Was it yesterday, or the day before that? Didn’t we clearly define our standings? Is it perhaps my memories that are faulty? Or is there a problem in my brain—? Cause from what I can see, you’re messing with me right now, Skinnybones.”
“Your Excellency will probably be incapable of feeling interest towards words such as peace and glory throughout the rest of your life. I understand. The intriguing part is the fact that Your Excellency feels as if that personality of yours is, from beginning to end, wrong.”
“Does Her Highness Paimon appear that blinding to Your Excellency?”
“It is only right for all people to be equal. If there are no nations like that, then you just have to make one from now on. With just that simple reason, Her Highness Paimon had erected a republic. There are people in the world who live simply because of that reason alone. There were······. Did Her Highness Paimon, did Her Highness Paimon’s form, appear beautiful to such an extent?”
“I, definitely warned you.”
“Compared to her, how is your own self like? Is Your Excellency not a piece of trash who does not feel inspired by anything······? My apologies, Miss Sitri. Your Excellency has already admitted it. Your Excellency has acknowledged that while living, one will become beautiful by chance and become unsightly by chance. If we follow Your Excellency’s pet theory, then even if Her Highness Paimon appears beautiful, this is solely by chance, and even if Your Excellency is as unsightly as a bug, this is also solely by chance. In the end, it is all the same. It is the same standard. There is no need to deny it. There is no special difference between Her Highness Paimon and Your Excellency⎯⎯⎯.”
White static flickered before my eyes.
Once I had come to my senses, I found myself on the ground and breathing heavily.
A sticky feeling. The sensation of something shattering.
I instinctively gripped my right shoulder. A sizzling pain was running rampant. My skull felt prickly. Sitri had grabbed my shoulder and broke it in an instant.
The tone of her voice sounded like a person who had done something by accident. A tone with a weight that felt as light as that was flowing over my head.
“Sorry. I sometimes, really sometimes do things like this. I lose my rationality. But don’t blame me too much. Normally, I give about two warnings before I lose my rationality, but you’re the one who ignored them, right? Does it hurt a lot?”
Sitri lowered her back. I was barely able to muster enough strength to look up, but once I did, I saw that Sitri had a sincerely worried look on her face.
Her eyes looked so feeble that if I had forgotten my own family tree, then I may have mistaken this woman as my biological older sister. Is it not fortunate that the child who could have possibly been my biological older sister was stillborn?
Sitri muttered to herself ‘What to do, what to do······’ as she stroked my injured shoulder.
“So why did you act up like that?”
She then dug her finger into my injury.
An intense pain.
I tried to let out a cry, but it was impossible. Sitri had blocked my mouth with her other hand. Press, preeesss······. Slowly, while opening up my wound, each time Sitri’s finger wiggled inside of my flesh, an electric current went down my spine. All of the nerves in my body felt like they had been torn.
I lost the strength in both my arms and legs and fell forward. Sitri received that body of mine in her embrace as if she were some benevolent priest. She whispered into my ear.
“Yup, good boy. Good.”
“······! ······uk, ······.”
“You’ll be nicer from now on, right? Don’t act so conceited. Don’t act like you know it all either. Don’t get greedy in order to get somewhere too high up, and don’t get unreasonably jealous just because you want to know too much······ Okay?”
This damn psychopath.
“I know. I know you better than anyone else. Big sis Paimon doesn’t know you and Barbatos probably doesn’t even try to know you. Skinnybones, children like you are the type of people who I understand the most in the world. It’s hard, right? It’s difficult to endure the world since you were born much smarter than others, right······?”
“You want to live while looking down at them all. You want to live while crushing them all beneath you. It’s really fine. People, even Demon Lords, can be modest to others. Isn’t that a relief? The fact that a bug like you can also be modest. Skinnybones, how many people have you killed so far? You even started something like a war······ haa. It’s all your fault, isn’t it? In the first place, you’re a person who was wrongly born. A child who shouldn’t have and would have been better off not being born. So······ from now on, let’s live while atoning for your sins, okay?”
