Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
“What… exactly is the meaning of this?”
I stopped glaring in the direction the demon had flown off in and turned back around to face the room once I heard the king’s voice break the silence that accompanied the unexpected situation.
The caster that had manipulated and quite literally taken control of the prince had left the area, so his spell had been undone. Without anyone to maintain control of it, the prince’s corpse had collapsed, fallen to the floor unmoving. There were still a few blades stuck in his side. But as he was a corpse, very little blood leaked from the prince’s wounds.
Confused and filled with grief, the king kneeled before his son’s remains. The prince was no longer the son that he had once known, but he took him in his arms and stared in shock nonetheless. His boy had passed, seemingly before his very eyes.
Likewise, the soldiers loyal to the prince stared in confusion. Like the king, they were unable to follow the series of events that had led to their leader’s collapse. Even the rescue squad was stupefied, but they soon recovered and got back to work. They disarmed all the prince’s soldiers and rounded them up. The men quietly obeyed and displayed no further resistance. They knew that a counteroffensive was impossible without their leader, the man that had provided them a banner under which they could rally.
“Well, king.” I moved over to the country’s ruler as I spoke to him. “It looks like someone was pulling your son’s strings. Literally.”
“All this time…?” His voice trembled with regret as he slowly tore his gaze from the man that was once his heir and turned it upon me. I could see in his eyes that his heart was filled with lament, that he was blaming himself for everything that had happened.
“Probably.” But I answered him in my usual tone nonetheless.
“I do not deserve to call myself a father.” He closed his eyes. “I noticed that he had changed. I saw the signs. I knew that something was wrong, and yet, I did nothing. I failed to truly understand what it was that my son was plagued by. Not until the day that I saw him fall before my very eyes.”
“Your Majesty…” Nell tried to comfort the king. Her voice was filled with an empathetic sorrow that gave way to her intentions, but she couldn’t quite seem to find the right words.
“I am sorry, Riutt…” The king turned his gaze back towards his son, closed his eyes, and began to run his hand through the boy’s hair. “I should have known that you were suffering. As your father, I should have been able to protect you from all the hardship you were forced to endure. And yet, I failed you. I’m sorry, Riutt. I’m so sorry…”
The rest of us remained silent as we watched the king, the father bring his son’s remains to his chest and quietly sob as he mourned his loss.
The whole civil war fought between the two factions came to a rather smooth end. The leader of the prince’s faction, which was obviously none other than the prince himself, had ended up turning into a lifeless corpse. With their leader gone, the nobles that supported him were thrown into a state of confusion and disorder. It didn’t take long for those within the capital to be rounded up and brought to justice. That said, not all of the prince’s supporters had even been present to begin with. Some were still holed up in their territories, but whatever the case, their heads were sure to fly off their shoulders in the near future. Literally. My condolences. RIP.
After his release from prison, the king was once again reinstated as the country’s ruler and placed at its helm. Honestly, a part of me was surprised that he had agreed to it. He had seemed so depressed that I thought he was about to just go ahead and off himself. However, he seemed to have resolved himself shortly after. The king knew that ending his own life and leaving the country without a head of state would be irresponsible, and he seemed to believe that he would have no right to visit his son’s grave lest he ensured that the country was restored to a state of stability. Only after seeing through his duty would the king reconsider handing off the crown.
As the incident had caused many heads to fly, the parliament had ended up with a large number of empty seats, seats that found themselves ultimately filled by members of the church. The privilege was granted to them as a result of the major part they played in the king’s rescue. The fact that the church had ended up as a much larger part of the political landscape likely meant that everything had gone according to plan. Its newfound political influence in turn meant that the church would ultimately end up being a much more significant force overall. Wow. They sure are ambitious for a bunch of clergymen. Whatever happened to men of the cloth being modest and stuff?
And that was just about how the aftermath went. Personally though, I felt as if most of my effort had been flushed right down the drain. Of course, it wasn’t as if I had gained literally nothing, but I still wasn’t all that happy about the way the situation had turned out. Finding out that the prince wasn’t my only concern had tilted me, especially since it happened right when I felt like I had just brought everything to an end. Like seriously, gimme a break. What is this? Some manga for teenage boys where a new, more powerful antagonist shows up at the end of every arc? Yeah, no thanks. Nothing could possibly be more obnoxious.
The one saving grace was that said new antagonist probably didn’t know who I was. My race still said human, and I’d been wearing a mask the whole time. It was unlikely that he, or anyone else for that matter, would come to learn my true identity. I was confident that the dungeon would remain out of harm’s way, that I would be able to enjoy a period of peace. Man, I know I was the one to insist on wearing it and everything, but honestly, I didn’t expect it to prove this useful.
