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Dungeon Defense - Volume 5 - Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Hope

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’’This young lady loves you, Your Lordship.’’

’’Yes. I see that your bullshit is bitter. Just go to sleep.’’

It seems Farnese had gone insane for some unknown reason as she had abruptly confessed her love to me, but I had kindly turned her down in less than 3 seconds. This girl has always been crazy, so her confessing to me was not even slightly bewildering.

Farnese expressionlessly contemplated.

’’······How strange. What is the issue? Humble as this young lady is, this young lady's beauty is quite exceptional. If this young lady were to speak closer to the truth, then this young lady has yet to meet a woman who is more beautiful than this young lady. Is Your Lordship truly a eunuch?’’

’’Oh? Is it because you have just returned from playing with fire? You're spouting nonsense with that mouth of yours.’’

’’······This young lady loves you? I love you, Your Lordship? This young lady believes that she loves you, Your Lordship. I adore you. I cherish you? I am loving you? This young lady truly loves you. This young lady devotes her time to you, Your Lordship. This young lady's sun. This young lady's midday. This young lady's light and melody. The sunlight that shines down upon the clumps of ash.’’

’’Now you are spouting bullshit.’’

’’This young lady wishes. This young lady hopes. This young lady desires. This young lady wants Your Lordship to turn this young lady's time into a melody. Your Lordship······? Oho. I see. Ehem. Was that the problem?’’

What did she realize?

Farnese looked at me confidently.

’’This young lady loves you, father.’’

’’······.’’

I hit Farnese by the back of her head.

What she referred to me as was not the issue here. My daughter who is sick at heart. This lunatic child.

’’Who's this? Who could this beee?’’

Additionally, the witches had all returned with their lives intact and they were now in the middle of bullying Ivar Lodbrok. Ivar Lodbrok was sitting motionlessly in our camp, so they were skipping around him and spieling amongst themselves.

’’No matter how I look at it, it appears that there's a familiar bat here. As his mug is a bat and his physiognomy is a bat, there's no doubt that this is seriously a bat-like bastard. The fellow who made me believe that, throughout my entire life, I would never be able to meet a person who's more bat-like than him, seems to be right before my eyes ?’’

’’Strange, how strange. From what we can remember, this is definitely a f*king bastard, but why is a f*king bastard residing in our master's military camp? Has our master finally decided to take in even f*king bastards? Aha aha, as days go by, our master's royal grace is becoming more ravenous.’’

’’······.’’

Ivar Lodbrok stayed seated and merely kept his mouth shut, not giving the witches any sort of response. However, if I were his lawyer, then once more, I would have advised against pleading the Fifth here. To the witches, the opposition's response did not matter to them by even the smallest, littlest, or tiniest amount after all. Look. Are the witches not happily performing a circle dance around Ivar while holding each other's hands now?

’’We thought .’’

’’Thought and thought again .’’

’’Thought like a person who had nothing to do except think about that .’’

’’The fact that our master was confined in a cell for a week.’’

’’Aah, that fact means our master was unable to wash for an entire week.’’

’’Aah, that fact means our master was unable to fap for an entire week⎯⎯⎯.’’

’’Ah, such grief. La-di-da, such grief.’’

’’We thought.’’

’’Since ancient times, if a male skips a day of fapping, then it's both joyous and sorrowful.’’

’’Thought and thought again.’’

’’If they skip two days, then it's a tragedy. If they skip three days, then it's an atrocity.’’

’’Thought like a person who had nothing to do except think about that.’’

’’Aah, alas, such grief. Our poor master, our master who was unable to fap for an entire week. As your faithful subjects, there's no way that we wouldn't sing a song about it.’’

’’Ah, such grief. La-di-da, such grief.’’

’’We thought.’’

’’About Master's long period of no fapping?’’

’’Thought and thought again.’’

’’About Master's pitiful no fapping!’’

’’Thought like a person who had nothing to do except think about that.’’

’’Ah, such grief. La-di-da, such grief.’’

’’Look at those dwarves with small maws, look at those wolf bastards with long maws, look at those sons of horses with long and pointed mugs, and look at those pigs with plump stomachs. Ah, everyone come close and look at the blood-sucking old man over there. We'll sing a single plaintive melody, so listen.’’

’’······.’’

In the end, those crazy girls started to sing in unison.

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An old man asked

Which Demon Lord has the largest pen** in the world

We answered

The person's name is Dantalian with a sorrowful pen**

The old man inquired

How impressive must it be for you all to praise it so

We replied

It is a pen** that shoots faster than the wind

It is a pen** the hair of which is denser than a forest

While it is a pen** that is hotter than fire

It is a pen** that is more steadfast than a mountain

But what is the point

Since there was no place it could be used for over a week

That is clearly the most pitiable pen** in the world

Thus, we sing like this

The person's name is Dantalian with a sorrowful pen**

Dantalian with the saddest pen** in the world

Ο

’’······.’’

I went silent.

’’······.’’

Ivar Lodbrok went silent as well.

’’Ah. Referentially, this young lady was the one who had composed this song, Your Lordship. Since this young lady's genius, which resonates throughout the world, has gone into this, you can be moved and cry as much as you desire. Even this young lady must admit that quite the good chord has gone into this.’’

The lunatic did not go silent.

Eventually, Humbaba, the leader of the witches and the Captain of the Royal Guard, spread both of her arms out wide.

’’Dantalian with the saddest pen** in the woooooorld .’’

It wasn't until she had sung this line passionately that the madness had reached its zenith and then subsided.

It seems that the witches were most likely under the illusion that they were actresses in a cheap opera right now. It was an incredibly eccentric scene, but at the same time, it was not eccentric at all. If you considered the fact that their brains are usually in the state of being steamed by drugs, then this was not strange at all.

’’See? I said that I made a super great song, didn't I? Ahahah. How was it, my beloved fellow witches? Do you girls now admit that I do indeed possess quite the amazing artistic talent?’’

’’I admit it.’’

’’I concede.’’

’’It's something that I must admit.’’

’’It's also something that I can't not admit.’’

