59. [The 4th Chapter] Chapter of The Base – Prologue
The Demon Kingdom was a dangerous place, well-known for the fearsome creatures that called it home. It was a land of hell, a lawless region! At the same time, it was also a place to which human adventurers traveled to test their adventurer’s spirit!
Although it was a land rife with danger for humans, adventurers weren’t the only people who traveled there. The destitute, vagabonds, and the like also went there. All of them shared a singular desire, which drove them as far as to enter the lands of humanity’s archenemy. They just wanted ‘to live’.
Despite living in the human nations, peasants and others of a lower caste couldn’t live as proper ‘humans’. Due to exorbitant taxes, oppression, and daily abuse, the weight on their shoulders was ridiculous. They lived like slaves, freemen in name alone. The burden from the taxes was so great that selling one’s children to continue scraping by had become commonplace.
For those who refused to do so, they faced two choices. They and their families could die in the human lands, or they could escape into the Demon Kingdom and take their chances there. To them, it was better to hide and live together for as long as they could. Better to die to the demons than to waste away.
This type of thinking was what led to small human villages and hamlets forming in the mountains of the Demon Kingdom. They began sprouting all across the outskirts of the Demon kingdom like grass after a spring rain. People would naturally congregate and, slowly, these little colonies would grow. Without the oversight of nobles and kings, these settlements ended up functioning on systems of a communal nature. Bartering replaced the use of money, and people did their best to support one another depending on their specialties and skills.
Unexpectedly, the Demon Kingdom ended up attracting many humans with this kind of mindset. Since nobody—neither demon nor human—ever chased them from these areas, they began to view these mountains as their land. And so, over time, a tiny and shabby city was formed.
It was, or had been, a village—famous locally for its size—called Halvin. In Halvin, the peoples’ wariness of demons was high, but their vigilance against fellow humans was really low. They believed that everyone and anyone who arrived here was under the same circumstances as themselves.
Perhaps, that was why if a stranger came here, they wouldn’t show any ‘hostility’. After all, most of those who first arrived here were suspicious of Halvin, and the residents of Halvin had come to expect this. Being asked questions in an investigative manner by new arrivals was fairly normal, and the residents made an effort to answer whatever queries came their way. Nonetheless, Holy Knights were an exception to this.
“…Oh, my God!”
The villagers were terrified, watching the Holy Knight approach their walls. The front gate was wide open, and they could see a Holy Knight and a younger boy, perhaps his son, approaching.
Both of them had their faces covered with hoods, but Tom’s white robes gave him away immediately—only Holy Knights wore that kind.
“What on earth are you guys doing? Why didn’t you close the door!?”
“Bu-but, what if he does something if we close the door…?”
The boy pulled on the Holy Knight’s robe upon seeing the villagers’ reaction.
“…It seems like those people are on guard,” said Lulu.
“I thought we’d get good treatment looking like this, but I guess that was an error in judgment.”
Tom gave the village a troubled look.
Unexpectedly, their wariness of Holy Knights was rather high. Although the village was a bit on the larger side, it was too disorganized to be called a city—at least in his eyes. From what he knew, there should only be 200 to 300 people living here.
‘…Might be more if the other vagabond villages in the mountains are added.’
It should be, at least, around a thousand people. It was surprising that so many were living in this kind of remote mountain area, moreover, mountains within demon territory.
‘But I might find some interesting characters.’
Tom studied the place a bit more before finally entering Halvin. He could see they had dug up the earth, mixed nutrients into the soil, and planted a variety of crops. Most impressive was the fact that what they planted was even growing. It wasn’t easy to farm at such a high altitude, with limited space and bad spoil, but they persevered by creating and using their own unique farming techniques.
‘I might’ve come to the right place.’
Once inside, Tom recalled what had happened recently.
The Demon Kingdom was surely a land of monstrous demons which struck fear into the hearts of humans. The Orcs were warriors with outstanding strength and an exceptional hunting instinct; the Ogres were fear-incarnate and were often referred to as the ‘Kings of Demons’; Treos had tough skin which ordinary weapons could hardly pierce; Minotaurs were large, ferocious, and terrifying to look at; a Centaur’s’ mobility and speed was greater than any of the finest human steeds; the items and tools that the Goblins produced were known to be incomparably dangerous; Gnolls could traverse a forest with unmatched ease, so silent that their prey would never hear them coming; and Lizardmen and Sirens were considered to be the masters of aquatic combat.
