Dungeon Defense - Chapter 18
—Let’s burn a bit more.
The words spoken in a light tone by Barbatos climbed over the mountain ranges and set villages ablaze. Since the start of autumn, we’ve spent our time burning ravines and setting the feet of mountains aflame. Although it appeared as if the flames were burning on their own, it wasn’t a coincidence that the areas we set ablaze always had a fire-fallow cultivating village located there. Many people were burnt to death.
We asked each other in a nonchalant tone.
“How many people have you killed today?”
“I wonder. I think I’ve burned around 30.”
“This kid. You’re still completely wet behind the ears, aren’t you? I’ve burned 70 people today alone.”
“Sure. Good for you.”
That was our way of greeting one another.
At first, the nobles in the humans’ society did not take any actions whether the fire-fallow villagers died or not. These village people were of the lowest class. Once autumn passed and winter approached, and the amount of slash-and-burn villages we’ve burned to the ground reached over 30, was when the human army began to move at last.
The human scouts were slow. We released the witches’ familiars and used them to observe the human forces. Surprisingly, the human troops were not moving in order to rescue the peasants. Anything that tried to avoid the inferno and escaped down the mountain, be it peasant or goblin, the human army hunted them down indiscriminately.
If we burned one side of the mountain range, then the imperial soldiers were dispatched, if we burned the other side of the mountain range, the soldiers from the kingdom were dispatched. Armies started to slowly move around more frequently. The soldiers were pushing their way through the smoke to find the culprits who had burned down the fire-fallow villages. However, the only thing remaining was the black smoke which warmly welcomed the scouts with open arms. I wonder if that desolation felt awkward, the scouts needlessly sliced the noses off the corpses of villagers and goblins before departing. Noseless corpses were scattered around on the ground.
“What the hell are those guys trying to pull?”
“They’re trying to set things back to as if nothing has happened.”
“Set things back? What are they trying to set back?”
“Restore something that can’t be restored. It can’t be helped since the forest fire has already happened, but if they get rid of all the witnesses to have seen the forest fire, then that’ll be the same as the fire not having happened in the first place.”
“It wasn’t even the peasants or the goblins who started the fire, but why are they shifting the responsibility to them?”
“By making them take the responsibility, the soldiers avoid the blame.”
“But what’ll happen if the peasants inform the king?”
“That’s why they’re killing them all.”
……In the humans’ society, peasants are not considered as citizens so they don’t have the right to accuse someone of a crime to the king……this was something I didn’t go out of my way to tell her. The class system among demons was similarly strict. Myself, who was in a relationship with an outcast was weird, and Barbatos who was in a relationship with that weird me, was also weird.
“They’re incomprehensible people. And since they’re incomprehensible, they can’t be associated with. Are all humans like that?”
“The majority are born like that.”
The cloud of smoke rising from the ashes and flames enveloped the mountain range.
One day, Barbatos ordered a witch to kill one of the scouts. The witch, after having murdered the soldier, brought back his report. Barbatos furrowed her brows. The report was not written in a cryptogram but in plain texts.
—The fire-fallow villagers are starting fires while fighting against the goblins. The villagers are setting ablaze the goblin habitats, and the goblins are doing the same to the peasant villages. There is a lot of smoke. It is difficult to breathe. The mountain range is burning.
Empire Calendar: Year 1505, Month 12, Day 6
Niflheim, Governor’s Palace
The diligent movement of the human armies appeared suspicious in the eyes of the demons. A rumor spread in the demon world. It was a rumor mixed with doubt.
— Seems those guys intend to cross over the mountains and invade us.
— They’re claiming that us demons were the ones to have spread the Black Death, so I’m worried that they’ll use that as a reason to gather a large army.
On the streets, people could not tell the difference between suspicion and certainty.
A groundless rumor that the humans made the Black Death on purpose, with the intent to kill us, circulated. There were people who objected by saying, ‘What a bunch of bull. We’re not Gods, so how could people possibly create a plague?’ and disregarded it as a false rumor. But, although the humans may not have created the Black Death, they still firmly believed that us demons had produced it anyway. Thus, there was some truth in the saying that we had to be cautious from now on. In any case, the humans needed a subject of criticism. They could reproach their neighbors but that would be pointless. They could resent the Gods but that would be hopeless. The humans bit down on the easiest thing to criticize, the easiest to blame, and the easiest to resent; the demonkind. Since their monarch, their emperors, and their nobles wouldn’t want to be chewed out, they passed on all of their responsibilities to the demons. Regardless, no one could respond when asked what they were going to do about it.
It’s something the Demon Lords will decide, not us low-class people…… That was the majority opinion. In the vacant area with no answers, people gathered every day and repeated the same words. I sent out spies and controlled the dynamics of the rumors.
Once the groundless rumors and the false rumors mixed together, the contents of the words were no longer important, the volume was.
‘Since long ago, humans have always been a race of unsociable barbarians, so we should exterminate them before they try to mess with us’, these words resonated the loudest and above all.
The voices overflowed from the center of the plaza to the streets of the markets, and to the alleyways. Until eventually, the voices flooded into the palace of the Demon Lords.
—Kill all of the humans!
Shouts burst out in the conference room.
The Demon Lords were gathered in the governor’s palace of Niflheim and were shouting respectively. The low-ranking Demon Lords clamored loudly, while the high-ranking Demon Lords remained silent. It seemed like the higher ranking Demon Lords were waiting for the voices to naturally rise up from the bottom.
— It’s winter now, so how do you expect us to raise an army?
