144. Allies (4)
“Wow… It was amazing! I’ve watched wars against humans many times, but this one took the cake! My world…! Honestly, I was skeptical of the human called Tom, but he sure is something. I was stupid to ever doubt him!”
Skarni, a harpy with the wings and legs of a bird, gestured widely in the air. The underground cafeteria of the Demon Lord’s castle was a place where hundreds of Demons, even the Ains with large body sizes, could dine together. And Skarni was showing her adoration for Tom here by stopping whatever she was doing before.
“Listen to me! So…!”
Nasis the Gnoll, Allen the Minotaur, Nordin Wood the Treo, Hecaron the Centaur, and Halsem, who had become the national merchant of the Demon Kingdom, all watched with exasperated expressions.
“It was truly amazing! I witnessed them all retreating…! And that guy Tom…in front of the humans of the Lome Kingdom—”
“Do you know how many months you’ve told that story for?”
Hecaron spoke, looking nervously at Skarni, who was excitedly swinging her wing. He seemed to be concerned that her feathers might fall into his food as she waved them around.
“Hmph, he has also killed Bludiferr. There’s no way that he’d lose against the human army.”
Allen concentrated on his food, ignoring Skarni…
“Mm…the leaves aren’t growing as of late. Is it because the branches burned by the human Heroes have been damaged? Balding at my age…a concern.”
Nordin Wood looked worried as he fidgeted with the branches growing on his head.
The Gnoll, Nasis, shouted with a frown in response to Skarni’s story, “Damn, it’s so loud!”
Skarni kicked him with her leg.
“Leave if you want to!”
She turned to Halsem with a face full of discontent. Halsem dumbly stared at Nasis before turning back to Skarni, anxiously nodding under her gaze.
“Wow… Wow! Amazing! To think that Tom was that great~!”
Feeling elated when Halsem chose to play along for his own survival, Skarni shouted while waving her wings, “RIght? Bam-!… And like blam-!… You know!?”
“So what’s this bam sound…and blam sound?” Hecaron shook his head as his eyes turned to the entrance of the cafeteria. “…Speaking of the devil, the main character is here.”
Skarni turned her gaze and discovered Tom entering the cafeteria.
“Ooh! Arrival of the hero!” Skarni approached Tom while fluttering her wings. “Human, I apologize for looking down on you! You were amazing. In that war, how did you put power into your hand like that? Can I do it too? The one that went kablam!”
“…What does that kablam mean?”
Tom smiled awkwardly and slightly pushed her away. It had been like this since the war with the Kingdom of Lome, and hearing the same thing every time was exhausting.
Ellin, who had been following behind, frowned and said, “Skarni, just leave it at that. We are here to eat. Also, I’ve heard those words so many times that I think I’ve memorized them by now.”
“Ellin! But at the time…!”
Ellin covered Skarni’s mouth with her hand.
“Got it. We got it, so don’t talk anymore. I think my head will explode hearing it over and over again! You know, kablam.”
“Ey-! Brother, the miss is here as well.”
Halsem hastily approached Tom and Ellin, waving his hand with an exhausted expression.
“You look tired.”
Halsem waved his hand and peeked over at the Apostles in the cafeteria.
“I’ve got guts, but—”
“You have guts?”
Halsem ignored Tom’s jab and continued, “It’s too much continuing to eat with those scary guys all chummy-like!”
“But isn’t it an important spot? Halsem is also now a noble of the Demon Kingdom.”
Halsem and Ellin had also accomplished a feat in the war against the Kingdom of Lome, leading the Demons to victory through their kidnapping of the prince. Thankfully, Halsem was no longer just a merchant. After his hard work, he was being treated as nobility. Even without formal titles or authority, he was acknowledged by the Demons, and naturally, the other Apostles were drawn to him out of curiosity.
Halsem initially believed his skin had grown tougher. However, he couldn’t help but become scared in front of some of the Demons.
“Still, there’s a limit. Aaah… I was scared to death!”
“But aren’t you doing well? You’ve moved up in the world. I’ve heard that you’re getting along quite well with Kulbo in the merchant’s guild.”
“Well, that midget is funny, and…” Halsem smiled bitterly at Tom’s words and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, I suppose I did move up, as you said. I’ve become a noble aristocrat from some nobody merchant, after all. It is a bit…regrettable that I’m a noble of the Demon Kingdom, though.”
“What? Are you looking down on us?”
When Ellin glared at Halsem, full of complaints, Halsem simply waved his hand.
“No, I don’t mean that. I’m only saying it’s nicer to be with humans. It’s a bit lonely since there are not that many here. Anyway, brother, you still haven’t eaten, right? Let’s eat together! It’s a bit much to eat alone.”
Halsem wrapped his arms around Tom’s shoulder as he spoke. Lily hid half her head in her hood at the cafeteria entrance, where Demons were congregating. She thought that the Demons would recognize her without her hood covering her face and be unable to eat their meals properly.
