128. Winners and Losers (15)
All the kingdoms in the continent were already in a sensitive state due to the Holy Kingdom’s indiscriminate actions. It was an extremely volatile situation where any nation might erupt in war for even the smallest reason. In such a continent, another incident occurred: the declaration of war by the Kingdom of Lome against the Demon Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Lome was known as the Kingdom of Wisdom and the Land of Knights, and was a powerful nation that stood toe-to-toe with the Kingdom of Aylans. Still, they had chosen to participate in a war representing the Holy Kingdom. Also, even though the one leading the army was the son of a whore, he was recognized as a wise king firmly protecting his throne. His name was Pygni, and he had the most powerful knight beside him, Oskal La Penrose.
Then, the first battle happened, and it was an overwhelming victory for the Kingdom of Lome! News spread like wildfire that the Kingdom of Lome had taken a fortress from the Demon Kingdom with minimal casualties. The various nations paying attention could only nod knowingly. They believed it was an obvious result.
After all, what kind of nation was the Demon Kingdom? A dark land filled with heretical monsters, wasn’t it nothing more than a den of beasts lacking intelligence? With no strategy, planning, or tactics, the Kingdom of Lome was an unfortunate foe for such a young kingdom. Of course, the subsequent developments didn’t go as expected.
As Archbishop Holffman had been killed inside the Kingdom of Aylans, the various kingdoms of the continent simply believed it was a lucky turn of events that the Kingdom of Aylans had removed Holffmann, and not an Apostle from the Demon Kingdom. However, everyone was speechless by the news that followed.
A declaration of defeat from the Kingdom of Lome. Not only had they lost more than half of their 30,000 soldiers, but the Guardian Sword of the Kingdom of Lome, Oskal, had been brought to the brink of death. The cause of these shocking events was the one known as the central figure of the Demon Kingdom, the Devil of Lania.
The expulsion of the Hero’s Allied forces, the destruction of God’s Paddle, the murder of Archbishop Holffmann, and now the complete defeat of the great General of Lome, Oskal, and his soldiers. As the news about these events spread, the indestructibility of the Demon Kingdom was proven. Unless he feared that power, why would Pygni personally declare the defeat on his knees…?
With these facts now known, the continent grew even more chaotic. The forces that supported the Holy Kingdom faltered, as they wished to avoid a war with the Demon Kingdom. A kingdom more powerful than them, the Kingdom of Lome, was utterly obliterated, and the king himself suffered the insult of getting on his knees and lowering his head, so what would happen to them?
From their perspective, they had to remain fearful of the Demon Kingdom and watch out for the Holy Kingdom. The factions that were supporting the Kingdom of Aylans, inversely, grew in power. After all, the Holy Kingdom had violated the continental law, and their actions of abusing their subjects were widely known.
Hence, it had been decided that the Holy Kingdom, who had already broken the covenant of God, was unbefitting as a nation of faith. Casus Belli for an attack were numerous. Besides, it was an excellent opportunity for the kings and nobles who had been suffering insults from the Pope up until now.
More than anything, now that a trustworthy nation of mages, who looked like they could defeat the Holy Kingdom, had risen up, if they gained diplomatic relations with them, they might become victorious in this great war where all the nations of the continent would participate in full force.
While everyone in the continent was in this state of tension, an unprecedented event took place. It was the vassalization…of the Kingdom of Lome.
On the border region of the Demon Kingdom, thousands of Demons were standing in a line, their backs to the wall of the massive fortress. A table was placed before with two chairs, and two people sat there, signing a contract with blood. It was the unconditional surrender of the Kingdom of Lome, the destruction of their alliance with the Holy Kingdom, and their vassalization to the Demon Kingdom.
Pygni, perusing the contract, felt humiliation flooding him. He raised his head to look at the figure who had brought him his defeat in the previous battle. He could see the bright smile, to an almost distasteful degree, of a young man.
‘…This bastard is the Devil of Lania?’
He was a human with golden blonde hair and mystical golden eyes who looked much younger than him. Thinking about how his kingdom had fallen to this man, Pygni couldn’t help but be surprised.
‘How did such a figure come about? No, was he a Demon in the past? Or a human…?’
It didn’t seem like he was a Demon, but considering him a human was beyond imagining. Pygni felt empty. If he was a human…how did he manage to obtain such fearsome strength? No, before that, could a human ever obtain such mighty power…?
As Pygni’s mind flashed with all kinds of thoughts, he recalled Oskal and Holffmann, who were stronger than him.
‘Now that I think about it, there were rumors that King Pauli and his wife, Akareal, were also unbelievable monsters…?’
“…Mmm… Just what did these people eat to grow up like that? Could Grapefruit be like them as well…?”