— It may be difficult for us in the winter, but it’ll be more difficult for those weak humans. That’s why winter is the best time for us to invade. It’s even better since the rivers will be frozen, so there’ll be nothing to block our path.
— Our soldiers will all freeze to death before they can get across the mountains.
— Our warriors are courageous, so they won’t fall to something like winter wind!
— That’s right!
— Would you look at that? It appears that amongst the Plains Faction, it’s a trend to learn how to bark like a dog before learning how to think first.
— I’m not really sure about that. But I do know how to beat an ill-mannered son of a bitch like a dog.
— Be quiet over there.
There was no logic in the voices yet. If we were to go to war, then when and where would we do it? If we were to not go to war, then for what reason would we not do so? What will we do about the provisions? What will we do about the military funds……?
The voices were obscured as if they were buried under smoke. Only after the low ranking Demon Lords argued for a long period of time, would then the voices stack up piece by piece until they eventually formed a tower, like taking the shape of a 5 w’s and 1 h structure, and finally making the words coherent after doing so. The leaders of each faction seemed to wish to argue while on the peaks of those towers, where the smoke was clear. (TL note: Five w’s and one h)
— We gathered here to chat, did we not? Or are we gathered here to keep our mouths shut? Once they’ve run out of things to jabber about, they’ll remain quiet even if they want to keep rambling.
— Even if our soldiers are able to endure the winter cold by relying on their willpower, what are you going to do about obtaining provisions? Even if we acquire provisions by commandeering and pillaging, then how do you plan to deal with the plague? You all may be brave, but you’re merely overflowing with excessive words and stand out as reckless instead.
— What are you talking about? Say it easier so we can understand.
— If there are people who are able to understand difficult words, then there are people who are unable to comprehend even the easiest of words. This is not an issue on my side, but a dilemma with your intelligence. If I were to speak a bit more fundamentally, then your personality is a problem as well.
— Now I’m able to understand a bit.
— You two over there, please quiet down.
— You told us to ramble a second ago, but now you’re telling us to be quiet? I don’t get it. This guy is really prattling as he pleases.
— You got that right. Or perhaps, maybe he’s telling us to shut up so he can ramble on his own? What a bad person. Hey, despite how I look, I’m still rank 12. Zepar, what’s your rank? Are you higher than me?
— My mistake. Your point is correct. I am not certain about the others, but there is a need for Sitri and Beleth to be silent. If both the rock head of the Mountain Faction and the rock head of the Plains Faction are to clamor at the same time, then things become hectic. At this rate, everyone will have a headache.
— Did that guy just say that I was dumb?
— It’s a relief that you were able to understand that since I didn’t mean anything else besides that.
— What are you all talking about right now?
— It’s none of your business.
The meeting continued throughout the whole night.
Since the majority opinion seldom came together, the words converged like smoke for a moment before dispersing back out. The fumes that Barbatos and I had raised since autumn had traveled past the mountains, disrupted the borders and were now gathered in this conference hall of Demon Lords. Their vision was clouded. The summit could not be seen. There were no signs of their words being able to penetrate the fog. The high-ranking Demon Lords stayed silently seated for more than 6 hours.
The leader of the Mountain Faction, Demon Lord Paimon, opened her mouth.
“Please stop. Everyone, do you not feel dizzy? This lady feels light-headed. Since no one is turning their ears to the words of others, conversations are unable to be shared, since conversations are unable to be shared, they do not gather, and since they do not gather they are unable to flow, and thus becomes blocked. Where is this place? It is suffocating.”
The meeting room became still.
The Demon Lords, who were exchanging curses up till now, shut their mouths before the rank 9th Paimon. Instead of having no words to say, it seems they were just apprehensive to give a response.
Previously, Paimon had tried to accuse me of a crime in this location and was met with a disastrous defeat. Although Paimon’s reputation may have fallen due to that incident, she was still in command of the highest amount of Demon Lords. People referred to Paimon and her remnants as the Mountain Faction.
The Demon Lords that belonged to the Mountain Faction had built their castles in the deepest part of the mountains to prevent humans from approaching them with ease. This resulted in their name, ‘Mountain Faction’. A location that was difficult to be approached by the human forces, was also an area that was difficult to leave for the demon armies. It was peaceful. Naturally, since it was problematic to go both in and out, there were few struggles. The Demon Lords from the Mountain Faction were reluctant to go to war against the human armies. To them, cowardice was their deliberation, thus a massive war was forthwith a vice. According to Paimon and her remnants, they were protecting the peace of demonkind.
However, in consonance with Socrates’ hypothesis, the name Mountain Faction originated from something completely different. It was called Mountain Faction because Paimon’s chest was as lofty as the mountains. Paimon, along with her massive mountains, protected the Demon Lords, and the Demon Lords submitted to her maternal instinct. Socrates referred to Paimon and her remnants as the Big Breast Faction.
“What proof is there that the human army is going to invade our land?”
“I see. There is no evidence. If there is no proof that their side is going to attack our side, then for what reason do we have to assault them from our side first?”
“Everyone. Our people are fatigued by the plague. Instead of searching for justifications that do not exist, we should supply our profits which are lacking and solidify our domestic affairs.”
“Wow—. Hey, hey, would you look at the way that thoughtless bitch is talking?”
The leader of the Plains Faction, Barbatos, spoke.
