DUNGEON DEFENSE - DUNGEON DEFENSE Volume 5 - Chapter 2
“You know the old saying ‘Know thyself’? Dantalian, I believe that this proverb roughly translates to this.”
“When you’re screwed, you must quickly realize the fact that you’re screwed.”
“That is correct. What is important is how fast you realize this. However, the issue is, Your Excellency Barbatos, is that in order to know whether you are currently screwed or not, you must have had the experience of it beforehand. If one has not already experienced being screwed, then they will either end up being incapable of realizing that they are in a screwed situation, or even if they do realize it, they will realize a step too late. Therefore, in order to know thyself, you must experience being screwed many times.”
“Hm. If you consider the fact that I’ve experienced an incredible amount of screwed up situations in my life, I can’t really disagree with you there.”
“Yes, Your Excellency. In conclusion, the term ‘Know thyself’ roughly translates to ‘Be screwed as many times as possible’. However, what is the reason we are trying to listen to proverbs in the first place? Is it not precisely because we do not wish to be screwed? Not only is the proverb ‘Know thyself’ meaningless, but it also destroys the meaning of existence for proverbs themselves. You could also say that it is the most worthless proverb in the world.”
“Dantalian. You’re reasonably good at sex and your face isn’t that bad either, so you have a lot of talents, but among your many many talents, the talent you’re best at is your technique to disguise bullshit so it doesn’t sound like bullshit. Even if the most nonsensical bullshit in the world were to flow through your tongue, it would sound like rubbish that is somewhat worth listening to, or it might even sound like trash that is really worth listening to. I, Barbatos, Rank 8th Demon Lord and the lord who boasts immortality, acknowledges this fact. Your smooth talking is easily on the level of being extraordinary.”
“I am honored, Your Excellency.”
Paimon, who was quietly listening to our conversation from the side, appeared as if her mind was blanking out. She then muttered.
“······What exactly are you two currently discussing?”
We both turned to look at Paimon.
“Nothing, Your Highness.”
We then turned back to each other and continued.
“If you think about it, proverbs aren’t particularly useful. Proverbs are, in other words, pieces of advice that were made to be useful to as many people as possible, right? Then that means tons of people already know about these proverbs, and in the end, proverbs provide us with pieces of advice that you, I, and everyone else already know, so there’s no actual need for these pieces of advice in the first place.”
“Your words are reasonable beyond measure, Your Excellency.”
“Let’s say that I had said that the last thing which you can trust the most is money. If you simply listen to this line, then you’ll probably think that this is a somewhat obvious fact. However, if I were to splendidly write ‘The last thing man can trust the most is money’ and engrave this line into a pillar of a temple, then not only would this strangely sound like it wasn’t obvious, but because it feels obvious at a glance, it’ll instead appear as if it didn’t sound obvious at all. I, Barbatos, Rank 8th Demon Lord and the most distinguished lord in the demon continent, present this opinion. Are proverbs not all like this?”
“Surely. As expected of Your Excellency Barbatos. A wisdom that befits the lord who boasts immortality and is also the most distinguished Demon lord. Lowly foot soldiers would have no other choice but to stand in awe at Your Excellency’s insight. Let me try testing it out as well. You cannot win a war with tired soldiers, more so with hungry soldiers.”
“The enemy of my enemy is my ally.”
“If you think that you are an idiot, then you actually are an idiot.”
“Play. You will have fun.”
“Live. If you really want to live.”
Paimon looked at us with a face that appeared blanker than earlier.
“This lady has no idea what the two of you have been doing since earlier······.”
“Paimon is a whore.”
“This damn bitch······?”
Paimon struck Barbatos’ left cheek. Barbatos kicked Paimon’s right shin. Paimon struck Barbatos once more. Barbatos kicked Paimon once more. The space was then infinite.
10 minutes flowed by.
It was a meaningful 10 minutes.
“In any case, we have to know the fact that we’re screwed.”
Barbatos spoke while massaging her left cheek with some ice.
“That’s all I wanted to say. That we’re screwed. That old and bald-headed Marbas may be mad, but he’s firmly upset right now.”
“That is your problem, Barbatos. The fact that you talk needlessly crudely.”
Paimon wrapped a bandage around her right shin.
“Truly. Do you know how inefficient you are when speaking to people? Every time you utter a word, it becomes a waste of time.”
“Like how you waste your life every time you utter a word, bitch?”
“See? Again with your crude manner of speaking······. When this lady was going out with you in the past, this lady believed that it was because you were still young, that your way of speech had become aggressive because you had gone through a lot of perilous experiences at a young age. Thus, this lady thought that, with great magnanimity, she should be understanding of your behavior. However, seeing as there was no change despite 500 years having passed, it was not your experiences that were the problem, but simply your personality itself that was the issue. Your tongue is unnecessarily promiscuous.”
“Heeh. Like how your crotch is unnecessarily promiscuous?”
Paimon slapped Barbatos’ right cheek. Barbatos kicked Paimon’s left shin. Paimon slapped Barbatos once more. Barbatos kicked Paimon once more. Time was then eternal.
15 minutes flowed by.
It was a beautiful 15 minutes.
“Old man Marbas sent a letter a short while ago.”
Barbatos spoke while rubbing her right cheek with some ice.
“Should I even call it a letter? Plain and simple, it’s an ultimatum.”
“Marbas has always been a bit hard-headed.”
Paimon wrapped a bandage around her left shin.
“Although the things which he thinks are allowed do not always have to be allowed, the things which he has determined to be not allowed are unallowed no matter what. In good terms, he is a principlist.”
“In better terms, he’s a damn aggressive old fossil.”
“And he is a bald old man.”
“And he’s a bald old man.”
Was that last comment absolutely necessary?
While internally giving all of the bald people in the world my deepest sympathy, I spoke.
“What was written in the ultimatum?”