And it wasn’t like I hadn’t learned anything about the demon that masterminded the incident either. I was informed that he was some sort of fiend. Analyze did tell me the race’s full name, but it was too long so I’d forgotten exactly what it was. But either way, the fact that he was a fiend meant that he was indeed a demon.
His skills included Brainwashing and Necromancy. There was also a whole bunch of other stuff that made him seem like a fairly effective spy. His skill page alone was, in fact, enough to determine that he was the type to engage in devious ploys.
Apparently, the demon had come into the prince’s service as a minister several years ago and the two had been seen working together quite often ever since. Which means he probably slowly brainwashed him over time, and then used necromancy to turn him into a literal puppet when he felt like it was time to put the icing on the cake.
In other words, the prince most likely hadn’t actually sent troops our way just because he happened to be greedy and ambitious. Chances were, the demon had wanted the humans to bother Lefi so she would return the favour by completely obliterating the country in retaliation. It fit well with the whole destroying the country from the inside out thing that he had going on given his whole two-factioned civil war and whatnot, but it wasn’t exactly the type of plan I could approve of. What the hell. Lefi isn’t a tool. You can’t just use her to kill people goddammit. I’ll not forget this, demon. I’ll remember everything you’ve done and pay you back with interest. Just you wait.
There was something about the whole puppet prince scenario that bothered me. It was the fact that it so closely resembled the scenario we’d run into back in that town in the sticks. But, unlike the fake minister, the overly suspicious ringleader I had captured back then was human. Their methods were the same, and so were their powers. The only difference between them were their races. There were far too many similarities for it to be a coincidence.
Thinking back, the guy had asked me why a demon like me was interfering with his plan. I had taken it as him wondering why a demon would bother saving a human town, but the fresh perspective that this incident had brought me made me think that may not be the case. It could have been him asking why one of his supposed allies was getting in his way.
It seemed that there was a group of humans that bore some sort of connection to a similarly minded group of demons. Of course, there was always the possibility that I was just making too much out of a coincidence, but I didn’t think so. Something was up. I just knew it. Ughhh… This is awful. Why the hell am I stuck thinking up conspiracies again? Y’know what? Screw this, I’m done. I love unravelling sinister plots like this when it comes to games and stuff, but doing it in real life is just a huge pain in the ass. So yeah, no. I’mma just call it a day and stop.
I wanted to hurry back to the dungeon so I could kick back and relax. There’s no place like home. Home sweet home. Something happened to latch onto my waist right as I entertained the thought of ending my stay.
Upon looking down, I found myself greeted by the princess’ smiling face, which prompted me to turn my gaze back towards her father.
“I’m glad to see that she’s all better now.”
“As am I,” agreed the king. “Her health and glee are both a result of your efforts. You have my thanks.”
The three of us were currently in a room without any guards or servants present. It was just me, the king, and his daughter. Our current situation was likely a result of the king showing me his consideration. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to speak without reserve otherwise. Just goes to show how much he trusts me, I guess. I mean, I get it. I literally saved you, but don’t you think you’re being a bit too careless? Not that I mind, since it makes my life easier, but you know.
“Mr. Hero, Mr. Hero!” The princess looked up excitedly as she called for me.
“Why are you wearing that mask?”
“Can you please call me by my name instead?”
“Uhhhh… sure, I guess? What is it?”
“Errr. Alright, Iryll. Anyways, you see, I’m not actually a hero. I’m an evil demon lord, one chock full of malicious intent. Wearing this mask is my way of making sure no one finds out. See these wings? Aren’t they just terrifying?” I materialized both pairs of wings while speaking in a sinister tone, just to scare her. I could tell that she was starting to get attached to me, and for some odd reason, my sixth sense was practically screaming at me. I could feel chills running down my spine. They were telling me that letting it happen was a bad idea, and that I should avoid it at all costs.
But for some odd reason, my plan totally backfired.
“Wow!” The girl’s eyes began to sparkle as she looked upon my demonic features. “They’re awesome! You’re really cool Mr. Heroic Demon Lord!”
Welp. Sorry sixth sense. I think I just fucked up.
“So, if you’re a Demon Lord, does that mean you’re going to kidnap me?”
“Huh? What? Why would I?”
“Because that’s what the demon lords always do in stories!” said the princess enthusiastically.
“So please do exactly that and kidnap me!”
“Err… uhh… Suuuuuuure, if I ever feel like it, I guess.”
“Yay! I can’t wait!”
I smiled awkwardly before turning back towards the king.
“So uhhh, yeah, you might want to stop grinning like a moron and do something about this daughter of yours. She’s at risk of being kidnapped by an evil demon lord, y’know?”
“Why, that’s terrible.” The king laughed in an over dramatic manner. “I suppose I should prepare a handkerchief so that I may weep as I watch you “forcibly” take her hand.”
Bruh, what the hell!?