Barbatos and the group of her followers resided in Demon Lord Castles built on extensive plains. The humans and demons fought endlessly for the fertile land. Before people could grow tired of the everlasting battle, a new generation was born and inherited the battle anew. War repeated. Different to people who are able to pass the battle on to their descendants, a new generation for the land to pass on the raging battle did not exist. The land remained in place and continued to receive the constant traces of battle. For hundreds of years, the ground repeated the process of receiving scars and healing itself. After 300 years, the land no longer had the fertility to bear even a single grain of wheat or an ear of barley. The ground had met its fate, and yet the war continued. Barbatos and her gang, who persisted this utterly unfounded battle, were referred to as the Plains Faction.
The Demon Lords in the Plains Faction were trying to find something in a land that had nothing left. Like how beggars would embellish poverty as honesty and priests would claim weakness was kindness, the Demon Lords changed ‘having no reason to fight’, to ‘not needing a reason to fight in the first place’. To them, war itself was sacred. Since we don’t have anything, we need to have something, was their logic. Were they not a bunch of people with loose screws in their heads?
However, according to Karl Marx’s theory, the name Plains Faction emerged from something entirely unrelated. It was called Plains Faction because Barbatos’ chest was as spacious as the great plains. Like an open field, Barbatos accepted the Demon Lords, and the Demon Lords were touched by how commodious she was. Karl Marx referred to Barbatos and her gang as the Flat Chest Faction.
C’est si bon—
“Oh, look at these village folks. Are you all planning to quietly watch as this bitch says shit like that? Seeing as her mug is annoying, that means there’s no thought in her words, and seeing that there’s no thought in her words, then that means there’s no brain in her head, and seeing that there’s no brain in her head, then that makes her plain shit ascend to bullshit and run wild. If you don’t stop that bitch now, then she’s the type of whore to become self-conceited about heaven and earth and go completely insane on all sides.”
Paimon let out a deep sigh.
She had an expression on her face that said she was expecting this.
Lowering her gaze that was looking up at the ceiling, Paimon spoke.
“How pitiable. If this lady’s face is annoying then that would represent the lack of intelligence in your head, and if this lady’s words are thoughtless then would that not represent how your life has no answers? Since living a life with no answer is pathetic, why not commit suicide right now? ……Oh dear. This lady apologizes. If you were to commit suicide then that would mean you’d have come to the realization that your life indeed has no answers, but there’s no intelligence in Barbatos’ head, right? This lady forgot for a moment.”
I wanted to stand up and give them a round of applause.
Indeed, they were Barbatos and Paimon.
It was worthwhile to have withstood my boredom for a good 6 hours and repetitively play porn inside of my head.
I’ve lived until now solely to witness these two argue. They knew how to swear beautifully. In accordance to Barbatos’ flat chest, her vulgar language was spread out roughly, and in consonance to Paimon’s ample bosom, her curses were curved indirectly. Neither side were normal breasts. That was so. They weren’t normal breasts……
Was that not right?
Was it their ability that was abnormal and not their breasts?
Or did something like that not matter?
Everything in front of me felt like it was slightly spinning. It was strange. If you exclude earlier today, where I got along with Miss Farnese while smoking together, I did nothing else throughout the day. And that was also something I enjoyed for a very brief moment of time before coming to the conference hall.
Well, there were days like this occasionally.
“War is not negotiable.”
“It is not a civil war where we quarrel and bite at each other, but a massive war against the entire human race. Thousands of people will lose their lives and hundreds of thousands of people will be injured. Please weigh the mass of these numbers. These are not lives that can be handled without a proper justification.”
“Heeh. So you’re saying that if we have a pretext, then war is possible?”
“That is something to decide when that time comes. This lady is saying to present proof first. If this is not taken care of beforehand, then discussing the outbreak of war now is premature.”
“The humans have been preparing for war since the start of autumn.”
“Regardless of the border, the humans have been wandering around the Black Mountains. If they pass the mountain range then they’ll be in our territory. The humans are planning to clear out the path before going on a full-scale invasion.”
“What do you mean by, ‘clearing the path’……?”
“There are orc and goblin villages on the mountain range. The human knights are burning down every single one of those villages. What do you think the reason is? They’re most likely getting rid of all the cumbersome obstacles that are on the mountains which they plan to advance through.”
Barbatos spoke confidently.
It was a lie.
The culprits to have set the mountain range on fire were Barbatos and I.
The human troops only trailed after us while going through the smoke clouds that we raised. They were simply clearing up the monster habitats as they chased after us. Between autumn and winter, rural villages were swept away and monster habitats were crushed. While pushing our way through the smoke, we played a game of hide and seek with the human troops. The other Demon Lords were unable to see the fumes rising from the frontier of the mountain range. With a skillful lie, Barbatos was pulling in the cloud of smoke, which the Demon Lords were unable to see, into the conference room.
— Oho, the Black Mountains are a strategic point among strategic points, after all.
— It’s quite troubling that the humans are occupying the entrance of the pathway to our land, on their side of the mountains.
— What weird fellows. What could they possibly gain from starting a fight with us?
— The humans being buffoons is nothing new. People who were fools the day before will still be fools the next day.
— But you’re foolish most of the times and occasionally clever, though? I’m conflicted on whether you’re actually dim-witted or not. And honestly, contemplating this just makes me think that you’re even more of an idiot.
— That’s proof that I’m actually smart. Like how a black dot on a white sheet of paper is still just a black dot, if someone is mostly moronic and sometimes resourceful, then that just means they’re smart. Therefore, I’m wise.
— What are you all talking about right now?
— It’s none of your business.
The Demon Lords stammered like a bunch of blind people.
Paimon glanced at Barbatos with a scrutinizing gaze. Her eyes were sharp. They had the strength to not be disoriented by the smoke-like voices and stare directly at the other party. Instead of receiving that straight gaze, Barbatos let it flow to the side.
