65. Halvin Village (6)
Belve’s expression gradually changed. Initially, he had been fearful of this unknown power, but that panic turned into excitement. The one before his eyes was real! It was the real Devil of Lania! It was the unprecedented monster possessing the contradicting holy and demonic powers! The bearer of a kind of power that had never existed in the history of the continent! The Devil of Lania!
“Ah…! The Devil of Lania-!”
Belve trembled while uttering the name, recalling an event from 30 years ago. Back then, he was a mage with no money, reputation, or power! He had travelled to Lania to try and make something of himself when he witnessed it: the procession of an immortal army, from his hiding spot in the forest!
The scene of the capital of the Holy Kingdom—which had dominated the continent for thousands of years—having its tall castle walls being trampled so easily…! Holy Knights that had trained their bodies to the extreme and priests that had taken their mental fortitude to another level being slaughtered in droves. It was the Devil that showed him the limitations of merely being ‘human’.
The powerful Holy Knights screamed as they resisted, but they were mercilessly crushed, like insects. They were skewered with spears and hung in the streets. Their bodies decomposed when struck with the blades of the Undead, and their attacks were useless against shields containing Holy Power. The Undead army easily overwhelmed the most powerful of knights on the continent, reaping their lives.
“Holy Knight Platoon! Do not flee! W-we have the grace of God on our side!”
The Holy Knights panicked under the overwhelming fear. To them, who had drilled their bodies and minds for years, their holy ‘God’ was no more. Only the ‘devil’ that would send them to hell existed.
Belve witnessed how easily the capital had fallen and realized the grandeur of Spirit Magic. The power that he had never managed to obtain despite all of his struggles and efforts. He began to dream that he would achieve it through Black Magic… or, in other words, Spirit Magic.
He took the name of the Devil of Lania, whose callousness he worshipped. He spared no one in pursuit of his desires, killing anyone who stood in his way while continuously using up his own life span. The being he had set as his goal… was now before his eyes.
“Aah, I have come to this place in hopes of meeting you one day! I went to the Golt Territories upon hearing of your descent there and sought out the Demon Kingdom when I caught wind of the fall of the Hero’s Allied Army!”
Belve’s attitude changed. He got on his knees before Tom and lowered his head as if worshiping a God, then he crawled forward on the ground until he held Tom’s foot and tried to kiss it. However, his idol refused his gesture. He pulled his foot away and looked down on him repulsively.
“Do you know me?”
Belve looked dumbfounded by the fact that he had been denied, but he even accepted that and shouted to Tom,
“Of course! No, who on this continent dares not know of the Devil of Lania? You are the idol of all Spirit Mages! A God! An absolute being as well as a king!”
“I wandered the whole wide world in search of you. For you to accept me as your disciple, that is! However, I am so foolish and lacking, so I have been increasing my strength before meeting you! More corpses for you! To display even more despair for you, I have subjugated this village on my own! For your acceptance, I have…!”
“Acceptance…? Who said I was offering such a thing?”
Belve’s eyes grew wide.
“What do you… I-I mastered Spirit Magic for you! I am sitting before you, having sacrificed my youth and having worked myself to the bone for your acceptance! I have subjugated this village for you as foothold from which you can build your army! O-of course, it lacks much compared to your standards, but… I-I am prepared to offer my life, even my soul, for you at any time…! So please…!”
Idolatry. It was worship bordering on the line of lunacy; faith at the cost of one’s life, and even one’s soul. It was no different than what the Holy Knights of the Holy Kingdom had done for the Pope. It was a belief in overwhelming strength.
Tom frowned. He was truly a foolish existence, one that made those around him into sacrificial lambs to sustain his own faith. It was one of the most selfish and heinous parts of humanity.
“I-I am happy to be your subordinate! I will be fine even if you turn me into an undead! My devotion to you…!”
Belve tried to grab Tom’s leg once again with trembling hands, but he did not allow even that, pulling his leg away. Tom looked at him and muttered,
“You’re truly a foolish, foolish mage.”
“Haha! Yes, I am truly foolish, so please…”
“You’re working so desperately, sacrificing others and even yourself as an offering, all to sustain what you believed in. That faith and devotion is something to be admired, but…” Tom put more strength onto his grip around his Holy Sword. “It is simply repulsive to me.”