’’Sorry, Master! We were originally going to come back to your side a little sooner, but listen to this. There were human prisoners loitering about waaay over there, you know? Ehem, aha, ehem ehem, as experts of both torture and execution, it's not like we couldn't bestow upon them our kindness.’’

’’Well, executions nowadays aren't able to vivify the feeling of the past no matter what they do. Compared to the past, the world has become quite weak.’’

’’That's right. Back in my day, when they cut your flesh, they didn't cut it normally. If anything, you'd be thankful if all they did was cut your flesh. They used to tear off all of your skin, pour a potion on top of your bare flesh, healing you completely, before tearing it off again. I was able to endure that twice, but it started to get difficult after the second time.’’

’’Eh, only two times? Are you saying that as if that's some sort of experience? I'm able to stay sane for at least the first 5 times, girly.’’

’’I'm not trying to brag, but I didn't lose my senses even when my internal organs had been cut into pieces and my flesh had been peeled off thirty times. On the contrary, my mind became clearer each time my flesh was ripped off, so it felt as if something like torture could not possibly invade my prestigious mind.’’

’’I wonder about that. Instead of saying that you didn't lose your senses, I feel like that just means you were never sane since the moment of your birth.’’

What the hell are these girls talking about?

I had a faint headache.

If a person possessed a mouth, then they should be making sounds, but these girls were babbling while only letting out noises. Therefore, I was certain that the things which these girls possessed were not mouths, but assholes.

’’You all may not know this, but I'm a witch who had her blood sucked by a vampiric archduke back when I was really popular. It's a bit embarrassing to say in front of you girls, but in truth, my lineage is so great that I actually shouldn't be hanging around with girls like you.’’

’’Rather than words being said to our faces, those sound like words you're saying to our butts.’’

’’I smell a fart coming from somewhere. Did someone fart?’’

’’It wasn't me.’’

’’It wasn't me either.’’

’’Why are you looking at me? It absolutely wasn't me either. You can easily tell just by looking at my innocent face that my butt isn't a butt that would fart.’’

’’It's more suspicious because you're denying it that much. The thought that it's undoubtedly you since you're denying it like this comes to mind. Ah. I was perfectly logical just now.’’

’’You're suspicious for suspecting me so much. I don't know if you're perfectly logical or not, but I know for certain that you're a perfectly crazy bitch.’’

’’Judge, please enter.’’

’’Now then, now then. From what I can tell, this is quite the foul incident. Just from its scent, you can tell that this flatulence doesn't have the normal kind of foul stench.’’

’’What is the verdict, then, Your Honor Humbaba? The people are currently rioting outside of the court of law. Please remember that it was the people who had appointed you as the city's judge.’’

’’The political judge who accommodates witches should step down!’’

’’Step down! Step down! Step down!’’

’’Ehei, ehem. Sheesh, this is troubling. Calm down, you lot. If it wasn't you, me, or any one of us, then I'm certain that the one behind this flatulence incident is none other than our master.’’

’’What was that?’’

’’This is an unexpected conclusion.’’

’’Do you have evidence? Evidence?’’

’’The smell of the flatulence itself proves who its owner is. The reason why the smell of this flatulence is so foul is due to the fact that our master had held it in throughout the entire week he was imprisoned and had just now let it loose.’’

’’That's nonsense!’’

’’Were those words just now or was that a fart? The judge is the one farting right now!’’

’’Boooo! Witch trial! Let's do a witch trial!’’

’’Whoa there. Ehem. If you perhaps object to this verdict, then this judge will have no other choice but to suspect that one of your adorable butts was the one to have committed this crime······.’’

’’A flawless verdict.’’

’’Acknowledged.’’

’’As expected of Captain Humbaba. That was a beautiful verdict.’’

’’······For Lord Dantalian to have been the culprit behind the fart······. This is all my fault. If I had known sooner, if I had realized a little sooner······.’’

’’No, Euryale. It isn't only your fault. Our apathy towards His Highness Dantalian's butt is what had brought upon this tragedy.’’

’’Big sis······.’’

’’My son!’’

’’Damn it, this is touching. It's been over 50 years since I was appointed as a judge, but this is the first time I've witnessed such a sorrowful scene. It's impossible for this judge to not shed tears here.’’

’’What a coincidence. After watching all of your conducts, this great one could shed tears of blood.’’

I was watching over these crazy girls while wondering how much of their brains they had thrown away in a ditch. The more I watched them, the more I grew curious about the name of the bastard who was crazy enough to make these girls into their Royal Guard. If it weren't for the fact that that crazy bastard was me, then I may have been a bit more curious.

’’Ahahah, master.’’

Hop.

Humbaba skipped towards me and stuck out her cone hat.

Curious as to what this girl was now up to, I looked down and saw that there was a bunch of dirt inside of her hat. After examining the muddy pile of dirt a bit more, I saw that it was a pile of dirt with several dandelions sticking out of it.

Did she put them in her hat without even dusting the dirt off from their roots? There were dandelions contained in the witch's hat. I knitted my brows.

’’What is this?’’

’’We contemplated and contemplated about what the likes of us could possibly give to you, Master, as a gift to celebrate your release. No matter how much we thought about it, we weren't able to think of a gift that could make you happy, Master. Even if the likes of us were to offer Master our bodies, Master has always been a eunuch, so what good would that do when you won't taaaake us?’’

’’I see that you girls believe that every male in the world must respond to you. How should I fix that misunderstanding of yours? If anything, do you not know that there are only a small minority of males in the world that will respond to you girls?’’

’’Master's absolute majority is mistaken. History proves otherwise.’’

’’I do not wish to know about that sort of history······.’’

For there to be a history where responding to these girls was the correct thing to do and not responding to them was the wrong thing to do. What was that supposed to be? The Necronomicon? Was this like a textbook of evil or the Devil's scroll of incantations?

Humbaba shoved her left hand into her hat. The left hand which I had maimed by severing the ring finger of at one point in time.

There was a lot of moisture in the clump of dirt, so the inside was exceedingly dirty. Even if it was unclean, that dirt was unclean because it was alive. The small witch in front of me plucked a dandelion, which was unclean because it was still alive, with a 'snap'.

