DUNGEON DEFENSE - DUNGEON DEFENSE Chapter 26 - Volume 3
My chastity was in peril.
Severely, at that.
This was not a joke.
I could feel the witches drooling as they stared at me.
Despite the fact that nothing in particular had occurred, the witches would invite me to their self-established red-light district while uttering, ‘Master, something big has happened. Master, something small has happened…’. If I were to go in there, then those fellows would smoke opium and viscously leer at me. They were all in the nude. Truly, they were beast-like fellows. So this was why witches lived while being mistreated. My vision felt blurred because of this crude temptation.
“Have you all gone insane?”
“Aha. Is master saying that he wants to do it with all of us at once?”
“Why is it that when I pour my words into your ears, you girls hear it through your asses?”
“Ara? Would it be better for the lord’s body to do it through our rear holes?”
“Are we truly conversing in the same language?”
“Just close your eyes once and—owie.”
I hit the top of Humbaba’s head with my knuckles.
“Listen well, you girls with scanty chests. I do not consider individuals such as yourselves as potential sex partners. If you are flat, then you should behave as so and live modestly, and yet, you are trying to reach out for more. You are not in the position to be taken in by the world, but rather, you are in the circumstance where you must take in the world yourselves.”
“Ahahah? It is a bit troubling for us, when our master, who was obediently devoured by Miss Barbatos, brings up the flatness of breasts as a rebuttal, though?”
These misdirected fellows. They really do just dig into another person’s weakness recklessly.
Whenever the witches went around outside, they would always wear a thick layer of clothes. Even during the late winter, where the putrid smell of water emanated from the surroundings, and the early spring, where the foul smell of water seeped into one’s intestines, the witches were unaware of the seasons due to their heavy clothes. Humbaba had told me that due to the fact that a soulless body was something to be cursed at, they should not show it to others. Every time the witches would lower their cone hats deeply on their heads, I recalled the white gloves which Lapis would always wear. The basis of the witches’ cone hats and Lapis’ gloves were the same. Birds of a feather were playing together.
Seeing how they had walked to my side of all places, it was clear that they had not gathered here on purpose. This spot was most likely the place where they had finally arrived at after being chased and chased away by other people. Although there was an inevitability in life, and the path of a person going towards a destination was beautiful, the path of a person being sent to a place of exile, due to their lives being dependent on a certain inevitability, was not marvelous. In that place of exile, I believed that I should get rid of the social status of the lowest class and allow everyone to be commoners.
Within a single night, I drew a pattern. The symbol was three white circles on a black background. While showing this to the witches, I spoke.
“From this day forth, this shall be the symbol of Demon Lord Dantalian. Since you all are my royal guards, it is only natural for you to go around while bearing my mark on your cloaks.”
To the witches, clothes were a prison that was constantly wrapped around their bodies. As people who were ousted because they had no affiliation or home, to the witches, those clothes were their place of exile. By putting my emblem onto their cloaks, I was releasing them from their banishment. The witches understood my intention. At first, they were unable to open their mouths, until eventually, their eyes were brimming with tears.
“Shut it. If you don’t want to wear it, then don’t.”
“No matter what, we will only strip in front of our master!”
While weeping, the witches clung onto me. Sheesh. Only sighs could come out. If possible, I wanted to request for them to not strip while in front of me, but what could I do in this situation? I patted the backs of the witches. ……I have to live with these fellows, I see. In the end, it is my fate to live with them. This damned fate.
“Sniffle. So, when will Master take our undergarments off?”
Wake up from your wild dreams, you pieces of gum.
Excluding the witches, the only ones allowed to bear my emblem were solely Lapis and Farnese. While having black mantles draped over each of our shoulders, we frequently crossed through the Demon Lord Allied Forces’ military camp. Having seen us from afar, the soldiers would whisper to one another.
— The King of Peasants……
— The king’s whore and slaves……
— Why would such vulgar handmaidens……
We considered the whispers of the soldiers as something more trivial than the cries of a morning rooster. While squealing ‘kya— kya—’, the witches hung on my shoulders. It seemed my shoulders were a playground to them. Even while we were walking, Farnese read a book with one hand, while furtively grabbing the edge of my clothes with the other. Ah, I shouted for these troublesome fellows to please get off of me. Lapis silently followed the us who were like that.
Suddenly, it felt as if I had come to this world and made a family.
The land, which was frozen in winter, had become undone.
The frozen waste melted in patches. The sunlight hugged the thawed earth more closely. As if trying to accept the rays more vastly, the snow-covered fields opened their gaps a little bit at a time. Glimpses of the dirt floor could be seen through the gaps. The shallowly opened ground of snow appeared like the gills of a white fish. The earth breathed heavily with the gills and took in more of the sunlight, until eventually, the snow-covered fields had melted and flowed into a brook. Although freshwater fishes, bugs, and other livings beings were unable to live there since the brook water was still cold, the hurried sound of flowing water called out to other living beings. One day, a reindeer with antlers came to the brook and put its hooves in the water. After noticing me, the reindeer hastily jumped out from the stream and ran away. Spring was in the spot by the brook where the reindeer had vanished from.
While withstanding the winter, the Demon Lord Allied Forces increased their bulk.
The rumor that we had burned the Black Mountains and took the head of the Margrave of Rosenberg surged throughout the demon continent. The people of the demon race whispered among one another, that maybe, this time, we can…. This time, the land where the winter is short, we can drive out the humans and regain our homes…… The demons took up their spears. Hired soldiers gathered. Volunteer soldiers were formed. Several Demon Lords, who were once skeptical about war, raised their heavy bottoms. During the spring where beings came to life, the demons prepared for war in order to take the lives of the enemy. This year’s spring will be a brutal season.
