Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
“That was absurd.” The first thing the hooded agent voiced was a complaint. “Do you not understand what it means to have restraint?”
“Your boss literally told me to show off and stand out, so I did.” I responded to her reproachful glare with a shrug.
“…I suppose I cannot deny that. You certainly did draw as much attention as you possibly could have. I don’t think anyone else could have possibly done better,” she sighed. “You did so well that I couldn’t help but complain because it felt as if you were on the verge of overdoing it. Our enemy’s intelligence operatives are sure to leap into action and provide My King with the opportunity he was seeking.”
“Which means I did good, right?”
“That is correct.” Haloria heaved another sigh. “I’m sure that My King is currently in the middle of happily providing us with additional orders despite the fact that we’re far too understaffed to handle even our regular duties. My colleagues are more than willing to give their all for him. They would even die for him, so they are sure to happily accept it all without a word of complaint. In fact, they would probably find themselves elated by the fact that they’re being assigned additional duties. Of course, I feel the same way, but work is still work. Having so much of it remains a cause for concern…”
“I… uh…” I fumbled over my words for a bit as I looked for the right ones. “My bad.”
In the end, I gave up and went with a simple apology. Agent McHoodface seemed to be a few years my junior. Hearing a girl that was younger than me complain about being overworked made me cringe. I couldn’t help but pity her. Yeahhh… I should probably send her a care package or two. I’m feeling pretty bad for her right about now.
“There’s no need for you to apologize,” grumbled the secret agent. “You did nothing wrong. You’ve done an excellent job carrying out your role as our newest ally. Sorry, and don’t mind my grumbling. I was just exercising my right to complain.”
“Well uh, it sounds pretty rough. Feel free to hit me up if you need someone to talk to. I’m sure me and Leila would both be more than willing to sit down and help talk you through things.”
“It is as My Lord says, Haloria. You’re free to come to me if you ever need any sort of advice.”
“Thank you… Thank you so much, Ma’am.”
Haloria almost seemed to sniffle as she thanked my maid. She was evidently deeply moved by her offer. Wait. Did she just say ma’am? The fuck happened while I was away? Actually, you know what? I don’t really need to know, so I’mma just not even ask. It looks like they’ve got a pretty nice dynamic going on, and that it’s working for them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that really matters. Whatever bonding they did while I was sitting around and fighting can stay between them.
I forced a smile as I shrugged off my theories and turned back towards the super-sized steak I had laid out before me. The hunk of meat was irresistible—it was lightly dripping with fat and all the other juicy good stuff you’d normally expect from a steak. I jabbed a fork into a piece of it and took a bite. Likewise, Enne, who was sitting right by my side, was stuffing her cheeks as quickly as she could. Ermagawd! She’s so cute!
We were currently situated in a special area meant exclusively for VIPs. The seats were, for the most part, reserved for nobles and other similarly important people. First-class seats were, of course, accompanied by first-class service. All we had to do if we wanted anything was ask one of the maids stationed nearby, and they’d go fetch it for us. That was exactly how we had gotten our hands on the delicious steaks set out in front of us. We asked the maids for food, and they relayed our desires to the chefs stationed out back.
The people running the tournament had literally gone out of their way to hire a bunch of professionals from local restaurants just to ensure that the VIPs had the best experience possible. And as a VIP, I was quite grateful for it. I felt like I was being treated like a king. That said, the service I was getting was by far inferior to the service that the king was getting. Unlike me, he was getting treated like a Super VIP. The area he had booked was even more glamorous and extravagant. Of course, I was barred from visiting it without my disguise. Doing so would be no different from exposing the fact that I was Ypsilon. The king had stated that he wanted to show us a reasonable amount of hospitality. He would have happily welcomed us to his area had we not been concerned about keeping our secrets secret. As such, we settled for the VIP box.
“The man in the mask seemed rather powerful. Would you happen to know anything of his identity?” One of the nobles nearby asked a question that concerned me, so I perked up my ears and listened in.