In addition, it was said that corpses stalked the streets of the Demon Kingdom’s capital. Much of the land gave off a rotten odor, and all kinds of sickness and diseases could be caught at any moment. There were even bizarre fruits which only grew in demon lands.
Lastly, in the terrifying palace of the Demon Lord, lived the one and only ruler of the demon hordes—the vile creature that countless Heroes staked their lives to defeat!
… That was the humans’ current perception, at least.
“…That perception is so wrong.”
Deep into the night, Tom continued to groan, his arms crossed in vexation. He was currently in his personal office, which he had recently received, trying to solve a nagging problem.
‘Right, I admit our troops are fearful! But the corpses are from all of the recent battles. Of course there’s a rotten odor when thousands of bodies start to decay!
‘On top of that, a terrifying palace? It might look like that to you all, but to me, it’s no more than a sandcastle that might collapse at any time!
‘…The construction and upkeep has been so poor, to the point that even if the Hero didn’t come to subjugate the Demon Lord, it might still crumble away on its own in a few years, and bury the Demon Lord to death.’
Tom shook his head and looked at the documents in front of him. There were over 100 sheets of paper.
‘I asked for a table that shows the actual state of affairs in the Demon Kingdom. Usually, even for this kind of shabby country, there should be a mountain of documents, but there’s only sparse reports in front of me.
‘And here I got my heart ready, thinking there would be at least a couple hundred dense documents…’
Tom looked up, unable to hide his dissatisfaction.
“…Is this all?”
“…Yes,” the Moon Rabbit, Lulu, said with his head down.
For now, Lulu was standing in as Apostle for Tom while showing him the ropes. Even though Lulu himself wasn’t an apostle, he still had the knowledge on their duties since he had been involved in the management of the kingdom for so long.
But, instead of teaching Tom, Lulu had basically turned into Tom’s errand boy.
‘But… this is… a little… What do I say…’
“…What have the other Apostles been doing so far? Are they not managing the Demon Kingdom?”
“By managing, you mean…?”
“Taxation, procuring military supplies, politics, economics… and the rest?” Tom said in an interrogative tone.
In fact, he actually had no experience in managing the affairs of a kingdom. He only had some know-how on how to get funds for military supplies as well as managing mercenaries.
“…Each clan voluntarily gathers commodities on their own. In terms of taxation… there is none. But they do receive generous donations, like fruits, meats, or fish.”
“…Barter-style, with food?”
“Of course. Some do have money, but it’s not used to purchase things. It’s more of a hobby, collecting and displaying human coins and such…”
‘This is… like trying to make a country with primitives.’
“…This is too much. Even with my power… this is absolutely too much!”
Tom rubbed his temples. He looked at the words written on the paper next to him.
‘Come to think of it, I can’t read the demon’s writing.’
Tom regretted not having learned to read their writing prior to taking up this task.
‘No, it’d probably take a few months, studying day and night, to become proficient enough. We don’t have that kind of time.’
If he did spend that long just trying to learn how to read…
‘…A new Hero would be elected by then. Though I could stop them, the continent will come at us full force if I keep killing Heroes. Then, even with me, it would be hard to stop them…!’
The Demon Kingdom was blessed with natural fortifications, surrounded by mountains on three sides, with its rear protected by the sea. Even though the country was small, it had the ability to repel most invasions.
The problem was that if the Hero’s Allied Forces were properly established, the elites chosen for the attack would be human monsters. With their overwhelming numerical advantage, they could take the initiative while having all four sides of the kingdom under siege at the same time.
‘…Then, even a manifestation of Artarrk wouldn’t be able to block them.’
He did still have his undead army, but even they would be spread too thin. When it came to his manifestation of Artarrk, even then he only had one body. It was impossible for him to be everywhere at once.
‘I confidently declared to Karakul that I would help improve the kingdom… Now, I want to withdraw my statement.’
“First of all, about fostering intellectuals… no, that would be impossible in a mere few months. On top of that, technicians too… Where do I get technicians? Hmph…”
That was when Tom noticed one document in particular.