Throughout the winter, the humans moved busily. Once it had become certain that the short-term battle would develop into a prolonged war, every kingdom ruled over by the humans put down a draft order. The youngsters, who were preparing for the first tilling of the year back in their farm villages, were gathered onto the battlefield. Occasionally, whenever the rumors about the human armies would reach us, they were all rumors about the Demon Lords, who lived near the human territory, suffering a disastrous tragedy.
— His Highness, Rank 49th Crocell, had lost his Demon Lord Castle and is seeking asylum in Niflheim……
— They say that Rank 70th, Demon Lord Seere, died in battle.
— Those rotten human assholes.
The sound of voices was rampant. While the Demon Lord Allied Forces were catching their breath, and the Human Alliance was developing its breath, the Allied Forces and the Alliance hastily delivered their voices to one another through envoys.
A certain human king had sent a report which claimed that since the demons were the first to cross over the Black Mountains and invade the other’s race, this was considered an invasion.
Since the one to have plundered and destroyed Dantalian’s Demon Lord Castle first was the Margrave of Rosenberg, and since Rosenberg is a human, you humans are the ones to have invaded. We are not the invaders, we are the victims, was the report that the Demon Lords sent back.
In the first place, you demons are the ones to have spread the Black Death throughout the world, and since Rosenberg had plundered that castle with the mere intention to cure his people of that disease, ah, if we are to distinguish the order of affairs, then are you demons, not the ones that deserve to die? The human king sent a slightly more harsh report.
For people who have no proof that we had first spread the plague, and yet, are insisting on it so fervently, I understand that you humans have dumb fucking heads on your shoulders, was the response that Barbatos had written. However, the other Demon Lords adamantly prevented her from sending that message, and instead, interpreted her words in a more mild style of writing.
Once they had begun to quibble over who had done wrong first, a countless number of unverifiable criticisms started to pour out without end. The letters did not have any actual evidence, but instead, provided support through fancy rhetorics. Throughout the winter, although the Demon Lord Allied Forces and the Human Alliance quarreled over who was the initiator, in truth, everyone was already well aware of the fact that, at this point, who was first did not matter at all. Despite the fact that everyone had already perceived this, no one showed any signs of knowing. According to the words conveyed by the envoys, the humans became the victims and the demons became the victims, making the universe full of only injured parties. Therefore, everyone most likely understood that in a world where the heaven and earth had become victims, that that world could not truly be a world which belonged to the people who were wronged. It was a self-evident truth. If one were to go out of their way to speak this self-evident truth out of their mouth, then people would touch, fumble, and rub that obviousness, coating it with the dead skin of their hands, until eventually, the self-evident truth becomes a crude truth covered in dirt, thus the lords did not utter these words. The first to speak would be the first to lose.
And no one desires to lose.
I hired more mercenaries and increased the mass of my army to 7,000 men.
Having heard the rumor that ‘His Highness Dantalian gives good wages’, mercenary captains came looking for me on their own two feet. The captains watched my countenance when before me.
“The word that a massive war is going to occur soon, is growing thick……”
“The rumors are correct. Will you all follow me to the front as well?”
“If anything, if us humble ones were to go to the front line, then would your honor not appear sordid……?”
“This is not a war that follows a great cause, it is a battle where we strike while making use of the enemy’s destitution. How could it be more sordid than this?”
“Would defeating the humans not thus be a great cause?”
“Even if that was a great cause, would that be your cause? Even if we were to get rid of the human empire and establish a millennium, would that place be your kingdom?”
“Your words are immeasurable, your honor. Please be discerning.”
“Pay is provided every 10 days within my army. Infantrymen will receive 1 gold, and cavalrymen will receive 3 gold. As for food, it would be fine to leave half of your salary with me and solve it with that, or you can buy from the peddlers that follow behind our unit. As we do not provide arms separately, manage those yourselves. Since it operates as so, understand it as so. Do not worry about a great cause, and only consider the personal profit that you can gain. I shall be the person to be concerned with the great cause.”
The captains nodded. They had eyes that showed that they understood my words.
“Please tell us humble ones the military regulations which we must follow.”
“Do not discriminate one’s race or birthplace and only follow rank.”
The captains stood up and bowed their heads to the ground.
“We have received your honor’s orders.”
During the late winter, Farnese trained the newly enlisted hired soldiers once more. Since there was already a numerous number of soldiers who were loyal to Farnese, it was not as difficult as it was previously in order to train the new recruits. 2 soldiers who had beaten a prostitute to death, 1 soldier who had threatened a merchant, and 4 soldiers who had practiced usury, these soldiers were all caught and forced to disembowel themselves. Farnese had personally pulled out their internal organs and boiled some blood soup. Farnese spoke after spitting out a chunk of an intestine.
“Even the insides of these fools are rotten so the taste of the meat is spoiled. Truly, they were people that one should not be associated with. Behead them and feed them to the hounds.”
Even as winter passed and spring approached, to the soldiers, Farnese would always remain in their minds as winter, so whenever they saw the general’s face, their shoulders trembled. Although the ground that was frozen throughout the winter had thawed, the discipline within the military remained as cold as a blade.
The soldiers did not get excited by the spring sun, and instead, trained vigorously. While giving shouts, the soldiers adjusted their ranks and held out their spears. The soldiers’ sweat fell down onto the ground where the snow had melted.
