Demon Lord, Retry! Volume 6 - Kurone Kanzaki - E-Book

Demon Lord, Retry! Volume 6 E-Book

Kurone Kanzaki

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Beschreibung

After defeating the Grand Devil Belphegor, the Demon Lord returns from Hellion Territory to his home-away-from-home, the Village of Rabbi. There he summons yet another advisor, this time to handle the maintenance and management of the village. He had hoped to finally make space for some quality time with the friends he’s made in this world, but his well-deserved R&R is cut short when one of the four major political factions in Holylight sparks civil unrest.

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Table of Contents

Cover

Color Illustrations

Map

Chapter 8: Return of the Demon Lord

In the Wake of the Storm

No Way Out

The Paladin’s Woe

Reunion

A Cruel Conference

Redecorating

Yuya Kondo

Let the Game Begin

The Village of Gold

Fallen Angel Lucifer

Concerto in Black

Memorial: The New Hire

Postscript

About J-Novel Club

Copyright

Landmarks

Color Images

Table of Contents

Chapter 8: Return of the Demon Lord

In the Wake of the Storm

——Royal Palace, Animania.

The Animadmirals poured out of the conference room, one after the other. Their facial expressions ran the gamut: cheerful, enraged, woeful, or even no expression at all. They had all just been briefed on the incident, meaning the incident with Belphegor, of course. Their meeting had devolved into disorder, with some blaming the apes for going too far, others applauding them, and some others outraged that they weren’t let in on the fun. While this was hardly the first time the Animadmirals failed to reach a consensus, without the Dragonborn to keep them together, the meeting had adjourned without a resolution.

“Ooh ah ah! See the look on their faces? My unparalleled bravery put a bitter taste in their mouths,” Monkey Magic boasted.

“You were the star of the show,” Xiaoshou chimed in. “My only concern is that Lady Tatsu was absent...” he added in concern.

“Lady Tatsu must be ecstatic at the news of my success!”

“Good thing you’ve got it all figured out...”

As they bantered on, there was a woman standing teary-eyed in the hall. This Animadmiral was a hound-hybrid. She and Monkey Magic’s relationship was not dissimilar to that of the dog and the monkey in the Chinese legend of the Zodiac.

“Oh, the mutt’s wetting her sniffer with tears,” the monkey jeered. “Moved by my bravery and glory? Hm?”

The hound glared at him.

“Ooh ah ah! You finally understand my greatness? Speak! Paw! Roll over!”

“Watch your back... This isn’t over.” With that, she strode away, sobbing.

The ape and kappa watched her leave, buckling over from laughter.

“You see the look on the mongrel’s face?!”

“Geh heh heh! I bet this’ll hound her for the rest of her life!”

“Drop your stupid grins and shut your stupid mouths, idiots,” an icy voice called from behind them.

Xiaoshou shrank into his shoulders, and Monkey Magic crooked his neck around like a wind-up doll to find the serpent Animadmiral, her hair and eyes the same glacial color. Her gaze seemed able to pierce anything, and she stood with an aura that felt razor sharp. Even her beauty was overpowered by her ice-cold, heartless demeanor.

“M-Miss N-N-N-N-Nagee...” Monkey Magic gulped, facing the serpent without moving a muscle. Even he, the epitome of crass and careless, couldn’t help but freeze before her.

“Shut your stupid mouth, I said.” Her voice was as soul-freezing as one would expect from her aura. A few strands of her glacier hair slithered like snakes, red tongues flickering in and out of their ends. Xiaoshou shrunk himself to wait out the storm, and Monkey Magic simply stood firm as his face grew redder.

“M-Miss N-N-N-N-N-N-Nagee... I—”

“Mouth. Shut. Got it?”

“Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes, ma’am!”

“Stop the stuttering, it gets on my nerves. Are you stupid? Right, you are. Drop dead,” she spat like she was staring down something unequivocally repulsive. Nagee mostly kept her eyes on the inside of Animania, and was one of the most feared individuals in the country. With rumors about some citizens striking underground deals with humans, her watch had only gotten more scrupulous over time. She set up watch parties all over the territory, highly encouraging its citizens to snitch on each other. Her series of iron-clad laws and moral policing bordered on cruel, rather than strict.

