134. Undecided (4)
‘Aah, I give up. I can’t breathe anymore! It’s not like they’ll fall for anything if I try to trick them or hide it.’
Tom looked anxious as he watched Oskal and Akareal in front of him. He raised both his hands before them. Even if he continued to lie and trick them, he would be found out someday. It would be better to simply tell the truth rather than continuing on that path.
‘More than anything…there isn’t much time left.’
He was starting to see his destination, and once he reached that end, he would sincerely need both of their support.
If he requested their help as their friend and companion, Thoma, rather than as simply Tom, they would definitely lend a hand.
“Are…you…truly…Thoma? It’s a joke, right?”
“…Oskal, if you say that after the whole conversation, it leaves me in a complicated position.”
Oskal fell back onto the sofa, exhaustion written on his face. On the other side, Akareal looked like she was about to cry without being able to get a single word out. Tom continued to fidget with the back of his nape as he smiled bitterly. Now, he had to tell them everything that had happened up to this point, but how would he explain himself…?
Just as he had fallen into a dilemma, Tom turned to the new presence with a surprise. The door opened, and Lulu stood behind it.
“Ah, it’s… Umm… I brought tea. Perhaps I’m disturbing some important conversation…?”
Lulu laughed awkwardly as he held the platter. Tom peered behind him toward the hallway.
‘…Is there no one besides Lulu?’
Lulu recalled Ellin’s words with a complex expression.
“Don’t mention that Wolf and I are here. It’s an order as an Apostle.”
Lulu kept his mouth shut, as she had said it with a hostility that almost felt foreign.
“T-then, continue to take your time conversing…”
Lulu left the tea and refreshments on the table before carefully retreating. Tom scratched his cheek as he turned back to his friends.
“…Where should I start?”
Tom began the story about himself in the uncomfortable silence. There were no lies, just the omission of details regarding Arrtark, Lily, and Ellin. He explained that he had discovered an ancient dungeon, and the mysterious power within healed his body. Later, he acquired great strength and might.
Tom also told them that he had hatched a plan to use the Demon Kingdom in order to have his vengeance against Salem. They were unbelievable stories, but as they continued to listen, Oskal pressed his temples while Akareal grew pale. They couldn’t believe that he had hidden his identity and secretly prepared his revenge for dozens of years.
“…Utter nonsense.” Oskal glared at Tom while gritting his teeth. “So you went through all that trouble all this time? And what? When you die, your Holy and Magic power grow explosively, turning you into the Devil of Lania? If what you’re saying is true, then how many times has the Devil of Lania appeared? Did you die every single time?”
“Well… I didn’t really keep count.”
Even Akareal, who had remained silent, burst out emotionally.
“Then, you should have sought our help sooner! We could have…!”
“What if I had come to you both? What would have changed?”
The Kingdom of Lome and the Holy Kingdom were allies, while the Kingdom of Aylans was another nation that had spared no expense in trying to form an alliance with the Holy Kingdom. Had Tom asked both of them for help, Oskal would have pushed himself to make a request to Pygni, while Akareal would have done the same to King Paulie. In case they agreed, both kingdoms would have lost all the good grace they had built up on the continent since they would have had to start a war without a legitimate casus belli. If not, they might have turned him away.
‘…Of course, Pygni would have been able to forge some cause for war, and Paulie had been humiliated already, so he might have been able to create some excuse to help me. But…’
From Tom’s perspective, he couldn’t trust them before meeting them. That part could be seen as problematic on its own.
“What’s the point of saying all this now…?”
“I wish to ask for help from both of your nations, Lome and Aylans. If we join hands, it should be more than enough to topple the Holy Kingdom. I wish to destroy the Holy Kingdom and capture Salem in order to correct all the wrongs he’s committed.”
‘…I could do it by myself as well, but there would be no point in doing so.’
Tom had intentionally stoked war, not only between the Demons and the Holy Kingdom but a war between every nation on the continent. In the center of that chaos, the Demon Kingdom would be the one to crush the Holy Kingdom. With such a show of force, the Demon Kingdom would become a powerful nation that no one would dare invade for hundreds of years. And this was exactly what Tom desired.
‘Also, I could correct the errors in the Holy Kingdom’s faith.’
Tom did not speak about those points, though. Oskal brushed his face.
“I’m going crazy. Some dead bastard is alive and the enemy I fought is actually a friend? What’s more, an outrageous idiot who turns into a monster when he dies? Not only that, the idiot, who was once a former Hero, is now an Apostle of the Demon Kingdom? What the hell…my head’s getting fucked up!”
As Oskal shook his head, Akareal turned to Tom and said, “Were you planning on not revealing yourself if you didn’t need help?”
Oskal abruptly shouted in support of Akareal’s words, “That’s right! Didn’t you think to reveal yourself if you didn’t need us!?”
From their perspective, they felt a bit resentful for believing that the Hero Thoma was dead all this time.
“No, I intended to come clean once this was over. Only if everything was concluded by my hands, that is.”
Oskal crossed his arms and shut up. Akareal only fidgeted with the teacup without taking a sip. The awkward silence returned once more.