’’Master. Ahah. It's a bit late, but.’’

After she placed the dandelion behind my ear.

’’Congratulation on your release!’’

She smiled radiantly.

’’······.’’

I was at a lost for words for a moment.

The witches giggled. It was light. It was truly a light sound. The sound of laughter easily spread into the sky and permeated with ease. And I believed that that lightness, was like that because it had thrown a small bit of its life away somewhere.

Farnese spoke.

’’Your Lordship. It seems that among the masses, people consider the act of putting a flower behind your ear as proof of one's insanity. Coincidentally, it appears that there is a flower behind Your Lordship's ear. This young lady is not trying to go out of her way to provide an additional explanation or anything, but it is just that, this young lady simply wishes to say that Your Lordship has coincidentally become an insane person.’’

’’If my brain has yet to necrotize, then Farnese, were you not passionately confessing your love to me only a few minutes ago?’’

’’······? What of it? Is there a meaningful correlation between Your Lordship's lunacy and this young lady's love?’’

This young girl who was tilting her head and sincerely questioning me as to what sort of correlation the two had, was the child I had taken in as my adopted daughter in this world. How insane. Truly regretful. By the looks of it, it seems that this life will be dirty just like my previous life.

Nevertheless, I did not excessively complain today.

I simply.

’’······Hoeh?’’

’’Hoi?’’

With my right hand on Farnese's head.

And my left hand on Humbaba's head, I stroked both of their heads and spoke.

’’Thanks.’’

For winning a difficult battle.

For being the first person to gift me a flower ever since I had fallen into this world.

I am grateful to you both.

My Acting General and Captain of the Royal Guard looked at each other for a moment before eventually smiling radiantly like a hydrangea and a dandelion that had bloomed side by side.

’’This young lady loves you, Your Lordship.’’

’’I really like you, Master!’’

Regardless of what sort of enunciation that love was said with and regardless of what sort of hope that like was said with.

We were already a family.

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The advent of the Crescent Alliance.

It was most likely thanks to the fact that we had strongly obstructed the pursuers in Vistula Forest, the sea of trees. Barbatos and Paimon, the main army of the Crescent Alliance were able to cross the Black Mountains without having to face any danger whatsoever.

On the very night the battle had ended in the sea of trees, the two Demon Lords had both sent a letter. Barbatos and Paimon were currently busy pushing ahead with their march. They had both only written a single line in their letters.

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Thanks. We'll be going first. Follow.

Sorry. I'll leave Sitri in your care.

Ο

When in a situation where one had to say thank you and also apologize to a single person, then there are people who would say thank you first and there are people who would say sorry first. Barbatos was the former. Paimon was the latter. The difference between the former and latter was definitely due to the rift that had torn the two apart in the past.

I strolled through the military camp which we had set up throughout the entire night and gazed up at the afternoon sky. A group of soldiers noticed me as they were passing by and saluted to me. I shook my head and omitted their show of respect.

’’The monarch should be the one to show their respects to the soldiers who have triumphed. You all have fought well. You all have held out well. A lot of meat has been provided, so today's meal shall be substantial.’’

The soldiers expressed their gratitude and continued on their way. Even if I was nothing more than ranked 71st, I was still an honorable Demon Lord. What cute fellows. I chuckled at the natural modesty of the officers and men and went into deep thought once more.

······Elizabeth, the Imperial Princess was defeated. She had lost some of her troops. Her perfect record of victory had been smeared as well. However, defeat was nothing more than an immediate disgrace, the Imperial Princess had obtained something larger.

The fact that when the Crescent Alliance retreated, she was the only person to have declared for the battle to continue until the very end.

The fact that she had actually led the pursuit in person with her royal standing.

The fact that while she was leading and fighting in person, her royal body had actually been injured.

I lamented by myself.

’’······The commoners of humanity will most likely cheer. They will cheer loudly.’’

Justification.

When the other nations were reluctant to step forward and the majority of the armies were chickening out, the justification of having stood forward without any hesitation in order to exterminate the demons.

The battle in Vistula Forest was fierce, desperate, and severe. Both of the individuals who could be referred to as the heads of each respective side had been hit by a bolt. If they had been even slightly more unlucky, then they could have died.

Soldiers naturally respected generals who would charge forward even while in the face of danger more than anyone else. It was not only the soldiers. The simple commoners will also cheer the birth of a hero······.

The undefeated blonde general who was favored by the Goddess Athena. That was Laura De Farnese. Imperial Princess Elizabeth was no different.

’’On one hand, there is a blonde general, and on the other hand, there is a silver-haired empress.’’

These two could only be stopped by one another. It was like that in the original history as well. In this life, I had accelerated the inevitability of history more fiercely. Even in the future, the continent will most likely rock under the military ability of gold and silver.

Last night, Imperial Princess Elizabeth had lowered her guard. She had mistaken Farnese for a dead corpse or a puppet······.

A bitter mistake, O Elizabeth. She may have been like that when you had met her previously, but that was not the case last night. Farnese had bloomed in less than a couple of days. I, this child's lord and father, had made this happen.

In consequence of the time of a mere couple of days, you were defeated yesterday. You were most likely unable to predict this. You may have even thought of this as cheating. Regardless, the place where your absence of awareness was located was where your incompetence laid, and the point where you considered this as cheating was where your limit was placed.

'There is no way that someone could change within a few days.'

That was the incompetence and limit which you possess. A person is able to change within a few days, and if they have the assistance of another, then even more so.

From this point on, the war you and I will create will always possess the time of several days. Perhaps, it will be a war that vies for the time of several hours. Even on the noon of the day where an unparalleled victory had been obtained, I am already predicting the next war.

It was in that moment.

’’Mm······?’’

In the distance, a single group of cavalry units was approaching from the other side of the military camp. Were they friend or foe? If they were neither, then were they deserters? I narrowed my eyes and gazed into the distance.

The cavalry unit was holding up 3 banners. First, a white flag which represented that they wished to negotiate and not battle. Next, a black flag with the dark moon of the Crescent Alliance engraved on it. And finally, a fluttering flag that displayed who they were affiliated with and radiating a golden shine.