Once the fourth month had arrived, the Demon Lord Allied Forces moved south, the Human Alliance marched north, and as if they had arranged to do so beforehand, both armies set up their encampment on the opposite ends of a plain that was located in the center of the human and demon territories.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 2
Polles, Bruno Plains
The Demon Lord Allied Forces and the Human Alliance sent and received ultimatums. It was decided that by sending an emissary from both armies, the two were to discuss whether the two armies will truly go to war, or if we will go into peace talks. Of course, the chance of a truce happening was nearly non-existent.
The number of lives that were lost had already reached the thousands. Like how thunder would resonate when lightning struck, at this point, going to war was a natural flow of occurrence. Even all of the Demon Lords—excluding Paimon—were preparing for this war. There was a single problem.
Who would be picked as the envoy.
“Why not just pick Dantalian?”
Barbatos stood forward here.
“He has the most amount of contributions in this war, doesn’t he? His talking ability isn’t bad either, and since he has the lowest rank, he’d be perfect to use as an errand boy. We’re sending an envoy nominally, aren’t we? So there’s no need for us to lose face by sending a high ranking person, right? Use him as a gofer.”
Truthfully, that was a keen insight.
In the exact center of the two armies, a single white tent was set up. That was the location where the envoys would meet and share a discussion. Since a lot of brooks flowed through the plains, the sound of heated stray dogs could be heard mating near the water. There was no pedigree among stray dogs so a black male dog was tangled together with a white female dog. I stopped on my way to the tent to observe the mating of dogs for a while.
“Those fellows seem to be better than me at that……”
I muttered to myself. According to a long-standing decorum, emissaries with the task of declaring war were not allowed to have escorts or attendants with them.
Once I turned around and gazed at the place far behind me, I could see thousands of flags flapping in the wind. That place appeared like an island composed of demons. Looking at the opposite side, thousands of flags were waving there as well, and ten thousands of humans were gathered in a line, making them appear as grand as an island. Since it felt as if I had exclusive possession of the ocean between the two islands, it felt excessively generous.
There was barely anything inside the tent. Two wooden chairs that were painted white, and a single table which was, of course, also painted white. Only those three objects were placed here by themselves. I sat in one of the chairs and silently waited for the humans’ emissary.
Like the spring breeze, the envoy of the humans entered the tent.
Our eyes met. I moved my head and nodded first. The girl also returned a light nod. The silver haired girl sat on the chair at the opposite side of the table. In a single glance, I knew that she was Elizabeth Atanaxia Evatriae von Habsburg, the Imperial Princess.
The Imperial Princess carried in a parcel. The thing which she brought out from the package was something that I was not expecting at all. It was a Go board. In this world, it was a game board that was sometimes referred to as the Black and White Flags. After taking out a Go board and a container filled with stone pieces, the Imperial Princess set them down on top of the table.
I gazed blankly at the Imperial Princess.
The Imperial Princess grabbed a handful of the white stones and then nodded her head towards me. She wanted to determine who was going to go first and who was going to go after.
—Would you look at this?
I laughed inside of my head. The intention behind this humorous gesture was evident. The Imperial Princess was trying to test my intelligence right now. If I display an ability that is lower than her expectation, then the Imperial Princess will most likely disregard my existence and not consider someone like myself as an individual to negotiate with. Even if I were to browbeat by shouting ‘What foolish action is this?’, I would gain the same result.
How very enjoyable.
I picked up a single black stone and placed it on top of the Go board. It represented an odd number. The Imperial Princess showed the number of stones that were in her hand. 3. Indeed, it was an odd number. Since I had guessed correctly on whether the number of stones she had in her hand was even or odd, I gained the initiative. The fact that the black stones had the first move while the white stones moved after, was the same in this world as well. However, there was no komi here. Whoever takes the black stones and gains the initiative will have an absolute advantage.
(TL note: Komi in the game of Go are points that are added to the score of the player with the white stones as compensation for playing second. Wiki)
I was a person who had rarely ever lost after grabbing hold of the black stones.
I put down my first move.
The black stone that I put down made a light sound.
Seeing as the surface of this Go board was smooth, it was evident that this was a board that the Imperial Princess enjoyed to use. It was most likely made using quite the luxurious wood. The sound was satisfying.
The Imperial Princess silently gazed down at the Go board.
My first placement was at the top left corner of the board.
By putting one’s first move at the top left corner of the board, that was similar to the act of brazenly giving the middle finger to the opponent. In the game of Go, where there is an emphasis placed on etiquette, this was a move that was severely difficult to tolerate. It would be fine to call this my declaration of war. While moving the stones around in her hand, the Imperial Princess made her move.
This time, it was my turn to become quiet.
The location where the Imperial Princess had set down her stone was at the exact center of the Go board, in other words, a cheonwon.
(TL note: The name of this move is called ‘cheonwon’)
If I were to decipher the meaning, then it would be fine to say that in response to my middle finger, the Imperial Princess had given me two middle fingers.
My head became cold. Although it may have been a different matter if a black stone were to be placed down as a cheonwon. A cheonwon with a white stone? Even if a pro were to play against a 7-year-old child, they would never put down a move as ignorant as this. Even from my own father, I have never been as disrespected as this.
This will become a dog fight.
The first move was on the top left, and the second move was a cheonwon. Was this bliss not wonderful? Something like courtesy and contemplation on the Go board should be shoved in the grub of a female hog.
This time, I purposely put down my stone quietly on the third turn. My head becoming colder as my anger rose, was my primary habit. The Imperial Princess must have been the same as well, as the stone she put down on the fourth turn was quiet and the location which she placed it down at was logical. The childish confrontation was over. In an instant, we were immersed in the battlefield on the board.
The war started at the top right of the board and slowly spread to the center. I mainly went on the offense, while the Imperial Princess primarily stayed on the defense. While I attacked in order to pierce through the center, the Imperial Princess built a stronghold in the middle and defended in order to secure the territory around her. I, who was trying to start a fight, did not back down, and the Imperial Princess, who was receiving that battle, did not step down. A slugfest occurred naturally.