Pygni shook his head. He shrugged off these unnecessary thoughts and simply accepted his defeat. They exchanged the document regarding the destruction of their alliance with the Holy Kingdom and their voluntary vassalization under the Demon Kingdom, of their own volition.
‘…The Elder statesmen and those noble bastards won’t let this go.’
The weight of defeat was all too scary. Not only had they lost more than half of their army, but he also had to suffer such humiliation as a king. Also, by forcibly dissolving their alliance with the Holy Kingdom, it would bring unrest to the other nations, similar to the breaking of the Continental Law.
‘Haha! I’ll not be recorded as the most outstanding king of wisdom in history, but rather as the most foolish and idiotic king Lome ever had.’
Pygni’s reputation was buried in the ground. There had to be those desiring to dethrone him within the Kingdom of Lome now and rebels had to be gathering their forces. His future looked bleak.
‘… If it comes to this, everyone will be vying to manipulate Grapefruit, who will be next in line.’
Since the royal faction’s power had weakened, a rebellion was natural, and the successor, Grapefruit, would also be in danger. That was something he couldn’t just ignore.
Pygni peeked at the document before turning to the Devil of Lania.
“Is your body okay? I healed you with Holy Power, but the mental anguish should still remain?”
“Mm…? Ah, I…am fine. Mm, so…your name…?”
“I am called Tom.”
Seeing the smiling youth, Pygni groaned. The other party was using formal speech, with the appearance of the devil in pitch-black armor slaughtering the soldiers of Lome nowhere in sight. Knowing his true form, Pygni couldn’t help but get goosebumps. With an appearance like this, he could hide anywhere, and what if he exercised his true power in that place…? Disregarding the imperial capital, he would be able to kill the emperor and topple the land all too easily. That was something that even the Holy Kingdom could not avoid.
‘Yes, he has the power to topple the Holy Kingdom by himself. Yet, he’s still residing in the Demon Kingdom for his revenge? I was thinking too small.’
Revenge was revenge, but he must have been planning something large. That had to be the reason he was still in the Demon Kingdom.
‘Well, it looks like he holds the Demon Lord quite dearly…’
Pygni did not want to dig in any deeper, even though he could no longer escape it as a vassal state. He looked over the contents of the document. Honestly, they treated Lome as an allied nation rather than a vassal.
‘They probably don’t have any intention of usurping the Kingdom of Lome. This is nothing more than a show to flaunt to the other nations that they had forcibly destroyed our alliance with the Holy Kingdom and are holding us as vassals.’
Pygni scanned the contents of the contract and muttered while looking at Tom, “…Even a defensive pact is included… What if you were invaded by the Holy Kingdom…?”
“Of course, the Kingdom of Lome will have to help, borrowing the path from the Kingdom of Aylans, that is.”
“…Ungh! This is rather disadvantageous. You realize that we violated the Continental Law on our side? We have to break our current alliance. To force our side to dispatch one-sidedly—”
“Don’t you have a legitimate excuse?”
In truth, they had one. There were actually two incidents where the Holy Kingdom violated the Continental Law: When they attacked the Kingdom of Aylans before the time allotted by the war declaration and the suspected dispatching of Archbishop Holffmann in an attempt to assassinate King Paulie.
These were more than enough excuses to break an alliance. None of these were allowed by the Continental Law, since performing these actions would leave them isolated from the other nations. There was also another excuse created by this incident.
‘…The Hero’s Party.’
They were dispatched from the Holy Kingdom into the Lomian Army as their representative. They ignored Pygni’s orders, and their actions had led the entirety of the Kingdom of Lome into danger.
Pygni simply tapped his finger on the table and replied, “…What about the Hero’s Party?”
Tom turned around. The Demon Lord’s Army parted ways, allowing the Hero’s Party to walk out. Peter’s face was bloated and broken, blotched with bloody bruises, while Aris was dragged out, as though her legs were broken. The pair were in pieces, and only Luis remained whole. He looked like a run-of-the-mill prisoner, who hadn’t washed properly, but he was without injury.
Luis looked at his own hand and repeatedly tried clenching it.
‘…My hand was healed?’
He felt relieved that he could use his bow again.
Karakul dragged them out in chains and made them stand in front of Pygni.
“Handling of their affairs…can you leave it to us?”
Tom smiled widely in response.
Tom pulled out his Holy Sword and swung it widely. The blade cleanly decapitated Aris, and her head shot up into the air, blood bursting out of her headless neck like a fountain.
Seeing this…Peter despaired.
Tom ignored Peter and sheathed his Holy Sword.
“…I don’t know about the rest, but I have expressly taken care of the woman.”
‘…Shit, he did what I wanted to do.’
Although Pygni had a hand in what occurred this time around, the female mage, Aris, couldn’t be discounted. If it wasn’t for her, they might have been able to negotiate on better terms.