“Seeing is believing.”
After unnecessarily uttering that line in a cool fashion, Barbatos tossed me the piece of parchment that was rolled up into a scroll. On the piece of parchment, a rage-filled handwriting was grandly strewn about it.
······I have set up camp in the fields and mountains a fair distance away from the battlefield. When you two had sent me to these fields and mountains, we had discussed a stratagem to strike at the enemy supply lines in order to create breathing room for our kind. However, looking at things now, you two had cast me away in order to strangle our kind.
The military order I was given was to smite the enemies. Now that you two have killed our comrades, I shall ask the two of you who my enemies are.
You two, who had unbecomingly argued when discussing the subject of conquering the human armies, became harmonized when slaughtering our own troops. Did you two start this war in order to behead our own kind? I ask you two this, is it the territory of the humans which you two desire or is it the territory of the demons?
Saying that my faction has the most cavalry, you two are the ones who had assigned my troops as the detached force. I now intend to gather this large number of cavalry units together and direct them towards the two of you. Do I have a reason why I should not do so?
Striking you two from behind and straightening the laws of the demon continent is an easy task. However, as we have fought together on the same battlefields for the past several hundred years, I have sent you two this final letter in order to tell you.
Be ashamed of yourselves. Wear the clothes of criminals and crawl your way to these fields and mountains and await your judgment. Answer everything which I have asked. If you two await your judgment and answer my questions, then I shall decide whether to behead you two or not······.
“I see. I understand now.”
“So this is why Your Excellency had mentioned the saying ‘know thyself’.”
“This is why you said that when you’re screwed, you have to realize the fact that you’re screwed.”
“Since we have grasped the situation, let us immediately discuss countermeasures. How does Your Excellency plan to resolve this? I recall that before carrying out the purge, Your Excellency had said that you would handle His Excellency Marbas.”
“Even if you believe that things will work out, not everything will be resolved—.”
“Although I do want to continue listening to Your Excellency impersonate the voice of some middle-aged old man since it is interesting, the situation is a bit too dire for it to be ignored by simply saying a proverb.”
Barbatos stuck out her lips and nodded.
“I don’t understand. How did he hear about the purge already? According to my calculations, no matter how fast the news got to him, we should have still had another quarter of a day left before he found out. This means that someone had secretly sent him a letter and told him about it.”
“A secret letter, huh······.”
For an instant, Demon Lord Sitri came to mind. The only reason for this was because I had clashed with her only a short while ago before coming here.
It was just after midnight.
Barbatos and Paimon were seated in chairs that were prepared for them outside. Even now, the subordinates of the traitors were being dragged in front of us before then being executed. From time to time, when the executioners turned to glance at Barbatos and Paimon with a ‘Should we really kill them’ look on their faces, the two Demon Lords would nod lightly. Barbatos and Paimon had nodded their heads several times already since a short while ago, and each time they did, the heads of the subordinates would be sent flying.
One of the subordinates had a frantic look on his face as he stretched his arm out towards us.
“Y-Your Highness! O Greater Being! This one, this one had met Your Highness when he was little! In Niflheim! When Your Highness was carrying out a triumphal celebration⎯⎯⎯.”
“Yeah, a confidential letter. If one of us didn’t hand over the information beforehand, then there’s no way that old man Marbas could have reacted this soon.”
There was a death throe and then there was the sound of something falling and rolling on the ground.
I stroked my chin.
“Does Your Excellency have an assumption on who it was?”
“I have noooo idea. In the first place, didn’t we do this purge in order to get rid of those types of bastards? How is it that the instant we wipe them out, there’s already another bastard present to sell us out? Is it perhaps that? Do the other Demon Lords have a hobby of selling people out whenever they’re bored? Is betraying your comrades trending right now?”
“Comrades refers to enemies who have yet to betray you.”
“Ah. That sounds somewhat like an actual proverb. It’s a bit fucked though.”
Haaa, Barbatos let out a sigh.
“Forget it, fuck. Let’s just forget everything. Those human bastards are swarming at the front and those traitors to our kind are flocking at the rear. Furthermore, among those who you think are your comrades-in-arms, there are insects who hastily write secret messages. Makes me wonder why I’m making myself go through this much hardship by going to war······.”
“This lady had told you so back when we were going out. That you should not behave impetuously with everything. You must broaden your mind a bit, Barbatos. The problem is that your mind is unnecessarily stiff.”
“And your problem is that your crotch is unnecessarily loose. Your crotch is so broad that even if all of heaven and earth went in there, it feels like there’d still be enough space for the universe. The foul stench which flows throughout the world every time you spread your legs can probably make those already dead corpses come back to life before twisting their limbs and dying once more.”
“In other words, you mean those corpses that had died because of the convulsions which had occurred due to having intercourse with your incredibly stiff crotch? This lady heard that the numbers reach approximately seven thousand. They say that the God Hades sends his regards to your crotch annually in order to show his respect, but have you considered visiting the underworld in order to express your gratitude to him? Right this instant, if you must.”
“What are you going to do about it, you barren girl?”
“Why is it that there’s never a time where our opinions match? Since our opinions are the complete opposite no matter what the topic is, whenever we talk, it feels as if there’s a demon continent inside of us that’s split in half.”
“This lady has to reveal that she too feels the same way. That is why it feels as if the demon continent could live in unity if you were to disappear. However, this lady does not wish to go out of her way to dirty her hands so it would be wonderful if you went to some location unseeable to this lady and died on your own.”
“What’s worse is that our opinions differ even here. I want to just kill you with my own two hands after all. Even if you commit suicide, I’ll be happy if you do so after getting hit by me a bit first, and if you commit suicide before I can even hit you, then I’ll feel so cheated that I’ll just hit your corpse.”
“Most rotten thing in the world.”
“And you’re the biggest bitch in the world.”
And then another obscure nobody shouted.