While I pressed on the fight at the top left of the board, at odd times, I would attack in waves from different directions. Each time I did so, the Imperial Princess calmly faced my assault. Occasionally, when I relied on modern Go techniques to make my moves, the Imperial Princess tilted her head.
Eventually, after every 10 to 20 turns, her hand would stop and go to her chin. Every time this happened, the Imperial Princess would stare down at the board for a frighteningly long amount of time. Since there was no regulation on time, the Imperial Princess could think for as long as she wanted.
Finally, after 30 to 50 minutes had flown by, the Imperial Princess would counter my move. Although I was unsure whether that was the past style of Go or not, I was at least certain that that move was not a modern Go tactic. Despite that, as it was in accordance with reason, it contained an abstruse principle.
The Imperial Princess revived the stone that I had killed, enclosed the stone that I was fixated on, and utilized the stone that I had thrown away. I stole the stone which the Imperial Princess tried to protect, invaded the territory which the Imperial Princess had surrounded as her foothold, and pillaged the rear which the Imperial Princess had made. We did not yield even the slightest bit. Nothing was conceded and no compromise was made.
Occasionally, when the Imperial Princess set down her white stone, she would voicelessly ask me about her move.
— If it is this much, then is this not enough to withdraw?
At those times, I would put down a black stone next to another with no emotion on my face. Every time the opposition would make a subtle request to create a distance, I immediately rushed in. Even if I were to receive a loss for such actions.
Though this may have also been a matter of winning or losing, it was, at the same time, a type of conversation. I desired to respond to her.
— Push off(Revise).
Indeed, the Imperial Princess responded with a face void of emotions as well. She repeated the same suggestion twice and I did not encourage it. The next turn, and the next turn, as the battle continued, the Imperial Princess and I sounded out each other’s meaning.
— Well, your side will be the one at a disadvantage then……
— That is what you think. I want this spot.
— Normal people are unable to gain every location that they desire. Give it up.
— That is usually how an incompetent person consoles someone.
— I regret to tell you, but I am not an incompetent person.
— And I as well, am not a normal person. I apologize.
The second half.
My hand stopped in mid-air with a stone in my grasp.
Until now, I had gained subtle pleasures by utilizing the results of modern Go. However, the Imperial Princess had created new countermeasures on the spot and countered my moves. At some point, I had started to slowly lose the paths which I could go. A battle that was never before seen in a Go manual was unfolding on the board before me.
Without a doubt, I had taken profit during the early-mid portion of the battle. I had fought and won. Despite that, once we had arrived at the middle point of the match, the Imperial Princess had dragged the game down to a fog. That depth was not her experience, but instead, it was purely her head, her creativity, and over all else, it was her intuition that dragged the match down to the quagmire at the bottom. The Imperial Princess, who did not know who Go Seigen was, had no clue who Bamboo Grove was, and was unknowledgeable of Lee Chang-Ho, was able to drop me into a pit.
(TL note: These are the names of famous Go players. Go Seigen and Lee Chang-ho. Sanae, also known as Bamboo Grove, does not have a wiki page, but he had won the 2005 national Go championship in S. Korea.)
After the middle point of the match, I often fell into thought. My breathing became more unmanageable as the mire rose. In order to handle that unwieldy breathing, I held my breath for a long time and exhaled deeply. I had to invest more than double, triple the amount of time than the Imperial Princess had needed in order to make my next move.
— What’s the matter?
Without even a second of hesitation, the Imperial Princess put down her next move the instant I put down my stone. She was pressuring me with vigor. She provoked and ridiculed me.
— It seems your spirit has abruptly died down. Where have all your attacks, that you had so self-assertively carried out early on, disappear to? Have you run out of stratagems? Have you reached the bottom of your clever schemes? How disappointing. You are a genius with only a brilliant wit. There are a countless number of geniuses like that throughout history.
I did not respond to the provocations.
I stooped and stooped again.
Even if the Imperial Princess made her move within a second, even if she deliberately interfered with my territory, I did not concern myself with any of that and only considered the image of the board. There was no restriction on time anyway. It was my creed to make use of a condition that could be used.
— How insipid.
— Try giving a more amusing response. Is this game not becoming enjoyable for the both of us after such a long time? Come, oh Demon Lord. Your spirit and my spirit, let us determine which side among the two is stronger. Would that, too, not also be considered the fun of Go?
— Look here.
I curled up. I merely curled up.
It was fine to curse at me and tell me that I was boring. Laugh at me all you want.
There are no boatmen who would go against raging waves. A boatman would align the shaking of the waves with the trembling of the bow and avoid the immediate threat. The reason was simple. Boatmen crossed the ocean in order to arrive at land, they were not going out to sea in order to fight against the ocean. In the end, a person with a destination, a person who was given a direction in life, would not be flipped over when confronted by provocations. They merely flowed.
Words had disappeared from both the Imperial Princess and myself.
Incitement, ridicule, and even confrontation no longer went back and forth between us. I endured the time while stooped down, and the Imperial Princess withstood the time while curled up. We had both arrived at a distressful time. There was no ingenuity or intuition there. There was no experience or logic. Since only the surplus of time, which we had to endure till the very end, remained, we were both pulled there. That was not the time that flowed, but the time that grabbed hold and pulled.
Why we had to keep placing down stones.
There was only a single reason.
Merely to win.
Once the fight on the board, that was once a competition for victory and also a type of conversation, had reached its final moment, only the match to determine the winner remained. We had lost the meaning behind all the silent conversations we had shared up till now. No, we were unable to even remember it properly now. Only the Go board placed in front of us existed in our sight.