Sitri removed her finger from my wound. I let out a gasp. Sitri then grabbed hold of my face with her hands and held it in place so that I was staring straight at her.
She touched the corners of my eyes. They were wet.
“Don’t worry. You may be a dirty beast, but big sis Paimon isn’t. Skinnybones, you should also devote yourself to big sis’ ideals. If you do that, then even your body will at least be a slight bit useful. All right? Don’t misbehave. Even that succubus girl with arrogant eyes who has forgotten her place.”
Lapis Lazuli as well.
“Even that human girl who should have just obediently killed her breath while living in a whorehouse after she was sold as a slave, but was instead taken under your wing and is now slaughtering her own kind.”
Laura De Farnese as well.
“Even your royal guard girls who survived until now by spreading their asses to all sorts of Demon Lords.”
Humbaba and the other witches as well.
“Although you’re all rotten mongrels. Although you’re all pieces of trash that would have made the world a better place if you all weren’t born, it’s okay. It’s all okay while you’re following big sis Paimon. You can breathe. Realize your baseness by yourselves and become modest. Okay?”
I did not answer.
I simply glared at Sitri with pain-filled eyes.
Sitri smiled as if she were feeling sorry for a troublemaking child.
“What a pitiful thing.”
“A pitiful thing that is beyond salvation and was born astray. A thing that was born broken. A thing that has become more broken after birth. Why is it that venomous snakes like these continue to be born into the world? If they’re going to be born broken, then it’d be better if they just died the moment they’re born. It’s a difficult thing. It’s a difficult thing to understand. I’ll sympathize with you all. I’ll guide you all. It’ll probably be difficult to throw away your greed, but I’ll help you throw it aside. It’s a difficult path. I understand. I’ve walked that path before after all. Even the small grains of dirt scattered across the road will hurt if you step on them with your bare feet. You guys don’t know pain because you’ve been steeping on dirt with the soles of your leather shoes. Your greed is your leather. Take it off. Throw it away. Acknowledge the fact that you all are worthless and unnecessary pieces of garbage. Yeah. It’s a difficult path. It’s difficult to do.”
However, Sitri uttered and stroked my cheek.
“Repent as best as you can.”
“I’ll repel our pursuers. If I make my soldiers lie in wait around the narrow path and ambush the enemy as they pass by, then even that Imperial Princess won’t be able to do much. They’ve most likely been moving nonstop throughout the day and night after all. Skinnybones, just go to the back and be on standby. The hardest task for people like you is being made to wait without being able to do anything, isn’t it?”
Although I was twisting my body in pain, I managed to barely raise the corners of my mouth. This Demon Lord had pointed at me and said that I was pitiful. It has been a long time since I last received sympathy from someone, so it was not that bad. The problem was the fact that, as expected, I was starting to feel sympathy for this woman as well.
“······With things like this······ I am unsure as to which side is trying to monopolize the exploits now. Are you that afraid, of this one’s acting general······ standing tall as the ruler of the battlefield?”
“Yup. It’ll be troubling if you freely touch the political situation any more than this.”
So is that why you are saying that you will be the one to obstruct Elizabeth Atanaxia Evatriae von Habsburg?
That girl. That girl who was born as an emperor’s daughter and had torn off the skin of her siblings with her own hands. That girl who, in the original timeline, had exterminated all of the Demon Lords and established an empire. That monster.
All right. On one side was a woman who had thrown herself away, and on the other side was a woman who had thrown the world away. Watching the two of them oppose one another and seeing who wins was not that bad of an idea. However, I shall make a single prediction.
You will be defeated.
Ungracefully. Without even being able to counterattack. You are competent, but since a person who is more competent than you is your enemy, you will face utter defeat.
What sort of expression will you make? Will you resent the world? Will you curse at yourself? Will you forever abandon the world as something to resent and eternally leave yourself as someone to be cursed······?
Similar to how you are sympathizing with me, I sympathize with you as well. O Demon Lord whose hair color is the same as both water and fire. What else can the world be to you except Hell?