“This humble servant has an old mother and a young daughter waiting for him back home, so this servant cannot possibly die yet. Please show mercy and⎯⎯⎯.”
“Do you truly wish to live like that? Barbatos?”
There was a death throe, and then there was the sound of something rolling.
A marvelous staccato.
“Can you not live a life that is a bit better? This lady is referring to a more beautiful life. An elegant way of speaking. If you do so, then even your irremediable personality will become slightly beautiful.”
“I wonder. I’m not sure if I’m living like this because I want to live like this, but the fact that I don’t want to live like you, bitch, is clear. Rather than how I want to live my life, not wanting to live like someone else is the staple of leading my life. Especially when I look at you, the thought ‘let’s not live like this bitch’ is so strong that, in that regard, you’re the bitch who’s continuously extending my life and, in that regard only, are you a bitch that’s of any use.”
“The fact that your life is like trash is not surprising at all.”
Barbatos and Paimon nodded at the same time.
“So how should we deal with this?”
“So how should we respond to this?”
There was a death throe, and then the obvious sound of something rolling followed after.
A beautiful harmony.
“Marbas has military insight. He is experienced. If he becomes our enemy, then it would become troublesome for us in no small measure. Normally, we would resolve the situation through dialogue⎯⎯⎯.”
“He’s firmly pissed off right now. More than anything else, we don’t have a lot of time. The news about our purge will soon hit the entire region of the demon continent hard and the Demon Lords in the back will hastily try to gather troops. We have to cross the Black Mountains as fast as possible and return home before that can happen.”
“We do not have enough time to persuade him.”
“And we don’t have the leisure to fight and win against him even more.”
“Although there is the possibility that he will forgive us if this lady and Barbatos were to wear white mourning garments and prostrate ourselves before him⎯⎯⎯.”
“We can’t. If we do that, then that would end up meaning that our purge was wrong. Why are we apologizing? Didn’t we just kill traitors? People who doubt us will start to appear and we’ll lose our justification. I don’t like that. We have to lead our punitive expedition through the demon continent with a fight of justifications anyway, but we’ll be at a disadvantage if we apologize.”
“How are we going to deal with this problem?”
The two Demon Lords then gazed at me.
Me, the very person who had set this purge in motion.
“Of course, I’m not telling you to give us a solution right this instant.”
“However, we are pressed for time.”
If by a very slim chance the purge were to end in a failure, me, the one who would receive a blow more severe than anyone else.
With cold eyes.
“Midnight has passed. I’ll give you until midday today.”
“At the least, we will also have to devise a countermeasure before Marbas takes action, after all.”
“Until then, we’ll be handling the after-measures of the purge.”
“This lady apologizes. The time limit is excessively pressing.”
One of them was my sex partner,
and the other was my political partner.
The two were also figures of authority who both could purge 7 Demon Lords without any hesitation whatsoever at the same time.
As they were figures of authority that could blame someone without any hesitation if they had to blame someone, they could be cold when they had to be cold, and they were well aware of when to set themselves ablaze if they had to be hot. In other words, the lords of all of demonkind were obliquely staring at me.
“No matter how smart you are, I’m aware that this is a difficult request. But.”
“We must ask this of you, Dantalian. All of our fates are on the line.”
I pressed my thumb against my chin as if I were patting it.
The scenery of the night flowed smoothly.
As if time had forgotten about its own speed.
Soldiers roamed around the encampment while holding torches. The military camp was illuminated by the torches located here and there, making it seem like summer fireflies were randomly flying about. Below each light, the subordinates of traitors had been caught and were being dragged. They were either dragged off and killed or dragged here and killed. A single group of soldiers snickered. A dark night. The snickering easily spread from the shadows. The underlings howled until their heads were severed, and in an instant, a death throe would resonate before coming to an abrupt halt.
Who is it?
Who is trying to bite me right now?
The purge had proceeded with extreme secrecy. If you did not have a high-ranking post like a Demon Lord, then you could not have found out about it. The traitors were all punished without exception, and yet, a letter had still reached Marbas. Although there were no traitors, there was a betrayal. Who was it? How?
Marbas had gathered his dispatched force and traveled a long distance away. Since he was constantly on the move, it was difficult to pinpoint his exact location. Despite that, the letter had properly gone straight to Marbas and⎯⎯⎯Marbas immediately believed the report of treason that was written in the letter. Why? Who was it?
How could he have trusted the report which stated that his comrades-in-arms of 500 years, Barbatos and Paimon, had caused a disaster without doubting the report even slightly? Is there someone he trusts more than Barabtos and Paimon? If there is, then who exactly is it? Who could possibly receive that much trust?
The last thing a person can trust the most is money.
I tapped my chin with my index finger.
Within the sensation and velocity of touching my skin, time became slower. I hastened my thought process.
Money. Military funds.
In the end, Barbatos, Paimon, and Marbas occupied the top government positions in their provinces. The financiers of the armies. Even this expedition of leading our troops for barely half a year had wasted a tremendous amount of supplies. However, these leaders had repeated expedition after expedition for more than 400 years. They should all be well aware of how important military funds are down to their cores.
You cannot win a war with tired soldiers, more so with hungry soldiers.
Thus there were a lot of firms throughout the demon continent. Groups of merchants that took full charge of the provisions and supplied them. Firms that loaned money to those who were lacking in military funds. There was a firm that was in charge of each respective Demon Lord, and in my case, it was the Keuncuska Firm. In the first place, the reason why Lapis Lazuli and I had met was due to that.
To merchants, war is an opportunity to make money.
I tapped my chin with my middle finger.
I searched through my memories. There was no doubt. There was a time and place where I had heard this. The information regarding which firm and merchant were in charge of Marbas. It was not because I had a particular interest in Marbas. It was a survival instinct. The firm and the merchant were coincidentally both quite important to me at that moment, and they were also in charge of ‘the person who was once severely hostile towards me’. Impressively, my survival instincts were forcing me to remember⎯⎯⎯.