That was the end.
It was an end game with no glory or disturbance.
It was a concluding move that moved according to the end sequence that was determined.
The Imperial Princess stopped her hand.
The 252nd turn.
Her slender fingers, which were holding onto white stones, drifted in mid-air. As if the time somewhere on her fingers were caught in a net, it remained in place. A long time flowed by. The Imperial Princess nodded her head, and then, moved her hand towards the Go pieces container.
Clack clack clack.
The Imperial Princess dropped three to four stones on top of the board at once.
(TL note: No count of the points due to a one–sided game. The Go equivalent of saying ‘Good game’.)
It was a declaration that represented one’s surrender.
I picked up two black stones and placed it on top of the board.
Once I did so, the Imperial Princess took two white stones and placed it down. I had asked her a question. If I had won by 2 points. The Imperial Princess then confirmed that I did indeed win by a 2 point difference. I carefully nodded my head. So I won by 2 points, huh?
After putting away all of the stones, we reenacted the war from the very beginning. We were reviewing the moves we had made. Although it was obvious, the Imperial Princess and I clearly remembered every single move we had made from start to finish. There was no hindrance in reenacting everything.
“Why did you put it down like this here?” [Elizabeth]
“Since you kept clinging to me, I twisted it around in order to confuse you.”[Dantalian]
“Aah, so you really were trying to do that. I was dubious since it was such a random move. I panicked a bit because I assumed you were perhaps aiming for a sharp resolve.” [Elizabeth]
“How about you? Why did you spread out your pieces here like this? From what I can see, would conquering the bottom right not be the wiser decision……?” [Dantalian]
“Is it not too obvious? If I were to place a stone down there, then the shape would have flowed like this……” [Elizabeth]
“Aah. You were worried that all of your pieces at the bottom would disappear.” [Dantalian]
“That is so. If possible, I wanted to leave that spot alone.” [Elizabeth]
“Wait. If I were to play a piece here, then what would have happened?” [Dantalian]
“Mm. Would that not be a move with a bad pulse?” [Elizabeth]
“A bad pulse? Wait a moment. If I cut it here then……” [Dantalian]
“I told you it really is a bad move. Look carefully, the stone that has difficulty surviving in the middle……” [Elizabeth]
At around the time our review had ended.
I looked up towards the sky by chance and noticed that it was pitch black. It was bizarre. It was something where we could not tell when the sun had set. Once I had perceived our surroundings, I realized that we were looking down at the Go board while solely relying on the moonlight. I drew my brows together and gazed at the Imperial Princess. As expected, the Imperial Princess was neatly knitting her brows. The other party was a stranger, and yet, they also felt familiar. It felt as if we had died and come to life again.
We both stood from our chairs. Just like we did when we had first arrived, we left without sharing a single word as well. The very fact that we had discussed so many things while reviewing was questionable.
There was an uproar the moment I returned to the Demon Lord Allied Forces’ encampment. They were curious as to what sort of negotiation, that required me to be stuck in the tent from dawn to dusk, had taken place. I could not give any sort of response to the Demon Lords who were asking whether the war was determined, or if a truce agreement was achieved. Barbatos, with a face that looked like she was staring at the world’s weirdest person, asked me.
“What happened? What kind of talk did you share over there?”
“……No, nothing was settled yet. I’ll tell you once things are decided.”
“When will it be determined then? Tomorrow?”
I tilted my head.
“Probably the day after tomorrow? Around then.”
“I mean, it’s good that you’re earnestly carrying out the meetings, but why do you need to negotiate for three days in a row in a situation where there’s no other option but war?”
“I’m not sure yet, so don’t ask.”
The Demon Lords appeared pent-up. Regardless, since I truly did not know, I was unable to give a proper response. In conclusion, it was officially decided that the negotiation will continue tomorrow and the day after.
I avoided the questions from the other Demon Lords and returned to my quarters. As usual, Lapis was educating Farnese in our quarters. Farnese was learning how to speak while reading out loud the lines written on a piece of paper. She had a good head on her shoulders so she was able to memorize the lines themselves with ease, but her tone while giving a speech and other things related to that were not perfect yet. Well, everything was most likely not perfect in the eyes of Lapis. I made them stop their practice for a moment and spoke.
“Farnese, do you perhaps know how to play Black and White Flags?”
“Do you mean Go? Though this young lady may have read a lot of records of Go matches, this young lady has never played it herself. Most of the time, this young lady just enjoyed reading the records by herself.”
“Mm. And you, Lapis?”
“This one does not have any experience as well. Is something the matter?”
“No, it’s nothing. You can continue practicing.”
I sat in the corner of the room and continuously stared up at the empty space. The match that I had played until earlier kept drifting around in my head. It was not something that was driven by the mere shape of stones. On that board, a certain atmosphere, or something similar to mood, clearly took shape there. However, no matter how much I tried to recall that form, nothing could be precisely grasped.
Once in awhile, I could hear the sound of Lapis scolding Farnese. I closed my eyes and looked back at the air of the Go board. However, the only thing that appeared in my mind was the slender fingers of the Imperial Princess Elizabeth. Although it somehow felt as if there was a key point there, it was difficult to believe that there was that kind of secret hidden point behind those fingers. ……Really, there are quite the strange occasions in the world. I muttered to myself.
Tomorrow, the Imperial Princess will most likely gain the initiative while I go second.
I will probably lose.
That was the last thought that crossed my mind before I fell asleep.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 2
Polles, Bruno Plains
As soon as the first rooster cried out at dawn, I walked out to the plains.
