DUNGEON DEFENSE - DUNGEON DEFENSE Chapter 37 - Volume 5
The night became cold once the spring rain had abated. Puddles of water that were left behind by the rain were scattered here and there throughout the camp and were slowly drying. I see that water dries well even during the night.
Ever since that day I played Black and White Flags against Demon Lord Dantalian, I have picked up the habit of carefully listening to the sound of nothing. If you inadvertently listen to these nothings, then you will come to realize that those nothings are actually beating as something. It was night. The candlelight wavered firmly as it burned my body, and while it wavered, it also shed light on the words that I had held in my hand.
— Month 4, Day 10. Late evening. Enemy camp, in the middle of holding an ancestral rite, a purge was carried out. Although it felt as if an internal strife was about to occur, it was quickly quelled. It can be assumed that Demon Lord Barbatos and Demon Lord Paimon are behind this. The surveillance is strict.
It was a note that was torn into a smaller piece of paper because the writer could only write a few lines. This spy had pressed down on a shard of graphite in order to write this, but considering how the letters were jagged, it is clear that this was not written on top of a flat surface. I could feel this spy’s desperate loyalty from these ruggedly written words.
······I see that this is a secret message that was sent after being hastily written. Beautiful.
Several crows were obediently lowering their bodies on top of my desk. Demonkind treated crows auspiciously, so they did not hunt them down carelessly. I had planted spies deeply into the shadows of the things that the enemy treated with caution. I removed another note from the ankle of a different crow and spread it out before me.
— Month 4, Day 10. Evening. A disturbance occurred amidst the enemy forces. As Demon Lords took the lives of other Demon Lords, the enemy forces were split into several parts. While they split apart, mixed together, and struck back, the enemy general, Laura De Farnese, performed. It is chaotic. It is difficult to conjecture more from what can be seen.
The words were neat and straight. It was a report that was written leisurely. I carefully peered at the sight of the note being dyed yellow as the candlelight continued to burn.
I opened my mouth and spoke to my head maid.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Do you know when I became aware of the destiny of an emperor?”
“How could this one dare speak about the duty of an emperor?”
“It was when I was little.”
The head maid bowed deeply. The head maid was a girl who would quietly keep me company even when I would pass the time talking to myself. To this child, that was her duty as my loyal subject.
“Evening after evening, every corner of the imperial palace would be radiant due to the abundant number of candlelights. As I thawed my body, I would become curious about something as I stared at a candle that was lighting up a corner. Why, if you go to look at the candles that should have melted the day before, you will see that, on the day after, all of the candles would have recovered completely and be burning once more. My young self was in awe. ······So they resurrect. Ah, every night, the candles resurrect in order to brighten the next approaching night.”
As I unfolded the news that the crows had brought from several distances away one note at a time, I continued my story.
“That was what I had regarded as evidence of God’s descent. Because I was in both awe and astonishment, be it my tutor or my elder brother, I had told everyone about it. Impious fellows would go around clamoring that God did not exist, but that was merely the foolish mumblings of the people who have only lived during the day. God is a very shy individual, so he only wanders around the palace at night.”
“No one believed me. If anything, they jeered at me.”
Thus I decided to confirm it.
“It was night.”
I snuck out of my bedroom and hid in a hallway where many candles had melted. My heart was pounding because of the thought that I was about to bear witness to the sight of God roaming around at night.
“Even the attendants had gone to sleep, so while the palace was silent, the sounds of the guards’ footsteps, the sound of an old soldier coughing up phlegm, and the whir of the wind, these nothings remained quiet as they continued to be nothing······.”
It was when I was little.
The sounds of the guards’ footsteps were simply a clamor of steps within the halls, and as the sound of coughing up phlegm was a noise that ominously shook the air, the whir of the wind was the sound of time being wasted tediously. I had yet to learn how to carefully listen to these nothings. During that season where nearly everything was nothing, my heart pounded furiously at the thought of seeing God, and at that time, the entire world was playing a variation of the tune which came from my beating heart.
How long did I have to wait?
“Someone approached the candlelit hall. The footsteps were much too normal for them to be called the footsteps of God. The person’s form was also much too pitiable for it to be called the appearance of God. Regardless, before the man had drawn closer to the candles, I still believed that he was God. I simply thought that God was magnanimous enough to be comfortable with even normal and pitiable things. Soon after, once I witnessed God extinguish the dying ember of a candle, replace the melted candle with a new one, and set the new candle ablaze, I came to a realization⎯⎯⎯that that wasn’t God.”
He was just a normal attendant.
He was simply a pitiable human.
Before I knew it, I was ruminating over the past with my eyes closed.
“Julia. That night was quite dreary. What I had seen was a normal and pitiable attendant on night duty, but what I had done was conjecture something more than what could be seen. The candles did not resurrect. They were merely replaced.”
“Since the candles were replaced every day, it is clear that there was someone who made those candles every day. Since there was a person who made a living by solely making candles every day, it is also indisputable that there was another person who cultivated, harvested, and handed that candlemaker their food.”