“I was told that he was a mercenary in the king’s employ,” responded his friend.
“A mercenary, you say? Do you suppose he might consider working for me then?”
“I suppose he would, but I believe the king has him paid off for quite some time, so it would have to wait.”
I turned to the friendly neighbourhood CIA agent and began speaking in a whisper. “Looks like everything’s going smoothly on your end.”
“Of course it is. My King never fails once his plans are set into motion. He is more than capable of walking his enemies into his traps and wiping them out before they even realize that they have been caught. I can assure you that we have yet to demonstrate the full extent of our strength. The rate at which the pieces fall into place will only continue to rise.”
Yeah, sounds good to me. Oh wait, speaking of the king…
“You sure it’s fine for the king to be here? It seems like he’s got a lot of stuff on his plate already.”
“Unfortunately, the chief of the fiends is sure to take this as an opportunity to appear in public. My King has little choice but to do the same.”
Ahhh… So that’s how it is. I get it. He’s gotta show up to keep the other guy in check so he doesn’t use it as a chance to spread half-truths behind his back and make him look bad. As I understood it, politics was a game in which competitors spent a good amount of time trying their utmost to smear any dirt they had on their rivals all over their faces. And as such, showing up to a public event this large was more or less mandatory if one wished to avoid defamation in the form of biased propaganda.
Phynar had to show up to keep his political rival in check. The demon realm was already on the verge of conflict. There was a chance that the chief of the fiends would say just the right words to light the fuse if the king chose to stay holed up in his castle. And that was the one thing the demon king couldn’t afford. Unlike his opponent, he wished to put an end to the situation before it came to an all-out war.
“I am sorry to disturb you in the middle of our lunch break, but ladies and gentlemen, the special guests you’ve all been waiting for have finally arrived!” My thoughts were cut short as the master of ceremonies began to speak. “Please, put your hands together and give a warm welcome to King Phynar and Lord Gojim!”
The floating crystalline sphere that served as the stadium’s screen suddenly changed perspectives right as the crowd began to clap. It was now focused on the king with his usual smile. I glanced over at the part of the stadium reserved for super VIPs only to see that he was in fact present. When the hell did he get all the way over there? I could’ve sworn that he wasn’t just a few moments ago.
His appearance prompted a pair of distinct reactions. The women began making fangirl noises. They screamed and squealed excitedly as soon as they saw him. The men, on the other hand, jeered at the top of their lungs. Their reactions immediately provided me with a much better understanding of exactly how his subjects saw him. So that’s how it is…
“Heya everyone! It’s me, Phynar, your king! Today finally marks the start of the festival that we’ve all been waiting for, so let’s all play nice and have plenty of fun.” The blonde demon spoke in a seemingly innocent, boyish, happy-go-lucky tone. He paused for a moment halfway through his speech to look in my direction. “I called one of my friends and had him step in to help make the event a bit more exciting for everyone. He’s really strong, so I’m sure you’ll all just love seeing him in action! That’s it from me. Have fun!”
Thanks for the sales pitch, I guess.
“Thank you very much, King Phynar. Ladies and gentlemen in the crowd, the individual that our king spoke of today was the mysterious masked fighter who has yet to draw his sword, the man who ended his match with nothing but a roar. Like many of you, I’m itching to see just how powerful he really is, and just how far he’ll go. Once again, that was your king speaking. Please give him another round of applause!”
Again, the audience did as instructed and put their hands together for the king.
“Next, we have another short speech from our second special guest.”
The display switched from the king to another man, one with a short, red butch cut, eyes as sharp as those of a hawk, and a grin as big as that of a snake. He was so beefed up that I could easily make out his muscles even from under his relatively thick clothes. The combination of his ridiculously well-built body and his two-meter tall frame almost made him seem like a giant.
Like Phynar’s, his appearance was accompanied by a series of cheers. Or more accurately, war cries. The vast majority of the arena’s men welcomed him by raising their arms and shouting at the top of their lungs.