“It’s not only the villages on the mountains that were assaulted. Dantalian here was attacked by the imperial soldiers of Habsburg and lost his Demon Lord Castle.”
Paimon raised her brows.
It appeared as if she had heard an unexpected name in an unexpected passage.
Paimon turned her gaze towards me. Even the Demon Lords, who were clamoring like the blind a second ago, all turned to look at me at once. I could feel many gazes on me through the dark conference room. They were the eyes of beasts. If I were to fumble my response here, then those eyes would turn into mouths and tear me apart.
“Dantalian, are Barbatos’ words true?”
“Yes. They are the undeniable truth. The army of Margrave von Rosenberg trampled my Demon Lord Castle.”
“When was this?”
“It was from the 9th month and 16th day to the 9th month and 17th day of this year. Through the course of three battles, I lost two times and barely won once. The margrave’s army used gunpowder to bury my castle. Truthfully, since my Demon Lord Castle was destroyed, it shouldn’t be considered a win even if I did obtain victory in the end……”
I smiled bitterly.
“What were their numbers?”
“At the least, 2000. At most, 3000. They were not conscript soldiers. They were elites. After interrogating one of the prisoners, they confessed that they were hired.”
“……Are there no mistakes?”
“I had used the hired soldiers here in Niflheim to fight back against the margrave. There should be some soldiers nearby who have fought with me on that day, so you can ask them personally. The words they say and the words I have said will not differ.”
The conference room became perturbed. The human army had already been dispatched once. The Demon Lords were startled by that fact.
“I asked the prisoners why they had invaded my castle, and they disclosed everything. That according to the margrave, the demons had spread the Black Death, and that the cure to the disease was stored in large amounts in each Demon Lord Castle. That’s why, if humans like them wished to survive, they had no other choice but to attack the Demon Lords……”
“This is all the truth. At first, I thought that I was the only one to have been invaded. However, to my alarm, were the human armies not constantly wandering the vicinity of the mountains? Nervous and overwrought, I kept an eye on the human armies since the beginning of autumn. Habsburg Imperial forces, troops from the kingdom Teuton, soldiers from the kingdom of Politunia…… The human forces disregarded the border and set the mountains aflame. They may have come to an agreement of some sort in secret. Going further than that, they may even be in an alliance……”
The meeting room froze. The winter wind from outside the palace seeped all the way into here. Someone, unable to endure the silence, spat on the floor. Infected by that, a couple of the Demon Lords cleared their throats. Their throats were crowded with phlegm.
— Are the humans trying to start another war?
— The last massive war was 150 years ago, so it’s about time for another one.
— If it’s the smoke rising from the Black Mountains, then I often saw that as well.
— What? Why are you telling us this now?
— Forest fires happen often during the autumn, so I didn’t think too much of it.
— Try to live while actually thinking.
— I may live without much thought, but you live without a mother. Since it’s the same that both you and I live our lives without a certain something, just look over this.
— This goat’s asshole!?
These guys died to the humans because they deserved to die, huh.
In the original timeline, all of the Demon Lords would be subjugated within the next 30 years. I wasn’t able to tell while in the position of the humans while playing the game, but after seeing these Demon Lords in person, I understood. These people wouldn’t do.
On the other side of the mountains, the humans were advancing their society through feudalism and absolute monarchy, but these fellows called Demon Lords were still doing antics similar to that of tribes. Although the rank 14th and rank 9th were rambling as if they were on a high horse, if you looked at it factually, this was a state of affairs consisting of 72 tribes each led by the rank 1st to the rank 72nd Demon Lords respectively. Demon Lords were only kings and queens by name, but they were actually closer to being tribal leaders.
A time limit of 30 years.
The countdown has begun. Before the countdown went too far in, there was a need to crush the human influences. The lightning has already hit. It was just that people have not heard the thunder yet.
“Everyone. Of course, I am merely a rank 71st youngster. Despite that, even I am able to see with these eyes that our situation is dire…… We must prepare for war. If we do not prepare, then we must at least be alert. Is that not the right decision?”
Now then, obediently accept my appeal.
If left alone, then you will all perish. If you were all to succumb, then the demon influence will weaken and I will fall into danger as well. We are a group sharing a common destiny. Even you all will most likely dislike meeting an untimely demise by the hero’s blade. I will arrange a battlefield suitable for people with a Demon Lord status. Do not worry and do not refuse……
“People who are prepared shall triumph, and people who are alert shall not be defeated. I lost my castle because I was unprepared and inattentive. Please, I request that you all do not commit the same mistake as I have……”
Empire Calendar: Year 1505, Month 12, Day 6
Niflheim, Governor’s Palace
People who are prepared shall triumph, and people who are alert shall not be defeated, so please do not commit the same mistake as I have……
His highness’ appeal was well-arranged.
Although reasoning was set up by his words, he did not use that logic to attack others. He mentioned his past experience of failure but did not remain there. His words were fierce, and yet, his tone was gentle. Therefore, it was beautiful.
The other Demon Lords nodded their heads. The Plains Faction approved the idea of preparing for war, while the Mountain Faction agreed to the notion of being alert.
She most likely had a sense of crisis once the atmosphere flowed more towards the topic of war. The advocate of peace, Paimon, stood forward.
“Dantalian. This lady too feels great regret because your Demon Lord Castle was assaulted.”
The Demon Lords turned their ears towards the conversation between these two. His highness Dantalian and Paimon had already clashed against one another in the past. At that time, Paimon met a devastating defeat. How was it going to end up this time? Was the kind of expectation that was flowing through the room.