It was at the time the two of us were pushing each other back with our breaths.
“⎯⎯⎯Sitri? Are you over there?”
Paimon’s voice could be heard from a distance away.
Sitri’s body moved. I also drew my brows together. Once I looked over her shoulder, I could see Paimon tilting her head towards our direction from about 20 footsteps away.
It was night.
A peculiar tension bound itself around Sitri and myself. In her position, it was most likely fortunate that she was holding onto me. My body was exquisitely hidden so Paimon could not see me from the position where she was standing. Sitri glanced at my eyes for an instant before speaking in a voice that sounded no different to her casual tone.
“······Yeah, big sis. I’m here. What’s up?”
“You did not return to our quarters no matter how long I waited. Rather, is something the matter, Sitri? Why are you crouching on the ground like that?”
“Ah, it’s just. I found a dead stray dog.”
Sitri spoke in a voice that sounded jubilant. With only her gaze, she spoke to me with the coldness of her eyes.
Be quiet. Shut up.
“A stray dog? Really, Sitri. Even though you cut down humans with ease while on the battlefield, you are kind to animals like cats and other creatures of the sort. Is it already dead? You are trying to bury it, right? Let this lady assist you.”
Ehehe, Sitri’s mouth laughed.
“No, it’s okay, big sis. This fellow spilled a lot of blood as it died. I have no idea how it survived with this much blood in its body······. I’m, sort of really soaked. I don’t want to show my dirty appearance to you, big sis, so you can go back to the quarters first.”
If you move your mouth even slightly, Sitri’s eyes spoke.
“Truly, this child is warmhearted······. All right, this lady understands. But do not return too late. This lady will be departing with Barbatos soon. Sitri, we will be unable to see each other for a while, so let us share some drinks.”
Big sis, Sitri’s mouth was delighted.
“Of course. If I don’t go to see big sis off, then who will? I’ll be there as soon as I bury this dog and get washed up, so wait for me there. I actually have a bottle of alcohol that I’ve been keeping to myself for a long time just so I could drink it with you, big sis.”
I’ll kill you, Sitri’s eyes threatened me.
To her, the world was simply an enemy, a danger, and a wall. I called the lives whose worlds were enemies, dangers, and walls, beasts. Is she a beast? Was she a beast?
“Oh my, this lady is looking forward to it. Your preference in alcohol is surprisingly luxurious after all. This lady will make sure to drink it all.”
“Ei, drinking it all would be just mean. Big sis is also a surprisingly good drinker. Make the one on duty today prepare some snacks. I’ll definitely be there soon.”
I simply watched the one-man play this woman was performing from up-close.
While I watched her, I recalled the noises that I had left behind in my previous life. The study. The loud shouting flowing in from outside of the door. The woman who had rushed to me and apologized. The sound of music······.
Yes. It was music. It was a melody. What sort of gap must they cross in order for it all to become a melody?
To some, life was nothing more than a couple of noises. Once, twice, thrice, and if you are lucky, it sparkles four times. Something that struggles shortly but ends as a short vibration before coming to a close.
Something that could have possibly been connected, but, in the end, could not be connected because it had been forgotten.
Something that will never be able to stretch itself even once in its life. Therefore, something that can only be seen on the ground throughout its life, so it ends up reaching its end while following the footprints left behind by others. Something that truly comes to an end. Truly. Was that and solely that not the problem?
Who would save that sort of life?
Paimon left. Once a single woman left, the area became silent as if no one had come here in the first place.
Even after Paimon had left, Sitri glared at me for a long time. After glaring at me, she too eventually left. Although the last remaining woman had also left, this area was dark and still as if no one had ever left in the first place.
It happened late in the night.
▯King’s Beloved Slave, Berbere Witch Sisters, Captain of the Royal Guard, Humbaba
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 14
Polles, Vistula Forest
“Should we really be goofing around like this?”
“Weeell, it’s a superior officer’s order. It’s our duty as peasants to do what we’re told, even if it’s to show our asses.”
