91. Forces (4)
The place Pygni was going to wasn’t the bedroom, but the office. Discontent, Pygni sat on the chair and glared irritably at the letter in his hands. It was from the Holy Kingdom, having arrived some time ago, bearing Pope Salem’s stamp on it.
‘Do I just throw it away…?‘ He wondered.
No; he was curious about its content. The letter talked about many things, but to sum it up, ‘Since I can’t make a move, destroy the Aylans Kingdom and Demon Kingdom’s Demon Lord by yourselves, okay?’
“…What the hell is he talking about?”
Pygni glanced forward. An old, thin man in shabby attire cleared his throat. He sat to the prince’s right, on the opposite side of the office desk. He was breaking out into a cold sweat, as if suddenly ill, while reading Pygni’s expression. The old man was neither a noble nor a knight; he was an ordinary writer of some renown in the Kingdom of Lome. He was responsible for writing the letters Pygni sent to other kingdoms, making them sound better… He was kind of a ghostwriter.
“Aah, you don’t need to write yet.”
The old man was startled and lowered his head as Pygni spoke with a benevolent expression.
“N-no need to talk with such honorifics, Your Highness! To this lowly old man…!”
“You deserve respect as a senior to me in life,” Pygni said. “Furthermore, you’ve continued to develop your skills and abilities, you deserve this much respect.”
Of course, Pygni knew, this applied only in informal situations. The old man hurriedly lowered his head at what Pygni said.
Pygni nodded but frowned again while reading the letter. He was displeased, so much so that he was losing sleep. Count Benia’s revolt had only just been quelled. Now he had received a letter telling him to go through war once more. There was also a part that was quite bothering him in the letter.
“Don’t you owe me a debt, just like you promised me, King Pygni?” It read. “That thing you have sworn in exchange for me releasing the Hero Thoma…”
“…What, in exchange for releasing him? Ha… this fool. He may have become younger after becoming obsessed with life extension magic… but his mind has completely decayed. Debt? Agreement? Who would acknowledge that? Such as it is with a verbal agreement.”
Pygni tore apart the letter Pope Salem sent. Verbal agreements were easy to break. Was there even anybody who knew about their agreement, to begin with? Nobody could question it since the promise had only been between the two of them.
“It seems like he’s been driven into a corner… That’s too bad. I wanted to be there to see Pope Salem Gottshuranche squirm.”
Pygni lit the scraps of paper on fire with the candle on his desk and threw them into the rubbish bin. And yet, he didn’t take his eyes away from the smoldering pieces of paper.
‘…I should just consider this as crazy bullshit.’
“-being only a son of a concubine!”
Count Benia’s words echoed in his head.
“…Is it a…son of a concubine?”
He needed honor. An honor to erase the flaw of being the son of a concubine. There was only one title that came to mind which would rid him of this singular flaw.
The title which was given to brave humans whose purpose was to kill the Demon Lord, If he had the title of Hero…the complaints of those who condemned him for being a son of a concubine would disappear. Didn’t Pope Salem become the adoptive son of the previous Pope thanks to that title?
“Aah, I still don’t like it. Why should I do this? Is he telling me to fight against those dangerous forces for honor? Does he think the Aylans Kingdom is a dog’s name? Didn’t a monster called ‘the Devil of Lania’ or something also show up in the Demon Kingdom a while ago? Does he think I would take the risk of going against the monsters that killed Archbishop Holfmann?”
More than anything, Pygni didn’t see the need to follow a maniac who broke the Continental Law. There was even a chance that Salem would soon lose his position as Pope; he had been rebuked by the other kingdoms and empires for breaking the Continental Law, and it was followed by similar rebukes from his own priests. Pygni received information that a movement to dethrone Salem was gaining traction, spearheaded by the Archbishops and Cardinals.
Pygni wasn’t so stupid to do such a person a favor.
‘A Pope who has lost his authority is little more than an ordinary priest.’
This was the kind of danger that breaking the Continental Law posed. If a small kingdom had done what the Holy Kingdom had, it would have been erased from the map. Even if it was an empire, the emperor would have been forced to step down from his position in shame. There was a reason nobody had broken these ancient laws for thousands of years.
Pygni looked again at his scribe,
“Please write this down. ‘I refuse this request.'”
The scribe started to write.
“The reason is… right, I’m exhausted because of the revolt.”
The scribe tried his best to spin Pygni’s straightforward words into a polite diction, reading them out loud back to Pygni.
“We can’t help you because the Kingdom of Lome’s state of affairs are still in a mess due to the revolt. Our kingdom’s finances are in shambles, our strength has declined, and our people are anxious… I’ll write it like that.”
Pygni shifted his gaze outside the window at the scribe’s words, toward the lively atmosphere of the capital.
“…Our economy is growing, the military has been strengthened after putting down the revolt, and our people are enjoying more wealth and prosperity than they have in a long time… Ah, the kingdom’s finances will also benefit from the confiscation of Benia’s fief and assets. Our people will be really happy.” The scribe listened silently, waiting for Pygni to continue his message for the Pope. “Anyway, I won’t send troops for such a stupid request.”
“My only priority right now is to rebuild this kingdom,” the scribe said. “Please allow the people of the Kingdom of Lome respite from any more violence or hardship.”
“Are you changing that too?” Pygny asked with a smile. “Haha! That’s nice. Ah! What other reasons can I give him? It seems like he thinks we’re allies? Do you think I care, you shitty Pope? Even if I were your ally, do you think I’d simply waltz off to fight whatever war you decided to start? Are you crazy? I have no intention to do a madman’s bidding, especially one stupid enough to break the Continental Law. You’ll be dethroned soon enough anyway, right? Please write that, it sounds quite satisfying…!”