“However, it is difficult to resolve ourselves to go into a massive war by turning the entire human race into our enemy, solely because you alone were attacked. This lady shall assist in the reconstruction of your castle, so……”
His highness smiled.
“Thank you very much, Miss Paimon. But I shall refuse. I do not feel any particular regret by the loss of my Demon Lord Castle. In the small chance that I did feel pity due to that incident, the occasion of myself borrowing the hand of you, Miss Paimon, will never occur.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“The reason Margrave Rosenberg had attacked me is very simple. He had obtained the rumor from somewhere that an endless amount of black herbs were piled up in my Demon Lord Castle. It seems the margrave firmly believed that I was the culprit behind spreading the Black Death. ……Is it not intriguing?”
The Demon Lords stirred.
The pretext that his highness had just revealed aligned with the accusation that Paimon made towards his highness in the previous Walpurgis Night. Demon Lord Paimon and Margrave Rosenberg shared the same awareness…… this was most likely peculiar in no small measures to be considered as a simple coincidence.
Perhaps Paimon circulated the wild rumor intentionally?
This sort of suspicion was sufficiently plausible.
“I am curious. Where could the margrave have possibly acquired such information from? Ah, of course, I am not doubting you, Miss Paimon. We are all kinsmen, after all. Something like a traitor who would sell out their own kind, there are none in this conference room. Is that not so?”
“The Margrave most likely has an independent information network spread throughout the demon world. The Margrave came in contact with this groundless rumor by chance through that, that is my assumption. Do not worry. Miss Paimon, you do not have any direct responsibility. Yes, direct responsibility……”
Paimon’s face became stiff.
It was a tactful change of subject.
Even if Paimon did not spread the rumor in the human world, it was still the undeniable truth that she had circulated it in the demon world. If the Margrave did obtain the wild rumor from the demons, then the fault would go all the way back to Paimon who created the false rumor in the first place. It could then be viewed as Paimon having contributed in the destruction of his highness’ castle.
Speaking explicitly—Why should I receive help from the culprit who brought down my castle, was the cynical undertone that his highness was talking with. Paimon was at a loss for words. Towards that Paimon, his highness was gazing at her with naive snake-like eyes.
“It is alright. That incident was nothing more than something which arose completely due to the wicked greed from the humans…… To be concerned with the right or wrong among one another would not be a sensible thing to do here. No, it may be different on a normal occasion, but our current situation is urgent. We cannot start an internal conflict during this state of emergency where the human forces could invade us at a moment’s notice.”
This was indeed, a skillful wordplay.
After his highness had defined our current situation as an emergency, he suggested that if this was perhaps a normal occasion, then he would have reproached Paimon. In order to dodge the blame here, Paimon could only agree.
That is so. As much as our current situation is dire, there is no need to start a needless internal conflict. She was most likely thinking along these lines……
It was a checkmate.
If she wanted to disapprove of the war then she had to prove that our current situation was a normal occasion. However, if she wanted to avoid the blame, then she had to accept the state of emergency. Paimon was placed in a double-bind dilemma.
Paimon bit her lips.
“……It is snowing outside.”
“This palace is forlorn. Do your bones not feel cold?”
What was this sudden question? I could not comprehend the meaning or the intention. His highness Dantalian tilted his head as well and asked back.
“Should we order the maids to stoke up the fire?”
“It is already near midnight. Would there still be maids doing their shifts now?”
“That is an unnecessary concern. Would the attendants go to sleep while the lords are still awake?”
“I see. That is so, isn’t it?”
Paimon stared at his highness.
“We are lucky to be kings. Even if we were to stay up throughout the night, there are plenty of servants to kindle our flame. If our armies are dispatched now, then they will have to go through the winter mountains and streams with their bare bodies. Although we have maids devoted in taking care of our well-beings, who will light the bonfires when our soldiers are cold?”
“This lady estimated the wind on her path to this palace. This winter is especially arid. The earth is frozen all the way to its inner layer because of this icy weather and is difficult to dig through with spades. It will most likely take half a day to merely embed pickets into the soil and erect an encampment. While advancing through the winter fields, our soldiers will tire out on their own and collapse. This lady is immensely concerned that everyone’s vision is blocked by the palace walls and are unable to reach the cold winter plains.”
That was a valid rebuttal.
To not oppose war itself, but to oppose the time of war. It also displayed the worry for one’s subordinates as a Demon Lord, so it appeared graceful as well.
“If we raise an army, then our forces will cross the mountains and travel through forests. Trees to use as firewood will be abundant. Therefore, our troops collapsing due to being unable to kindle a campfire, is a needless worry.”
“Dantalian. The task of crossing the mountains and splitting the firewood is all managed by our soldiers. Will our troops not be miserable?”
“Then should I split the firewood myself and present it to the soldiers?”
His highness gave an unabashed laugh.
“You have many worries, Miss Paimon. Although I am not unaware of your highness’ innate virtue of taking care of your subjects, when handling military affairs, one requires not benevolence but austerity. A sovereign’s anguish will be transmitted to the general, and the general’s woe will be transmitted to the soldier. The entire country will then advance with concern and retreat with concern, therefore, even if one were to obtain victory once, it will not be proper, and if one were to be defeated a single time, then they will be unable to recover. Since when did us demons worry about a campfire while going to war?”
The shouts, ‘That’s right!’, erupted from here and there.
Although I personally considered Paimon’s reasoning to be logical…… the overall majority of Demon Lords did not. They did not pay any mind to the minor things. It wasn’t only Demon Lords, but most demons believed in this idealism as well.