“M-Miss N-N-N-N-Nagee... I-I will forever be—!”

“You are utterly useless from the tip of your head to the bottom of your feet. You are stupidity incarnate.”

Monkey Magic replied with unintelligible sounds.

“That being said...” Nagee added, “That thing on your head could be an exception.” With that, Nagee left without a sound, leaving the pair of them standing there dumbfounded.

Xiaoshou wiped away the beads of sweat that had formed on his dish.

Meanwhile, Monkey Magic seemed to be holding something in, quivering. “D-Did you hear that, Baldy?!”

“I’ve got a good guess as to what you mean, so don’t bother.”

“M-Miss N-N-N-Nagee complimented me!”

“How did you draw that conclusion...?” Xiaoshou began walking away, down the hall.

Monkey Magic followed, skipping. “She complimented this! On my head!”

“Did you forget that that’s a curse from the false god?”

“N-N-N-N-Nagee’s eyes! She’s head over heels for me!”

“More like she wants to kick your head off...”

“Ooh ah ah! Don’t be jealous of a chick magnet, Baldibald!” the ape cackled, slapping the kappa on the back.

What was the kappa going to do with him? “As fearsome as she may be, she’s got a big flaw...”

“Flaw?! The gorgeous N-N-N-N-Nagee is flawless!”

“She hoards... A bunch of trinkets here and there, all bizarre, stashed away at her place.”

As Xiaoshou had pointed out, Nagee was a bit of a collector. Her trinkets of choice ranged from oddly shaped pebbles, leaves, and perfectly ordinary sea shells, to pieces of jewelry that anyone else in the universe would have found distasteful. In short, anything she fancied was useless or tacky. The kinkoji placed on the ape’s head by the Demon Lord, too, was far from fashionable.

“S-Stashed away... N-N-N-N-Nagee will take me home...?”

“Were you listening? I’m telling you, that thing on your head—”

“Ooh ahhhh! This will be the first chapter to the epic romance saga that will be my life! First, I have to comb my fur!”

“It’s no use...” Xiaoshou muttered, and started wobbling after Monkey Magic, who restlessly jumped up and down.

There was only one measure the Animadmirals could agree upon: to send the humans trapped in Hellion territory back to the land of the humans as soon as possible. This was by no means an act of kindness, but simply an acknowledgment that humans were unwanted and unwelcome in their borders. Not only were they useless, but they would get in the way of the Anima. Of course, the fact that the Grand Priestess was involved was a major influence in their decision. If not for her, there would have been no telling the fate of those humans.

——Secret Lair within Animania.

The base stood silent, as if it had been forgotten. No one noticed it or paid it any mind. In fact, even when it came into one’s field of vision, it remained just out of view. Furthermore, no sound would escape the base.

“Heh heh heh... Look at those delicious curves...” Cake inched closer to the Shadow Shroom the Demon Lord had found.

“Reeeeee!” the mushroom shrieked.

Unaffected, Cake wiggled her hands, her eyes gleaming like an emaciated beast. “No one’s gonna hear you scream... Give it up and enjoy yourself.”

“Reeee!”

“Hah ha ha ha! Cry, bitch! Scream! I’m gonna devour you!”

“Reeeeeeeeeeee!”

Click. An intruder suddenly entered the Lair without so much as a knock on the door. It was the Demon Lord, of course, but looking like he had just come from a duel, so completely different from his previous clothing, face, and even voice.

“Grah?! Who the hell are you?!”

“Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

The Demon Lord winced at the sudden threat and unintelligible shriek in place of a welcome. “Shut up...” He mourned the loss of the Secret Lair’s intended purpose. This was supposed to be a place of rest, where one could spend an elegant time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

“Wh-Wh-Wh-Who the hell are you, I said!” Cake demanded, quivering, as she held the knife she took from Hanzel. While she had no combat skills to speak of, she couldn’t bear to remain unarmed in the presence of a strange intruder.

“Oh, right. I haven’t changed back...” Black mist rose around the Demon Lord, becoming a flurry of black feathers and scattering all around. The same old Demon Lord she knew was before her when the mystical feather dance settled.

“Wha...? M-Master Demon Lord...?”

“You haven’t gone blind, have you? Anyway, I’m going to take a bath and rest.”