I then looked at the Demon Lord before me.
Rank 9th Demon Lord.
The woman who had accused me of the matter regarding the Black Death.
Once I looked at her, Paimon opened her mouth.
With a voice that sound three or four times slower than usual.
Paimon tilted her head ever so slowly.
I then remembered.
— Your Highness.
It was around the time I had met Lapis for the first time.
— If Your Highness does not repay the debt and interest or declare bankruptcy, then the Keuncuska Firm will have no other choice but to take Your Highness’ property and body by force.
The me at that time was in a completely different situation compared to now. I had no money. My life was hard-pressed. The urgency of my life had brought upon the criticality of time. I had to escape from my debt as soon as possible. In order to survive, I had hunted the game that was the easiest to tear apart.
— The Keuncuska Firm has a countless number of supporters. Amongst them, there are other Demon Lords like Your Highness.
— Rank 5th Demon Lord Marbas.
— And Rank 9th Demon Lord Paimon are also included.
A dark night.
Soldiers were going back and forth throughout the camp while holding torches. Similar to how the light was lengthily connected from torchlight to torchlight, my thought process was connected from point to point.
Underlings let out their final cries of agony. Decapitated heads fell endlessly. Lapis Lazuli’s voice flowed between the endless screams and boundless cries.
— Our firm is famous for being merciless to debtors who fail to make their payments.
— In the past, there was an incident where Rank ······ Demon Lord Glasyalabolas received a loan of ······Libra and did not pay back the interest for ······.
Screams. Cries. Noise.
But not yet.
Similar to a steel sword that had rusted due to the passage of time, my memories were scratched in various places. Since a long time ago, I have always been weak at memorizing numbers and doing calculations. Those parts of my memories were always the first to be worn down.
However, as a steel sword was still a steel sword even when rusted, it was sharp enough to kill a person and save my own life.
There are still words left for Lapis, for my memories, to tell me. What was said? What did Lapis tell me?
It was a dark night. Because Lapis was standing in a place that could not be seen, the sensation of her opening her mouth and whispering silently flooded over me. Within the space where torchlights and torchlights connected and swayed, I solely connected the light within the light.
— Your Highness.
— At that time, our firm had hired a small number of 9,000 mercenaries.
— And left them in the command of Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
— Glasyalabolas could not even hold out for ······ before surrendering.
I tapped my chin with my ring finger.
The wind blew. The torches flared up.
As they flared, the light created a long line.
Who wishes for the war to not end? Merchants.
Who is trying to interfere with the war right now? Marbas.
Which firm is in charge of Marbas? The Keuncuska Firm.
If that is the case, then who rules over the Keuncuska Firm?
I asked myself this.
I immediately answered.
An ancient vampire who has lived for several hundred years,
and the merchant who held the most hostility towards me before anyone else.
Oho. Oh dear. Would you look at this?
I quietly gazed at the band of light that was surging in our military encampment. Barbatos and Paimon, while slowly drawing their brows together, no, they were still endlessly drawing their brows together slowly, stared at me as I did that.
As I thought, Barbatos, Paimon, you two are clever. However, I shall offer you two my deepest condolences. The two of you have wound up misunderstanding something at a decisive area.
It was not a Demon Lord who had sent Marbas that letter. Ivar Lodbrok. It was the vampire who was in charge of Marbas and also did not desire for the war to end who had sent it.
I cannot blame these two Demon Lords for this misconception. Barbatos and Paimon had sincerely kept the matter regarding the purge under strict confidentiality. Only their close aides knew about it. If the information was leaked, then it was undoubtedly another Demon Lord who had done it, these two had jumped to this conclusion as if it were an obvious fact. This was their mistake.
Even if the only people who knew about the purge beforehand were the other Demon Lords⎯⎯⎯there is no reason whatsoever that the person to have sent the letter to Marbas had to have been the Demon Lord themself.
Instead of personally informing Marbas about the secret, all the information leaker has to do is lightly toss the information to the merchant who Marbas trusts. Because.
The enemy of my enemy is my ally.
Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
Paimon’s close aide. The person who had learned about the purge faster than anyone else.
Most importantly, the enemy who is hostile towards me and is trying to bring me down.
— Your Highness.
— At that time, our firm had hired a small number of 9,000 mercenaries.
— And left them in the command of Rank 12th Demon Lord Sitri.
I do not know exactly when, but it was definitely since a very long time ago.
A relation that was close enough for the Keuncuska Firm to hire an army and leave them in that person’s command. A rare relationship that was so close that the person would strike other Demon Lords for the Keuncuska Firm and make those Demon Lords cough up money.
Since a very long time ago⎯⎯⎯the Keuncuska Firm and Demon Lord Sitri were ‘accomplices’ with a cozy relationship.
After Sitri had passed on the information regarding the purge to Ivar Lodbrok, Ivar Lodbrok had sent the letter to Marbas.
It was at the moment my pinky had tapped my chin.
The world finally released an anxious sigh. The light returned to the light. The many sounds returned to the throes of death. Time had recovered its beating pace and flowed quickly.
As expected, Barbatos and Paimon stopped slowly drawing their brows together and spoke to me.
“Dantalian? What’s up with you all of a sudden?”
“Are you perhaps unable to hear this lady’s words?”
I hear you loud and clear. So clear that I cannot hear you any better than this.
I raised the corners of my lips and smiled.
“Your Excellency ordered this one to take care of this matter before midday, correct? It is all right. Do not worry. I have a rough grasp on how things have proceeded after all.”
Both Barbatos and Paimon tilted their heads in the opposite direction from each other.
As expected of the two women who were each other’s first love, their thought processing speed was also similar. Even the angles which they had tilted their heads in were alike. In short, they were the exact same degree of slowness.
