Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix
The three adventurer girls were the first of the passengers to recover from a state of mute amazement and react to my awe-inspiring attack.
“Wow! That was pawsome, Yuki! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spell that meowssive before! Litterally!” said the catgirl. “You’ve gotta be some sort of famous mage or something if you got spells that pawerful!”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone handle anything like that with just one hand either,” said the witchling with her eyes wide. “Not even back home.”
“Really, Mille?” added Rouinne. “That’s incredible.”
Hearing their praises prompted me to smirk, internally, of course. The umpire sitting on my lap was currently in the middle of deciding whether I was safe or out. Attention-whoring was very obviously going to put me in the latter of the two categories. Getting too friendly with our guards was probably one of the poorest ways I could go about handling the situation. It was possible that going too far would make Enne think poorly of me. Hell, she might even start thinking of me as nothing more than just another piece of shit. And that, that would be bad. Like, seriously, please no. I’d probably get sent into a week-long coma if she ever told me that she couldn’t stand me anymore.
As such, I opted to casually shrug whilst voicing a line that made it seem as if I wasn’t nearly as full of myself as I really was. “Thanks, girls. I sure am badass, huh?”
Oh, fuck. I think I just said the wrong line. Great. Now I look like a pompous douchebag with his head stuck in his ass. Yeah, no. I’m supposed to be the cool, nice dad, not some praise-mongering retard. Alright, Yuki. Let’s try again. Now imagine yourself as the dad that plays with his kids at the park. Then talk.
I coughed to try and dismiss my prior statement, flashed a kind, picture-perfect smile, and then started to speak.
“Thank you girls,” I said with a light chuckle. “But that’s just what dads do.”
“My Lord…” The first thing my revised statement elicited was a response from Leila. She paused to indicate her exasperation and even heaved a sigh for effect. “You have already stated your true feelings on the matter. It is a bit too late to be attempting a facade.”
“You’re easy to read, Master,” added Enne. “Your thoughts were all over your face.”
W-what!? A wave of confusion washed over me as I reflected on the actions I had just taken. What do you mean!? I’m pretty sure I just pulled off a perfect impression of the kinda smile handsome guys flash all the time. How was that not just what I needed to gloss things over!?
“…I think I understand you much better now, My Lord,” said Leila. “You often appear rather level headed and reliable in front of Lefi, but the truth of the matter is that the two of you are of the same variety.”
“Wait, wait. I think I know where you’re going with this, and I’m just going to say that I don’t just look reliable. I am. I’ve totally got my shit together,” I said indignantly. Oh, please. Me and Lefi? Same variety? Hell no. Like, sure, I love her and all that, but that doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near as hopeless as she is.
“I’m sure you do, My Lord. I’m sure you do.”
Wait. Leila, please. Why the sudden unamused stare!? What the heck did I ever do!?
“Oh, man!” Watching us interact caused Naiya to once again break into a cackle. “You’re pawsitively hilarious, Yuki. I think you’re purrty much one of the meowst interesting people I’ve ever met!”
She gave me a few smacks on the shoulder as she continued to roar with laughter. Is it just me, or is it just super easy to light Naiya’s fuse? I swear, she’s been doing nothing but laugh her ass off since the moment we started talking to each other.
“T-That’s enough about that! Let’s talk about magic!” shouted the witchling. “How did you manage a spell like that without even chanting!?”
The tiny “adult” grabbed me by the shoulders and once again invaded my personal space as she frantically demanded answers.
“H-Hold on, calm down,” I stuttered.
Fortunately, Enne was there to resolve the issue. She grabbed the witchling’s shoulders and pushed her away. Well, can’t say I didn’t expect that. Witches being really interested in magic sounds just about right if you ask me.
“And uhhh, to answer your question…” I paused for a moment as I tried to think up an answer. “Something along the lines of spirit, I guess…?”