“U-Understood...”

“You should get some rest, too.” He draped his coat on a chair before nearly ripping off his suit jacket, tie, and shirt.

Cake managed to cover her eyes all princess-like, while making sure to get a good peek through her fingers. (This guy’s unreal...! What the hell is his body made of?!)

The Demon Lord’s muscles were chiseled like a statue’s, his body composition resembling that of an apex predator. He seemed to consider Cake a mere child, as he brazenly stripped down to his underwear before heading off to the igloo bath.

The Demon Lord’s body seemed to leave behind a strange sensation that left Cake genuinely blushing. She let out a sigh after he left, letting her shoulders fall.

“A freaking monster... What were those feathers, anyway...? So big... Everything’s so big...”

“Reeee... (Agreement) Ree! (Shock)”

Cake stabbed the shroom without another word, skewered it, and placed it over the fire. Then, she began neatly folding the clothes that had just been strewn about. As much as she hated it, she couldn’t help herself. This was one of the aftereffects of being conditioned to serve devils.

The Demon Lord returned from his bath after some time, and wearing an extravagant, crisp-white robe much to Cake’s relief. She wouldn’t know where to look if he had returned in his underwear.

The Demon Lord widened his eyes for a moment as he spotted his clothes immaculately folded up. “You’re quite nimble-fingered. My clothes clean themselves, but we’ll have to give your clothes a proper launder.”

“N-No thank you! I’ve already washed them in the bath—”

“Just strip them, already. Wear this while you’re here.” The Demon Lord tossed her a smaller bathrobe from the closet, becoming of this space for unwinding. “Throw the clothes you’re wearing in here and press this button.”

“U-Um... What is this?”

“A washing machine. All automatic from tumble to dewrinkle.”

“Y-Yes... Sir? I mean, yes, sir!” Cake answered, although she had no idea what he was talking about.

The washing machine, of course, had been made in the Empire, finished in a style that complemented the interior of the Secret Lair. The shell was wooden, built so the grain blended in with the wall. All it took was ten minutes for it to launder an entire load.

“I’m going to get some rest. Drink this if you get thirsty.” He placed the pail of Fuji Water down on the floor. “But know this: This is divine water, used to accentuate the flavors in dishes and cocktails. It’s a great product, with great health benefits too. Got it?!”

He clearly hadn’t forgotten the item being called cursed water. His tone made it clear that he was adamant in making Cake realize the good in this particular beverage.

“Y-Yes, Sir! Good night!”

The Demon Lord climbed up to the loft and rolled over onto the wooden bed.

Cake dug into the golden-brown Shroom, chomping loudly. (It’s so good... Now this is a delicacy unlike anything I’ve tasted in a long while!) From the moment she put the thing in her mouth, its thick and juicy texture pleasantly burst in her mouth. Even Cake, a former princess, had never tasted a Shadow Shroom before, as it was a delicacy native only to Animania. The soft texture and endless juices stormed the inside of her mouth. It has been said that hunger is the best seasoning, but these fungi would have tasted exquisite even if the diner was stuffed to the brim. As she chomped the piping Shroom, a brimming smile grew on her face. She couldn’t remember the last time she was completely relaxed while eating, without so much as looking around to see who was watching.

Cake scooped a dipper full of the water from the pail and drew it to her dainty lips. The instant the liquid entered her throat, a healing sensation spread all through her body.

“Woah... So good! What is this stuff?!” Cake dropped her princess voice and shouted. What tasted like plain old water was melting away all of her stress in an instant. “Ahh...! That’s the stuff!” Cake wiped the droplets off her lips and returned to scarfing down the Shroom. Her dining experience was nothing short of blissful.

The Demon Lord, laying on his back in the loft, couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. (That’s one heck of a two-face... Not that I have any room to talk.) He, too, had used various aliases and even disguises, after all. Still lying down, the Demon Lord opened the admin screen to reassess his situation. The number that appeared was enough to spread a grin across his face.

Remaining SP: 3078

(That gives me a lot of options...) The number was an accumulation of Belphegor and the remaining monsters that were wiped out when he destroyed the castle. He pulled the bottle of Thunder Water he had strong-armed close to him, gave it a quick swig, and closed his eyes to sink into sleep.

