70. The Aylans Kingdom (5)
Janus, leader of the heresy inquisitors, and current commander of the ‘Paddle of God’, took the steel gauntlet off his hand and scratched inside his ear. The itch was deep, and he frowned when he was unable to reach it.
“Still doesn’t feel good. This… it feels like somebody’s spying on me. It’s very unpleasant!”
He looked to his side. In between the trees of the forest, he saw something move. From atop his horse-drawn palanquin, Janus mumbled,
200 archers moved in unison at his words. They approached the palanquin Janus was on. Their commander looked to Janus, reading his countenance.
Janus pointed at the forest and the archers lifted their longbows, pulled back the bowstrings, and released. Hundreds of arrows flew between the trees. Grass blades tore and the arrows struck, piercing every tree. Then he heard a scream.
A scout tumbled down and let out a whimper. His arms, legs, and shoulders had been pierced by arrows, and his body twitched while he bled. Janus, who saw the letter orb he was holding fall, looked down at the scout with disgust, as if looking at a bug.
“What the hell? The one watching me… was a heretic of the Aylans Kingdom?”
One of the Holy Knights present approached Janus’s side and asked,
“What are you going to do?”
“… As an inquisitor, I’ll judge this heretic for his crimes! He’s a heretic who dared to oppose the Holy Kingdom, and Pope Salem! I command you to burn him at the stake. Cleanse the dirty trash with graceful flame!”
As Janus spoke, the scout was hung on a hastily constructed cross-shaped pole. Oil was poured all over his body, and then he was set ablaze.
His scream echoed through the forest, but nobody cared. The soldiers only looked on while praying, their hands clasped together, and heads bowed.
“Very nice! I can’t believe we can offer a sacrifice to Artarrk before the war…! His grace would protect us all!”
Janus burst into laughter, the corners of his lips curling. Then, his gaze once again returned to the forest ahead.
“My ears… are still itchy. There’s someone else in the forest! Find them!”
The soldiers ran into the forest at Janus’s words. They were left confused after searching the place their arrows dropped; nobody was there. But, a single strand of long, silver hair was there, alongside the bloodstains.
“… Was it a mountain beast?”
The Werewolves who were in the forest ran away quickly. One of them plucked the arrow from his shoulder and recalled the enemies who had just shot him, growling in anger.
“Let’s take a look… so, roughly, the number of Dwarves you want is around 200 to 300, right? It would cost a lot though… Is that okay? They’re amazingly expensive slaves, a Swarf costs at least 1.875 kilograms of gold. It would cost way more than a year’s worth of funds for running a big city if you want to buy more than 200 of them.”
Halsem let out a whimper and groaned. He had been excitedly riding his wagon around Canibar a little while ago, but he felt a headache at the number of Dwarves Tom proposed. He had previously expected around 30 to 50 Dwarves at most, but more than 200? This meant he would have to help Tom buy every Dwarf he saw while traveling all over the kingdom.
“Is it really that difficult?”
Ellin, who was sitting on the wagon, asked Halsem, who was leading the horses on the box seat.
“Of course it is. Dwarves are rare. Most professional slave traders can only dream of selling a single Dwarf in their entire life. Dwarves are one of the best products they could ever hope to have; 2nd place, at the very least.”
Ellin frowned, bothered by the word ‘product’.
“If Dwarves are 2nd, what’s the 1st?”
“Elves. Dwarves are used for labor, but Elves are, how do I put it… is it because of their beautiful appearance? As their slaves, those bastards…”
Halsem glanced at Ellin. Ellin tilted her head, puzzled, and looked at him with an innocent gaze.
“… Well, there’s such a thing. But… hey, are you listening?”
Halsem looked to Tom who was sitting silently in the back beside the luggage. Ellin approached him, curious as to what he was doing. Tom sat with his arms crossed and a crow in front of him.
As Ellin spoke to him, Tom was startled and smiled awkwardly.
“No. Nothing. My plan just went a little… a little wrong…”
“What do you mean it went wrong…?”
Ellin looked at the crow anxiously. She had never figured out what he was always using them for. Tom went back to frowning. He had received a message a little while ago. It was from the Werewolf, Wolf.
One of the Werewolf units he commanded was attacked at the border area of the Holy Kingdom. It sounded like the attackers were part of a large-scale troop of well-trained, elite soldiers.
‘It was something I requested just in case…I didn’t expect the Holy Kingdom to really make a move.’
Whatever he planned, the important thing was the collection and transmission of information. Tom’s crow could transmit what his crows saw and heard, but that didn’t mean it was ‘all’ transmitted. His crows were, as expected, not well-rounded. At best, he could only summon a few dozen crows at a time, and since he couldn’t always use them all the time, he had mainly been using them as a communication network.
To make up for the crows’ shortcomings, Tom had the Werewolves monitor Canibar the border area with the Holy Kingdom. Now, he had received a message of an army crossing that border. It would take around a week to cover the distance to this place.