The Moon Rabbit twins following Lily also poked their heads out through the entrance. Although Lily had hidden her appearance with a hood, it was a well-known fact within the Demon Lord’s Castle that the Moon Rabbit Twins, Lulu and Luli, served the Demon Lord. Hence, seeing the trio, everyone immediately recognized who was under the hood.
‘It must be the Demon Lord.’
‘It’s the Demon Lord.’
‘It’s Her Highness.’
The tactful Demons realized that she must have some business in the cafeteria that required her to hide her identity, so they feigned ignorance.
“…It’s rather noisy.”
Lily blinked as she watched Tom, who was with the Apostles. Seeing them happily chat also made her feel good. It was a joy to see Tom consider Hell as his own nation and the Demon Lord’s castle as his home.
‘He looks happy.’
It was quite a different impression from their first meeting.
“I’m relieved to see him happy,” Lily quietly muttered with a shallow smile adorning her face.
The pair behind her also opened their mouths.
“Aren’t you going inside?”
“Weren’t you going to talk with him?”
She shook her head.
“Wouldn’t it be difficult for me to squeeze into such a place? Later… I think it’ll be better if I meet up with him later and talk.”
At that moment, someone grabbed her shoulder. Lily turned around in surprise and found Karakul standing there.
“Your Highness, what are you doing here…?”
“No, just… What are you doing here?”
Karakul peeked into the cafeteria. Seeing Tom dining inside, his eyes turned back to Lily. Tom had ordered him to gather the army through Lily. If the conversation hadn’t taken place yet, there was no reason for them to be apart like this.
“There’s something I must ask you.”
“Something to ask?”
“It’s rather hard to say it here. Also…” Karakul peeked over at Tom having his meal. “It doesn’t seem like the right time, either.”
“Head to the throne room. We’ll talk there.”
Lily nodded curiously in response.
“The Divine Beast is sleeping.”
In the army tent, Belve turned to the sleeping crow in the birdcage and narrowed his eyes. He had given periodic reports through the crow, but recently, that communication had been cut. The sleeping crow’s flesh was entirely made of Magic Power, but its power was becoming faint lately and had gradually disappeared.
Belve covered the birdcage with a groan.
‘…What happened? The Magic Power held within the Divine Beast has been decreasing. Did something happen to master?’
Belve recalled the Devil of Lania, Tom. He was a monster that led an army of undead composed of Magic Power and Holy Power and had toppled the Holy Empire’s capital alone, shaking up the entire continent! Belve, who had religious zeal toward him, felt a bit concerned, but even that was brief.
“Haha! How could that be…! God is eternal! He is the one who will become God! With his immortal army, he shall stand on top of the world!”
‘Yes, he is a God who shall establish the new faith of this world! He shall become the law, the rule, and the discipline!’
When the Holy Kingdom fell, the ruler of this world would change. As the new sovereign, wielding both the Holy and Magic Power, rises up, he would sit on the throne and establish a new order. Belve would become his chief priest with all of its benefits. Any and all kings and emperors would bow their heads and grovel before him!
‘Yes, that is my ambition!’
Belve couldn’t resist the urge and trembled.
“Aah, I can’t hold it in any longer! God has commanded for me to wait, but it’ll be hard for my feats to be acknowledged like this!”
Tom had two orders for him. The first was to establish a religion and gather followers. He was to use the new believers to form an army and subjugate several cities in order to cause chaos within the Holy Kingdom. Next was to wait after taking control of certain key areas around the kingdom. He would kill and cause confusion for everyone to see.
However, Belve was greedy. Despite following all the orders he had received from the Devil of Lania, he believed that it was still inadequate for him to be acknowledged.
“Yes, it’s lacking. All too lacking!”
Belve smiled as he gripped his staff with his only hand and began to move. He opened his tent and went outside…
“The city of the corrupted is before us!”
“Burn the fallen priests!”
“Purify in the name of the Demon Lord, Lily Golt…!”
Countless armies began to move. At the moment, he was standing in an army base meant to prepare for war, with thousands of tents erected by digging out the field. Upon his command, massive siege units were mobilized. The revolutionary army, holding farming tools, were able to remain swift and nimble. Some of them were outfitted with spears and shields provided by the Cardinals that had betrayed their homeland.
“Start the fire!”
“Eat your fill! We will move out soon!”
“Those bastards…those fucking bastards…those dead bastards…”
“We’ll have our revenge. Just wait, you priest bastards…!”
They all ate. Sitting around the campfire or standing up, they tore at their meat, stuffing their stomachs. Their bloodshot eyes were filled with all the suppressed rage, loathing, and resentment as they did so. Their eyes glared at the massive outer walls surrounding the great city, the second capital of the Holy Kingdom, Fritarok.
Pope Salem’s church was located inside. Now, Belve and his followers were preparing to attack the capital of the Holy Kingdom.
— Ω —