80. Confusion (1)
“…I made a deal with them.”
“A deal? Are you kidding? You’re crazy!”
“You made a deal with the demons?!”
“You’re out of your mind!”
The nobles made no attempt to hide what they thought about that idea. They very loudly criticized it.
King Paulie interrupted the chaos with a shout.
The enraged nobles shut their mouths immediately. It was extremely rare for King Paulie―someone who was well-known for keeping his composure―to shout.
“Count Shabel, do you know what you just said means?”
The situation was close to a worst-case scenario.
It was extremely dangerous. If anything went wrong it could spark a war with not only the Holy Kingdom, but also all the other kingdoms as well.
King Paulie let out a groan while looking at the nobles.
The situation was especially dangerous now that the nobles had heard about it. The nobles were full of disloyal retainers who would sell information like this to other countries without a second thought. An admission like this about the ‘Demon Kingdom’ in front of such people was a massive problem for him.
Since Count Shabel himself had made this deal, the country that he represented―his country―would soon receive massive amounts of criticism from the other nations about how they were all diabolical heathens that were making shady deals with demons.
‘… But Count Shabel is not someone who wouldn’t think about that in advance.’
Count Shabel must have had a reason to tell him about this so openly.
Count Shabel continued as he recalled the details about what had happened.
He spoke about how, in the middle of blocking the Holy Kingdom’s invasion, he had demanded their help to evacuate the people to safety, and that they had asked to meet King Paulie face-to-face in return.
“… What else did they want?”
“They didn’t say anything else. They only said that they wanted to start a diplomatic relationship.”
“Ha! I’m going to go crazy.”
“The demons, diplomatic?!”
“Count Shabel, is there something wrong with your head?”
King Paulie glared at the nobles.
They shut their mouths again and lowered their heads.
Criticism, however, was not the only thing that was coming from the nobles. One of the nobles that happened to be acquainted with Shabel had something else to say.
“… Your Highness, I think it would be good to hear what Count Shabel thinks about all of this first before deciding anything.”
“The Canibar family are loyal people who have been protecting the royal family for generations. They wouldn’t do something like this without a good reason. Isn’t that right, Count Shabel? I want to hear that reason.”
The eyes of the King and of all the nobles were back on Shabel as they awaited his reply.
With a sigh, Count Shabel told them all what he saw, felt, and experienced.
“Haha! It’s amazing! Aylans Kingdom won against the Holy Kingdom!”
“Against an army that invaded in open violation of the continent law, on top of that!”
The capital city of Aylans Kingdom was in a boisterous, festive mood.
They were anxious about the war, but they had gained an awesome victory over the powerful Holy Kingdom.
Any incident as big as that would flip the continent over, especially since the Holy Kingdom wasn’t just defeated, but utterly crushed.
The Holy Kingdom’s nobles had to be freaking out by now and they had to be in the midst of massive internal conflicts and blame-shifting.
The people gathered in the bar clinked their glasses together in celebration even though the sun had set hours ago.
Tom smiled bitterly, sitting on an empty seat in the inn.
“For people who had been looking so depressed and anxious not too long ago, they sure are full of energy.”
“I know, right? Humans are so weird. They just killed a bunch of people of the same race. What’s so fun about that?”
Ellin took another swig of her beer, seemingly forgetting about the fact that not too long ago demons had been fighting and killing each other because of Bludifer.
“How do you like it, Mr. Halsem?”
Halsem, who was currently sitting beside Tom, blinked his tired eyes at Tom’s words. Then he smiled awkwardly.
“Ha, haha… how do I like it? I don’t feel very good. I think I’m going to throw up as soon as I eat something! Euk… I’m branded as one of you now. Thanks to that, I might not be able to ever set foot in Aylans Kingdom again!”
One of the worst things that could happen to you was losing your right to free passage. When you were considered so dangerous as to be a potential race traitor, nobody wanted anything to do with you and you would be forbidden from entering any of the other countries.
He was pretty sure that he was on everybody’s list now.
“Don’t worry about it too much,” Tom replied, picking up on the other man’s anxiety.
“Easy for you to say. You’re not the one with the problem on his hands.”
Halsem got a stomach ache after seeing Tom’s smile.
“But aren’t they overreacting a little bit?” Ellin complained. “They just called us Heroes that saved the country, but why are we receiving this kind of treatment?”
She stamped her foot on the ground in annoyance at their unfair treatment.
They had ended up getting kicked out after Tom had mentioned the ‘Demon Kingdom’ at the royal palace. It was a relief that they hadn’t been outright deported from the capital city and that they hadn’t been attacked, or considered as wanted criminals, but there was no guarantee that that wouldn’t happen in the future.
“They were just being wary since you guys aren’t humans. But do you know what actually is ridiculous? That they included me among you!”
Halsem groaned as he shifted his gaze.
Though it was a festival atmosphere, at a secluded spot in the inn, there were some men glancing at them.
“… Are we under surveillance?”
“Yes. Since we’re ‘demons’, according to them.”
“… Don’t say ‘we’ when it’s actually just you.”
Halsem scratched his head. He looked at Tom with a very dissatisfied expression.
“… Mate, you promised me, right?”
“That you would make me the best dealer out there. Was it sincere?”
Tom nodded as he gulped down his beer.
“How, exactly, do you plan on doing that now? Everyone’s wary of me now. No matter how much money you pay me it’s now extremely hard for me to do my business.”
“Honestly, it seems like they don’t care all that much about you though.”
“… Even though they treat me like a small fry compared to you, since they’ve seen me together with you guys they won’t just leave me alone. What would you do if they tried to kill me?”
