51. Demon Kingdom (1)
Karakul moaned with his arms crossed. He had spent the past three days and nights contemplating the problem at hand. As he was staying in the tent right beside the one for the Demon Lord, Kuman and Ellin noticed him struggling as well. They tilted their heads and looked at Karakul, who was drawing pictures. The image sketched onto a piece of silk was depicting a long bone, the signature femur, with fleshy meat heaped on top of it.
Karakul, looking down upon his handiwork, nodded in satisfaction.
“Mmm… This should be good enough. This shall be the national flag of the Demon Kingdom.”
“It looks good. Very stylish!”
Kuman nodded, in agreement with what Karakul had said. Ellin looked between the two of them in astonishment before turning back to the newly formed ‘symbol’.
“Eeeeeh? Is that right? Isn’t it strange no matter how you see it?”
When Karakul’s brow shot up. Ellin froze before averting her gaze. She was lower ranked than him, and he was also a father figure to her. Thus, she couldn’t help but try to be tactful.
Karakul scratched his head and looked at the flag once again.
His expression suggested he was thinking, ‘is this strange?’ as he sought out the Demon Lord for permission.
“…Y-you’ve worked hard. I don’t mind if it pleases you… But wouldn’t it be better if a bit more thought went into it?”
Hearing her response, he was taken aback. Even the Moon Rabbit siblings were nodding with all their might in agreement. He also brought it to Tom just in case.
“…Sorry, I’ll have to leave the task of creating a symbol for someone else. Let’s hunt down the bloodsuckers in the capital before getting back to it.”
Tom’s opinion was traumatic. He had done the best he could…! He didn’t think he’d get this kind of reception. Karakul moaned after hearing everyone’s disapproval. Just what was the problem? Wasn’t this symbol that would unify all demons the most important task?! This mark tugged upon the most basic instinct of every living being: hunger! The root of all the ideas that could unify everyone! What more was needed than this?!
‘…Now that I think about it, humans have a different feeling about it? A sword or shield, something like a helmet… or a human’s face.’
Karakul moaned as he sought out various demons. He also shared the symbol with different people as he gathered their opinions.
“It’s a great picture!”
Karakul felt encouraged by one Ogre’s opinion.
“…Is it meat? I personally prefer fish, though.”
Then felt deflated by a Lizardman’s comment.
‘Does this mean each species has a different perspective?’
He once again gathered the opinions of different species. Their comments were varied, and with the exception of Orcs, the vast majority of the species were against it.
“Meat? I like meat… but you’re planning on using it as a symbol? Are you crazy? AAAAH!! This is why Orcs can’t cut it! What good is it if they’re strong!? All they have in their head are muscles focused on what to eat next! This isn’t it! How could even Brother Karakul disappoint me by being so simple?! Brother is frighteningly strong at fighting… but so weak at things like this! I thought Brother Karakul would be a bit different!”
Karakul looked at the Goblin before him in surprise. He was small-statured and carried a bag filled with all manner of junk: one of the 12 Apostles, Kulbo. He looked tired, with leaves and dirt caked all over his body.
“…Kulbo? When did you arrive?”
“Hah! I got into a bit of trouble! I went all over the place while trying to make a map for those idiotic Gnolls! After finishing, I went to the capital, hoping to get a good rest, but guess what? Some vampires took it over!” Kulbo rubbed his forehead in annoyance. “Now, after I barely managed to escape, news that the Apostles surrendered to them has spread all throughout the kingdom, and I don’t know what happened to my kin… I had to keep wandering… I was lost and had to camp, camp, and camp… I’ve lost count of how many times I was chased around by wild demons! Not that I was trying to eat them, but I thought they were gonna eat me! I somehow managed to get here, and now…”
Kulbo suddenly exploded. Even as he said all these things, he turned to the Orcs.
“Still… I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and finally, it seems like things are finally going right. We might just be able to stand against the Vampires.”
Kulbo carefully examined the Orcs with the magnifying glass in his right eye. What drew his attention the most were the siege units.
“…Truly amazing equipment. Especially the siege units! I want to touch them!”
“You goblins are good with your hands, but no matter how good the equipment is…” Karakul looked at his own soldiers and shook his head. “The suits of armor won’t fit properly because they were originally meant for humans.”
Orcs were significantly larger than humans. Regardless of how much effort a human put into training their bodies, they were unlikely to grow larger than the average Orc. Orcs were using their equipment well enough due to their experience in having to reuse the equipment of the Hero’s forces, but it couldn’t be helped that it was uncomfortable. Tom was well aware of the fact that the sizes wouldn’t fit, but he had left it alone as a temporary measure. This was something that could be solved after they had regained control of the capital.