A maxim was written on the banner.

Ο

Know thyself.

Ο

’’······.’’

A banner that was half white and half red. Adding to that, a maxim that was sewn on with golden letters. The one who strives to coexist between peace and war, and strives to bask in the glory of gold while within that coexistence.

Ranked 5th on the demon continent.

The lord in charge of nobility.

The sacred and inviolable representative of absolute dignity.

’’······Demon Lord Marbas.’’

The monarch of the Neutral Faction was lurking in the distance.

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▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian

Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 15

Polles

Ο

'This is reckless.' Lapis remonstrated.

'This young lady will be unable to protect you.' Farnese advised.

'Well, Master is nuts, so if need be, this one will die together with you!' Humbaba offered.

While having refused the remonstration, keeping the advice in mind, and shouldering the offer, I, Dantalian, headed towards the Neutral Faction's military headquarters.

The night was dark as midnight had passed. The only one who could be called my guard was Humbaba, but even then, she had been disarmed. Additionally, they had gone as far as to inspect Humbaba's undergarments after having stripped her of them. Her flesh which had been torn due to the long period of torture she had endured was displayed in plain sight.

’’Ahahah. I haven't hidden anything, I have nothing to hide. I really don't have anything on me. Do you think I'm crazy enough to mess around with the Demon Lord who has a mortgage on my soul? I'm Humbaba. The head witch that leads the Three Nightmares. I'd be delighted if you showed some respect to the Quadriphllyous medal that's attached to my hat.’’

’’······.’’

The sentry looked Humbaba up and down before giving a nod. Humbaba was then allowed entry to the Neutral Faction's camp. It was really after they had checked every nook and cranny of her body.

Humbaba was all smiles.

’’Did you see that, Master? It's because of behavior like this that I end up believing that the absolute majority of the males in the world desire my body. Even if I try to go somewhere comfortably, they do this kind of nonsense.’’

’’My God. Your entire life is your own self-torment.’’

’’Aha, I can't deny that. As expected of Master. If you added the fact that my self-torment is my own torture, then it'd be perfect.’’

We walked together as master and servant while murmuring to each other. The soldiers of the Neutral Faction followed us closely on both of our sides. The torches held by the soldiers illuminated their expressions. As one would expect from elite soldiers, they were all expressionless, but despite that, they would occasionally furrow their brows whenever they glanced at Humbaba.

How long did we walk for, I wonder.

We were guided to a particularly massive tent. It was a military tent that was made by connecting tiger pelts together. Due to the fact that both Barbatos and Paimon did not have a personality that quibbled over the luxury of their quarters, the tent that I was currently seeing was the most luxurious one I have ever seen.

All of the sentries that were standing guard at the entrance had a Diphyllous medal attached to their helmets. The medal that was in the form of a leaf was an honor that was only bestowed upon those who had participated in a Crescent Alliance and had performed a meritorious deed.

As this was the 8th Crescent Alliance and the expedition had yet to end, those medals were undoubtedly from the 7th and 6th expeditions. This meant that the sentries, whose numbers reached slightly over twenty, were all veteran warriors who were able to survive for the past 200 years. Humbaba needlessly behaved like a restless shih tzu and pointed at her own cone hat.

’’MasterMaster. Look at this. This one has a Quadriphllyous.’’

’’······.’’

’’At most, all they have are Diphyllouses. Ahahah. This one is twice as strong as them!’’

Wow.

The sentries glared daggers at us the instant Humbaba had spat out those words. I am still a Demon Lord in spite of my appearance. I passed my hand over the horn attached to the back of my head and whispered.

’’······Even if you say that you have four leaves, did you not receive your fourth leaf by kowtowing before Her Highness Paimon after having performed some trickery? I beg of you. Keep in mind the fact that we are in the middle of an army that may or may not abruptly become hostile towards us.’’

’’Eeh. But I have a chronic disease where I become sullen if I close my mouth for even a moment.’’

’’At the very least, can you not whisper in a voice which only I can hear?’’

’’Gasp. Don't tell me, was that perhaps a secret confession to this one? You mustn't, Master. This one already has a master who she has devoted her affection to, so this one cannot possibly give Master this one's body······!’’

Yeah.

Whatever.

What more could I have expected from you?

Just grow up healthy.

While receiving the clear glares of the sentries, Humbaba and I continued to chat. Once nearly half an hour had passed, a low voice resonated from within the tent.

’’Demon Lord Dantalian, enter.’’

The tone of the voice was antique. However, a harsh growl which could not be entirely placated by the antiquity lingered in the voice. I wonder if this is how it would sound like if a brown bear were to learn the language of people.

I brushed Humbaba's hair behind her ear.

’’I will be back.’’

’’Yes, Master.’’

Humbaba smiled brightly.

’’This one will be waiting. Always.’’

Ο

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Similar to how the military tent appeared grand on the outside, it was vast on the inside as well. I believed that I resided in a luxurious tent because of how much money I had spent on it, but the quarters which the head of the Neutral Faction resided in was on a different level.

12 attendants were all lowering their heads in silence. 6 royal bodyguards with either a sword attached to their waist or a spear held in their hands were gazing at me. A red carpet was laid out on the floor of the tent and a large throne was situated on the edge of the carpet. A monarch was obliquely resting his back on that very throne.

Within a place that should not be referred to as a tent.

But would be better off being referred to as a palace located in the center of an enemy campsite.

’’Dantalian.’’

The monarch spoke.

’’It is admirable for you to have come here alone. Are you here to answer my call?’’

Marbas stared straight into my face.

His face was close. His gaze was unwavering. The monarch's many years of experience were spread across his face as wrinkles. The monarch's firm persistence spread through his steady shoulders. As someone who did not distinguish between beliefs and life, a monarch who has only gathered beliefs with life and life with beliefs was seated in front of me. He was a perfectly firm monarch.

’’The last time I saw you was immediately after the speech declaring the onset of war. Were you not imprisoned?’’

I lowered my head and answered.

’’This one's sins had been forgiven, so this one was released.’’

