Bar — Part 1
Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
“So, yeah. All in all, I think it looks pretty good, and I’m pretty much willing to accept. What do you think?” The first thing I did after getting to the room we were borrowing was to ask the girls for their opinions.
“Hmmmm…” Leila paused for a moment to think. “To be honest, my lord, it’s difficult for me to say. I do think that accepting would be the better choice overall, but doing so will put you in great danger.”
“Yeah, that’s not really something I mind all that much.”
The danger was something I’d known I would be walking into from the start. Such was the nature of dealing with one’s enemies, and such was the nature of dealing with demons.
Survival of the fittest was a lot more deep-rooted in demon culture than I had initially expected. I almost didn’t understand their values. But still, reasons aside, demons had the tendency to obey the strong. I knew for a fact that the demon king wanted me to flaunt my might in order to pacify and potentially even convert those that stood against his regime. Of course, things weren’t going to go that smoothly. Not everyone was going to listen to me just because I was swole. The fiend faction would most likely still see me as an enemy. But that was fine. They had tried to use Lefi, and as far as I was concerned, that put them well beyond the point of redemption. Agent McHoodface was right. I’m probably going to have a run-in with them eventually, so I might as well squash ‘em while I’m here.
That was why I was here to begin with. Functionally speaking, visiting the demon capital was no different from visiting the human capital. Both were operations in which I moved to crush my foes before they could inflict any further harm.
“It’s okay,” said Enne. “I’ll keep Master safe.”
“Thanks Enne.” I chuckled and gave the kimono-clad sword girl a pat on the head before continuing. “The only thing I’m really worried about is getting stabbed in the back by my so-called allies.”
“While I can’t say for certain that they won’t, I don’t believe that it’s anything you should be too worried about either.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“Well, My Lord, it’s rather simple, really,” she said with a nod. “You are only one of the many allies that the lord of the demon realm has made, and I doubt the others would be as willing to trust him if they caught wind of a betrayal.”
I frowned as I contemplated the implications of his actions. As far as I could tell, Leila had hit the nail on the head. He probably didn’t want to lose any credibility given the situation he was in. He was already short on allies. The loss of even a single one could result in the tides turning against him. That was why I didn’t have to worry about trusting him on a personal level. Betrayal wasn’t even on the table. Phynar had no choice but to remain as honest and trustworthy as he could given his position. That went double given his propensity for peace. The demon king’s foreign policies suggested that he preferred reconciliation as opposed to angering others and fueling the fires of war. And, honestly, most people in charge tend to have a bit of the whole devious little bastard thing going for them anyway. Yeah, I guess I might as well trust him.
“Another thing I was a bit worried about was keeping my associates, namely you two, safe. I’m obviously going to try to make it so people don’t go after you two, but take this, just in case they do anyway.”
I handed each of the girls a necklace. Both were plain, silver chains featuring a small translucent crystal. There was a tiny device at the back that let one adjust the accessory’s length to suit one’s needs.
“What’s this?” asked Leila.
“It’s just a little something that’ll let you warp back to the dungeon. I know it doesn’t look all that flashy or anything, but you’ll have to forgive me for that. It’s more for function than it is for decoration.”
Leila gasped. “Does that mean this item manipulates spacetime?”
“Pretty much,” I said with a shrug. “But it’s only a one time use kinda thing.”
To be more precise, the item would allow the person wearing it to teleport right back to the true throne room, the room containing the dungeon core. It was easy to activate too. All it took to activate was for the person wearing the item to channel their mana through it.
I had bought them before leaving for the demon realm, just in case. I was pretty sure they would prove useful, both if something happened in the demon realm, and if something happened back home while we were away. Of course, the necklace itself wasn’t capable of doing something as fancy as telling me that the dungeon was in trouble, but I already had myself covered in that regard anyway. That wasn’t a feature the necklace needed given all the other detection-based mechanisms I had at my disposal. Not that the dungeon’s really going to need my help anyway. I’ve got Rir, the others, and an assload of traps on standby. Lefi’s there too. Hell, I’d even say it’s probably the safest place in the world right now, and it still would be even if it was under attack. Not that I’m planning on letting an attack happen in the first place.
“Master, how do I put it on?” asked Enne.
“I’ll do it for you. Come here and turn around.” I took the necklace out of her hands and placed it around her neck. “There, nice and pretty, right?”
The compliment caused Enne to blush a bit before breaking into a smile. That cuteness though.
Enne’s personification skill would undo itself the moment she moved outside its effective range. Her more human-like form would vanish into thin air, and her consciousness would be forced to possess her real body. That exact thing was sure to happen if she were to use the item without first grabbing ahold of the blade currently propped up next to me. There almost didn’t seem to be much of a point in providing her with a method of escape given her circumstances, but I chose to do so regardless. Not providing her with the same thing as everyone else, even on the basis of practicality, would have been a pretty racist decision to make. And bullying poor little Ms. Enne here wasn’t exactly something I was all that keen on.
On the topic of Enne and race-related matters, her body was actually quite bizarre as far as properties went. Any clothes she put on while personified would stay on even if she was to turn into a sword and back.
“You want a hand too, Leila?”
“I suppose I’ll take you up on that offer then, My Lord,” she giggled.