Tom also knew, to a certain degree, about the Continent Law. At least 6 months had to pass after the opponent country declared war before the war could start. Since that rule had been kept for thousands of years, the moment it was broken, The Holy Kingdom would be criticized by the other countries, and it would end up providing a cause for war. It was as if the Holy Kingdom expressed their intention to go against the whole continent.
‘… it seems like they’ve completely lost their minds. Salem. I can’t believe he’s turning the whole continent into enemies only to crush Aylans Kingdom. Does that mean he’s that confident?’
A smile crept onto Tom’s face.
“… But it’s still not enough. Yet…” Tom narrowed his eyes. “The madness is not enough.”
Ellin tilted her head at what Tom said. Ignoring her, Tom looked to Halsem.
“Hmm? What is it?”
“I will pay all the fees needed to buy and bring the Dwarves. How long would it take?”
“… There’s no Dwarf in Canibar. It would be better to go to big cities to find them. Even if I buy you the Dwarves as soon as I find them, to gather around 200 of them… maybe 2 to 3 months?”
“It takes that long?”
Halsem pressed his forehead at Ellin’s question.
“That’s why I said they’re troublesome. Since Dwarves are rare they’re hard to get, even in the big cities. On top of that, I think even famous slave traders can only catch and sell a maximum of around 30 dwarfs? If someone like me buys more than 200 Dwarves as a slaver. I would attract attention! The kingdom would be suspicious of me and might monitor me!”
Tom caressed his chin.
‘You could get monitored for buying Dwarves in large quantities?’
Tom hadn’t considered that. Since he had no knowledge of slave trading, he didn’t know how that field worked. On top of that 2 to 3 months was quite a long time to take. There was no way the Holy Kingdom would stay quiet until then. He didn’t know how the coming war would interfere with his plans
Tom pondered for a while before grinning.
“Now that it has come to this… negotiation with the upper level would be good.”
“…What does that mean? Upper level…?”
Tom smiled slyly and sent his crow away.
“Yes, the upper level! The ruler of Aylans, the king.”
Lulu and Luri fought sleepiness while on two legs. They yawned and rubbed their eyes, only to have the drowsiness return.
“Go sleep if you’re tired.”
Lily Golt sat at a desk in the study, dressed in her pajamas. Books from the Demon Kingdom from ages past were stored here. She worked diligently, reading a book, and writing notes on an adjacent document with a quill pen.
Huge Treos were also there, reading books as well. Nordin Wood scanned a document with a thoughtful tilt to his head. The document was policy research about the Demon Kingdom’s management.
The Demon Kingdom had gradually become more stable thanks to the policy they continuously implemented after Bludifer’s revolt. Additionally, they had reached a sort of technological renaissance thanks to the humans who invaded the Demon Kingdom. Farming, tending to livestock, ironworking, all of these brought with them new skills and technologies for the Demon race.
‘But, as expected the progress is slow. It’s so hard…’
Lily pressed her temples while handing a document to Nordin Wood.
“Would an approval be good?”
“Excellent. That’s a good idea.”
Lily smiled awkwardly at Nordin Wood’s compliment. Not long ago, Nordin Wood was someone Lily disliked. Because of his large build and the shape of his face, Nordin had frightened her. She had been afraid that he might have had an ulterior motive since he revolted.
‘But he’s not a bad person.’
Now, she was instead thankful to him, since she had the opportunity to receive his help.
‘What in the world was I thinking that time to say something like that?’
She remembered confidently shouting at the Apostles. She had also inspired many of her subjects, something that was unimaginable in the past.
‘Was it because I suddenly had the courage?’
Karakul, Ellin, Lulu and Luri, Kuman Kulvo, and… The Devil of Lania, Tom. It was thanks to them. She unconsciously shouted at the thought of not wanting to disappoint them.
Lily turned pale and her body shook.
Nordin Wood smiled at her. He had the warmth of a grandfather watching his granddaughter grow up.
“You think too much.”
A grass blade growing on Nordin’s head gently swayed with his relaxed words. His voice was clear and soothing, and Lily could feel herself calming down. At the same time, the siblings finally fell asleep.
Lily smiled as she relaxed; it felt like magic.
“Don’t mention it…”
It was when Nordin Wood smiled and looked back to the document in his hands. The door of the study opened and Karakul came in, wearing a dark red uniform. He immediately greeted Lily.
“I have a message from Apostle Tom.”
“… Do you?”
Lily spoke in a pleasant tone. She almost sounded giddy at the arrival of news.
“What did he say about how it’s going? Is it going well? And what about Ellin…? Does Ellin eat well…?”
Karakul let out a dry cough at Lily’s questions. Lily was startled and shook her head.
“No, well, uhm… what about the plan?”
“… Currently, there has been a setback with the plan.”
‘The plan was messed up…? Was there an accident…?’
As Lily looked worried, Karakul continued, without observing her expression.