“I see… That does make sense. Ancient demons used to think of casting spells as an action as easy as breathing. Which means there might be some sort of spiritual key. Current theories express our magical techniques as more akin to magecraft than true magic, which implies a difference in our approaches. Chantlessly casting large scale spells appears to be something I will probably need to consult ancient texts in order to better understand as a result of the substantial differences between the systems employed…”
Seeing the witchling descend into what was basically a mumbled rant brought a wry smile to my face. I wasn’t able to hear the end of her soliloquy, however, as I was soon distracted by an abrupt sensation. Something soft, warm, and springy had suddenly wrapped itself around my arm.
“Wow, Yuki. You’re so strong,” said Rouinne, who had snuggled right up to me.
“Errr… Thanks, I guess.”
“What do you say the two of us find some time to get to know each other a bit better?” she said.
I could feel my heart begin to thump. I had already more or less built up an immunity to little girls but never before had anyone like Rouinne actively attempted to charm me. The combination of her soft body and her bewitching smile was almost too powerful to resist. God damn it, Yuki. Calm down. Don’t let yourself get swept away. Lefi’s the only one for you, remember? No other girl can even come close to matching up to her.
Winning the game of internal tug of war I had going on in my head was only made more difficult by the fact that Rouinne had started to seek even more body contact.
“No. Bad. Stay away.” Fortunately, Enne tore the MILF off of me and then shielded me by wrapping her arms around my face before I lost control. She even went as far as to do me the favour of rejecting the sword dancer for me.
“What a shame,” giggled Rouinne.
My young bodyguard’s efforts had been just enough to get the MILF and her tits to back off. Whew. Thanks Enne, I owe you one. Oh man, I knew I was right to bring her along. Leila’s great at her job and all, but I don’t think she alone would have been enough to help me fight off tits that big.
Yeah! I’m totally “not” disappointed that my arm isn’t in heaven anymore. Nope. Not at all.
“Oh yeah, so those bandits, they seemed pretty used to this whole coach raiding thing. Is that kinda thing really that normal around here?” I directed a question at the government agent as the other passengers finally began calming down and getting back to chatting amongst themselves.
The attack was sudden. There hadn’t been any loud signals, nor any other obvious tells. They had basically just come out of nowhere like it was the most natural thing in the world for them to do. Though on second thought, I guess it kinda is. There isn’t really much of a point to bandits telling you they were coming in advance. That would just be dumb.
“It’s… about as normal here as it is everywhere else…” said Haloria with a grimace. Her voice was filled with distress, almost as if she felt personally responsible for the situation at hand. “It’s all a result of our incompetence. Normally, the army is responsible for dealing with criminals and outlaws, but they haven’t been able to do much about them at all lately. The political climate is highly unstable. War could break out at any moment, so we need to keep as many troops as we can on hand in the case of an emergency.”
Yeah, thought so. Rampant banditry pretty much sounds like the kinda thing that’d happen if the law-keepers were too busy to step in.
I was glad that I hadn’t insisted on bringing the kids with me. The demon realm seemed like it was still a bit too unsafe for anyone but Lefi. That said, the vacation we had planned was still going to happen, which meant I would have to try my best to ensure that law and order were restored before I returned with the rest of the dungeon’s residents in tow. Well. Looks like I’ll have to put on the big boy gloves if I want that trip of ours to actually work out.
Our encounter with the bandits more or less marked the last incident of note. The rest of the trip went by as per schedule. We spent a night in the city we had planned to stop in, got on the coach again the next morning, idled a day away, and finally reached the capital as we found the evening upon us.
“So this is what the capital of the demon realm looks like…”
The first impression I had of Regighihegg, our destination, was that the city may as well have been a maze. The roads were unpredictable. They would lead upwards, only to suddenly drop into a steep downward slope without any indication. Many of the city’s streets were curved. In fact, they meandered so much I couldn’t help but think of them as obnoxious. There were even roads that literally led nowhere; they were encased by buildings of all shapes and sizes on all four sides.
Upon looking a bit closer, I found that not all sidewalks were even on the ground level. Some were placed on the roofs of the buildings that loomed over the street. And they weren’t just there for decoration. People were actually using them.
I didn’t even want to call the damned place a city. It was more of a maze that just happened to be constructed with a city theme in mind. Whoever designed the place had clearly wanted to give the very concept of city planning a big fat middle finger to the face.