A flash of light brushed past. Belve stared dumbfounded at his own right arm. It had been sliced off, causing his shoulder to shoot out blood like a fountain.
He screamed as he grabbed his shoulder. Blood continued to flow between his fingers. He felt his entire body growing colder through the pain as he glared at Tom.
“W-why-! Just why! I-I have only tried my best for you…!”
“I really don’t like it.”
“Just what didn’t you like! Just what…! Will you… will you not acknowledge me!?”
Belve leaped up. He didn’t even bother to stop the bleeding from his shoulder as he grabbed his staff and swung it toward the Undead lying around him.
“I shall prove it to you! My strength…!”
Belve grit his teeth as he pulled out more of his vitality and amassed his magic power. Wrinkles, like deep ravines, appeared on his face as his life force was drained. His eyes turned more sunken, his flesh more withered, and his teeth yellowed. He aged rapidly, as though dozens of years had passed by him in mere moments.
He slammed his staff onto the ground. The magic power exploded through the floor, causing the cave to quake and the earth to split, then… from the cracks, a hand made of pure white bone extended out. It moved along the ground with its porcelain white fingers made of bone as something pulled itself out.
“Skeleton? No, not that. This is…” Tom narrowed his eyes as he watched. “…Death Knight?”
The highest grade of undead creature. It could face off against hundreds of knights on its own and was known to be one of the most powerful beings in existence. It didn’t wear any armor, but the Death Knight, made of pure white bone, radiated magic power from its body.
Zombies that noticed the Death Knight lunged at it, but its fingers tore them to shreds. Their torsos separated from their legs as they were torn asunder; it wasn’t even armed with a blade.
Belve, who witnessed its might, turned to Tom in bliss.
“D-did you see? It’s a Death Knight! Not any ordinary Death Knight, but using the bones and soul from one of the Heroes that invaded the Demon lands… The greatest…!”
At that moment, a sword made of light penetrated the Death Knight. Belve dumbly stared at his masterpiece that had consumed much of his own lifespan. The Death Knight was disintegrating from the point of contact, gradually turning to ash.
His pride and joy, the monster created using the corpse of a Hero and dozens of years of his own life…!! It crumbled all too easily.
Belve shook his head as though he didn’t want to accept it. His legs gave out, and he collapsed onto the floor.
“The Hero’s corpse and soul? What nonsense are you talking about? You’re completely crazy. You’re saying that was made with a Hero’s corpse and soul? The way I see it, it’s no more than some Death Knight made using the body of some random Holy Knight. You should keep your delusions at a reasonable level. You think a scammer like you could make a Hero-grade Death Knight?” Tom approached Belve. “I came here to dig up some manpower, only to discover garbage rolling about a well-cultivated field; now all the farmers are drugged up. The mage that got them hooked turned out to be some nutjob… Things are looking bleak, but… there has to be some use for garbage.”
Tom grabbed Belve’s head, who trembled while gazing into Tom’s golden eyes. An unknown fear dominated his body as his eyes grew wide. Tom’s mouth drew closer to his ear as he whispered,
“You say you’ll do anything for me? Then… you’ll have to be my chess piece.”
The stars and the moon were shining brightly in the sky. A cool wind blew through the air as a Gargoyle flew leisurely through the clouds. When Lulu regained consciousness, he was already in the castle of the Demon Lord. After he woke up, the first one to greet him was his sister, Luli.
He had become hooked on a drug made from the Petrification Herb, but his body was cleansed with Holy Water. Since it hadn’t been that long, he didn’t suffer much mental withdrawal. Only, he couldn’t help but be disheartened by the fact that he was a burden on his first mission, according to what he felt. Luli noticed her dejected brother and shook her head.
“No, you did your best. Even Sir Tom praised you!”
It would be a relief if that was true… Lulu asked about the village next and learned that the village of humans had been burned down.
After Tom returned to the capital, he got permission from Lily to use the Orc Army and pillage all the villages. They had used Lulu’s capture as a pretext to weed them entirely, claiming that humans living secretly within demon territory was a problem in itself.
Any crops related to drug production were burned and destroyed. Tom also had the addicts separated from the innocent. Next, everyone was sentenced to a year-long period of servitude as a slave. This meant that they would have to spend a year working their hardest for the kingdom in order to escape their slave status.