Albeit, despite this fact, their thought processing speed was on the fast side. Is this not regrettable? The original speed is bound to be relative.
I spoke once more while matching their pace.
“Your Excellency Barbatos. Your Highness Paimon. This one has a general grasp of the situation. There is no need to wait until midday today. I shall take care of it within an hour, so please handle the preparations to withdraw with haste.”
“······Whaat? No, wait. Wait a second. ······What? You grasped the situation? What are you talking about? Don’t tell me, are you saying that you figured out who it was that leaked the information?”
I knit my brows slightly.
“That is the case, Your Excellency. I have said that with that exact meaning in mind. What other meaning could it possibly have? Have I ever ridiculed Your Highness with nonsense before?”
Barbatos shut her mouth.
Paimon spoke up from beside her.
“······How exactly? We have yet to carry out any sort of investigation. There are over 10 Demon Lords who could have possibly leaked the information. How could you have figured out who it was without having interrogated anyone?”
“My apologies, Your Highness Paimon, but investigations are actions that are carried out when one lacks information. Although this one may not know a lot of things, this one at least knows enough to figure out what must be known.”
There was a moment of silence.
I let out a sigh.
“All right. When this one was born, this one was born possessing reasonable intellect. This one can easily figure out things which Your Excellency and Your Highness still do not know. As this is simply a fact, please accept it as so. For what reason is it that this one, who is at the tail end of ranks among Demon Lords, is able to have a private audience with lords and monarchs such as Your Excellency and Your Highness? Is it not because my noggin was appraised highly? It is nothing new. Please accept the fact that my brain has more creases than Your Excellency and Your Highness’ and let us first discuss countermeasures.”
“······That’s right. I completely forgot because I shoved you in a cell for the past week. Dantalian, although you’re reasonably good at sex and have a reasonably good-looking face, more than anything else, you’re a fucking annoying bastard.”
Barbatos sighed heavily.
“The Heavens are quite disturbingly fair. Even though they gave this bastard a good head and tongue, they forgot to package him with the most important thing, a good personality. Hey, you black lamb, if you were a bit more modest, then we would probably have had sex a hundred more times every time we did it.”
I don’t need that kind of bonus. Seriously.
The ‘play’ which you forced me to do was so extreme that I honestly got freaked out every time we did it. Master or whatever. Telling me to treat you like a slave or whatever. It felt like she had a few loose screws in her head. I apologize, but even someone like me, who has both common sense and refinement, finds this to be difficult to endure.
“······So who is the culprit?”
It seems Paimon had regained her composure as she covered her mouth with her fan.
“No, rather than that, what did you mean when you told us to handle the preparations to withdraw with haste? Please explain it to us in a more calm and orderly manner.”
“I apologize, but I cannot tell Your Excellency or Your Highness about the culprit yet. Just know that this one promises to handle this issue perfectly.”
“Ah. Again. Look at this bastard roll his tongue again. Fuck, it wasn’t just once or twice that that had gotten the best of me.”
“How do you plan to deal with it? Are you telling us to simply believe in you with no questions asked? And what do you mean by withdrawing already? Do you not see us still dealing with those remaining pieces of garbage over there? Just those guys alone number in the thousands. The thousands. It’ll take the entire day just to wipe them all out.”
“That is what I wished to talk about, Your Excellency.”
“Do we really have to go out of our way to cumbersomely kill them all?”
“Your Excellency and Your Highness. Please allow me to borrow your ears for a moment.”
Barbatos and Paimon looked straight at each other’s face.
They then, as I had expected, leaned their ears towards me at the same angle and speed.
I smiled benignantly as if I were presenting enlightenment to a couple of people who were lost in a cloud of thick dust.
“⎯⎯⎯Crazy bastard. Insane bastard. Fucking bastard. No, seriously, when did you make something like that? You’re crazy, right? You’re insane, right? Fuck. How could you do that without my permission?!”
Barbatos struck my cheek as if she intended to chew me alive right this instant. Paimon was simply gazing at me with a ‘woooow······ wow, woooow······’ expression on her face. Even though the directional nature of the two was the complete opposite, what they actually wanted to express was the same.
The fact that I was a crazy bastard.
“No! Absolutely not! Are you insane, you son of a bitch? Do you think I’d just sit here and allow that?! Get rid of it right this instant. No, hand it over. Hand it over to me!”
“Dantalian, this lady also believes that that is a bit too much······. No, of course, this is a fact that this lady was already aware of, but for your information, the only ones in the world who know of this fact are you, Dantalian, and this lady······. Barbatos had killed the rest.”
“And I’m going to kill you now!”
Barbatos grabbed me by the collar and shook me intensely.
A man like myself was a man that had found that reconciling two Demon Lords who were once lifetime enemies was not enough and had the caring heart to even bring their personal opinions together in perfect harmony, but before I could be in awe with my own greatness, mm. I felt nauseous. I felt like I’d really throw up if she continued to shake me any more than this. My gastric fluid was shouting that they wanted to see the outside world as well.
I spoke calmly.
“Nevertheless, even if you say that. The method which this one had informed Your Excellency and Your Highness about is the most effective.”
Barbatos froze in place.
Thanks to that, my urge to vomit was able to subside. I displayed a fresh smile. Every time I smiled like this, Lapis Lazuli would advise me in a serious tone, ‘······Your Highness, since that smile easily calls upon one’s desire to commit murder when witnessed, please refrain from doing so as much as possible’, but how could that possibly be the case? Since a long time ago, Lapis’ aesthetic sense was somewhat lacking in certain parts. When I smiled refreshingly, I knew how to actually smile refreshingly.
“Is that not so?”
“Most importantly, there is no political burden whatsoever. What could people possibly say on the outside after having witnessed it? Could they even go around to places telling people about it? There are no losses and only a lot of merits. Even if Your Excellency requests me to suggest a stratagem that is more splendid than this, it would only trouble this one······.”