“I will leave their affairs to Your Highness.”
Peter and Luis’s punishments were left to Pygni. Peter sobbed as he was dragged away and glared at Tom.
“You fucking bastard-! You dare…dare…to Aris…!”
“…Peter, quiet down! You’ll also be in danger if you continue.”
Luis tried to calm Peter down, but Peter still tried to jump at Tom. However, Karakul shoved him into the ground.
“You fucking bastard-!”
“You have quite the filthy mouth.”
Karakul pulled out a dagger from his waist and forcibly opened Peter’s mouth. Then, he turned to Tom. It was a request to cut out his tongue.
“…I ended up making him hold a grudge against me.”
Pygni turned to Peter upon hearing Tom’s muttering.
“Don’t worry, that grudge will soon disappear.”
“…Karakul, please turn him over to the Kingdom of Lome.”
Karakul licked his lips in response. He forced Peter to stand and kicked him away. At this moment, Pygni raised his hand, and the soldiers of Lome parted ways once again. The one who appeared this time was Oskal. He looked at Tom and frowned.
“Ey, you bastard, just who are…!”
“Oskal! He’s the Apostle of the Demon Kingdom. Show your respect!”
Oskal immediately shut his mouth. He had to maintain his formality as a representative of a nation. He could not cause trouble in diplomacy due to his personal emotions, especially as a defeated nation. Tom smiled as he taunted Oskal.
“How’s your body?”
“…Thanks to someone healing me, I am fine. In just a few days…! Shit, it’s not some miracle of God, but how are a severed finger and a frozen arm completely fine?”
Also, his rotting body was fully restored. Oskal thought the one before him looked like Thoma but recognized that he was a completely different existence.
“…That smiling face. I don’t like it. I’ll seek you out later. I’ll definitely figure out your identity then!”
Oskal grit his teeth. He wanted to know why this man called Tom looked exactly like Thoma.
Pygni glanced at Oskal, then at Peter.
“Drag that idiot away.”
Oskal was handed the chains from Karakul. Peter was forcibly raised as he continued to curse at Tom.
“I’ll kill you someday…!”
“…The one who’s dying is you.”
Pygni cut him off.
“Y-your Majesty, what are you…?”
“The Kingdom of Lome was almost destroyed thanks to you. If we release you, we don’t even know what you’ll do. So take responsibility for it.”
“What do you mean…? We followed your orders! Your Majesty’s order…! And I’ll die? Me…? What wrong did I, a Hero, commit…? C-could it be that Your Majesty is seduced by the Demons…”
Oskal gripped Peter’s head.
“W-wait…! Just why? I…”
“You’re talking without thinking about the consequences. Your crime is just one: breach of orders. After that, we’re just following military protocol.”
With Pygni’s single command, Peter’s head exploded. Blood burst out, and his body collapsed. Oskal shook the blood off his hands.
“…I said to kidnap the Demon Lord, not kill her.”
Pygni looked at Peter’s corpse with callous eyes before turning toward Luis. Luis faltered and took a step back.
“…Let him go.”
Unlike the punishment he was expecting, he was released. Luis acknowledged his chains being undone and stared at Pygni.
“I’ve heard that the Demon Lord survived thanks to you. Also, you followed my orders to the tee. You may be from the Holy Kingdom and the mission ultimately failed, but you tried your best. I value that highly.”
Tom did not say anything in response to Luis being pardoned. It was due to him that the Demon Lord, Lily, was injured, but ultimately, it was also due to him that she survived.
Luis loosened his liberated body and glanced at the dead Aris and Peter with pity before mumbling under his breath.
“…I am merely a mercenary. I am not a part of the Holy Kingdom, and it was only natural that a mercenary would follow the orders of the employer.”
“Outstanding. Is there anything you want?”
“…Hold a funeral for my companions.”
Pygni nodded, as though he was pleased, before turning to Tom.
“This was how we dealt with them. How was it?”
“I am satisfied.”
Pygni felt relieved. In case he wasn’t pleased, he would kill Luis here as well.
“Then, it looks like negotiations are over with this.”
Tom rose from his seat without making any more comments. Seeing this, Pygni thought deeply before calling out to him.
“I’m curious about something.”
“…What is it?”
“As a vassal state…” Pygni looked up toward the standing Tom and continued, “…As long as I remain in power, you’ll look after us?”
Tom appeared puzzled by Pygni’s words. Nevertheless, he nodded in the end.
“I suppose… That is the case. If you’re attacked by another nation, if Your Highness falls into danger, or if there is pressure from another side, you can expect support from the Demon Kingdom.”
Pygni made a twisted smile and muttered, “Aah, I see. I…am grateful for that.”
— Ω —