After serving their time, they would be granted permission from the Demon Lord for them to leave the kingdom if they so desired. As the Halven Village Chief was charged with the crime of drugging Lulu through his granddaughter, he was sentenced to prison. His granddaughter, Fran, was allowed to recuperate with those that weren’t addicted to the narcotic.
Once Lulu woke up, he got right to helping Tom. Cleaned up and wearing his servant outfit, he headed toward Tom’s office. He did not forget to bring his tray, carrying a cup of tea.
Upon entering the office, Lulu handed Tom his tea.
“Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes, I heard that Sir Tom treated me with Holy Water. For that”—Lulu bowed—“I am grateful.”
“No, it’s fine. We are companions, after all.”
“We are… companions?” Lulu’s ears shot up and he nodded. “Yes! I am Sir Tom’s loyal subordinate! Servant! Companion!”
“…I think you misunderstood me, but if that’s more comfortable for you, it can’t be helped.”
Tom laughed awkwardly. He looked over the policies put together by Nordin Wood and Lily, which they’d finished during the time he had been at Halven Village. He frowned, however, he wasn’t unhappy. Rather, he was pleased with the results. He wasn’t sure how to run a kingdom, but those he had left the job to should have some experience. Lily and Nordin Wood, along with the combined wisdom of the Treos, were capable of restoring the kingdom to a stable state. However… It was a long term plan. It would take between one to three years at the very least.
‘I’m the one who’s strange, thinking that everything would return to normal after a mere three months… The Demon Kingdom might be small, but controlling such a large number of powerful demons isn’t an easy task. Other kingdoms or empires would take at least 3 to 5 years, if not longer.’
The problem was that the Demon Kingdom could not purchase Dwarven slaves, as the ones that enslaved them in the first place were the humans.
‘That means we have to buy the Dwarves as humans…’
He had the identity of the ‘Apprentice Holy Knight Tom’, which he could use to operate within human territories. It wasn’t a problem as Karakul had prepared documents proving his identity, but he predicted that he would need to purchase hundreds of Dwarves to satisfy their needs. He wouldn’t be able to escape notice with that kind of order.
“…What did you decide to do with those mages?”
Lulu recalled Belve as he asked. Tom looked at him and replied with a smile,
“Ah, we decided to hold him for now. We never know when he’ll be useful.”
Lulu tilted his head in curiosity.
It was a musky and suffocating underground prison. The air was damp here, a place where only pitch-black darkness resided. The screams of the necromancers, restrained by their arms and legs in steel chains, pierced the surroundings, conveying their agony. They screamed to be freed and to be left alive. However, there was no one there to hear their desperate pleas.
Belve was no different. One side of his arm was tied up and his legs shackled. His magic power was entirely sealed, preventing him from escaping. At the moment, he was staring dumbly at the prison ceiling.
Before he was led into this place, he was fed the Petrification Herb. Currently, his drug-addled mind was fuzzy, yet it was strangely pleasant. Befitting the situation, he thought of the one that had put him into this whole ordeal.
“I will keep you as my chess piece.”
‘Chess piece. Chess piece? Me…? Why? For what purpose…?’
These questions swam around in his head, but they didn’t last long. Since his idol had told him so, all he had to do was follow. He had to move as ordered, for he was nothing but a puppet. He was a follower, and the other was the God of Spirit Magic; a being that deserved worship!
His life goal and ultimate objective had always been to ‘lay down his life for the mission’. There was only one way to leave this place, and that was to await his orders.
Lulu, who had heard the story regarding the Necromancers, swallowed drily.
“I-is that so?”
“Yes, I have already received permission from Her Highness.”
‘Of course, she wasn’t all that happy with it…’
Tom looked bitter before moaning, thinking about the administrative work once more.
“Even so… should I stop by personally to figure it out?”
Tom crossed his arms and turned to the side. There was the report listing the details of the human territories obtained through the weak information network of the demons. Tom grabbed and sipped his tea as he narrowed his eyes, looking over the report.
“…Still, it wasn’t like there was no way entirely. Also, the next objective was this place, so we’ll begin in three months, after proper preparations.”
Tom placed the report on the floor. The title read: [Declaration of War between The Holy Kingdom and the Aylans Kingdom.]
It was a report regarding a war between the Magic Kingdom of Aylans and the Empire of Faith, the Holy Kingdom.
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