His highness Dantalian was different. His highness utilized this idealism. His highness utilized everything. He manipulated the things people enjoyed, and exploited the things people despised. His highness claimed that this attitude of taking the use of all things was called being pragmatic. One day I asked, ‘If that is so, then where is pragmatism useful?’. His highness gave an immediate response.
Having authority itself was good, and the very fact of not having authority was bad, so I did not question the basis any further. I was convinced by that irrational remark. My mind and his highness’ mind were alike.
“For the past 500 years, we’ve raised a massive army 7 times and withdrawn 8 times. Each time our forces were pushed back, we withdrew our territory as well. And now, we’ve been chased back behind the mountains. If we are to be defeated this time as well, then we will have to yield to them the inner portion of the mountain range. This lady is anguished over the future of our kind.”
“That is correct. The worry which Miss Paimon has, I too, am concerned for as well. Despite that, should we not aim for this current situation where the humans’ vitality is on the decline due to them suffering from the plague?”
“The disease is indiscriminately affecting both the humans and demons, so why……”
“I am still in possession of a large amount of the herbs which can triumph over the disease. I would like to offer these for one tenth the current market price as military supplies.”
“Please spread this information wide amongst the people. That to the officers and men who apply for military service, be they from a high or low class, they shall be provided the cure. I shall offer 10,000 black herbs within the military. So everyone, please take the herbs and distribute them freely.”
In truth, the meeting was concluded by that one statement.
His highness, rank 71st Dantalian, had offered an enormous amount of military supplies. Demon Lords that were of a higher rank than his highness had no other choice but to keep their heads down in order to save face.
A slight amusement glided past the corners of his highness’ lips.
He was most likely certain of his own victory.
……That was a bit unfair.
Every time I witnessed that side of his highness Dantalian, that thought crossed my mind. I recalled the connection his highness and I shared before the meeting was held today.
Just before the conference, his highness was smoking gaya.
Gaya is an item of personal preference similar to cigars. Since they are both easier to be intoxicated by and have no addictive properties compared to cigars, they are incredibly expensive. The asking price is extensive. His highness favored this elegant luxury item.
His highness did not enjoy this on his own, but he dragged Miss Laura De Farnese along as well and ruined their lives together. Today as well, once I entered the bedroom I witnessed the two of them behaving like a pair of worms squirming around on the floor.
It was a grand spectacle.
It felt like a group of drug-addicted hoodlums would show more moderation than these two.
I approached his highness and slapped his cheek.
“Lord Dantalian. Please come to your senses.”
His highness looked up at me with dull eyes.
“The meeting will be held in 2 hours. Forty Demon Lords will be attending. It is the Walpurgis Night. Does your highness plan to put yourself to shame during such an occasion as well?”
This was wrong.
Leaving his highness alone, I approached Miss De Farnese. Once I drew near, Miss Farnese stood abruptly. And then did she not spread both of her arms out horizontally? I was at a loss for words for a moment by this bizarre conduct.
“……Miss. What are you doing right now?”
“This young lady is a tree.”
“Because I am a tree, I cannot answer your question. Trees have no words.”
She was a bit insane.
I pondered if I was going to have to handle, with this peasant body, the honor of being the very first person in all of history to speak with a plant. Regardless, it appeared much easier to converse with the miss than his highness. To have to choose between a man who had regressed back into a toddler and a girl who had become a human plant. It was the extremity of choices.
“Exactly when did you become intoxicated?”
“This young lady isn’t intoxicated, though?”
“Then I will change the question. When did you start smoking?”
“Mm. That is quite the religious question.”
Miss Farnese nodded her head with an emotionless face.
“This young lady has a question as well. Will you answer?”
“Yes, as long as it is not a question concerning the vegetation of trees.”
“Why is it bright outside the window all of a sudden? It was clearly dark a second ago. That is rather unusual. It seems the sun has gone insane.”
The thing to have gone insane is not the sun, but you.
……My head hurt.
It seems his highness and the miss have been smoking gaya throughout the entire night.
When it was his highness alone, I was able to tighten the regulations of his highness’ household, but after Miss De Farnese squeezed in, everything became tangled. His highness continued to teach the miss detrimental habits, and the miss accepted everything with open arms. It was like a baby bird shoving its beak towards the mother bird’s mouth to receive food. From drinking habits, sleeping habits, to smoking habits, the miss became a carbon copy of his highness.
It’s fun since it’s like raising a little sister, was his highness’ statement. I consider it to be sincerely fortunate that his highness Dantalian does not have any relatives. If by any chance, his highness had a child, then the world will end on that day. It was not a joke.
“Miss De Farnese. If his highness decides to do something reckless, then you must not go along with his antics. An outbreak of war will be upon us soon, and the miss will have to grasp military power and discipline his highness’ military personnel. What soldiers would trust and follow a general who does drugs from a young age?”
“You are strange. This young lady is a tree so how could she manage soldiers?”
“Mii-n, mi— minmin—.”
She wasn’t a tree, but a cicada.
Putting me to the side, his highness and the miss had a conversation.
“Shaba daba do?”
At last, the two had arrived at the creation of their own language. The sight of a new language being born was before me. How marvelous. It was so phenomenal that no words could come from my mouth. Especially since the miss was clinging to my thigh and drooling, it was quite the sight.
Miss De Farnese’ face looked perfectly fine, but the ecology of the inside of her head was simply a mystery.