“A promise is a promise. I’ll keep it. I’d like for you to become the dealer in charge of all trades between Aylans Kingdom and the Demon Kingdom. If you do that I’ll guarantee your safety.”
“Yes, we’ll be working on building a trade network between Aylans Kingdom and the Demon Kingdom.”
Halsem stroked his chin.
‘Trade between the Demon Kingdom and Aylans Kingdom?’
That was pretty much unheard of throughout all of history.
‘Who would’ve thought of trading with demons in this world?’
Aylans Kingdom was a country that possessed not only magic and magic tools but also the Dwarf clan that Tom talked about.
So the Demon Kingdom could receive magic knowledge, magic tools, and also Dwarves from them, but there was nothing the Demon Kingdom could give in return as far as he could tell.
“What would you guys give them though? To be honest, nobody acknowledges the equipment that demons make. The knowledge alone that demons made it is usually the main thing that turns everyone off, but that isn’t the only reason. It’s also because it’s just bad when compared to their own technology. And it’s the same for magical knowledge. There’s no way demons have any of that, right? And it’s not like you guys are rich in things like food, either. What in the world are you guys thinking of trading with them…?”
Halsem’s eyes grew bigger.
‘The Demon Kingdom has funds? Where? Lining their streets? Of course, they would need something like that if they ever expected to trade with anyone… but does that mean that the Demon Kingdom has their own currency?’
Tom saw his skeptical look and elaborated.
“Mr. Halsem, don’t you know who I am?”
‘Who he is? Of course, I know that. It’s obvious.’
“… That hurts my feelings a little bit. I’d like another answer―a real one.”
Halsem smiled awkwardly and looked over at Ellin as if he wanted her to answer the question.
Ellin, who was in the middle of taking another bite of food from her fork, tilted her head after noticing Halsem’s gaze and looked over at Tom.
As Tom looked back at her, Ellin blinked her eyes in confusion.
As if she felt burdened by Tom’s amber eyes she avoided his gaze.
“… If you’re asking me what Tom is… I don’t know either. He’s just a savior to me. A Hero to the Demon Kingdom. And probably… a good man who helps Miss Lily?”
Her voice lowered more and more as she continued, almost as if she were shy.
Tom was thankful for what she said, but it wasn’t the answer that he wanted.
“I’m the one who crushed the capital city of the Holy Kingdom, Lania.”
Halsem looked at Tom with a questioning look. He didn’t understand how that was relevant, but he was well aware of the story.
‘Is he trying to brag? What’s the relationship between that and funds?’
“And until now Lania has remained an abandoned land without an owner. The place is still swarming with the Undead, and has turned into a hellscape that nobody can access.”
‘I know that too. So what about it? I don’t understand how any of this is relevant to the conversation.’
“… And I used to live there, thirty years ago.”
‘So, wait… what?’
Halsem’s eyes grew wide at the revelation.
Tom nodded, thinking that Halsem had understood the point that he was trying to make.
However, the revelation Halsem had actually made was not the one that Tom had thought he had.
“Thirty years? Mate, you’re way older than you look. You’re really not human.”
“… Don’t get off-track. What I wanted to say was that I’m now ruling over ‘Lania’.”
“… Ruling Lania? The place that used to be the Holy Kingdom’s capital city? What does that have to do with funds..?”
Halsem fell into a daze when he finally figured it out.
His jaw dropped and his mouth hung open.
“… Oh my God.”
He dropped his beer.
‘He has everything that was in Lania’s treasure storage, which used to be the Holy Kingdom’s capital city.’
‘The funds Tom has access to must be astronomical.’
The Holy Kingdom’s treasure stores were known as being chock-full of all kinds of ancient and expensive antiques that had been piled up for thousands of years.
It was to the point that there had been a rumor going around a long time ago that the source of all wealth in the continent was the city-sized hill of gold piled up in the underground vault under the capital city.
Treasures found in any normal dungeon wouldn’t be comparable to the Holy Kingdom’s treasure-trove.
“It’s impossible to move it all, but we already have part of it in the Demon Kingdom. It should be enough for the operational costs of running an empire for around four to five years.”
“We’re thinking of trading using that with Aylans Kingdom. Not buying Dwarves in secret, but by confidently doing business, paying, and making contracts fairly. And. Halsem, you will be recorded as the first ‘big merchant’ in history who trades with demons.”
The first demon trader in history.
These words were now echoing in Halsem’s head.
As someone who had a creed that ‘a man should be ambitious!’, it was a very tempting offer. But, at the same time… it felt too easy.
“… It’s absolutely not going to be easy, though.”
Halsem was startled and looked back up at Tom.
Tom then continued, as if he had read Halsem’s mind.
“Halsem. Humans and demons have a hostile relationship. If things go wrong, you could die. Of course, we will protect you as much as we can… but you could be condemned as a traitor.”
The traitor who defected to the demons and betrayed humanity.
He might be recorded in history with a name like that.
Halsem tapped on the table with his fingers as he descended deep into his thoughts. He rested his cheek on his palm.
He had a lot to think about.
Eventually, he spoke up again.
“… Why are you guys doing this? What’s your actual purpose? Why are you trying to trade with the humans and build acquaintances with them? Dwarves are not your only goal, right? Since you said that you also wanted to build diplomatic relationships with Aylans Kingdom, I want to know your true intentions.”
“We only want one thing.”
Tom smiled and intertwined his fingers and said to Halsem,
“The coexistence of demons and humans.”
— Ω —