——Some days later...

The Demon Lord awoke from sensing someone by his bed. He opened his eyes to find Cake peering into his face.

“G-Good morning, Master Demon Lord!”

“Mm...”

“I was worried, you’ve been sleeping for so long.”

“I see. How long has it been?”

“Um, three days...”

He had continued becoming half-awake, taking a swing of Thunder Water, and falling back to sleep the entire time. Most others might have been surprised to hear that they had been sleeping for a few days straight, but the Demon Lord was completely unfazed. After a years-long cycle of working without rest then sleeping like a fuse had blown, he was accustomed to sleeping for days at a time.

“Haven’t had a sleep this good in a while. What a beautiful morning...”

“W-Well... It’s actually nighttime...”

“Night? That calls for a drink.”

“For real...?”

The Demon Lord poured a glass of Thunder Water and downed it, neat. “Deadbeat” seemed like the word best suited for a man who woke up from a days-long slumber just to drink.

“U-Um,” Cake muttered. “Shouldn’t we be on our way...?”

“No, first a bath.”

“For real...?”

The Demon Lord scratched his head as he headed to the igloo bath with his face still groggy.

Cake hadn’t expected him to take a bath first thing, so she rushed to climb down from the loft. “U-Um, well... Sh-Should I rinse your back for you...?”

“No need. Go soak in the cedar tub. Morning baths are just the best.”

“N-No, it’s already nighttime...”

With that, the Demon Lord headed to the igloo bath and produced the bottle of Fire Spirit he had robbed from the dwarf’s place, apparently ready to enjoy another drink with his soak.

After washing himself off, the Demon Lord carried the bucket with the bottle into the bath. “Ahh...” He sighed. “As good a bath as always.” The hot water warmed his entire body, the warmth seeping into his heart. Man’s Fulfillment, part of the special effect of the bath, filled his being. The bliss of simply soaking in a tub and feeling fulfilled was almost as addicting as hardcore drugs.

The Demon Lord sighed once more. “I have been working too much lately... Everyone needs a holiday after some hard work. And wow, did I work hard. Who else, in any world out there, worked as much as I did?” He poured hot water into the glass, mixing it with the Fire Spirit. Just like a hot toddy, it seemed to magnify the aroma and flavor of the brandy-like spirit. “Hm. This one makes me want to try having it in different drinks. A perfect spirit for a hard worker like me.” Whether it was due to the effects of the igloo bath or not, the Demon Lord looked perfectly proud and accomplished.

The ‘work’ this man had done recently was beat a devil named Hanzel to a pulp, shoot off a random assortment of fireworks in Hellion territory, stomp Belphegor into a stain on the floor, and blow a castle to smithereens. ‘God of Destruction’ might have been a better description than ‘hard worker.’ Combined with his current state, he might as well have been called the ‘Deadbeat God of Destruction,’ which was quite the unusual title.

“I guess I’ll give Olgan a call...” He happily sipped his glass of Fire Spirit and shot a Communication to Olgan.

She responded quickly, apparently acclimated to the process.

It’s me. Catch me up, the Demon Lord said.

I’m in Fort Arthur on the border. I’ve heard that the city of Rookie’s in hot water, thanks to you.

Me? What did I do?

You had Mynk take the captives from Stage One there. Apparently the government and the Hero have their hands full with them.

The Demon Lord almost pointed out that Akane was the one who gave the direction, but reconsidered. The boss was responsible for his employees’ actions, after all. Besides, he had requested that they send the captives from Stage Two and Three to Rookie as well.

Most of the enslaved have no family, Olgan added. Let alone a place to go.

I see... The Demon Lord only said that he would contact her again soon, and ended the Communication. He wasn’t in the mood to overthink things in his blissful bath. (The pieces will fall where they’re supposed to... Of course they will. When have they not?! Hah ha!) Filled with the manly sense of fulfillment, the Demon Lord drank more of the Fire Spirit with a vague feeling of having solved the problem without really solving it.

(I guess I should get a report from Tahara too...) He sent a Communication.

Hey-ho, Tahara cheerfully answered, as if he had been itching for a call. I’ve been waiting for a com from you, Mister Secretary.

Any good news?