One of the structures that stood deep within the city’s heart was a single massive castle. From what I could gather, it belonged to the lord that presided over the demon realm and was therefore our final destination.
Damn. This is some nice scenery. Seeing the city-cum-labyrinth illuminated by the oranges and reds of the evening sunset filled me with a sense of thrill and adventure. The whole place looked like it was made up of countless hidden passageways and shortcuts. I could only imagine what it would be like to explore. That said, I knew that the place hadn’t been intentionally engineered to look the way it did. It seemed more like the result of the demons just randomly building shit wherever they felt like it. But whatever the case, I still felt as if it was done in good taste.
Of course, arriving at the city meant more than just gazing upon its sights. It also meant parting with our escorts.
“Well, bye Yuki. Mew two were real fun to be around. I don’t think I’ll be furgetting either of you anytime soon,” said Naiya. “I really hope we’ll have the furtune of getting to see each other again! Take care meow!”
“Bye Leila,” said the witchling. “I would love to talk with you again about magic in the future.”
“Of course, Mille,” said Leila. “I’m always open to discussion.”
We said our goodbyes to the adventurers as soon as we got off the coach. Apparently, they were planning to stay in the capital for a bit. That said, it wasn’t as if they were looking to do anything special. The only real plans they had were to visit the adventurer’s guild and find themselves some work.
I was glad to have run into them. The reason the two-day trip hadn’t ended up written off as something dull and boring was largely in part thanks to them. We were planning to visit the demon realm’s adventurer’s guild and check it out ourselves, so there was a bit of a chance we really would end up running into each other again.
“I will now show you to the castle,” said Agent McHoodface.
She had visited a military outpost located near the coach’s drop off point and borrowed a large capybara-like creature. The massive rodent had a pretty decently sized saddle placed on its back, the kind that could seat multiple people at once. The agent, Leila, and I were sitting on the creature in that exact order while Enne had positioned herself on my lap. One of the first things I noticed about the massive mount was that it was incredibly soft and fuzzy. That said, it wasn’t anywhere near as fluffy as Rir.
“Oh yeah. That reminds me, Leila,” I said to the maid.
“Yes, My Lord?”
“You said you’ve been here before, right?”
“I have,” she said. “I’ve visited the capital several times for the purposes of my research.”
“What kinda research were you doing anyway? Did you focus on magic? Or something else?”
“I’ve looked into many different subjects. Magic was one of them, yes, but I wasn’t ever truly focused on a single field.”
It appeared that, rather than specializing, Leila instead chose to just pursue her interests and look into whatever happened to have a grasp of her curiosity at the time.
“Leila is one of the demon realm’s most famous scholars. She’s so famous that people who study fields she’s worked in are considered incompetent if they don’t know her. She’s left so many incredible papers on such a wide variety of topics that I couldn’t even begin to count them all.”
The hooded government employee spun around and flashed me a sort of glare as she spoke. It was obvious that she was trying to criticize me for making someone so incredible do something along the lines of housework. Oh come on, it’s not like I’m forcing her to do it…
Thinking a bit about Leila’s past led me to realize that she was probably only still with us right now as a result of the pursuit of her own interests. There was a chance that she would pack her bags the moment she grew bored of whatever it was in the dungeon that had caught her eye. I knew that it was inevitable, but a part of me was stricken by a sudden case of loneliness nonetheless.
“What’s wrong, My Lord?” The demon girl immediately seemed to notice the change in my mood, as she turned around and spun me a question.
“Well, you know. I was just thinking that I was probably going to be sad to see you go,” I said. “I mean when you lose interest in whatever it is you’ve got your eye on back home.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” she laughed. “I don’t think I would ever lose interest in it so long as I continue to live in that labyrinth of yours, so I’ll be continuing to serve you to the best of my abilities, My Lord.”
“Just what exactly are you interested in, anyway?”
“That is something I’m going to have to keep a secret.”
Leila turned around to face me, put a finger on her lips, and flashed a smile I could only describe as bewitching.