I was not aware that those subjects, those jobs were a major part of the crown land. I have never seen the artisan who made a living by making candles. I have never seen the farmers and I have never seen the blacksmiths who made those farmers their farming equipment. However, as the candle was replaced right before my eyes and shining brightly⎯⎯⎯similar to how the burning candlelight was clear and certain, the subjects that I couldn’t see with my eyes were also clear and certain.
The people existed.
From that point forth, every world shone as lights in my eyes.
People and people were just connected over flames and flames.
I only learned what that clear and evidently burning candlelight was called later on.
“Do you understand, Julia?”
“On that day, I lost God and gained a nation.”
I opened my eyes.
Once my eyes were open, I turned to look at the maids.
“The monarch which you all serve does not believe in the resurrection of God. I am not religious. If I were to have a doctrine, then it would simply be the doctrine of a candlelight. My creed would be for the candlelight to protect the night perennially, without end. As I look into my candlelight, I unravel and fathom the people from a distance. Do you all consider me to be blasphemous?”
Julia knelt down and the other maids followed suit by lowering themselves.
“We humble servants have always been in awe of Your Highness.”
“Although I may have many duties as an emperor, once you have conjectured more from what can be seen, that is when it can be finally established. I shall ask you this. Do you all believe in my perception?”
“Please command us. We shall obey.”
“Summon the commanders. Since it is the middle of the night, you will have to wake them up with caution. If they ask why they are being called, then tell them to bring their weapons. If they ask for a deeper cause, then inform them that the Imperial Princess has forbidden you from answering any more questions.”
“Should we summon all of them?”
The commanders had all gathered by the time it took for a candle to melt by half of a handbreadth. The night was chilly because the spring rain had receded. Because they did not know the reason why they were gathered during the night, the lips of the commanders were dry. I gave a command.
“I heard that a wicked booklet has been circulating within our forces. They say that the speech of the enemy general was copied down and is being passed around among the common soldiers, nurturing traitorous thoughts within their minds. If these traitorous thoughts grow, then will they not eventually become a rebellion? It is said that a nation is a giant tree where the roots are placed within the hearts of the people. Do you all not think that the roots would become firm if you remove the weed before they can cause corrosion? Commanders, heed my words.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“With my concern for those roots as the cause, I command you. I shall allow you all to take a leave of absence tonight. Utilize the subordinates who you believe are trustworthy and raid every single tent. Turn them inside out. If you find one of these booklets within a tent, then execute every single soldier that was assigned to that tent. Do not take their lives while causing an uproar. You must not allow the farmers to needlessly sing as you pull out the weed. Behead them.”
The commanders lowered their bodies to the ground.
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
It was night.
There were flames billowing here and there throughout the military encampment, brightening the dark night. There was a decapitated corpse submerged within each puddle of water which the moisture of the spring rain had left behind.
The soldier who was raising his voice in order to claim that he was innocent was beheaded in the middle of his assertion. His head fell into a mire and muddy water flowed into his gaping maw. The surface level of the puddle shrank accordingly to the amount of muddy water the mouth of the corpse had swallowed. Like so, the puddles all around dried up completely.
I see that water dries well even during the night.
—O Goddess of All who resides in the clearest of skies, please do not toss away these deeply sinful children even if they arrive at your doorsteps, and simply look after them with mercy and tolerance. We shall bury their earthly corpses, so, O Goddess of All, please reap their heavenly spirits. Although we know how to bury the dead, we do not know how to bury their souls, so we can only look up at you, O Goddess of All, for your wisdom······.
Priests chanted reclusively as they roamed around the camp. Because a saintess who claimed to be from the Temple of Artemis was leading the Hymn of the Faithfully Departed, the commanders apathetically left the group of apostles alone. As expected, I had no reason to obstruct the hearts of the priests who wished to soothe the spirits with their hymn.
I passed the note that was written by the second spy to my head maid.
“Julia. The person who had written this is a traitor who has submitted to the side of demonkind.”
“As the day was chaotic, how was this individual able to find the time to write down their words so neat and properly? A disturbance had occurred and this person should have also been caught up in that disturbance, but as you can see, they had tipped off the people above them and obtained the time to leisurely write their report. Attach a separate spy on this person. Kill them before half a month can pass.”
The head maid bowed.
“As you command.”
I turned my head and gazed out towards the other side of the Bruno Plains. It was deep into the night so the enemy encampment could not be seen. Although the enemy encampment was not visible, solely the outline of the tower of human skulls which the demons had piled up towards the sky could be vaguely seen under the moonlight.
Laura Farnese must be performing there. I see that the child who was nothing had barely become something after being taken in by Dantalian. Therefore, the child was performing for Dantalian who had molded her into something.
In the end, can that be beautiful?
Even a life that is completely dependent on someone else.
As I listened to the sound of flames flowing through the night, I pondered that thought.