Tahara went on to report in detail the current state of the village of Rabbi and recent events like the mending of Harts and the Madam’s friendship. The Demon Lord simply nodded along, but let out a sigh of relief at the financial state of the village.

Everything’s fitting into this picture you’ve painted, it’s a pleasure to watch. Before I know it, high society and the military nobles are waltzing hand-in-hand.

I have no idea what you’re talking about... The Demon Lord answered with gravitas. The problem was that he really did have no idea. The peace brokered between the two factions was a political progression much more significant than he realized. In other words, the finances of Holylight just became tied to its military, and the power balance of the nation had drastically shifted overnight. While Luna was the one who mediated the peace deal on paper, there was more under the surface. Both parties, as well as Luna, were greatly indebted to the Demon Lord, and their relationship would not stand without him. Tahara couldn’t help but be impressed by how well the Demon Lord pulled the strings from behind the curtains.

Putting the Holy Maiden in the spotlight and making sure the moneybags shake hands with the military. I couldn’t pull off something like that if I tried.

Just your imagination... I haven’t done anything, he responded with a twinge of nervousness. He truly hadn’t done anything. Regardless of Harts’ or the Madam’s thoughts, their peacemaking happened while he was away. He was as confused as he could be. He had been lapped so many times that it now seemed like he was ahead of the race.

Hah ha ha! True, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you haven’t done a thing. But it makes things easier for me if you stick to pulling strings from the shadows.

(You’re the one pulling strings!) The Demon Lord nearly shouted, but kept it to himself by dunking his head in the water. No matter what happened, he seemed to be credited for it.

Anyway, he Communicated, I have news for you... The Demon Lord told Tahara what had happened in Hellion territory in a vague way to avoid any questions.

Hellion territory, huh... Knowing you, you’re moving steps and steps ahead of us. You even called Akane in. Meanwhile, I’ve got my hands full with the tasks in front of me.

The Demon Lord sighed in relief at Tahara’s reaction, seeing that he wouldn’t be asked too many questions on the matter. Of course, Tahara had purposefully decided to keep his distance, certain of one thing. Whenever Akane was involved, some important figure would turn up dead ‘by accident,’ according to her backstory.

Well, Tahara went on, I’ll leave anything with Akane involved to you. But I’ve got an ongoing issue over here...

Issue?

Might have mentioned it before, but we’re shorthanded, Tahara bitterly said.

He had called for workers from various guilds through Luna, but the village had been suffering from a continuous shortage of them. Luna was infamous for her temper, and not many workers were eager to go work in a village of demi-humans. Of course, rumors of ‘the Demon Lord’ contributed to deterring them.

(Shorthanded...) This was an issue the Demon Lord was quite familiar with. Many nations on Earth were experiencing a decline in birth rates, causing existing social programs to crumble. The issue reached farther than a shortage of workers, also affecting programs like social security, causing a rise in medical costs, etc. Even in 2016, Japan had not found a clue as to how to solve the issue. The Japanese government at the time, as if to slap a bandage on the wound, had passed a motion to increase immigration and bring in workers from overseas. (Before I knew it, I was expecting every retail and restaurant worker to be a foreigner...) While bringing in laborers from other nations might have stopped the bleeding, it didn’t solve the underlying issue. After all, the only way to encourage confidence in people to procreate was to enrich the nation from the ground up.

With that in mind, the Demon Lord decided to make a vague suggestion with as much gravitas as he could muster. For the time being, we may have to import them... Just like a politician without any forethought, the Demon Lord was trying to slap a bandage on the wound and hand off the responsibility.

Import, huh? Any leads as to where from?

Leads... Of course. Simple.

For real?! Send ’em over as soon as you can! Without enough people, we’re not getting through construction as fast as I want.

A light bulb had flashed bright above his head... the people rescued from the Slave Market. They might serve as a bandage over the wound.

I’ll follow up on that, the Demon Lord answered.

Alrighty, then! You can leave the rest to me!

The Demon Lord rushed to end the Communication and sent another to Olgan.

After telling her to send the destitute former slaves to the village of Rabbi, he let out a long sigh. (Guess I... took care of it? Yes, I did. Of course, I did. Gah ha ha!) His serious contemplation didn’t last long, as he was filled with groundless glee from the manufactured sense of fulfillment. At this rate, the igloo bath might reduce him to a dysfunctional bum.