Her face was void of emotion and there was no tone in her voice. It was difficult to guess her mood. Although I was indeed the same in having no expressions on my face, in my case, I had thrown away my psyche, while she did not have a psyche. Throwing away one’s mind is something done by one’s own volition, so there is still a slight heart remaining there. However, discussing a psyche that never existed in the first place is impossible.
I stared into the miss’ eyes, which were as green as the early summer thickets, for a long period of time.
There was absolutely nothing in the miss’ eyes. In order to understand the other party, one must use the sparsely placed emotions shone within their eyes to cross from this side to theirs. There was not even a single fragment of emotion, which I could use to step on, within the miss’ eyes. I could not see the other side. It felt distant like when closely facing a large blank sheet of paper. What his highness Dantalian discovered in that desolate bottom, what he planned to fill it with, how he planned to color it, even as his lover, I could not fathom his intentions.
Should I test it out a little?
I examined his highness’ movements. His breathing was gentle. He most likely was not going to wake up anytime soon. Turning my gaze away from his highness, I spoke.
“Miss. I have a question. Will you care to answer it?”
“A cicada does not inquire and only responds continuously throughout the summer. A cicada answers when the sunlight of summer falls upon them in question, but this young lady is not certain if it is summer now. Mii-n, mim—.”
“What kind of person was your mother?”
“My mother was a slave.”
Laura De Farnese answered immediately.
“She lived as a slave and gave birth to this young lady after being raped. On the day this young lady was born, my mother was killed. It was a covert murder. There were no records or any keepsakes, so this young lady does not know any more than this.”
The miss tilted her head.
“Did my response properly answer big sister Lapis’ question?”
It was a lie.
The reaction that I wanted was something a bit more intense.
For the sake of dragging out even a handful of subterranean water from that barren well that is her mind, I questioned further.
“Were you perhaps abused because of your mother’s low status?”
“Yes. I was abused a lot.”
“There must have been many minor harassments.”
“I am curious as to how they harassed you. Would it be fine to ask?”
“Aah. It was trivial. They would give me food that had been spat on, give me water with head lice or flies in them…… Despite that, there were barely any days where I was starved or parched, so I was greatly fortunate.”
“Which mistreatment do you remember the most?”
The girl held her breath for a moment.
In that spot where she had stopped breathing, I discovered the gap which I could pry through.
However, I did not rush. No matter what it was, I did not have the habit of being hasty. If one was going to pick a flower from a road, then you must approach it while walking slowly.
“Where do you escape to when you wish to avoid the abuse?”
“The library in an annexed building from the mansion……”
“The library, is it? I heard that you are fond of history books. The scent from paper books is indeed pleasant. I as well, keep close to me the aroma of books which have not been sullied by the hands of others.”
“This young lady, too, appreciates the smell of a sincerely opened hardcover book.”
“Since the library is in a separate building, the people there must have been sparse. Running away to an area where people rarely approached is an appropriate decision.”
“But they still came after you, did they not?”
“There must have been many times where they simply let you off if you fled, but there were also many days where they did not. If they released you then it would have been fine, but they chased you till the very end. At first to the hallway, and then all the way to your bedroom…… slowly, one step, a single step at a time, they invaded your territory a small portion at a time.”
Her shoulder trembled slightly.
I caught her.
“And finally to the library. They must have promised to not disturb that location. How terrible of them. So was the library invaded as well?”
She nodded her head.
Fundamentally, a person’s mentality resembled a fortress. People built a home modeled after themselves and raised a rampart.
In a calm and orderly way.
Similar to how one would siege a fortress in a field of battle.
Cut off their path of retreat, surround their ramparts, tighten the guard around their castle gates, and finally, after capturing the marginal villages around the castle, is when I will knock on the most important castle.
“How old were you when they first invaded?”
“When I was 10…… in the summer……”
“I see. It was summer, huh? Was the weather hot?”
“I do not remember.”
“What could you hear?”
“The sound of cicadas……”
“The sound of the cicadas chirping resonated through the window, I see.”
“That is so. Through the window……”
“So you kept staring out the window. If one were to stay secluded in a library and read books, then their eyes will often become hazy. You must have frequently gazed at the window in order to release into the air the lines which reverberated in your mind. What could you see in the window?”
“What kind of tree?”
“I do not know.”
“Please try to remember. You may not have known what kind of tree it was, but you continued to stare at it. You did your utmost to not turn your gaze away from there. In order to endure the abuse, you looked at the tree. In order to forget it, you enraptured yourself to the sound of the cicadas. You liked the strident cries from the cicadas.……”
Everything was arranged.
The entirety had almost fallen.
Finally, the most vital foothold.
The territory which you dislike the most being taken away from you, and the area that I was targeting since the very beginning.
I will break it now.
The trembling in her shoulders spread throughout her entire body.
The miss lowered her head. She shook her head as if she was trying to shake away her shudder. That was her final resistance. Honestly, it was laughable.
“It is okay, miss. It is an incident that you have endured long ago and have already overcome. Who was the person that had chased you all the way to the inside of the library?”
“My father, did.”
“I closed the door…… I definitely closed the door tight, but because I mistakenly did not lock it with the key……”
I thought about the stifling heat of that summer day.
The sight of the scorching heat pressing down on the silence.
“Why did you not lock the door?”
“Since everyone would get mad if I locked it. Just that……”
“Did it hurt a lot?”
“The cicadas cried a lot.”
I stopped my words.
“They really cried a lot. A long time…… continuously—”
Miss Farnese repeated the same words. There was no tone in her voice so the echoes felt distant.
This was probably the opportunity.
Lord Dantalian showed affection for this girl before me. Although there was no noticeable carnal desire in his love, since long ago I was vigilant towards love without sexual appetite the most.