“Due to unavoidable circumstances, Apostle Tom said he’s hurriedly adjusting the plan. In order to do that there is something he’d like Your Highness to do.”
Lily blinked and tilted her head.
“… He’d like Your Highness to provide him control over the military.”
The troops were assembled at the Demon Lord’s command. Each unit, divided based on their respective branch, set up camp outside the capital.
All of the armor from both Lania and the Hero’s Allied Forces had been melted down. They were used to forge new equipment, an armor made of red-colored scales, which was unique to the Demon Kingdom.
There was the Gnoll Scouting Unit, made of more than 100 Gnolls. The Orc Infantry Unit, containing 3000 Orcs—making it the largest unit. The Armored Ogre Unit, consisting of 50 heavily-armored Ogres. The Minotaur Stormtroopers, containing 80 Minotaurs who took up the vanguard. The Goblin Supply Unit, which had 300 Goblins who took care of various tasks. The Treo Siege Unit had 50 Treos in it, but they were far from the only siege weapons the Demons possessed. Finally, 300 Centaurs made up the Cavalry Unit.
They all assembled at the square in front of the Demon Lord’s Castle. Their commander was Karakul. He went up to the podium, carrying their kingdom’s flag. Before him were the ‘troops’ that Tom himself had trained for 3 months.
Karakul looked down at them.
“Hng! Why is Karakul our commander?”
Allin, who had temporarily been appointed to be the commander of Minotaurs, snorted indignantly.
“But aren’t you able to make a contribution through this? Nasis is still sulking about not being able to join.”
Hekaron, commander of the Cavalry Unit, crossed his arms while stamping his hooves.
Karakul stood calmly while looking at them, but after recalling Tom’s plan his eyes twitched, betraying his uneasiness.
‘… This kind of outrageous plan again? No, is this not a good plan? I’m sure he thought up something troublesome again!’
This was the strongest force that the Demon Kingdom had. With their absence, the Demon kingdom would be practically defenseless. Of course, there were still many Demons who knew how to fight, but none of them had received proper military training.
What if the enemies invaded this kingdom while they were away? Even if those left could stop them, the damage to the kingdom would be great.
‘With Kuman and Kulvo are staying here… we have the strength to put up a fight if it comes to it, but…’
Just in case, he voiced his concerns through to the crow sitting on his arm once more.
“What will we do if enemies come to attack?”
“No such thing will happen. If Pope Salem’s goal has been decided to be the Aylans Kingdom… the bastard would attack them intensively. Why? The reason is simple. Because that bastard is a guy who smashes what he doesn’t like until it thoroughly breaks. He’ll want to confirm their destruction with his own eyes.”
‘… Does he understand his opponent that well?’
The area adjacent to the Demon Kingdom was in between the Holy Kingdom and Aylans Kingdom. If the two countries were at war, there was no doubt that the Demon Kingdom would be safe. But… there was always a ‘What if’ scenario floating in the back of his mind. Even if unlikely, the Holy Kingdom’s troops could invade the Demon Kingdom at some point.
‘… He’s my master, but he’s out of his mind.’
There were times even he wondered whether Tom was really a savior
‘Still… what in the world he is up to? It’s driving me crazy. I’m excited to the point I’m wondering if master’s madness has been transmitted to me as well! What will he show us in the future? What kind of sacrifice does he plan to make. What does he plan to reveal to us…?’
Karakul smiled. He roared while raising the flag above his head.
The Demons looked up in unison and watched their commander’s display.
“Demons! It’s time!”
His voice echoed across the plaza.
“We have been called the descendants of the devil, cursed monsters, depraved heretics, and all kinds of names by the humans. We’ve been abused and oppressed for generations!”
The Demons’ bodies trembled.
Devil, cursed, heretic, all kinds of these names had been attached to them. Humans slaughtered their ancestors and had continued hunting their kind to this day. They used them as slaves or tortured and killed them in the name of their God. That anger, that hatred! That grudge…!! All of that flowed through the Demons’ bodies.
The enraged demons’ began to breathe hard. They gripped their weapons tighter and shook in anger. The air became heavy. Only rough breaths broke the silence.
Karakul shouted at them once more.
“Who’s our enemy!?”
“Humans-! Humans-! Humans-!”
The Demons pounded their weapons into the ground or stamped their feet. The earth shook.
“That’s right! Humans! But among those humans, the enemy that has been bothering us for thousands of years is the so-called God’s country, the Holy Kingdom!”
The Holy Kingdom! The corrupt country that used God’s name to justify their treatment of Demons. Their religion had led to the death and suffering of many of their kind.
“This is the Her Highness, the Demon Lord’s order!”
Karakul lifted the flagpole he was holding high.
“From now on we will go to… Trample the Holy Kingdom!”
“Follow Her Highness, the Demon Lord’s order-!”
“Trample the humans-!”
The Demons’ roars could be heard throughout the capital.
An army of more than 3,880 Demons marched to the Aylans Kingdom under the name of the Demon Lord, Lily Golt.
— Ω —