“In any case! This is not the symbol! Never!”
Karakul looked at the symbol quizzically again.
“…Is that so?”
“Hah… What did Her Highness say?”
“…To think about it again.”
“Then, the answer is already clear! My god… Did you perhaps think to stand against the Vampires and the Hero’s Allied Forces waving a flag with some meat drawn on it? To think… a meat flag to deflate all the tension in a stressful battlefield!!”
“…That does appear to be true.”
Karakul did agree with the sentiment this time.
“That’s right, Brother Karakul! Think about it harder! A symbol carries a significant meaning! It’s what you think of in your most dire times when you need it the most!”
Karakul rubbed his chin. What came up in his mind when he thought of Hell? The Demon Lord? If it was the Demon Lord…? Power? If it was power… then fear? Terror? Might? Authority? Then… what did these things symbolize…?
‘…I can’t figure it out, but if I keep digging at it, I might be able to arrive at something.’
Karakul began to formulate an image, without meaning to, as he drew closer to that meaningful symbol. He peeked over at Kulbo and spoke to him.
“Will you help me?”
“I think I have to! It’s obvious something weird will come out of Brother Karakul’s head otherwise!”
Kulbo put down his luggage and drew a picture relating to the symbol in Karakul’s tent. Kulbo, who was already talented in drawing to begin with, had an exceptional talent in capturing evn the most minute of details.
He immediately gave several suggestions: things that were produced in the Demon Kingdom, things that an opponent might see and think of, things that would raise an ally’s morale, things that would instill fear in their enemies. In this way, several sketches were completed, and they were shown to the Demon Lord, Tom, Ellin, and Kuman. They nodded in satisfaction as did Karakul.
“Then, with this…”
Karakul unfurled the national flag on top of the cart carrying the coffins being sent to the Vampires.
A black and white background, symbolizing good and evil, and a ram’s skull with horns, symbolizing their authority. It represented the demons and instilled fear into humans. This was the insignia of the Demon Kingdom.
“Good. Let’s go with this!”
“…Karina, where are you? Just why aren’t you showing yourself!”
Bludifer tore off a piece of the small goblin in his hand and threw it toward the center of the palace. When the helpless goblin, with his eyes rolled back, hit the ground feebly, the Vampires surrounding him trembled in terror.
“T-that is… we are currently investigating it, Your Highness, but we are still unsure.”
“She hasn’t been seen for a few days.”
“Why are the Vampires following Karina missing as well!?”
A Vampire stepped up in response to Vladiferr’s words. His face was so pale, it almost looked blue. His entire body shined with a cold sweat.
“I-I bring a report, sire. T-that is… That is…”
When the Vampire continued to hesitate, Bludifer extended his hand toward him. The goblin that had been tossed to the ground blew up in an explosion of blood. The spurts of blood enveloped the Vampire and began to suffocate him.
“Speak. Where is my precious little sister?”
“M-Miss Karina is…!”
Bludifer’s eyes grew wide. The Werewolves had carried her coffin and placed it in front of the palace. It was carefully wrapped in a strange flag, bearing a symbol he’d never seen before. He walked toward the coffin with trembling steps. The Vampire spoke in a shivering voice, his heart lurching in terror.
“T-they were objects that arrived at the capital a few days ago. Also, Karina sought the Demon Lord’s blood and went to the Orc’s territory, according to rumors…”
Bludifer ignored the words of the Vampire and opened the coffin with trembling hands. The charred skulls were carefully arranged with beautiful white flowers, as if paying respect to the dead.
Bludifer had lost all words. He brushed his hand across his face then shook his head as if trying to deny the reality before his eyes. He knew. Just by seeing the skull; the scent of magical power seeped deep into the bones themselves prodded his senses. Even the repulsive aura of the sun! After a moment, he spoke with suppressed emotions.
“Where are the Vampires that were with her?”
“T-that is… either they were captured or killed, or I suspect they fear repercussions and have gone into hiding…”
The Vampire’s head exploded, fragments of blood and gore spraying in every direction as the headless body fell to the floor. The splotches of blood quicked seeped into Bludifer’s body.
“Find them. Find those that abandoned Karina, and kill them all!”
The Vampires hastily lowered their heads. The ones that were tactful enough to survive left immediately, and those that were frozen in place lost their window to go and had to stay.
Bludifer held out his hand and held Karina’s skull.