Sexual desire is explicit. It goes in the hole that must be gone in, and when it welcomes the path that it must welcome, it reaches satisfaction. It is a desire with a fixed direction. Different types of love went around poking here and there chaotically without any direction, and once it tires of poking, it pesters the other party to teach them the way. In the end, they do not learn how to relieve their desires, but they learn how to withdraw their cravings and endure it, thus resulting in them rotting from the inside out.
Rather, if his highness embraced this girl in front of me.
That thought came up all of a sudden.
The miss will most likely hang by the neck by his highness’ love. But what would happen if there was no carnal desire there? She will have no method to respond to his highness’ affection. Unable to untangle his highness from her mind, it will continue to pile up and— slowly occupy her mind further.
At one point, her mind will be filled with nothing but his highness. The inability to respond to the other party, she will most likely try to repay with herself. Devote her everything to his highness. I am immensely concerned. If his highness drifted even a slight distance away from this miss, then would she not drag him into the bottom of her heart and try to drown together with his highness?
That was why now was the opportunity to break her.
Before his highness was sufficiently engraved into the miss’ heart.
Before she suffocated by his highness’ affection.
I will crush her mind completely.
No matter how much the miss’ psyche was like that of a white sheet of paper, you cannot write love or any sort of line on scraps of paper which were torn apart into hundreds of thousands of pieces. It was fine. The method of breaking her apart was simple. Words could slice one’s heart with more ease than blades.
Like this, all I had to do was whisper words into Miss Farnese’s ear and her heart would swallow the blade on its own and tear her mind into shreds.
You are a revolting and trash-like whore who was raped by her father.
—with these words.
Did Miss Farnese become tired after having repeated the same words over and over again? She had fallen onto my leg and gone slack. However, she did not fall asleep yet.
In order for the curse to seep in distinctly, I brought my mouth as close to the miss’ ear as possible. I will welcome your resentment, Laura De Farnese. If the ability to blame another still exists within your mind, that is.
“Lapis. Leave it there.”
“I do not know what you are planning to say, but leave it at there.”
His highness’ voice pulled me from behind.
I turned my head towards that irrefutable voice. Lord Dantalian was smiling bitterly.
“She is still a child.”
“She will one day grow into an adult.”
“You are overstepping your boundary.”
Within that slight conversation, we were able to read each other’s intentions. We were in a relationship where we have not concealed anything from one another and did not plan to conceal anything in the future as well. I did not obscure my hostility.
“If anything, this is lighter than overstepping a boundary. Was your highness eavesdropping this entire time? This one thought your highness had fallen asleep.”
“I was listening since your ability in handling people is quite adept. Do not forcefully pull out or forcefully tear apart that child’s heart. I wish to observe her.”
“Your highness. People’s minds are naturally revealed on their own, and the thing which people expose on their own is also, indeed, their mind. If nothing becomes revealed and nothing is exposed, then there is no other choice but to pull it out by force.”
“And so? Now that you have drawn it out, how is it? Are you satisfied?”
“It is dangerous.”
“By ruining herself, she has the physiognomy of ruining your highness as well. Because of her bottomless heart, it feels like every person to approach her side will plummet. This one does not desire for your highness to fall.”
I was firmly confident in my ability to discern others.
Up until now, the one and only person that I had misjudged was his highness Dantalian.
Since Lord Dantalian alone had taken both my first mistake and my first love, he was truly an exception among exceptions.
“……Miss Farnese is unable to sleep even when it becomes night.”
“This is an assumption, but she was most likely abused every night. That is why she stays up throughout the night reading. She is abiding the night through books. Until she becomes exhausted to the point where she can no longer turn to the next page, is when she passes out and finally sleeps. During the night where I met her for the first time, Miss Farnese was reading inside of her cell.”
His highness pulled out a pipe and bit down on it. The scent of a burning tobacco leaf spread throughout the bedroom. His highness gazed at the smoke cloud which he made with his own mouth.
“How is it, Lapis? Is it not adorable how desperate that child is?”
A sigh flowed from my lips.
His highness Dantalian had the habit of treating a serious topic as a joke.
It was a fairly unpleasant mannerism.
“It is not too late to dispose of her.”
“No. She is a child with many uses.”
“Then can your highness toss her away once her uses are gone?”
His highness did not answer. Instead, he smoked his pipe. It appeared as if he was hoping that the smoke from his pipe would express the words that he wished to say.
After a fair amount of time, his highness spoke.
“Since she is a child which I brought back with the intention to espouse, I shall do so.”
His highness’ words were distant because they were imperious.
Although this goal of dragging the future, which people could not handle, towards us and cutting that fate into pieces to manage one portion at a time befitted his highness, I worried that his highness may have been burying the fact that there was no end to his words.
……Your highness. Words are like the drowned, they have the ability to sink people downwards. The word known as love is the strongest among these, so it will drag you down the furthest. That was why we had set down a safety net by telling each other that we loved authority the most back when your highness and this one had confessed our love to each other. In concern of this descent, this fall, and this collapse…… I kept this monologue in the back of my throat.
As his highness would already know regardless of whether I informed him or not, I was wary towards lightly pronouncing the word known as love, thoughtlessly.
If that was so then.
“……This one will join as well.”
I wonder if my words came as a surprise, his highness’ eyes grew wide.
“What? Join what?”
“This one heard that the miss’ mother died early, so the miss should not feel too awkward if this one were to fill that empty spot.”
“Wait. Through what method……?”
“Please console the miss’ mind properly, your
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