“U-Um, Master Demon Lord...”

“Hm? What’s the matter?” He turned to Cake, standing in the courtyard, fidgeting. After her thorough conditioning to serve those devils, she didn’t seem to know how to handle herself without any tasks on her plate.

Besides, she had to ensnare this man’s heart for her own sake. “Are you sure... I shouldn’t be doing anything...?”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re still just a br... kid.” The Demon Lord held up his glass of Fire Spirit to the sky and tossed it back. It was a confident gesture, but he was just a dude drinking in a bathtub.

“W-With such luxury, and especially after such time... I feel like, um, I’ll be punished for it...”

The Demon Lord laughed. “Punished by who, the divine? If anyone deserves to be punished for their deeds, especially in the eyes of a god, it’s me,” the Demon Lord humbly declared, only because he believed in no concept of a higher being. Even if one did exist, he would try to defeat them head-on if they tried to stand in his way. In that sense, he was worthy of the monikers of Demon Lord and Lucifer.

“M-Master Demon Lord... May I join you in the tub...?” Cake attempted to charm the man.

“As if. You trying to jailbait me?” He only saw Cake as a child and nothing more. As with other things, he drew a hard line and never wavered on it.

Cake tightened her fists. Without influencing him, she had no hope of taking down the powerful New Kingdom of Xenobia. “I...want to retake my country.”

“What are you talking about?” The Demon Lord gazed upward, taking another swig of the Fire Spirit. The clear sky was dotted with stars that seemed to compete with each other in brightness, making for a grandiose sight.

Cake let tears roll down her cheeks, trying another angle, but the Demon Lord remained unmoved. While he might have seemed coldhearted, he was simply too buzzed to notice.

“To free my country from Xenobia... Please lend me your strength, Master Demon Lord!”

(The rain stopped. What a beautiful night sky... And a good drink to top it off.)

“Once they know I’m alive, there will be old allies who will stand up to Xenobia’s regime...!”

Meanwhile, the Demon Lord hummed along and downed the rest of the glass of Fire Spirit. Such cruel ignorance to the girl tearfully pleading for his aid.

“You’re the only one I can believe in, Master Demon Lord...!”

“Faith makes you blind... Just watch your step instead,” he proudly remarked, and closed his eyes.

Cake felt the urge to crack the Demon Lord’s head open, but she knew she didn’t stand a chance against him with brute force.

“I’ve been hearing much of that nation lately. I’ll stop by for a visit soon.”

Cake’s eyes gleamed at the Demon Lord’s remark, which he had made without much thought. At the same time, she let her bathrobe fall. “When I retake my nation, I shall pledge its fealty to you. And...also my own. My body is yours.”

The Demon Lord finally wore a straight face. He barely knew anything about the Northern Nations, save for their continuous and seasonal warfare. “I don’t know what you’re brooding about,” he said, “but relax in the bath for a bit.”

“Wha...?”

The Demon Lord strode from the igloo bath and grabbed Cake by the shoulders before plopping her in the tub. She cast him a dirty look at his apparent lack of interest in her.

“I will only act on my own accord,” he declared. “If what you want is in line with what I want, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.” The Demon Lord walked out.

He continued lazing around for some time, justifying it to himself as a ‘vacation’ before finally getting to work again. Right now, he, more than Belphegor ever was, was the embodiment of Sloth.

No Way Out

——Dona’s Manor, Holylight.

The shock wave that resulted from the two factions making peace had spread throughout the continent. While they suffered no direct loss from the event, Dona’s noble faction was most threatened by this result, considering their standing. The previously unparalleled force (at least in Holylight) had suffered a depression in morale as of late.

“Ha-rumph... Above all, ha-rumph, I say!” Dona’s fat jiggled as he tossed a piece of steak into his mouth. Unpleasant reports were piling up, without a single viable countermove for him to make. He had lost contact with the mad-dog Milligan, the Madam had proudly sent her caravan up north, and Dona had lost an auction to the Madam’s sister. Worse still, the Demon Lord had now made a great name for himself in the North. All of this bad news was almost unbearable.

“Azur!” he shouted. “What were you doing in the north?! You couldn’t even stop one lousy maniac who claims to be the Demon Lord?!”