’’So I have heard. Were you released on the same day on which the tragedy on Bruno Plains had occurred?’’

’’Yes, Your Excellency. That is the case.’’

’’I have also heard that you are Barbatos' lover. Allow me to ask you this;were you, in any way, involved in that tragedy?’’

’’······.’’

I contemplated for a moment.

Lying in this situation was an easy task. I was confident in my ability of deception as well. There were also many different ways of answering this question in a vague manner. However, feigning ignorance was most likely not what was important right now. Naturally raising the favorable impression which this monarch has of me was more crucial.

'In good terms, he is a principlist.' Paimon had commented.

'In better terms, he's a damn aggressive old fossil.' Barbatos had commented.

'And he is a bald old man.'

'And he's a bald old man.'

These weren't particularly important comments.

I shook my head as I mentally marveled at my own accursed memory.

’’Your Excellency, this one had witnessed the tragedy with this one's very own two eyes. As this one could not stop it despite having witnessed it, even if this one could stop it, this one would have not done so, therefore it would be shameful if this one were to claim that this one was not involved in that tragedy in any way.’’

’’That is an appropriate and sound argument. Raise your head.’’

I did so.

The monarch was wearing a monocle over his right eye. The candles located here and there throughout the tent would occasionally angle themselves towards the monocle and cause it to shine. Although it was difficult for me to look straight at the monarch's face, the monarch looked me up and down entirely.

’’Dantalian, since you are the youngest amongst us and have the lowest rank, I assume that you had barely any involvement with that incident. Even on the very day where blood was shed, you were most likely unable to get involved at all as you were doing your time behind bars. Amongst all of those fellows who are going around claiming to be the Crescent Alliance, you alone are innocent.’’

’’This one is honored, Your Excellency.’’

That wasn't the case at all.

I regret to inform you, Marbas, but if one had to pick out who was the main culprit behind the bloodshed, then I am the very first person who should be pointed at first. Originally, I am the one who you should be hostile towards the most. Regardless, there is no other choice but for you to have this sort of misunderstanding.

Because.

’’Barbatos and Paimon had mercilessly set you at the rear, they had left you behind and made you take on the approaching humans. There is no doubt that they had turned you into a sacrificial lamb under the condition of your release. Do you not feel vexed?’’

Yes.

Because no matter how you look at my situation, people would only be able to see it like this.

’’······.’’

Aah, I laughed inside of my head. In spite of all of my consideration, Imperial Princess Elizabeth and I were the same. For us, the victory and defeat of battles were nothing more than secondary issues.

Victory was beautiful and sweet, however, was defeat not humiliating and disgraceful? In the very rare chance you are faced with a battle where you can be humiliated and disgraced, you must make sure that it is a battle where you are able to obtain something even if you are defeated. Traditionally, engaging in only these sorts of battles was the proper thing to do.

The Imperial Princess was defeated. Despite that, she had obtained a justification. That justification was an item which she could obtain regardless of her victory or defeat. Hence, that was the reason why the Imperial Princess had pursued us to the sea of trees without any hesitation.

I had triumphed. However, even if I were to have lost, my innocence would have been proven either way. To the other demons, I was a poor, pitiable, and pathetic individual, an underling who had been played around by Barbatos and Paimon before being tossed away like a hand of cards.

I had won. However, even if our forces had won, what had I been doing? Where was I when Farnese had been hit by a bolt and the witches were putting their lives on the line? In the rear. I was setting up an encampment in the safe backline and taking in the stragglers.

Although I had won, since it was a victory which was clearly not due to my own efforts, I was standing one step to the side of the glory of victory. Some people may consider this treatment to be unreasonable⎯⎯⎯but I deem this to be the most beautiful conclusion imaginable.

I felt as if I could hear the public ridiculing me from even here.

Ο

Demon Lord Dantalian. An individual who had somehow gained a windfall, however, he wastes his wealth unsparingly for his lowly lover because he is a fool.

Demon Lord Dantalian. He was fortunate enough to somehow recruit a genius as his general, however, he never goes out into battle himself because he is a coward.

Demon Lord Dantalian. An individual who was somehow able to survive to this day due to pure luck, however, he is constantly used by Barbatos and Paimon because he is an idiot among idiots.

Ο

A lecher. A coward. An idiot.

How beautiful these whispers are.

On this vast continent, the number of monarchs who are aware that I am acting behind the scenes can be counted on a single hand. Barbatos, Paimon, Sitri, Ivar Lodbrok, and Elizabeth. There was no one else beyond these individuals.

Five people.

A mere five people.

It was a performance where I had to face only five people.

On the other hand⎯⎯⎯aah, Elizabeth. O Elizabeth whose silver locks are elegant. Imperial Princess who was born with the other half of my soul, behold the countless number of rivals whom you must face!

O Elizabeth. Every sovereign that is currently reigning in the human continent is afraid of you. This is because they had a premonition of you becoming a storm that will raise a new wave and swallow up the coast of the current age.

O Elizabeth. Even your aged biological father, the Emperor of Habsburg, is afraid of you. This is because he knows by intuition the fact that the blade which you have been sharpening until now will be used to stab him in the back and take his life.

O Elizabeth! Have even the Demon Lords of the demon continent not come to recognize you? You, who should have been silently subduing the human continent south of the Black Mountains, were discovered 10 years early. This is because I had courteously invited you to the stage.

O Elizabeth.

O Imperial Princess whose red eyes resemble the color of blood.

O Empress who, during the previous night, had shed blood for a moment after having been assaulted by Farnese in the darkness. You are competent to no end. Because you are competent to no end, you will no longer be careless when going against Farnese. Thus, in the next battle, you may even possibly bring Farnese to her knees. Not only the next battle, but the battle after that, and the battle after that, you might even come out victorious in the fourth battle and the fifth battle that follows after that. Even if everyone in the world does not believe in your victory, I alone shall believe in you. You are an empress who was originally destined to conquer the world, that is how sublime you are.

'But for how long?' a single lecher asks.

'For how long will you continue to win?' this coward taunts.

'Will you win forever and triumph eternally?' this idiot scoffs.