They were so loud that they caused the girl stuffing her face beside me to leap out of her seat in shock. Dude, what the fuck? Don’t be scaring my daughter like that, you pieces of shit. Don’t make me come over there and slit your fucking throats.
“Thank you.” All of the cheering died down the moment the fiend lord spoke. “Thank you all for the warm welcome. My name is Gojim, and I have only one thing to say. This competition exists for warriors to demonstrate their strength. Enjoy their displays of valor to your heart’s content!”
All of the men in the stadium once again began to clap as he raised his arm and concluded his proclamation. The applause was much louder than the one that the king had received. It even seemed to cause the stadium itself to shake.
I see. So he’s the guy the fiends call their chief, huh? I’mma just check out his stats real quick.
Or not. I can’t see jack. It felt like my spell was being repelled by some sort of magical shield. I couldn’t tell whether it was some sort of magical item that shut out other magic in general or whether it was something that repelled analyze in particular, but either way, it was powerful enough to prevent the spell from activating altogether. Is it just me, or does he actually seem pretty demon lord-like. Seems about as charismatic as one too. I can’t really tell how strong he is, but whatever the case, the point stands. Appearance wise, he looks more like a demon lord than both me and the demon king. Fuck, thinking about this is giving me an identity crisis. Feelsbadman. Alright, you know what, fuck you, dude who looks more like a demon lord than me. I won’t forget this. One of these days, I’ll prove that I’m way more of a demon lord than you’ll ever be.
“It has been a while, Phynar.” The chief of the fiends sneered to the man standing beside him. “I see you are still playing the part of the fool.”
“That it has, Gojim. And I see that you’re still playing the part of a muscle brained idiot with a stupid looking face,” The king parroted the other man’s sentence structure for the sole sake of mocking him as he spoke with his usual smile. Even those that knew him well would likely have been surprised to see him spitting venom without so much as even the slightest change in his expression.
“Hmph.” Gojim answered his insult with a snort. “The only man in this realm that would dare call me that is you.”
“Aw, you poor, friendless little thing,” said Phynar. “Unlike you, the people around me care enough not to lie when I ask them what they think of me.”
“It is not I who deserves pity, but you, Phynar. Not even your own men respect you,” said Gojim. “It is a mystery that they obey you to begin with. I see not why anyone would take orders from a mere boy.”
“That would be because my men know how to think for themselves. Unlike the idiots flying your banner, they’re not stupid enough to mistake obedience and absolute submission for loyalty.”
“Hah!” Gojim scoffed. “Let us see how long that confidence of yours holds. Do you truly think that a mere mercenary whose lineage is clear as mud will bring you victory? He will fall, Phynar. It is only a matter of time.”
“Wow, Gojim! You’re such a nice guy! But it’s okay, you don’t need to worry. He’s way stronger than all of those precious little pawns you’ve played.”
“Do not mock my brethren, boy!”
Though the two men were engaged in a heated argument, neither’s voice was heard over the crowd. Not even the master of ceremonies, who was standing right in front of them, had realized that they were in the midst of a psychological duel. As such, he turned around and cheerfully smiled at both while approaching and making a request.
“Could the two of you please follow through with our agreements and shake hands for the crowd?”
The question caused an expression of indignance to momentarily flash accross Gojim’s face, but he honoured his agreement and went forward with it regardless. The crystal orb once again focused on the two guests of honour right as they reached to clasp each other’s hands.
Their handshake was quite an image to behold. One of the two men wore a bright but ghastly smile, while the other featured a scornful grin.
“Good luck, Phynar. I cannot wait to see that unbecoming look that will soon decorate your face.”
“The best to you too, Gojim. I hope that you’ll enjoy your last few days of freedom, because once this tournament’s over, your life will change forever.”
There wasn’t any audio feed; the crowd had no way of knowing that the two were talking each other down despite exchanging what appeared to be a handshake symbolizing goodwill.