“······Shut up. Damn it. Since you’re the one talking, this bullshit doesn’t sound like bullshit.”
“Of course, that is because this is not bullshit. Your Excellency, accepting the truth as the truth is also the virtue of a sovereign.”
“I told you to shut your damn mouth!”
Barbatos let go of my clothes and groaned. She had started to contemplate while pulling at her hair, but it felt as if she was quite Bhuddistically exploring who I roughly was, where I had come from, and where I was going.
“Do what you want, you son of a bitch······.”
After magnificently accomplishing the three steps of Buddhism, Barbatos gave herself up in despair. Although, regrettably, it felt like she was unable to accomplish the actual last step which was enlightenment. It was fine. I did not severely rebuke the lack of virtue of all creatures. Despite my appearance, I am quite merciful.
I spoke with a mindset that accepted all of the unsightly things of the world.
“A most accurate decision, Your Excellency. This one is always in awe when hearing Your Excellency’s voice. Although Your Excellency occasionally makes very bad decisions such as when Your Excellency had threatened me and even thrown me in prison, that is no more than occasionally, so I can confidently say that Your Excellency makes the correct decision the majority of times.”
“······Dantalian is, what should I say?”
Paimon muttered from behind her fan.
“His head is good, but he is slightly, or perhaps an incredibly unfortunate man······.”
This was quite the heated criticism.
“In any case, this one will take it as having received Your Excellency and Your Highness’ approval beforehand, so this one will be taking his leave······ Ah, right. Your Highness Paimon.”
As I was lowering my head and about to depart, there was something that I had suddenly remembered, so I whispered to Paimon. As Barbatos was still asking herself what the root of her existence was, she did not show any concern to us.
“Was it perhaps Your Highness who had spread those booklets throughout the military headquarters of the Crusaders?”
Paimon tilted her head prettily.
“Booklets······ is it?”
“Yes. Books that have gray covers. They are incredibly thin.”
“Mm? This lady does not know. This lady is not sure of such things.”
Paimon hid the sides of her mouth with her fan and knit her brows. Her expression appeared as if she were trying to think of something, but was unable to recall anything at all.
“What exactly are those booklets supposed to be that you are asking this lady about them, Dantalian?”
“Please do not be surprised. I heard that the humans in the army of the Crusaders had written down my speech on their own initiative and are reading it as they pass it around. That is the booklet which I had mentioned.”
“Oh dear, is that true? It has been a long time since this lady has heard such good news.”
Paimon was visibly delighted.
“As expected, people will understand if spoken to. If they do not understand even if they are told, then the majority of the time, it is because their education is incomplete. Their lack of education is due to the unworthiness of the monarch so the subjects cannot be held responsible. When one’s subject does not understand, it is only appropriate for the monarch to lament instead of rage. In that regard, the fact that the humans are passing the booklets around on their own volition······ that is truly, truly a joyous event.”
Paimon spoke with a complexion that was dyed with elation.
“Is there something which this lady could help with?”
Is that how it is.
I courteously held my smile in my mouth.
“Is the sight of the people trying to stand up on their own not beautiful? Would it also not be beautiful to silently watch over the people trying to stand up on their own? If they are no longer able to endure and end up reaching their hands out, it would not be too late to take hold of their hands at that time.”
Paimon muffled her laugh. Beyond her fan, her voice was dyed in endless joy. It was a smile that was gentle because it was beautiful.
“Indeed, that is right as well. Your words are correct, Dantalian. This lady will hope that the lovely scenery will be prolonged for as long as possible.”
Perhaps, Sitri was moving behind the scenes solely for this smile.
Right when we were about to say our goodbyes while smiling at one another, Barbatos glared at us with murderous eyes like a chihuahua that had starved for roughly two days.
“Hey. Do you not see me suffering here? What are you two so warmly whispering about?”
We both turned to look at Barbatos.
“Nothing, you washboard child.”
“Nothing, O Lord who has realized the virtue of destitution.”
I’m saying it again, but this was quite the heated criticism.
▯King’s Mistress, Mixed Blood, Lapis Lazuli
Empire Calendar: Year 1506, Month 4, Day 11
Polles, Bruno Plains, Army of the Crescent Alliance
“······Has His Highness Dantalian not arrived yet? Why has he yet to come despite having called for me?”
“His Highness will be back soon.”
I spoke smoothly.
“Please wait calmly, Chief.”
“Do you know how many times I have heard that line now? After a while, in a short bit, soon······ tsk.”
We were in a tent that was shrouded in the night.
The Chief of the Keuncuska Firm, Ivar Lodbrok, clicked his tongue. He has been tapping his cane against the floor since a while ago. It is rather unpleasant.
“Chief, this one had requested you to wait.”
“If it is difficult for you to wait, then this one will separately notify you when His Highness has returned. Do you wish for this one to see you out?”
Chief Lodbrok glared fiercely in my direction. Did my words hit a nerve, I wonder. That is surprising. I was simply being considerate towards the old and infirm merchant.
“This youngster who is still wet behind the ears······. For someone who is simply the child of a common whore, with what courage are you babbling so proudly?”
“This one sees that you possess a marvelous talent, Chief. Yes. My biological mother was indeed a harlot. It has not been that long since this one had discovered this truth either. How did you find out, Chief?”
“Do you think that I would not have attached even a single spy on you? I am also aware that you were the one who had personally taken the head of your own mother. How interesting. Your behavior of imprecating others is a glory that you are able to bask in solely due to Demon Lord Dantalian.”
“Do you not look forward to seeing if that glory of yours is simply a brief moment behind the scenes?”
That is so.
A foul stench is destined to emanate from things that have stagnated.
This is one of the horribly rotten truths of the world.