“A thousand apologies, My Lord. He is beyond my control.” Azur was telling the truth, so he bowed deep in apology. The more he thought about the battle he had witnessed, the less human its participants seemed.

The clash between the Tzardom and the Satanists had half-destroyed the capital of Suneo. They had each used their trump cards, as the Tzardom sent in their Temple Knights and Elemental Knights, matched by the Satanists’ Entranced and Haunts. That much, however, could have been explained as merely acts of war.

“My Lord, not only were there Tzardom troops, but a mock angel and a devil I have never seen before—”

“Silence! How dare you blame the likes of angels and devils for your incompetence?!” Angels and devils were something detached from Dona’s life. A mere concept to him. He simply took advantage of the fact that his far distant ancestors had stood against the king of devils alongside the Wise Angel. Deep down, he held no faith for any deity.

“But Lady Luna defeated the—”

Dona scoffed. “Number Three has some talent in magic. The least she can do to justify her position is take down a Hellion or two.”

In this world, the word ‘Hellion’ was an umbrella term that encompassed any creature from devils and Firebrands to monsters, Haunts, Hellbeasts, etc. Dona only had knowledge of low-ranking Hellions, which were a far cry from the Ancient Devil that called itself Behemoth. Left alone, it would have easily taken out an entire nation or two, let alone all that remained of the city. That being said, as Dona wasn’t there to witness it firsthand, Azur could say nothing to change his mind. At the end of the day, those who have never experienced an earthquake do not understand the severity of one, nor do they grasp the horrors of a plague regardless of how much history textbooks tell of the Spanish flu and Black Death.

Dona’s attitude was less from ignorant optimism, but more from a sense of arrogance. He disregarded the unknown and felt entitled to the known. “What is Milligan doing, anyway?!” he shrieked. “Why won’t he send a single report?!”

Azur’s expression darkened. “Why?” He was dead or captured, of course. Furthermore, Azur expected a mercenary as notorious as Milligan to have prepared men reserved for communications. No news at all, in this case, meant that his entire team was taken out.

Azur attempted to convey the fact to his master, as plainly as possible. “Killed or captured, most likely. In fact, we must prepare for—”

“Ridiculous! How much do you think I’ve put into him?! He’s a far cry from getting me my money’s worth!”

“If he’s dead, we may be able to feign ignorance... We’ll need another plan if he’s kept alive.”

“Hmph! Who cares about a useless mercenary? I’ll simply deny ever knowing the man!” Dona threw another chunk of steak into his mouth.

In fact, a man of Dona’s status could shut most nobles up with a simple denial. However, he had sent Milligan to the village of Rabbi, run by one of the Holy Maidens, Luna. If things escalated, even White was sure to make an appearance.

“Knowing how much Lady White cares for her sisters, she may come after us.”

Dona groaned, pausing his chewing. He considered White his one and only weakness, and intended to take her as his wife one day. He wanted to avoid losing her favor at all cost. His childish sentiment, of course, would not be reciprocated.

“No matter. I simply need to take my wife. That’ll keep her from spewing nonsense. Azur, bring in Five and Forty-One. I need something to take my mind off of things.”

“My Lord, if you truly intend to wed Lady White, consider freeing those girls. If she ever discovers that—”

“Silence! You dare defy me?!” Dona smashed the plate, wet with steak blood, into Azur’s face.

Azur bowed without another word. This sort of interaction was a common occurrence in the manor, even though Azur had simply made what he considered a bare minimum suggestion to his master, whom he felt he owed for giving him a stable life after a life on the run.

Shrimp, Dona’s nephew, waltzed into the dreary room, his attire glitzy enough to change the air at once. Shrimp gave a glance at Azur’s state and noted the air in the room, but said nothing of it. He simply pointed to his own face and drew a line with his finger, gesturing for Azur to clean himself off.

“Uncle. I have good news from a trustworthy source.”

“Good news? It’s a long time coming after a slew of unpleasant reports. Go on.”

“The militaristic nobles of the north and the high society of Central have joined forces...”

Dona froze for a moment before beginning to shake. Azur kept his chin down as he wiped his face, but he was giving a piercing look to Shrimp.

“What?! How could that possibly...?! And what part of that