The maid turned around to reveal her beautiful, slender neck. I took the necklace and closed its rear clamp around the base.
“It looks really good on you,” I said.
“Thank you very much, My Lord,” she said. “And don’t worry, I won’t tell Lefi that you tried to court me.”
“W-wait, hold up! You’ve got it all wrong! I was just trying to be nice!”
“I know,” said the maid with a mischievous giggle. “I was just kidding.”
Can we not? You almost gave me a heart attack.
“And as for our earlier discussion,” she said. “I believe that you are in a position to ask for additional compensation, My Lord.”
“Really? I thought I was getting a pretty sweet deal.”
“I am sorry to say this, My Lord, I must say that I find your sense of value questionable. Would you mind leaving the negotiations to me? I’m certain that I’ll be able to negotiate a deal that works more in your favour,” said Leila enthusiastically.
“S-Sure. I guess I’ll leave negotiations to you then.”
I was a bit taken aback by how eager she was to jump into negotiations, so I ended up casually nodding along as I continued to ponder my supposed lack of common sense. Am I really that bad at figuring out how much things are worth?
Leila followed through with her claims the next day and spoke with the king on my behalf. The two came to a contract featuring three main clauses. The first was that the demon king’s faction would do their utmost to support and protect me. The second was that they would treat me as a mercenary, and the third was that they would agree to pay me a prespecified amount immediately upon the resolution of the demon realm’s current dilemma.
Neither the first nor third terms really came with any further implications. They were exactly as they were defined. The second term, however, involved publicly announcing that I was someone the demon king had hired. Though it didn’t actually seem all that significant at a glance, it turned out that it was actually something very important.
Functioning as a mercenary provided me with a greater degree of freedom when it came to flaunting my power. Moreover, the fact that they were hiring me meant that I wasn’t a permanent ally. And thus, those I wronged would be more likely to ignore me as an individual and fault the demon king and his faction for my actions. It made sense the moment I began to think about it. My knowledge of history informed me that grudges were often split between those doing the fighting and those that had ordered the aforementioned onto the battlefield in the first place. And, at least according to my study of the post-world war two era, it seemed that the brass bore most of the burden. You know… I probably really should’ve just left all this talking business stuff to Leila from the start. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and uhhh… let’s just say, when it comes to negotiation, this trusty maid of mine has more than got me covered.
Dear Diary. I learned a lot today! I think a bit smarter now. Sincerely, Me.
The negotiation itself had been quite a sight to behold. Both Leila and the king had spent the entire session with huge smiles plastered all over their faces despite the fact that they were engaged in one of the most intense verbal sparring exercises that I had ever borne witness to. Both spoke with heavy, deliberate words phrased in ways that carried implication after implication. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the pressure they were giving off. Even just being there had put me well out of my depth. The same went for Agent Haloria. She had been there too, likely because she was in charge of seeing to our needs, and the intensity of the discussion had quite literally left her trembling.
“My Lord, I know that you are the type to attempt to resolve every issue you encounter all by yourself,” said Leila. “And I understand that is just the type of man you happen to be. However, I would like to say that it is still okay for you to rely on those around you. In fact, I think that you should be doing exactly that on a more regular basis.”
“Mhm,” nodded Enne. “Agreed.”
“Yeah, my bad.” I forced a bit of a smile in response to their insistence before grabbing my glass off the table and draining its contents.
The three of us were currently situated in a bar, one located in the demon realm’s maze of a capital city. Phynar had more or less told us that he would ask for me later because he didn’t actually have anything for me to do just yet. He suggested that we check out the city and have a bit of fun. I didn’t see any reason not to agree, so we went ahead and found ourselves a decent looking place to grab a bite. Hence the bar.
Although most bars had the tendency to be rather small, this one wasn’t. It was a decently sized two-story building, and we were located on the second. There was actually an indoor balcony smack in the middle of the second floor. A bunch of ivy-like plants hung from the balcony. The plants emitted beautiful but faint spheres of light and offered the building a secondary source of illumination. Of course, the primary light sources were the lamps that hung from the building’s ceiling.
The combination of the mystical lights, the modern, stylish interior, and the calm song the band was playing almost made the place seem more like a nice restaurant than a bar. But it was definitely a bar. Few people were paying any attention to the musicians on stage. They were instead engaged in the act of making noise themselves. Most of the people present were very obviously drunk.
I happened to spot a pair of hooded figures sitting nearby right as we got ready to start eating. At this point, the term “hooded” almost immediately made me think of Haloria and her coworkers. But it wasn’t them this time. The mantles that this pair wore weren’t like the mantles that the demon realm’s secret operatives wore. Even the colour was different.
Hooded figures were surprisingly common in the demon realm. I’d seen lots of them wandering the streets, so the pair didn’t actually stand out that much. And they weren’t acting especially suspicious either, but for some odd reason, I couldn’t help but find myself curious as to why they were concealing their identities in a bar with an atmosphere this bright and cheerful. Might as well use Analyze. Why not, right?
One of the hooded figures immediately span around the moment it heard my voice.
“Huh!? Yuki, is that you!?”
The face I saw under the cloak’s hood was one that I couldn’t have possibly mistaken for another. The hooded figure had turned out to be Nell, the church’s hero.