At the tent, the Imperial Princess had already arrived and was seated on the chair.
We greeted each other lightly this time as well, however, different to the first day where it had ended after giving each other slight nods, we both lowered our heads properly this time. We did not do so with the particular intention of showing the other party respect. It was just that courtesy naturally came out on its own. Once I raised my head, even the Imperial Princess was furrowing her brows as if something was strange.
Abruptly, the Imperial Princess stood up and grabbed my wrist. She turned my hand back and forth and examined it, but the more she looked at it, the more her brows were furrowed. I did not stop the Imperial Princess, since due to her eccentricity, I was also able to carefully observe the Imperial Princess’ fingers.
The Imperial Princess’ hand was rough. My mind remained smooth because of that roughness. I understood the fact that the roughness of a hand and the smoothness of a mind were proportional to one another. It was a surprising truth. Even though I was already formerly aware of this truth, it felt as if I had just now first learned of it. While our right hands were being grabbed at and were grabbing the other, we gazed at each other.
Indeed, there was something peculiar. Although I did not know what was weird, something was weird anyway.
Similar to yesterday, a Go board was set on top of the table. I obviously took the white stones while the Imperial Princess naturally took the black.
The result was my defeat.
On the 232nd turn, I admitted my Bulgye defeat. No matter how much I calculated it, I was at a disadvantage by 1 point. I muttered bluntly.
“Is it a 1 point difference?”
“It is a 1 point difference, I see.”
“Do you want to review?”
“Although I am eager to do so……”
I looked up towards the sky. We had clearly started the match at dawn, but somewhere along the line, the sky was glowing with the setting sun. More time was consumed in today’s match compared to yesterday. Be it the Imperial Princess or myself, we did not tease or ridicule one another even once, and instead, handled our stones earnestly from start to finish. It was a state of affairs where excellent skill was sought out in a fair match. Furthermore, since the Imperial Princess’ ethos was antique to me, I was unfamiliar with it, and since my ethos was uncanny to the Imperial Princess, it was foreign to her. Since my fair move became a trick to her, and her excellent skill became a bad move to me, it became increasingly difficult. Thus, it was inevitable that a lot of time was consumed.
“……At this rate, it seems negotiations will be fruitless today as well. It is troubling since the other Demon Lords will grill me about what I had possibly done that would require this much time.”
“It is the same on this side as well. Though I had come out at dawn with the intention to leisurely go into negotiations after having finished a match of Black and White Flag, I did not expect that it would take this much time……”
“Ah, I apologize. I must have come out a bit late.”
“No, there is no reason to apologize. I arrived only moments before you had, after all. The amount of time I had waited most likely does not even reach 20 minutes.”
We looked back and forth between the Go board and the other person’s face. We did not express it vocally, but we were sharing the same thought. It felt like it would be proper etiquette to be the first person speak since I was the one to be defeated today. I opened my mouth.
“Imperial Princess, you do not have any intention to go into a truce, is that not so?”
“Ah, I have none. Whatsoever.”
An immediate response.
We both nodded our heads at the same time.
“Then I guess the agreement is over.”
“Good. The treaty is over.”
With that, the negotiations had come to an end.
There was not even an inch of dissatisfaction from either the Imperial Princess or myself. A truce negotiation that had ended within 5 seconds after it had started, would this, perhaps, not be the very first time in history that this had ever occurred? Whatever it was, it did not matter. There was something more important to us right now.
“Let’s review the match.”
We revised the match until just before midnight. Part-way through, a small mock-game would unfold whenever the question ‘what would have happened if I had placed it like this here?’, would arise. We tried to figure out how to continue the groundwork of our curiosity in order to keep up the effects of a cheonwon until the mid-portion of the game. Sadly, far from the answer, a method that reached the vicinity of a solution did not appear.
Today as well, the Demon Lords waited for me with wakeful eyes. To the questions about what had happened during today’s negotiation, I responded.
“4 hours from now, the human emissary and I have arranged to meet once again at early dawn. Before the day ends tomorrow, without fail, I plan to determine whether we will break down the negotiation or come to an agreement.”
Despite the fact that I had carried out the negotiations since dawn today, the other Demon Lords were surprised by my statement that I was going to continue the rest of the conference at 4am tomorrow. Among them, a few of the Demon Lords had even complimented me because I was behaving in a truly rare to be seen earnest and sincere fashion.
Of course, the negotiation was already over. We both did not have even the slightest intention to end the war. There was a need for us to carry out our final game simply because our current match record was in a state of a 1:1 draw. No matter what happens, this was a match that must absolutely take place.
Afraid that I may possibly be defeated due to a lack of sleep, I went to sleep the moment I entered my quarters. Although Farnese had latched onto me and requested for me to please do something about Lapis, I ignored it. Handle your education yourself.
This lord has the most important match of his life placed before him right now, child. Do not disturb him.
▯The King of Peasants, Rank 71st, Dantalian
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 3
Polles, Bruno Plains
I doze off for a 3-hour nap. Since I had no reason to wait an hour, I walked out to the plain. On this day, it has been 1 year since I had fallen into this world.
The plains were drenched in the foul smell of water. Whether the morning dew was trying to make prior preparation to form, or if a bout of a sudden shower was making a declaration of war, the drowsiness of my eyelids gently spread the air that was drenched in moisture. That transmission felt pleasurable. 10 minutes after I had entered the tent, the Imperial Princess arrived.
We greeted one another. We lowered our heads more than we did yesterday.
The final match had begun. I took the initiative with the black stones while the Imperial Princess played second with the white stones. Continuing from yesterday and the day before that, the most magnificent match unfolded today.