We witches were having a pleasant chat while enjoying a tea ceremony. Yeah. Well. What? It may be surprising, but even we have tea ceremonies sometimes. Although we usually don’t.
Despite our appearances, we’re cultured people. Ahah. Although it’s a tea ceremony where we roll dice and the bitch who rolls the lowest number has to gulp down a mouthful of muddy water, it’s natural for highly sophisticated groups to add some spice to their recreations. If anything, you can measure the level of a group’s sophistication according to how stimulating their seasoning is. Tea ceremonies where you just drink tea with no added seasoning is actually considered to be fairly barbaric. In that regard, I can confidently say that we possess a considerable amount of refinement.
Yeah. Well. What? Do you have a problem?
“There’s not a lot of muddy water in this vicinity. Drink carefully. This is extra precious water. We went really far to get this just for you. There was a pool of muddy water with a lot of bugs in it and a pool of muddy water with not that many bugs in it, so I contemplated about which water I should bring back to you, but no matter how much I looked at it, I felt that the water that was more full of life would be of higher quality. In order to prove that the muddy water’s quality is good, I also scooped up the bugs that were living in it. Wow. Even when I think about it, I feel like I’m extremely sincere when it comes to my comrades.”
“That’s more damnably sincere than it is extremely sincere. To be more exact, you have quite the damned personality, but that’s only if someone like you even has a personality.”
If there were problems, then it was probably three things.
First, the fact that these bitches are crazy.
Since this is an issue that’s no different to the usual, it’s an irrationality that can’t be fixed until the world comes to an end. Yup. The end. It can’t be helped. My dear fellow witches. They were crazy since the moment they were born, so please look over this.
Second, the fact that our surroundings are rather arid.
The spring rain which had started in the north had now completely gone south. Although there was a swamp area if we went further ahead from here. Right now, we couldn’t go there carelessly. Because of that sloppy bitch, Demon Lord Sitri’s order, our forces were currently waiting in ambush.
Third, the fact that not only was our surroundings dark, but it was really dark as well.
It was night, but we were also in an aspen forest right now. Not a small forest, but one of those so-called sea of trees which covered the entire area. If you wished to go in a straight line from Bruno Plains to the Black Mountains, then this was the path which you had to take no matter what.
We were currently hiding at the tail end of that forest. We couldn’t even light our torches since we were waiting in ambush. It was so dark that these damn bitches couldn’t even properly see the results of their own dice tosses. You could easily tell that this was the case because every time these bitches rolled their dice, they would keep reporting that they got the best result.
“Ah, I got double sixes again!”
“What a coincidence. I also got double sixes.”
“Oh? To my knowledge, the chance of rolling double sixes is about 3 out of 100, so this is quite the astounding situation. For something that has roughly a 27 out of 1,000,000 chance of happening to have occurred here in this very spot.”
“What are you talking about? Since she and I got double sixes, wouldn’t the probability be around 9 out of 10,000?”
“Mhm. I’m saying that because I also rolled double sixes.”
“It wouldn’t be enough even if these bitches were to lose their wrists. They’re bitches that’ll somewhat be worthy of entering gambling dens only if they actually lose their heads. There’s nothing surprising about this at all. They’re crazy bitches after all.”
In the end, because every single witch who joined the gamble had miraculously rolled double sixes, we all had to drink the muddy water. The sound of bugs being crushed and chewed on resonated throughout the darkness. How beautiful. Do you now understand why witches normally don’t do insane things like having a tea ceremony?
Within the aspen forest where the fragrance of spring was reverberating and the odor of female beasts in heat was pungent. Only the spot where our master, Dantalian was located was being lit by candles. General Farnese was whispering to our master beside him.
“The exact size of the pursuing army······.”
“Mm. Since the enemy troops will also move while utilizing the darkness of night, detailing their military strength would be.”
Referentially, our master’s troops were completely alienated. It was Demon Lord Sitri’s dogmatism. Thanks to that, our seven thousand troops were all waiting here as a reserve.
Although our master all of sudden had his shoulder pierced, it seems he wasn’t that upset about it. He even wen