Tom looked at the duo and smiled.
“…Let’s drop this frustrating topic.”
“What? Do you think it can end here…!? What do you mean by frustrating…? We…are dying here! Talk some more!”
“There’s nothing more to say. Also, why would I keep talking about something that’s making my friends, whom I haven’t met in so long, feel this way? Rather…”
Tom rose from his seat and opened a nearby cabinet within his office. He pulled out a bottle of wine along with some glasses.
“It’s been a while…so let’s share some old stories and enjoy ourselves.”
There was nothing more joyous than old friends swapping nostalgic memories. Oskal and Akareal felt their suspicions washing away as they chatted with Tom. They could tell that he was the true Thoma. They drank alcohol and ate the refreshments that had been brought. With each glass, Oskal grew more relaxed while Akareal just smiled. She was drinking tea due to her pregnancy.
Late into the night, an envoy from Aylans came to meet Akareal.
“We came to escort you.”
“I appreciate it.”
Although she wanted to share more stories with Tom, her head was still a jumbled mess. She decided that it might be better to spend more time talking as she left her seat. She turned toward Tom with a look of regret, who waved his hand back at her. In the end, she gave up trying to question him further.
“Then…we’ll meet again.”
Akareal sighed as she left the room, relief and anxiety tangling up inside her. She felt relieved that it was the real Thoma and that he was alive, yet she couldn’t help but feel anxious regarding the source of the unknown power that Thoma had acquired.
‘…He was saved through an ancient power?’
Akareal couldn’t believe Tom’s words. Magic required a cost. Ordinary magic consumed mana and mental energy, Black Magic required Magic Power and mental energy, and Spirit Magic took Magic Power and vitality as collateral. This was why magic was able to express such power. However, the power Tom held exceeded logic. He was not only able to summon thousands of undead by himself, but he was also able to maintain his youth. Furthermore, he would be revived when killed.
‘Such a thing shouldn’t exist in this world.’
No, if such a thing existed, it couldn’t be without consequences. There had to be a cost proportionate to its effects. Thoma had to be aware of this, and seeing that he didn’t mention it…
‘There must be more he’s hiding.’
Only, Akareal couldn’t muster up the courage to mention it.
“…Uwah! It’s tasty! Haha! This is…well…really breaks the mood?!”
Red-faced, Oskal was shaking the wine bottle. His eyes turned to the side, and he could see dozens of wine bottles rolling on the floor. Oskal gazed back at Tom, who was drinking his wine normally.
“…Don’t you get drunk?”
“I do, but I use purification magic at the appropriate point.”
“Ang? What do you mean?! Getting drunk is the fun of it!”
Unlike Akareal, Oskal wanted to hold him down and get the truth out of him.
“That’s why I said at an appropriate point. I still have a lot of unfinished business. I couldn’t do what I needed to do today because of you two, after all.”
“Hah? You’re still as old-fashioned as you were before. Work comes first even after meeting your friends after so long!? Well, it doesn’t matter. I forced myself here in the first place. Let’s drink all night!!”
Even as he said so, Oskal was soon unconscious, collapsed on the table. Tom, seeing Oskal scratching his hair as he snored, shook his head. Oskal had always been weak to alcohol compared to his bulk.
‘…Well, should I start moving as well?’
Tom watched Oskal before rising from his seat. He also had things left to do today. If he got late, there might not be another opportunity.
Tom left the office. Lulu and Luli, in their butler and maid outfits, were waiting outside with their heads lowered.
“We’ll help you clean the room. We’ll also lead him to a guest room.”
“I’ve been putting you in a lot of trouble recently.”
“Not at all. It is only natural for servants to handle these matters.”
“Then I’ll leave it to you.”
Lulu and Luli entered the office to begin organizing documents. They tossed the bottles of alcohol away before struggling to drag Oskal to a guest room. Tom glanced at them and the sleeping Oskal and smiled before moving on.
‘…This was a good thing, right?’
The feeling of emptiness for hiding all of these secrets vanished after coming clean. However, he felt that he had given the heavy burden to his friends, but it was because of them that the Demon Kingdom would develop further.
‘Even if I’m not around, that is.’
Tom held a lantern and headed toward the underground prison located in the basement of the Demon Lord’s castle. The musty, heavy air and pitch-black darkness made it hard for an average person to maintain their sanity. Tom walked in such a place and raised his lantern. He could see many chains connected to separate humans. When the lantern lit the surroundings, the humans inside grew fearful and shrank away, trembling as they avoided the light.
However, there was one exception. The leader of the group grew wide-eyed upon seeing Tom. He extended his trembling hand, but the shackles held his slender neck, bare arms, and legs, restricting his movements. The old man cried out to Tom in a begging tone.
“Ah… Aaaah…! Dear Devil of Lania…! Please… Please give me a chance…! For you, I will even offer my soul…!”
He was a necromancer, someone who used their magic with mental power and their own vitality as collateral. They were the Necromancers who had ruled over the Halven village with narcotics. Tom watched the prisoners and smiled.
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