“…The continent’s official language?”
Unexpectedly, what was written here wasn’t the demon’s language but the continent’s official one!
“…The demon language lacks… precision. For documents like this which need to be specific, we borrow the human language’.”
“What a relief.”
Tom gradually read over it, and his eyes grew wider the more he read.
“…It’s… pretty detailed.”
“It’s the list that Nordin Wood wrote. I’m stupid, so about the details, I also…”
“…He’s fairly smart. Did he, by any chance, write all of this?”
“4 pages of it were written by Commander Karakul, while Nordin Wood wrote around 80. In addition, Treos have always been known as the wise ones among demons. Not only have they been alive for a long time, but they have also been watching humans, learning their languages and alphabets for hundreds of years while disguising themselves as trees.”
It was a well-organized list. The content was fairly brief, yet elaborate. It detailed the major issues the kingdom was currently facing, as well as possible solutions. It even went over the operating structure of the kingdom as a whole, explaining concepts foreign to Tom, such as clan politics.
“Also…” Tom turned his attention from the report to Lulu as he spoke. “…Around 30 pages were written by Her Highness, the Demon Lord.”
“…Her Highness did?”
“There were things that she was considering herself, so… I borrowed them since you said you were looking for materials.”
“Good. It will make excellent reference material. First, about running the state… I should ask Nordin Wood a favor. Her Highness the Demon Lord and Nordin will decide the rules, and after they’re organized…”
If it went like that, the system would function as an ad hoc measure. Then what about the rest…?
“Technicians. And the needs of the Demon Kingdom: food and materials for the city’s renovation?”
The capital’s wall was very simple. It consisted of rocks that Ogres and Trolls had piled up haphazardly. There was no way it could be used to actually defend against a real invasion. To rebuild it from scratch, they needed technicians to renovate the city. In addition, they needed to start using money, along with replenishing their stores of food.
The only solution for their shortage of food was self-sufficiency: farming and livestock rearing through any means necessary. To achieve that, they needed humans to teach them proper farming methods, cultivation methods, and methods of breeding livestock.
Furthermore, the city needed to be cleaned and all the waste removed. If things were left as is, it would inevitably lead to contamination and disease.
‘…Though it wouldn’t be a problem for demons.’
The real problem was how to get those technicians…
“…Are there any among the demons with the skills I need? Craftsmen that could renovate the city, those who are familiar with farming, cultivating, and breeding livestock, and also labor for the city renovation.”
“If you want technicians…” Lulu said after pondering, “There are Dwarfs, the blacksmith clan. But for farming, cultivating, and breeding livestock, I also don’t… But I believe we have a lot of options for simple labor.”
The Orcs, Ogres, Trolls, and Minotaurs all had monstrous strength, while the Goblins were able to deal with things which required more precision. Constructing a huge wall would be fast and easy for them, if given proper instructions.
Tom became interested in the Dwarfs Lulu had mentioned.
The midgets clan?
‘…Come to think of it, the Demon Kingdom’s equipment also needs attention. It should be possible with their craftsmanship.’
Tom stroked his chin.
“…But the Dwarfs are currently not in the Demon Kingdom. They chose to live with elves, while being submissive to humans.”
That basically meant something along the lines of… they surrendered and became slaves of their own free will for their clan.
“I see. Slaves… Slaves? Then doesn’t that mean we can buy them?”
Lulu was surprised by Tom’s idea.
“The Dwarfs are living in human lands, though. On top of that, the money…”
“We have enough of it for now.”
Human money was one of the few things they were not lacking. Just from what they’d pilfered from Lania, they had enough funds to run a huge empire for a decade. They could release hundreds of Dwarfs using that money.
“So… Now all we need are farmers…”
Tom frowned and glanced at a document. What caught his eyes was something Nordin Wood had written about the border of the kingdom.
Humans, likely vagabonds, sometimes invade the Demon Kingdom’s wilderness. We have confirmed that they are attempting to live in these areas, though many do die to wild demons. They’re so small in number that we never saw them as a threat.
“…We should kidnap them.”
Lulu’s ears perked up.
And that was how they came to be in the mountains on the border between the demon and human lands.
Tom spoke as he looked around the village.
“Let’s find them, the people we can use.”
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