32. Facing the Demon Lord (1)
Lily Golt, the girl of the black mountain goat tribe with silvery white hair, light brown skin, beautiful crimson eyes, and small mountain goat horns, quietly observed her surroundings. There were many high-class demons at the round table with her, each of whom were trying to assert themselves over the others.
“So, there is no problem, right?”
“Of course there is! Just where is that Karakul?! The one that vouched for the Golt clan!”
The other demons averted their gazes. The person that raised Karakul’s name faked a cough as he sat down. Nothing good could come from provoking the leader of the orc tribe, who had the power to move most of the soldiers of the Demon Kingdom. He continued on to cover up his slip of the tongue.
“Ung… In any case, despite it being something from the Orc Commander, this is something we cannot accept. Just what were you thinking? The Golt Clan? It’s not even funny as a joke! To raise the fallen Golt Clan as the ‘Demon Lord’? Are you telling me to raise that black mountain goat-thing to the prestigious position of Demon Lord!?”
“Ahem. You’re being too harsh. The Mountain Goat tribe is considered one of the noble tribes among the demons.”
“Well, you’re not wrong. The Golt Clan is definitely one of the stronger tribes. High dexterity and strength, their horns also represent authority and majesty, but… aren’t they a tribe that was unable to overcome the humans and suffered greatly by them as a result? What good is it to raise a survivor of that tribe to the position of Demon Lord? The position could lose its prestige.”
“You’re wrong. This is better! Think about it. The survivor of the tribe that was exterminated by humans rising to the position of Demon Lord for the sake of revenge! How is it? Isn’t it a good story? It’ll be perfect to raise the morale of Demon Kingdom as well! There’s a good pretext for it as well!”
“Regardless, this is not how we should go about it.”
“Since the Demon Lord died, don’t you think we should at the very least place a puppet in his place? Someone of the Golt clan is good enough for this. She has resilient vitality, majestic horns, and graceful elegance. Her appearance suits the position of royalty. Isn’t she top quality material as a figurehead?”
Lily gripped her own clothes. She clenched her mouth shut and endured; swallowing all of her frustrations.
“Regardless, most of the demons will suffer under the Hero. So how about instead of emphasizing strength, we put forth a Demon Lord in preparation for the next line?”
“Before a new, powerful Demon Lord comes forth, we’ll put her up as a puppet to strengthen and reinforce the army of the Demon Lord! Karakul probably put this idea forth with this thought in mind. He’s someone with deep insights unlike the other orcs, so this is a possibility.”
“Oh! I see! Now I understand why he personally stepped up to vouch for the Golt clan! The Hero’s party is going to take her down anyway. If it can’t be stopped, we can just let them do it!”
All of the demons focused their gazes on Lily.
“We must use everything we can. She’ll be killed anyways, so we should buy as much time as we can in preparation for the next rightful Demon Lord. The Demon Lord’s name is critical for bringing together the Demonic Army in the end!”
“I see. In that case… For the sake of the great Demon Lord that won’t fall to the next line of Heroes!”
The demons rose from their seats.
They tossed wicked gazes toward Lily as they knelt down and bowed their heads.
“I swear my allegiance to your majesty, the Demon Lord.”
They made their formal gestures toward the girl. Their eyes were filled with ridicule, contempt, and scorn. Their gazes did not look up toward her, but rather looked down on her. It was as though they thought the Demon Lord before them was no more than a feeble goat that they could prey upon. They humiliated her in all sorts of ways, bowing merely in formality. Lily looked at the apostles, muttering in a low voice, “disgusting.”
Sparrows could be heard chirping from the treetops. They turned their gazes here and there in search of food. However, there was another creature in the area looking for their next meal as well. A massive claw swiped down onto one of the sparrows. A gargoyle had captured the sparrow and devoured it in a bloody display. The gargoyle licked off the blood around its lips with its long tongue and let out a roar.
With this gargoyle’s morning cry, Lily Golt, the new Demon Lord, awoke from her sleep. Unable to rid herself of the lingering drowsiness, she stayed as she was for some time. Her body felt heavy.
She had slept in pajamas made of white silk. Her copper-toned skin gleaned in the morning sunlight. When she finally lifted her head, her hair unraveled like a glittery spool.
She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.
Two demi-human servants, a maid and a butler, were waiting for her. Their rabbit ears flickered as they offered her a hand towel and a bowl of water on top of a metal tray.
“Are you awake, Your Highness?”
“… It’s a good morning, Lulu, Luri.”
She greeted them lightly before letting out a long yawn.
The servants approached her and dressed her—today was a white and red dress—then washed her face with a wet towel. They cleaned her nails and softly polished her horn.
She watched the wholly devoted servants work away with a twitch in her eye.
‘…It’s so awkward,’ she thought.