“Your words are harsh, Chief. Please be more mindful.”
“Ha. The day when Dantalian’s age of prosperity comes to an end will also be the day when your descent down to Hell begins. What would happen if the world were to find out that you had murdered your own biological mother? Since he has made such a boorish woman into his lover, His Highness Dantalian’s reputation will most likely plummet as well. Are you aware? There is not a single man in the world who would like a woman that could make them fall from grace.”
The Keuncuska was the leading firm of the demon continent.
As people would say, they were a group that was referred to as the Great Keuncuska.
Even now, the firm was carrying out the role of warehouse keeper and was providing supplies for the Crescent Alliance. Adding to that, Lodbrok was a big merchant who was in charge of both Demon Lord Marbas and Demon Lord Paimon. If you were not one of the higher ranking Demon Lords, then you would most likely be incapable of even standing against this vampire who was sitting in front of me.
“When that time comes, I shall observe how violently an outcast like you will behave against the world.”
I let out a sigh.
⎯⎯⎯I see that he is hardly worth my time.
My sigh must have irritated him as the chief drew his brows together.
“Who do you think you are to be sighing before me?”
“You should also be well aware since you said that you had placed spies on this one. Although it may be more than this one deserves, this one receives deep affection from His Highness Dantalian. This one will not deliberately point out the issue regarding the fact that you are speaking informally to the mistress who may or may not be capable of exerting her influence to His Highness.”
“Oho. That is quite the high horse you are on there. What are you trying to say?”
“In the end, this one will not make His Highness Dantalian fall.”
The chief snorted after hearing my words.
“And here I was, curious as to what it was that you wanted to say. What a foolish child. Is that something that will not happen simply because you wish for it to not happen? The mere act of spreading the news of your lowly and immoral crime would be enough to immediately drop the reputation of······.”
“I apologize for cutting you off in the middle of your sentence, Chief, but how exactly could that possibly make His Highness fall?”
The chief knitted his brow. Was he unable to understand? Or is he feigning ignorance despite having understood?
Regardless of which side it was, there should be no problem with playing along with the scrawny disposition of an elderly man. He is a precious guest. I am a person who welcomes precious guests with my utmost devotion.
“His Highness is not an individual who cares about his reputation to the world. To be more precise, as His Highness is a person who exercises caution towards the increase of his own reputation, His Highness is an individual who will instead try to lower his own reputation by any means possible. By doing so, he is able to bewitch the many beasts that live in blindness.”
“His Highness had risen to the ranks of millionaires within the shortest amount of time in history. His Highness was the fastest person to have ever broken through the Black and White Fortresses. When Demon Lord Marbas was defeated and Demon Lord Barbatos’ forces were in danger of being breached, it was also His Highness who had obtained the achievement of rescuing the Crescent Alliance. Despite these facts, how are things like, Chief?”
I was simply speaking in a voice that was neither high or low.
“Despite these achievements, are the sounds of praise towards His Highness resonating throughout the demon continent?”
That was not the case.
His Highness’ fame was not even remotely high. Demon Lord Dantalian, who was ranked 71st, was so insignificant that he was a monarch whom the majority of the people living on the demon continent have never heard the name of. Although it felt as if his fame would begin to spread around the time the Black Death had started to spread, that was only for a moment. By making a half-breed such as myself into his fiancée and appointing a human girl as his acting general, His Highness’ reputation had fallen to rock bottom
A lecher. A fool among fools.
That was the standpoint which the majority of demonkind had towards His Highness.
“His Highness’ wealth is attributed under this one’s accomplishment as his head handmaiden. The meritorious deeds of breaching through the Black and White Fortresses and rescuing the Crescent Alliance are set as services carried out by Lady De Farnese. Chief, do you consider all of these things to be a coincidence?”
“You threatened to widely spread the news that this one had murdered her own mother, correct? That is fine. This one will not stop you. If anything, His Highness would most likely give you a round of applause and thank you, Chief. He will presumably say something along the lines of ‘You have done a good job doing this great one’s task in his stead’.”
“In the end, there is no way that this one could ever make His Highness fall. Because His Highness has always desired to reside in the low shadows. His Highness is an individual who prefers to dwell in the shadows whenever the noon sun is shining in the sky. This one is graciously one of those shadows for His Highness.”
Acting General, a human child.
Captain of the Royal Guards, an immensely lowly witch.
Head Handmaiden, a half-breed succubus.
As vassals, we serve His Highness for life. His Highness is a fire that will burn the world. If the fire is going to burn and shine its light as far out as possible, then, more important than anything else, a night, a dark night was undoubtedly necessary. An illegitimate child, a slaughterer, and an outcast, we are His Highness’ dire night.
“The likes of us are nothing but humble beings, but we attend to His Highness with our humbleness. As we know that this is our duty as his vassals, we have no reason to change our despicableness.”
The vampire became silent.
The cane that kept tapping against the floor of the tent had stopped as well. Even the occasional noise of him clicking his tongue had ceased. This is a good disposition. This most likely means that he has sufficiently understood my words. I nodded my head towards the chief one more time before turning around and resuming the task which I was taking care of.
A lot of things cannot be seen at night. You can only make assumptions of the places which you cannot see by using the sounds that can be heard, and in the distance, the creaking sound of wheels was echoing over the tents. Creak······. Grains of soil broke apart underneath the wheels and the sound of a person’s voice overlapped it.
— Cheap services. Will throw away, dead beggars for you. Will throw away, dead corpses lying in the corner for you. Will pick up any kind of corpses. Cheap services. Will throw away, all dead beggars······.
It was a homeless person wandering around the military encampment.
When the sun rises, these beggars gather together and gamble in a place where there is less sunlight, and when the sun sets, they search for tents with bright torches and stick out their bowls. Although the beggars who had lost even their bowls in gambling would stick out both of their hands, the beggars who had even lost their fingers in gambling would stick out their three or four fingers.