Are you trying to handle Farnese by herself? Manage her. You will be able to do so. I am aware that you are capable of handling her with ease. However, are you also capable of handling every sovereign in the human continent and every Demon Lord in the demon continent at the same time? Is that something which can be handled just because you said you could handle it?

Look. This lecher, coward, and idiot is asking you a question. A question that is more important than anything else. A question shared solely within our breaths as they mix together.

Ο

O Elizabeth.

Can you handle the entire world?

Ο

I can. Aah, it is more than possible for me. Why? Because I had made it so that I had less than five cast members to deal with early on!

Five! Even if I possessed a talent that is slightly lacking when compared to yours, I am not obscure to the point of being incapable of dancing around with a mere five people.

Five! Even if my plots are insufficient and my schemes are poor when compared to yours, they are more than enough to toy with five people and run the show.

Five! One of those five fingers, Ivar Lodbrok, has already fallen and is now my slave. Now the number of people I have to deal with has decreased by one. What have you decreased while I was lowering my numbers? By some chance, did you not actually increase your numbers?

Five! One of the obvious five fingers, Demon Lord Sitri, has descended to a position where it was now difficult for her to raise her face while in front of me because she had lost to you. According to my intelligence, she and Zepar had been captured as prisoners by Demon Lord Marbas. Very good. How pleasant.

Sitri still refuses to submit to me. It was too soon to pull down her final bulwark. However, not only was her fall going to happen soon, but this was also a preordained plan. Once it happens, this will mean that another leading actor among the main five will step down from my stage.

I spend my time leisurely while on my gradually diminishing stage. You are the complete opposite. The stage which you must handle will continue to broaden ad infinitum. I shall give you my applause and cheers. Go ahead and try to perform a one-man play while on a stage that goes against the world.

Ο

Will you not be beautiful?

Will you not crumble beautifully?

Will you not exude a fragrance when you crumble?

Ο

Elizabeth, Atanaxia, Evatriae, von Habsburg······.

Even in this moment, I draw you in my mind.

Do not be too disappointed just because you were unable to meet me in the forest of white aspen trees. If we were unable to meet, then that simply means that it was not yet the time to meet. Be patient. You and I are each other's fate. When waiting for one's destiny, that wait is simply a happy melody. Until the day our fate strikes the earth like a thunderbolt, we have to be happy by waiting······.

’’Dantalian.’’

Look.

A supporting actor who was as terrifying as a bear was standing over there.

However, no matter how terrifying he was, he was nothing more than a supporting actor. Was that not the case? Now let us listen to what he has to say.

’’You no longer have to be afraid of Barbatos and Paimon who have tossed you away. Be embraced within my shade. I shall take you in. Stand underneath my banner. I shall lead you. Look towards the direction which I point. I shall promise you.’’

Good. This was the language of a monarch who lived life. I could smell the scent of dirt. How beautiful. Clouds of dust would most likely billow if war horses were to charge on top of this ground which had been dried by the sun.

’’I promise a crown land where our kind will not kill one another. I vow that it will be a kingdom where people will not be killed even if there is a reason for them to be killed. Even if I collapse and break apart, at least this promise and vow will be eternal. How about it, Ranked 71st Demon Lord?’’

The monarch continued.

’’Will you follow me?’’

’’······.’’

I made the smile of my heart stop at my heart and composed myself.

My expression was still calm and my complexion was temperate. My voice did not reflect the temperature of my heart so it was serene. I slowly lowered my head to make it appear as if I was being pressured by Marbas' grandeur.

’’······Your Excellency. Your Excellency's royal grace is immeasurable and inscrutable. If this one were allowed the opportunity to rest underneath Your Excellency's shade, then how could this one possibly refuse? However, before this Dantalian, this humble one can entrust this one's pitiable body to Your Excellency, there is something which this one must tell Your Excellency first.’’

’’Do you wish for a private audience?’’

’’Yes, Your Excellency.’’

’’You all may leave.’’

There was no one who dared to question his order.

The sound of both the attendants and bodyguards' footsteps seeped into the carpet before it soon subsided. The sound of breathing coming from slightly over twenty people had disappeared in a single effort. The extravagant military tent was more forlorn because of that very extravagance.

The monarch spoke.

’’What do you wish to tell me?’’

’’This one is the emissary of both Barbatos and Paimon.’’

’’······.’’

The air was cold.

Marbas looked at me quietly. I wonder if he was angry or if he was looking at me carefully. It was hard to fathom. Similar to how I had composed the temperature of my heart and did not let it appear in my voice, it seems that Marbas did not allow the temperature of his chest to flow out from his gaze.

’’If you are an emissary, then does that mean you have a letter which you must deliver to me?’’

’’This one does not have such a thing.’’

’’Then how is someone like you able to consider yourself as an emissary?’’

’’Because this one has an item which proves that this one is an emissary.’’

’’Show me.’’

’’This one shall present it to Your Excellency, but.’’

I bowed my head once more.

’’Before that, this one must first convey the words which both parties had passed on.’’

’’I shall allow it. However, bear in mind the fact that your life is resting on top of a blade.’’

’’This one always has the preservation of this one's own life as this one's utmost priority, Your Excellency.’’

I cleared my throat.

I adjusted my clothes and raised my head.

I stared straight at the man before me. A large physique with a shoulder span that was wider than my own by three times, was looking down at me. However, I could not be overawed. Since I had set myself up as the emissary of both parties, I was no longer ranked 71st, the youngest of Demon Lords, and was now the representative of both the Plains and Mountain Factions.

’’I convey this message not to the Neutral Faction but to Demon Lord Marbas alone.’’

’’······.’’

’’We purposely did not inform you of our plans beforehand.’’

’’······What?’’

A wavering appeared in the gaze of the monarch who had resembled a serene lake until now. Of course, it was not a well-disposed wavering towards me. As if he intended to give me a single opportunity to explain myself before releasing his wrath, Marbas frowned as he glared at me.

I explained.

’’Your Excellency, both parties did not inform Your Excellency about the purge on purpose. Although this action is a behavior that is nothing short of ridicule, it was, at the same time, for Your Excellency's sake as well.’’