It had been several years since she had risen to the position of Demon Lord, but she still didn’t feel comfortable in it. What made it worse was that she still didn’t understand why she had been placed in the position or why she had gone along with it.
“Pard-?” She replied before coughing once into her hand and attempting to correct herself. “Ah… yes?” She tried again in a far authoritative tone.
She still couldn’t quite get over her nerves. It was uncomfortable whenever she tried to speak in a manner befitting of her position, so every now and then she slipped up.
The male servant, a member of a special tribe known as the Moon Rabbit tribe, spoke up.
“There is a conference. You must attend it immediately.”
“It is regarding the Hero’s Allied Forces that have recently invaded our lands. It started some time ago but you must still attend.”
Lily frowned at his response. Truthfully, she had an obligation to attend, but she had no right to speak in any of these meetings. To someone like her who is only a figurehead, no one would listen to what she had to say even if she did attend. This could only be expected seeing as the meeting had gone ahead and started while she had still been sleeping.
“I mean,” she immediately corrected, “I understand. I shall attend. But for now… where’s Ellin?”
Seeing as the Demon Lord brought up Ellin’s name, the servant Lulu and maid Luri bowed deeply as they answered together.
“She has yet to return.”
“We are unsure.”
“I-is that right? I understand. Then…”
Lily got up to leave.
“They are looking down on us! The humans are thinking of us as complete fools!”
The apostle with a dog’s head and a beast’s ears was speaking.
“Karakul is fighting as well… I want to help… I am deeply indebted to him… He is the savior of my tribe… I cannot leave him to fight alone…”
An ogre with a massive body spoke with many pauses.
“But you must think about this more seriously. Going in without a plan is only going to lead to defeat.”
Treo, whose height reached the ceiling, crossed his bark-covered arms over his trunk-like chest with a solemn look.
“Hah? Think? What are we going to do if we let this momentum go!”
“We need to immediately invade the Holy Kingdom!”
“Yes! Lend me some soldiers. I shall step up!”
“No, wait! Don’t even think about stealing my men! Are you trying to kill off my tribe?”
“Don’t you trust me?”
‘… Blah blah,’ Lily thought. ‘They’re happily talking amongst themselves.’
Lily who sat at the center of the round table put on a forced smile. The apostles hadn’t even noticed her enter the room and continued to shout about who was right. She was sensitive to noise and was startled every time they raised their voices. The sound resonated loudly, and her hearing was far more sensitive than that of an average human’s.
‘I wish they’d just end this…’
She knew how it was going to end, anyway, because meetings like this always ended the same way. With a ‘Let’s decide at the next meeting.’ No actual progress was going to be made here.
“Um… that’s enough,” Lily said. “This problem will not be solved by fighting like this.”
They continued to shout as though they couldn’t even hear what Lily was saying.
“Should I just leave?” she asked herself.
As Lily was contemplating this, the door to the meeting room swung open and someone entered.
When the demons saw who it was, they shut their mouths immediately. He was tall, and his entire 2.5 meter frame was covered in a silvery white fur. His hands were larger than his feet, and were equipped with large, menacing claws. It was a massive, humanoid, bipedal wolf. A werewolf. He wore a quilted leather armor with shackles around his neck, marking him as a ‘slave’. He was a slave belonging to the highest ranked member of the 12 apostles, the vampire.
When the apostles saw the werewolf, they gave it a nasty look. However, the werewolf ignored the other apostles and headed straight toward Lily. He got on his knees and bowed his head respectfully.
“I greet you, Your Highness.”
Lily smiled warmly after seeing him. She felt much gratitude toward him as he was the only one who showed her any decency within this terrible city.
“Why have you come?”
Lily tried to show as much authority as she could muster, but failed miserably. However, the werewolf paid it no mind and pulled out a letter from his possession.
Lily opened the letter. It was sent from the Orc Commander, Karakul. It was a request for her to personally come to the strategic point on the battlefront. The Orc infantrymen had suffered a large defeat against the Hero’s Allied Forces and were struggling, so the letter requested for her to come personally to raise morale.
When Lily tried to share the news to the other apostles, the werewolf stopped her.
“… The contents in the letter are top secret. Only the Demon Lord can know.”
Lily was surprised at his words.
“The reason being?”
The werewolf whispered into her ear.
“The Hero’s Allied Forces seem to be a little too aware of the Demon Kingdom’s movements. Perhaps…”
“There is… a spy?” Lily muttered under her breath.
‘A traitor among the demons?’ Lily looked at the werewolf.
“What will you do, Your Highness?”
“I’ll go personally.”
Werewolf sighed in relief hearing her words and bowed again.