I can confidently assert that having less than three fingers on a single hand is not exactly pleasant news to a beggar. As that means they cannot retaliate properly if someone were to kick them, even if they could retaliate, it means that their efforts would be insignificant. Moreover, who would not wish to kick a beggar? From time to time, when the common soldiers kick at the beggars, the ones who have less than three fingers are assaulted without being able to do anything to defend themselves and this occasionally results in their deaths. The deaths of those beggars is natural and trivial. Similar to how normal people use their fingers to count numbers, beggars use their fingers to count the remainder of their lives.
One at a time.
One at a time.
And then it ends at one.
Corpses are thrown away in the corner of tents and left to rot. Flies gather around those rotting corpses. The annoyed soldiers kick the corpses further into the corner, but the corpses simply continue to pile up in every corner. This provides another type of livelihood for the beggars.
Sturdy-shouldered beggars, whose fingers were still fine, roamed around the military camp while pulling cheap-looking carts that came from only God knows where. On a cycle of every couple of days, they would roam around and collect the corpses in the corners. They then took the corpses far away in order to throw them out. Is this not brilliant? As someone who was originally a merchant, I rate these sorts of things highly. Until the day they gamble away their carts, they had managed to obtain a job for even the shortest amount of time by themselves.
Whenever the beggars pass by this tent while dragging their carts,
— I wonder if it’s because that incredibly dreadful bitch lives here. Spit, there’s a damn ton of dead chaps and bitches······.
they always say something as they do so.
Even their method of begging was highbrow in quite the number of ways.
I simply tossed two coins outside the entrance of the tent. There was no need for me to go out of my way to step outside. The wheels would then momentarily stop in the vicinity of this tent’s entrance before letting out another ‘creak’ and departing.
“Why did you toss those coins to that person?”
A voice that sounded as if it were lost in thought.
Chief Lodbrok was glaring at me firmly.
“They would have taken care of those corpses even if you left them alone.”
“That would not be leaving them alone, but pushing them away. The people do not easily forget the ones who have pushed them away.”
I answered in a subdued tone.
“The ones who are not forgotten by the people can easily fall into ruin. If you can buy the apathy of the people with a couple of coins, then it is basically like having bought it for free. Although this one may be engaging in the business of a Demon Lord’s feudal government, there has yet to be a time where this one was unfaithful to the duty of a merchant.”
“Are you trying to buy the contempt of the people because you are a merchant? Is that an item which can be handled by merchants?”
“If it cannot be handled, then why would they be revering His Highness Dantalian?”
The candlelight flickered and dimly lit the interior of the tent.
Many things cannot be seen at night. In the places that cannot be seen, there are beggars who die while begging and beggars who live by begging. When a fellow beggar dies, there are also beggars who beg by doing the job of picking up corpses and throwing them away. In the world, each place that cannot be seen is a corner, each out-of-the-way corner is a gap, and each gap is a wall. It is possible to escape from the corner of the world by climbing up that wall, but I do not blame them for simply hanging off the edge of the cliff and spending their days shaking.
It is simply an occupation and merely a physiology.
I do not blame them, but I use them instead. Beggars, harlots, and mercenaries, these were all things that lived while placing their occupation in a crevice. Similar to how a beggar uses the corpses of beggars on a daily basis in order to live, I continue my profession while leaving the crevices of the world as crevices. The note that was being illuminated by the flickering candlelight was also a part of my job.
— Loud noises outside. Violently killed. The soldiers are going through the bordello. It is scary. A lot of fire is burning outside.
I wonder if they had written this in a hurry. The words on the memo that was sent by the spy were crooked. I checked the next letter.
— The soldiers suddenly shut up. It’s quiet now.
— Sudden inspection. All of the girls who had hidden the books were taken away. I survived because my lover had told me about it beforehand. I’m saying this because I’m lacking money this half of the month, but please send more. Would that be okay?
— My sisters are being dragged away. They still haven’t returned. I’m scared. I can’t do this any longer. Please do not contact me anymore after the next payment. I’m sorry. I won’t tell anyone.
These letters were all sent by harlots.
Whether to plant spies inside of the military tents or to plant spies in the vicinity of the military tents. Although these two options both have their own respective merits and demerits, I cannot help but prefer the latter. The lives that live while hanging off of a piece of rope that is dangling off the side of a cliff are the ones who will be the very first to realize when that rope begins to shake.
The only things which they can barely understand are signs and vague omens. The tasks of seizing the signals that are sent by them and interpreting their messages are solely my duty as His Highness’ head handmaiden.
It is fine. I am a modest peasant.
A peasant knows best about the livelihoods of other peasants.
— Increase my pay starting the next half of the month. I’ll snitch you out if you don’t.
The life which will be forfeited after snitching will undoubtedly be your life and not my own. Since this was something the person directly involved knew best, there was no need for me to be concerned. Next.
— Are you the one who had spread these booklets as well? I want to go to that side. General Farnese is a human, right? I’m a human as well. It should be fine since a human is just going to another human, right?
Occasionally, there are harlots who get confused as to whether they are doing spy work or if they are philandering. If you comfort them with gentle words, then they will provide precious information later on. There is most likely no more need for this harlot to continue following the Crusaders around.
I implicitly replied that although you are a human, you will not be able to cross over to another human. Next.
— It’s been crazy since earlier. I don’t know what the fuss is, but it’s noisy. Even the soldier that was pounding me had to stop mid-way because his superior called him. Stop mid-pounding. This is strange. Really strange.
— He still paid me properly. He was nice.
I see. It was indeed strange. Although there are occasions where soldiers stop in the middle of killing other people, there is never a time where they stop in the middle of having intercourse with a harlot.
As that was the case, if this truly did happen, then it was most likely because they were under pressure. The harlot who had sent this letter was not placed in the army of