Like the first match, we provoked each other without hesitation. However, we did not mock one another. Even if she rushed in immediately, my arrangement was not at risk since my base still remained there. In the locations that were dangerous, the black and white stones were evenly mingled together because there was a risk towards me. Although the fight of turns was intense enough to make my head feel dull, since there was no countdown, I was able to regain my composure through my mind. ……Aha, a fight without time restraints was this splendid, was it? A critical beauty can be contemplated as just beauty, I see.
A drizzle fell during dawn.
Rain fell to the ground while containing the scent of the clouds. People say that if a person wished to be fragrant, then they must be broken down many times. The raindrops made sure to break apart and emanate a scent. While being drenched by the sound of the rain being broken apart and the foul fragrance emanating from the rain water, we continued our game of Go. Since our clothes were more burdensome than the rain, we took off a couple of layers. Like how my body was already dripping wet with water, I was now being drenched more comfortably.
Many raindrops fell on top of the Go board as well. The rain that fell on the black stones splattered, while the rain that fell on the white stones smoothly flowed down the line of the stone. Water pooled on top of the board. Be it the black stones or the white stones, their bodies were at least half engulfed in the water. Rather than us having placed them there ourselves, it appeared as if they were there by chance, making their placement closer to a coincidence than a necessity. At times, I placed down my stones without any thought, making it feel as if the rain was thinking in my stead, and the stones were fathoming everything in my place. If one were to look at it again, then that was an excellent move that contained prudency. However, if someone were to ask if I had put down an excellent move because I wanted to, then I could only tilt my head. To me, that felt like a fair move.
The streak of rain fell onto the plain as well. As the rain roughly struck the ground all around us, it made our surroundings tranquil. In order to prevent other miscellaneous things from approaching us, the sound of rain pounded down those miscellaneous sounds. Though I was drenched, I believed that the rain curved away from us and fell at the edge of the plains. I did not feel as if the demon army and the human army, which resided on this and that side of the plains, were islands, but instead, believed that this spot we were currently in was the island. The game board was another island within that island. Therefore, the two of us who were surrounding that island were tranquil like the ocean.
Before I knew it, I was not fighting in order to win, but I was fighting in order to not make a mistake.
This day must not be stained by an error. Albeit it would be a different case if I were to make a mistake where I was unable to realize the opponent’s well-thought out play, I absolutely could not forgive a mistake that occurred due to being lazy and insincere. That would be a shameful and sorry thing to do.
Since I had a lot of time to think and fathom, my stone placement speed was slow. The Imperial Princess was like that as well. We were lethargic. The slow bodies were wet by rain so they were profound. The instant the rain had stopped falling from the sky, we held our breaths for a moment. The water had cleared from the board. The match was decided.
1 point difference.
The Imperial Princess Elizabeth muttered.
“……It seems I have basked in all the beauty I could bask in during my lifetime.”
“Demon Lord, could you die here together with me?”
I slowly nodded my head.
“I am fine with that, but is there a need to die right this instant?”
“What point is there to live any longer when the light will fade after today? If it is now, then I can lightly depart.”
“I promise you that the number of occurrences more pleasant than this will increase from now on.”
Elizabeth placed her hand on her chin and went into deep thought.
“I understand. I shall believe in your words, Demon Lord, and live longer. Even if having hope and having that hope then betrayed is what is referred to as life, I do hope that at least you will not betray my expectations, Demon Lord.”
“I will do my best. ……Ah, let us not review today’s Go match.”
“Mm. I too wish to just leave it like this.”
I lowered my head deeply.
“I am Dantalian. I am in your care.”
“I am Elizabeth. I will also be in your care.”
The Imperial Princess bowed her head as well.
We had introduced ourselves on the third day after having first met one another.
“Imperial Princess, in the hometown where I had once resided, 6 to 7 points are deducted from the black stones that go first. If this were my hometown, then this would be your win.”
“How could one judge these matches with a foreign rule? Please withdraw your words. I wish to accept a lost as a lost.”
“How could I throw away my home and fool my mind when my heart constantly remains at home despite my body being here? To me, this is the same as having lost to you, Imperial Princess. This is not something that can be convinced otherwise.”
“Then we have both lost.”
“We have both won.”
We nodded our heads. For a long time, we stared at the board that had rainwater pooled on top of it. Although the rain that must fall had all fallen, there was still time left for it to flow. Several raindrops formed a streamlet and gently flowed. I spoke.
“It should be fine to hold a conversation now. Please consider this as a secret meeting held between the two of us, Imperial Princess. If by any chance, would it be fine to confirm whether you possess a tool similar to that of a Memory Play artifact? If that is not a discourtesy, that is……”
“Ah, of course.”
The Imperial Princess stood up and took off a single layer of clothing at a time. I received her clothes and felt her inner and outer pockets. There was nothing. There were raindrops that had formed on the Imperial Princess’ pure white naked body. I returned all of her clothes.
“Would it be fine if I could check as well……?”
I took off all of my clothes and pushed it towards the Imperial Princess. As I had done, the Imperial Princess searched even the corners of my clothes as well. She nodded and returned my clothes.
“Excuse me for the inconvenience.”
We put back on our soaking clothes. While sitting face to face on our chairs, we were finally able to get to the main point. The first person to open their mouth was the Imperial Princess.
“It was your mistake for having spared the Margrave of Rosenberg and sending him to me, Demon Lord. Although it seems like you were hoping for Rosenberg and myself to have an internal strife over military power, the margrave is too old to pull that off.”
“I also consider that as something regrettable.”
It was true. I thought that the Margrave of Rosenberg would resist against the Imperial Princess a little bit more. I did not expect that he would obediently become a meatshield and die on the battlefield. In the original timeline, he was an individual who had put the Empire in turmoil because he had nearly started a revolt against the Imperial Princess.