’’Those are fickle words. How was it for my sake?’’

’’From this point on, the Crescent Alliance will be engaging in an all-out war against the Demon Lords who had remained on the demon continent. Nevertheless, even if we will be engaging in an all-out war, is there a need for us to wipe them out? How could uprooting every single commoner who resides in the territories ruled by the other Demon Lords be the will of both parties?’’

’’······.’’

After all is said and done, Barbatos acted for the sake of the people. It was an arbitrary love and hatred. Paimon also loved the people. It was a self-righteous affection. Although they were arbitrary and self-righteous, there were no other monarchs who acted for the sake of demonkind more than these two Demon Lord.

’’If the war lasts for a long period of time, then a time where a ceasefire is necessary will come. Even if it is not a ceasefire, an agreement will be established. If an agreement is to be established, then would there not be a need for a person to be in the middle in order to mediate the two sides? Would it not be difficult for a person from either side to act as a mediator?’’

’’······.’’

’’Your Excellency, the sin for having betrayed the Crescent Alliance and selling out our fellow kind is unspeakably immense and deep, but if both parties were to have discussed this matter with Your Excellency first, then they would have been able to convince Your Excellency with ease. This one assumes that several parasites hiding in Your Excellency's shade would have been sent to the afterlife as well. However, if things were to have gone that way, then coming to an agreement would have been next to impossible and we would have been faced with an excruciatingly difficult situation.’’

The monarch went silent.

’’So was I excluded for the sake of the peace that will follow afterward?’’

’’That is correct.’’

’’What are your true intentions behind not having brought the information you had conveyed to me in a letter and presenting it to me like that?’’

’’There are too many eyes around Your Excellency. Starting from Rank 1st Baal and all the way to Rank 4th Gamigin. Similar to how their eyes were looming close to the Plains and Mountain Factions, they are most likely hiding within the Neutral Faction in an identical manner. If this one were to have brought a letter, then there is a chance that it could have been revealed when this one's body was searched. Regardless of whether the contents of the letter were revealed or not, the very information that 'Dantalian had a secret letter' would have been passed on to someone. Conveying the message and trust through a letter was dangerous.’’

’’······.’’

’’Your Excellency, I beg for your understanding.’’

Understanding.

The act of looking deeply into a candlelight.

By simply looking only at the light burning in a lamp, looking past the things which can and cannot be seen and feeling them out.

Fathoming the connection between light and light.

Similar to how I had connected smoke with smoke all the way to the other side of the Black Mountains, the ones who were capable of pulling this off were monarchs, and they could only be monarchs by managing this.

’’Please believe in Your Excellency's comrades of both parties who have been together with Your Excellency on battlefields for over four hundred years. Her Excellency Barbatos and Her Highness Paimon are sworn enemies, but for what reason does Your Excellency think that they had joined hands for? Would it not be because there are parasites that are more scornful than their own sworn enemies lying dormant behind them?’’

’’······.’’

Marbas closed his eyes.

The silence lasted solitarily within the military tent. The silence was tenacious. The monarch's wrinkles which could be seen through his monocle were dark.

The monarch's mouth finally opened after a long period of time.

’’······Those ladies who frolic so much that the world aches. Do they intend to give me the hardest role?’’

’’Yes. That is how it is. Your Excellency must pretend to fight and quarrel with both parties. If Your Excellency's performance is poor, then the Demon Lords north of the Black Mountains will see through it with ease.’’

I bowed with respect.

’’Your Excellency, please take me hostage and breach the Black and White Fortresses. Pursue the two parties as if you are chasing them as fast as possible. At this moment, the Demon Lords north of the Black Mountains are most likely preoccupied because of the Crescent Alliance's withdrawal. Their field of vision will become narrow and Your Excellency will most likely be the first person to appear in their field of vision. Take advantage of that.’’

’’I have already captured Zepar and Sitri. Do I need more?’’

’’The more, the better, Your Excellency.’’

’’······.’’

The monarch groaned slowly.

’’It is you who is the loyal subject to all of demonkind. Despite having been sent to prison by them, you follow both Barbatos and Paimon without any complaints and you offer yourself as a hostage for the sake of the demon continent. Dantalian, I give you my respect.’’

The monarch then stuck out his left hand.

I surmised that Marbas wanted to shake hands with his left hand and not his right hand. It was from now on. The act of pretending to be hostile towards the Crescent Alliance was going to start from this point on.

’’This one is honored, Your Excellency.’’

It was at the moment I was about to accept his handshake.

’’Mm.’’

Squeeze.

Marbas grabbed my left hand with his rough grasp. For an instant, an immense pressure pressed down on the bones of my hand. Marbas gripped my hand just strong enough that it was barely short of making my bones creak and forcing my flesh to scream. Thanks to this, my expression had crumbled quite a bit.

’’Your Excellency, what are you······.’’

’’Where is the evidence that proves you did not tell a lie?’’

Marbas glared at me carefully.

’’I am already aware that you are a smooth talker. I too was present in Niflheim when you had made Paimon kneel. How will you guarantee me here that you do not have treacherous intentions and that you are not planning to ridicule me and taunt the Crescent Alliance with that eloquence of yours?’’

’’······.’’

’’Where is the guarantee that we will not be ambushed while we are in the middle of making our way through the Black and White Fortresses after having been tricked by you? Dantalian, your expression is gentle and your eyes are soft, but there are plenty of swindlers out there in the world who are capable of camouflaging their complexions. How will you prove to me that you are not just ridiculing me?’’

Surely. This was not bad.

The man before me did not waste his days as the head of the Neutral Faction in a slovenly way. This much wariness was obvious. Because it was obvious, I was obviously able to predict it. While an intense pain was going through the bones of my hand, I smiled slightly.

Yes.

I have been earnestly waiting for this very moment.

’’O Honorable Marbas, if it turns out that this one had deceived Your Highness, then that would mean that this one was deceived by the two parties as well. This one has already requested Your Highness to take this one hostage. If an ambush were to actually occur at the Black and White Fortresses, then would it not be this one's neck that would be sent flying first?’’

’’That is correct.’’