“Aaah… My lovely sister. Didn’t I warn you? That you shouldn’t go to that place? I definitely told you… why didn’t you listen to me?”
He spoke with grief in his voice as he lovingly brushed the skull.
“That was always your problem. My warnings always went in one ear and out the other. That is why you’ve come to me in this pitiful form…”
He brushed the crown of the head toward her clavicle with a bit of strength.
“I have definitely warned, warned, and warned you…”
His voice changed into anger. Cracks began to form upon the skull, until it was eventually crushed, causing fragments of bone to fly everywhere.
“You dare sully the name of the noble Vampires, dear sister!”
Each of the skulls were completely obliterated, one after the other. Bludifer dusted his hands upon her remains and stood up.
“Hah, do you wish to die that badly, Demon Lord? Fine, I’ll grant your wish. I’ve granted you mercy for a while, but if you come out like this, I will not wait! Gather the Apostles immediately.”
Tears of blood streamed down his face as his form turned to that of a grotesque, bat-like creature.
“Advance immediately! I shall personally kill those green meat bags and drink the blood straight from the Demon Lord’s neck before my sister’s corpse!”
The Vampires hurriedly left. The Werewolves also gauged his mood and carefully retreated. They whispered to each other so that only they could hear.
“Send a message to our kin. The Vampires are moving.”
Following Bludifer’s will, various species began to gather. There were Ajins, who couldn’t help but obey his command as their respective tribal leaders were held hostage; Minotaurs with their bovine heads and large horns, tough and thick hide and muscles, and massive bodies; Treos with hard and durable bark covering their gigantic bodies; and medium-sized gnolls holding maces made of bones. They each gathered to smell others’ scents and licked their lips to ease the tension.
Centaurs also gathered. Each time their hooves struck the ground, it shook in response. They held long but shabby wooden spears and bows as they stood in a line. Before them were the Werewolves, wearing silver-colored armor, standing in front of the vampires in a line. There were thousands of diverse and powerful Ajins. Bludifer had managed to gather an army 5000 demons strong..
“You look down on me?”
Bludifer donned his black heavy-plated armor. His eyes gleamed through the slit of his helmet as he looked down upon the thousands of demons gathered before him from his platform.
“Yes, there is no other way for you bastards. Offense was always a much better option than defense, but…”
Bludifer’s blood-red eyes shook and he bit down hard enough with his fangs to crack his bottom row of teeth.
“…You bastards chose wrong! I’ll make you regret provoking the noble Vampires!”
Vladiferr waved his hand toward the Vampire beside him, decapitating him, and ripped out his spine. A fountain of blood spurted out following its removal, which gathered around the spine to form a sword.
“I, Vladiferr, command you, as is my right as the Demon Lord! Cattle-!”
His voice rang loud, filled with Magic Power. The dozens of leaders of various species that had been bitten and enslaved by him forced to their knees with their heads lowered.
“Advance-! Take the heads of those that dare challenge me and celebrate in a festival of their blood-!”
The demons roared and began to move under their leaders’ commands as they each charged ahead. They were headed toward the border area of the Demon Kingdom. This was where the Orcs’ territory was located. They would lay siege to the City of Twilight, the Orc’s territorial capital, and finally put an end to the former Demon Lord’s reign. With heavy steps, they marched onward.
Tom, who had opened his eyes, saw a crow with golden eyes. The crow stared directly at him, then tilted its head. Bludifer’s advance was reflected in Tom’s golden eyes. He saw an army of thousands of demons headed toward the Orc’s capital. They were all following behind Bludifer.
He was riding atop a topless carriage, pulled by minotaurs, as he rested his head upon his hand. Even from his bird’s eye view, Tom could see his crimson eyes, stained with resentment. The fact that his sister had been killed and her remains had been used to provoke him had certainly damaged his pride.
Tom exploded into laughter. Just as he had expected, Bludifer was truly simple, truly foolish.
“Such an arrogant, violent, and corrupt king.”
Tom knitted his fingers as his lips curled up. A corrupt and violent tyrant was perfect. The merciful and gentle Hero that chased out that tyrant would be praised by her people.
‘Yes, that is the position in which Lily shall sit.’
A citizenry that suffered under an oppressive and corrupt tyrant would want a gentle ruler, and that position was obviously one befitting the true ruler of the Demon Kingdom, Lily Golt. No, it was one that belonged to the original owner in the first place. Her character was already enough for her to be beloved by all demons.
“Bludifer, you’re a perfect ‘workhorse’. You shall be Lily’s stepping stone.”
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