“How did you cajole the margrave into doing it?”
“He meekly obeyed after I put my body against his a single time. He was a silly old man.”
I chuckled. She was a girl who knew how to enjoy a joke.
“I see the Imperial Princess is good with jokes.”
“Is that so? ……That is a compliment that I am hearing for the first time since I was born.”
The Imperial Princess made a thin smile. It was a smile that befitted her. I rested my body comfortably on my chair and spoke.
“You criticized me that I had made a mistake, but Princess, that is the same for you as well. It seems you had sent the Crown Prince along with the margrave. How unfortunate. If he had died during the dog fight, then you would have become the sole successor to the throne. Though you would have probably put the responsibility of the Crown Prince’s death on the margrave……”
The Imperial Princess let out a sigh.
“Was my brother captured?”
“We caught him alive. The Crown Prince is currently my prisoner.”
“……Never in his life has that blood relative of mine been helpful to me. I had tried to poison and assassinate him before, but he is strangely quick-witted so he was able to survive to this day. At the very least, I gave him the opportunity to die honorably, and yet, to be caught as a prisoner there……”
“I have shared private conversations with the Crown Prince often. Thanks to that, I have come to know about most of your past. It is quite inspirational.”
I smoothly raised the corners of my mouth.
“Apparently, you had murdered two of your sisters and two of your brothers.”
The Imperial Princess’ sighs became deeper.
“……I see my brother truly has told you everything. Oh Demon Lord, did my brother tell you the whole truth behind the reason why I had killed my own flesh and blood?”
By coaxing the Crown Prince, I had raked in everything that could possibly work as a weakness against Elizabeth. The family history that the Crown Prince and Imperial Princess was involved with was rather ridiculous. Among what I had gathered, although there were several facts that I had already obtained through the game, the amount of information that was not revealed in the game or were only alluded and not properly revealed, was exceptional. I started to talk.
“Originally, your family of the same blood consisted of two other sisters and three brothers…… Though there was no insufficiency in numbers, in regards to sustaining the Imperial family, after having faced mysterious deaths after deaths, only the Imperial Princess and Crown Prince, only the two of you remained.”
“The rumors about these tragic deaths are abundant. The Crown Prince had murdered them, no, they had a secret feud that resulted in mutual destruction. They were sacrificed because of a plot by several nobles……”
But they were all wrong.
All of them.
I stared straight at the Imperial Princess.
“According to what the Crown Prince had told me, he claimed that, in truth, you, the Imperial Princess, had murdered all of your siblings. Is that true?”
The Imperial Princess nodded.
“That is true. I killed them all.”
“Though there was a 6-year-old little brother among them……”
“That is so. Is there a problem?”
I let out a bitter laugh.
“Despite that, do you not feel some sadness, Imperial Princess?”
“Of course I feel sorrow. However, what problem is there in sorrow? As one should feel sorrow for something that is sad, one must also take the lives of the things which must be killed. That is the way I live. By any chance, do you live differently, Demon Lord?”
Without any change, the Imperial Princess’ face remained cold. Her face stayed the same ever since she had first entered the tent and even while she was playing Go. It did not feel as if she was particularly managing her facial expressions. The Imperial Princess was most likely sincerely asking me ‘if there was a problem with that?’. I scratched my head and replied.
“No. I roughly live like that as well.”
“I somehow knew that would be the case. You live quite pitifully……”
“Is that something you should be saying to me……?”
The wind finally blew after quite a while. It was a wind that contained moisture. The white fabric heaved like curtains and momentarily blocked our vision of one another. Once the breeze had settled down, we could see the other’s face again. The Imperial Princess spoke.
“I do not know if my brother had told you or not, but my brother had made my first and second sisters into his lovers in secret. They were committing incest.”
“I have heard.”
“Whether they committed an incestuous relationship or not, I did not care. However, since I was going to have to compete against my brother for the throne later on, when that happens, I figured it would be a bit bothersome and cumbersome if my sisters were to support him. Thus, when my brother and sisters were exhausted after having shared the same bed, I used that opportunity to kill them.”
“My brother was unable to show any defiance. My sisters were murdered on his bed while they were naked. If this incident were to be known elsewhere, then my brother would be suspected immediately. Did he have intercourse with his blood siblings? Did he murder them after having slept with them……? As a result, my brother was desperate to hide my sisters’ dead bodies. My brother is a pathetic man.”
“Mm. A clean approach.”
“That is what I think as well.”
The Imperial Princess let out another sigh.
“I dealt with the rest of my brothers whenever the opportunity presented itself. However, I made sure to leave no evidence behind in any of those incidents. Only my brother had the sole belief that it was me. Albeit, he was a man who did not have the confidence to even reveal that belief to others…… Demon Lord, you were able to successfully coax that brother of mine.”
“I am uncertain of the exact details, but his animosity towards you is quite impressive. Once I swore that I would become the enemy of the Imperial Princess, his mouth opened on its own. Well, it is thanks to that animosity that I was able to obtain so much information without having to go through any particular trouble.”
“Did you acquire evidence?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
None at all.
I only had the testimony of the alcoholic Crown Prince.
After examining my face, the Imperial Princess closed her eyes.
“That is a relief. A close call, if you may. If you, perhaps, also had evidence, then I would have been done in by you without being able to budge an inch, Demon Lord. Far from unifying the continent, to think that I was nearly taken out before I could ascend to being the empress……”
“But I have the testimony of the Crown Prince. It would become quite bothersome if the Crown Prince were to go around speaking of your crimes publically. Your honor and reputation would receive a great blow……