Ellin navigated through vines hanging from trees, passed through fields of grass, crossed a river, traversed a mountain, and finally exited the dense forest she had been in for some time. After having done so, she travelled through another set of vines, grass, river, mountain, and a forest. Noticing this seemingly endless, arduous adventure, her eye twitched.
“Just when… are we going to arrive!?”
Ellin was currently heading toward the Demon Kingdom. She had sworn vengeance upon Kelvin, but he was already dead. Now, all she could do in the name of revenge was gather intelligence, and to do so, she had to return to the Demon Kingdom. She had been heading back with that goal in mind, but a problem had arisen.
“And why are you guys following me as well?”
She sent a pointed look toward the group of demons that had been trailing behind her.
“I apologize. I’m sorry. Ah… it’s just… we… don’t know the way. Once again… Apologies… Apology? What was I trying to say again?”
The distractingly large ogre scratched his head in confusion. Ogres had monstrous strength that could crush boulders and incredible dexterity compared to their size, but spoke with frustratingly slow speech. He had even forgotten what he was trying to say in the middle of the sentence and looked toward Ellin strangely.
“Do you know what I was trying to say?”
“How would I know?! You’re the one who’s trying to tell me! Did you get hit in the head too hard by that apprentice Holy Knight?!”
“I am not so smart, so… I’m sorry. Huh? Ah! This is what I was trying to say!”
Ellin groaned at this frustrating conversation with the ogre. It was truly a pain. She had scoured the Golden Fief in search for the one that everyone called the Devil of Lania, but as the people within the area had already fled, she was unable to collect any useful information, and the devil was nowhere to be found. Also, she had wanted to bury Tom after his death, but his body had disappeared. Kelvin, the man who she wanted to take revenge on, had been turned into a grotesque sculpture. She recalled what Kelvin had been turned into and felt a chill crawl up her spine.
“Ugh. What am I doing thinking up something like that? He was killed in a truly horrid fashion. Shows how deep the grudge against him was…”
Ellin shook her head. It was a simple matter to get to the Demon Kingdom by herself. She looked like a human, so it was easy to cross human borders. However, the demons following her were the problem. Her schedule had been delayed as the demons that had been imprisoned within the Golden Casino were now following her. Now that news of the Devil of Lania had spread, there were extra guards posted in every community for public safety reasons. All these extra patrols made it hard to travel inconspicuously across human borders. Due to all this, they had to cross through forest paths that humans completely avoided instead of paved roads.
“Ugh… I want to see Miss Lily even a day faster…! Still, I have to do my best! There’s not much left…!”
She continued to struggle through her journey, and the demons followed her.
“This isn’t good.”
It wasn’t only Ellin that was lost in the forest.
“Where do we go? This is strange. Wasn’t this the way?”
WIthin a forest in the mountains, an apprentice Holy Knight wearing a white uniform over his quilted vest —which made it easier to move in—named Tom, had also lost his way. He frowned as he looked ahead. All he could see were trees, trees, and more trees, not to mention another mountain range in the distance. He had walked for hours, but the scenery hadn’t changed. Rather, as he had continued to change directions after meeting several dead ends, he now suspected that he had returned to where he started. He had walked in a big circle.
“Did I… get lost?”
It had been 30 years since he had returned to the world. It had been a while since he had undergone a journey, and as he had left the Golden Fief without any planning, he had lost his way.
In reality, he only had one destination. It was the Demon Kingdom’s strategic point on the battlefront, the place where Karakul was. He had to notify him of Kelvin’s death and receive any information he might have gathered. Truthfully, he could have sent out a crow, but as Karakul was preoccupied by the invasion of the Hero’s Allied Forces, it wasn’t so easy to contact him.
‘I had thought to slowly stretch my legs and walk through the world after so long, but to become lost like this…’
His folly had been trying to hurry toward the Demon Kingdom’s border from the Golden Fief through the shortest path.
He surveyed his surroundings. It was hard to find a traveler or mercenary, let alone an adventurer in a place like this. There also weren’t any sentient wild beasts that could speak, and wild demons, ones that weren’t sentient demons nor demi-humans, couldn’t speak as well. So he had no way to get help from anyone in order to find his way again.
‘Should I send out a crow?’
It was the easiest way. With a crow, he should be able to definitely understand his immediate surroundings at the very least. As Tom sighed, he could hear the rustling of grass.
“… Let’s see. Is this it? Mm, this looks right. We’ll cut straight through this forest, and mark this road… Ah! That large rock looks good! Other demi-humans should understand something like this well enough!”
Tom blinked and walked toward the grass. He hid his presence and approached the forest before sticking his head out quietly.
‘… A Goblin?’
It was a goblin. He wore a massive bag that didn’t suit his 130cm-tall, small frame, and there were all manner of things held within its bag. The goblin’s hand held a hand-drawn map and a feather quill, and within the goblin’s eye was a round and short magnifying glass.
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