The scribe sighed, then spent a few minutes crossing over parts of what he’d written down before repeating back the revised version of Pygni’s words.
“Also, while the Kingdom of Lome would help the Holy Kingdom in a time of need, we feel there is currently no reason to. Your request would force us to break the Continental Law, something which any kingdom would be hesitant to do.”
“Get dethroned while barking woof woof!”
“…In consideration of this, we hope you call off the invasion of the Demon Kingdom and the Aylans Kingdom.”
“Isn’t it okay to convey it as it is for the last part?”
The scribe started back at him with a worried expression, afraid he was being serious.
“I’m kidding. Please don’t treat me like that crazy Salem Gottshuranche. You’ve worked hard. Please wrap it up nicely and give it to me. I’ll go through it and stamp it if I like it.”
“Then… I’ll finish it and present it to you after.”
The scribe bowed his head and left the room. Pygni curled his lips as he looked at the letter in the rubbish, now little more than a pile of ash.
“Nobody would listen to a lion that has lost its claws and teeth.”
The other kingdoms probably felt the same way. The Pope’s influence had disappeared, and it was time for him to fall.
“…The problem is that he’s crazy enough to not die nicely.”
Salem Gottshuranche wouldn’t just step down.
The Demon Kingdom, a place where strange and horrible-looking demons live. A place where there was a butcher shop selling human flesh in the market. Their streets were stained with blood, and the place was full of corpses and the smell of rot. It was a veritable hell, a territory that most humans would never dare set foot in.
…Was what Halsem had thought.
“…This is the Demon Kingdom?”
Halsem, who was escorted by Karakul’s army, arrived in the capital after going past the Demon Kingdom’s border. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Outside of this large city he’d been brought to, a massive construction project was currently taking place. The work rivaled the type of things one could see being done in human cities, and was far from being primitive. By combining the demon’s natural strength with the architectural ingenuity of humanity, the demon capital had transformed completely. Without exaggeration, it was now as grand and beautiful as Lania, the Holy Kingdom’s bygone capital city.
Halsem’s jaw fell slack.
“… Did you pick up Lania and move it here?”
It was like an imitation of the Holy Kingdom’s former capital. After Bludifer’s revolt, a reformation of the Demon Kingdom had started. New laws, regulations, and also an economic system were put in place. The Goblins, who saw Lania’s buildings in the past through Tom, demolished Lania’s abandoned buildings on the same day and reverse engineered them in only three days. It wasn’t perfect, but they succeeded in imitating some of the buildings. From then on, the city developed, and money started being circulated.
A polished street was divided into pavement for demons to walk on and a road which horses and other mounts could pass through. They had dug underground and installed a sewer system, leaving the streets free from filth and waste. Also, Orc patrols were spread throughout the city to maintain order, meaning that it was quite safe no matter where you went.
This was a high-quality system, like—no, better than—those found in human cities.
Halsem looked over his shoulder. The muscular dwarfs on his wagon looked around with a twinkle in their eyes. They were blacksmiths and craftsmen, and everything about the city grabbed their attention.
“This is pretty good for stupid demi-humans, isn’t it? I can’t believe they developed the city to this level even without our help!”
“Aah, that architecture … is the same with humans’ architecture. But it’s in desperate need of improvement! Can’t they do it more properly!? Damn it, are they thinking of ruining that elaborate building!?”
“Oy! Send us in quickly! If we don’t step in now the buildings will have to be made all over from the start again…!”
They were slave dwarfs who were freed from the Aylans Kingdom. After the Aylans Kingdom and the Demon Kingdom agreed on a 100 year alliance, King Paulie had announced it.
“Starting from now, the demi-humans who are caught as slaves are all free!”
The demi-humans who hadn’t committed crimes would be released, and the same went for demi-humans without proof of guilt. Mass confusion arose in the Aylans Kingdom, which had caught thousands of demi-humans as slaves for generations. In particular, it sparked backlash from nobles and dealers who owned many slaves.
“What are we supposed to eat to live!?”
“I can’t believe he’s supporting these filthy demons…! Is His Highness possessed by the devil…!?”
To counter the unrest, King Paulie decided to give them compensation.
“I will provide all slave owners with compensation. I will give you double your slaves’ average value. But I won’t hear anything about the highest value, good products or bad products. Everyone would get the same amount of money as compensation and release the demi-humans who are not criminals!”
It was a policy to prevent slave dealers from seeing compensation as a chance to catch many demi-humans
“Or we would have no choice but to conduct a large scale survey.”
There were no clean slave dealers or nobles dealing with slaves. Aylans Kingdom was called the best in the continent when it came to their magic. If a group consisting of mages proceeded with a large scale investigation, more than half of the slave dealers might be arrested and live half of their lives in prison, or become slaves themselves. In the end, the slave dealers and nobles had no choice but to back off. Even with that policy, slave hunting, buying, and selling still happened, but it decreased drastically after some of them were caught and executed as examples. Now, demi-humans were being regularly released due to King Paulie’s declaration.
“…I’m only supposed to be a merchant, but am I not doing the work of a diplomat by bringing them over? Uh? That might be better for me, but who knows?”
Halsem tilted his head. To be both the first great merchant and a diplomat who linked humans with demons!? Wasn’t that an achievement enough to be proud of for generations to come?
“…I might have to be thankful to Karakul.”
Halsem smiled bitterly and drove the horse from the driving box. He was going to the Demon Kingdom’s royal castle.
— Ω —