The monarch nodded.

’’Therefore, the problem is very simple. How much do Barbatos and Paimon trust you? This is the only issue which I must verify and you must prove. If Barbatos and Paimon possess a brain inside of their heads, then they would have definitely left with you a token of their trust. Have you brought one?’’

’’Of course, Your Excellency.’’

I slowly took something out from my pocket.

An item which looked normal at glance and was something anyone who was reasonably rich would carry around with them.

Marbas knitted his brow when he saw the item.

’’Hm? Is that not a pocket watch?’’

’’It is not a pocket watch, Your Excellency. It is a memoria artifact which contains essential evidence. The witches that are under my command enjoy enchanting pocket watches with memory magic, so I have been using it quite handily.’’

’’Hooh.’’

The pressure that was grabbing my left hand gradually diminished.

’’That is considerate. If an emissary were to come with only a verbal message, then they would easily be doubted, but if you were to hide it within a watch, then you would be able to avoid this suspicion.’’

’’Your grace is immeasurable, Your Excellency.’’

’’All right. I am certain that that is a record which will display the weight of the trust that is lying on your shoulders. Go ahead and play it. I shall watch it carefully.’’

’’It is too soon for such words, Your Excellency.’’

Without any hesitation, I started to turn the hour hand of the pocket watch once I had been given the order to do so. Once at midnight. Once at midday. Once at midnight again, and back to midday. The hour hand, minute hand, and second hand of the pocket watch started to spin fiercely while letting out an audible 'vrrr······' sound before smoke started to flow out from the crevices of the watch.

And then.

Once I shined the watch on the smoke, it started to project the recording.

Ο

Auh···, heuuuh······!?

Ο

’’············.’’

Marbas froze.

The sound of moans flowed out consecutively from the pocket watch. The silence of the military tent was broken capriciously. The honorable Demon Lord Marbas was simply staring up at the air with the same expression which his face had solidified into 10 seconds ago.

Ο

No! Stop! Please, hey, wait, don't······!?

When did I allow you to speak words? A pig should oink like a pig!’’

Mm, oink······oinkoink, ooink······!

Ο

I grinned widely.

Although the work of art that had recorded Lapis had been destroyed and will no longer be able to obtain the honor of being the world's first, this work of art here was undoubtedly the world's first to feature a Demon Lord in the leading role.

’’······.’’

’’Your Excellency had instructed this one to show you the evidence of how much trust Her Excellency Barbatos has in this one, correct?’’

Now then.

I smiled broadly while displaying my rare and valuable work.

I was being projected on the smoke and in that scene with me was a woman. The woman coincidentally had hair that was white and gave off a silver shine, coincidentally had horns sticking out of her head, and also coincidentally had golden pupils.

Ο

All right. What am I? Go ahead and say it with your own mouth. What am I, Dantalian, to you?

Master······. Lord Dantalian, mm. Is my, Barbatos' master······!’’

Ο

And coincidentally, her name was Barbatos.

’’·········.’’

Without moving even a single inch, the head of the Neutral Faction was like a statue as he watched the recording which displayed the head of the Plains Faction referring to me as Master and being ridiculed. It seems that he had received the biggest shock he had ever experienced in his life and it had struck him right on his head. Space was also infinite and time was eternal.

5 minutes passed.

It was a beautiful 5 minutes.

’’······.’’

’’······.’’

Marbas was still.

I was smiling broadly.

’’······That.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Don't tell me.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’······No, but?’’

’’That is the case.’’

’’Truly······?’’

’’Surprisingly.’’

’’But, no matter how you think about it, the roles are.’’

’’This one thinks so as well.’’

’’Thus, it was not done by force but voluntarily······?’’

’’This one shall mention that in this recording, this one did not have any free will whatsoever or even an inch of initiative.’’

’’······.’’

Silence.

Marbas opened his mouth.

’’Nevertheless, contrary to my expectation, are you not enjoying it as well?’’

’’Your Excellency, never once in this one's life has this one ever suspected Your Excellency's political neutrality, but that statement just now is raising a slight bit of doubt in this one. By all means, please be discerning.’’

’’Surely.’’

Marbas let out a long groan.

’’Barbatos, that reckless girl has finally obtained her mate······.’’

’’This one does not wish to mention it, but instead of getting rid of this one's doubt, Your Excellency is increasing it more. This one can assure Your Excellency that that body type is not this one's preference. If this one had to choose, then this one believes that Her Highness Paimon is splendid.’’

’’Paimon's appearance is indeed quite marvelous. She is worthy of her title of Queen of Mares.’’

I nodded.

I then asked Marbas.

’’Does Your Excellency now understand how trusted this one is?’’

’’······.’’

Marbas covered his forehead with his palm.

Marbas let his groans flow through the cracks of his fingers. It seems that he wished to pull at his hair as he contemplated, but due to the fact that no such thing was present on his head, it seems that he earnestly believed that this fact was quite unfortunate. Roughly, it seems that Marbas was Bhuddistically seeking out who I was, where I had come from, and where I was going.

’’······.’’

Thinking.

’’······Mmm······.’’

Anguish.

’’Surely······.’’

And resignation.

’’I understand. I shall trust you, Dantalian······.’’

After magnificently accomplishing the three steps of Buddhism, Marbas let out a sigh. Regrettably, it seems that he was unable to fulfill the final step of enlightenment, but who cares? It was fine. Regardless of how foul my temper was, I am not so cruel that I would scold the sadness of a bald man.

Therefore.

’’This one will be in Your Excellency's care from now on. Your Excellency Marbas, it may be rude of me to ask, but will Your Excellency be willing to listen to a single immediate 'request'? Please consider this as a reward for this one as this one had come all the way here at this one's own peril.’’

’’······All right. No matter the wish, I shall willingly grant it as long as I am capable of doing so.’’

I smiled truly refreshingly.

Ο

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Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 15.

A secret alliance has been concluded between the Plains and Mountain Factions, and the Neutral Faction.

However, it is said that the number of people in the world who know about the decisive evidence behind the formation of the alliance can be counted on a single hand······.

Ο

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FIN.



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