Rest Stop — Part 1
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
Glorified stone busts and expensive paintings lined the wall of the noble’s manor. Everything from the floor to the furniture to the chandelier-laden ceiling served as a blatant demonstration of the owner’s excessive wealth. The mansion wasn’t the only thing dressed to the nines. Both its owner and his guests had also equipped themselves with their finest attire—as was the norm when one was attending an event hosted only for members of high society.
The party’s many invitees drank fine wine, conversed, and probed one another with insincere smiles plastered all over their faces. The impressive, silken gowns had done nothing to correct their devious natures. One especially sinister group was comprised of three men. They spoke in hushed voices and stood close to ensure that their conversation would not be overheard. They even maintained casual expressions such that their conversation could be passed off as mere small talk by any potential observers.
“Are you sure?” A man with a thick beard lowered his wine glass as he looked towards one of his co-conspirators.
“I am.” The reply was spoken by a gentlemanly aristocrat with a smile as sly as a fox’s. “One of my subordinates has just sent word and informed me that he spotted her in Alfyro. She’s boarded a carriage bound for the capital, and is likely to arrive shortly.”
“Alfyro? Hah! How fitting.” The group’s third member, a man significantly wider than the other two, humphed in disapproval. “The lowly upstart that rules that miserable one-horse town is the king’s newest lapdog. Both he and that godforsaken church feel the need to support the old fool’s reign. We should have known. The incompetent governor and the useless ‘hero’ certainly do make for quite the unsightly pair.” His lips twisted as he made a suggestive smile. “Sometimes I wish we’d be fortunate enough for the two to simply disappear.”
“Well, my dear friend,” the fox-like man returned the smile with one of his own, “I suppose you’d be rather pleased to learn that I’ve already taken… precautions to ensure that we will soon find ourselves missing an eyesore.”
“Why, that sounds wonderful,” chuckled the fat man. “I suppose this has something to do with the accomplice you acquired the other day?”
“Accomplice is a strong word. We’d much rather be called kindred spirits. You see, we both happen to be true patriots dissatisfied with the current state of the nation.”
“Any patriot chauvinistic enough to answer capitalism’s call to action is a true reliable patriot indeed.” The bearded man chuckled. “But are you sure that the information he’s feeding you is of value? Most of the clergymen who support us are, unfortunately, not exactly the most knowledgeable or influential.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. When I stated that he was a kindred spirit, I meant it. Like me, he works under an individual with widespread influence.”
“I am glad to hear that,” said the bearded man. “And I apologize if my doubt came off as rude.”
“No, no, not at all. You were right to consider the unfortunate possibility. Not all of our allies have been fortunate enough to be in positions of power.”
The bearded and fox-like men shared a hearty laugh, while the fatter man took a sip of his wine.
“I am glad to see you so proactive, but I must remind you to stay on your toes. The hero still has many allies, and they are sure to flock to her the moment she returns.”
“Not to worry,” said the fox with an understanding nod. “I’ve already put one of my plans into action. Returning to the capital will do little more than tighten the noose we’ve trussed around her neck. She will be undone.”
“Damn, this place is fancy.” I wolf whistled the moment I stepped into the inn.“Still a whole order of magnitude worse than the castle, but it’s more than good enough for me to see why the old governor mentioned that it’s basically the noble go-to.”
It really was fancy with a capital F. Every part of the setup screamed that it was meant for none other than the rich and famous. The halls were gaudy and made especially thick to feature an extra helping of security on top of the layer that its guards already offered. Even the drop-off zone screamed safety first. It featured four walls, a large set of double-doors, and a handsome roof. It even connected directly to the inn’s interior in order to ensure its guests would be able to remain anonymous and keep themselves from the public eye if need be.
“Yuki, I know that your castle is really well decorated, but was it really necessary for you to bring it up just to brag?” asked Nell with a sigh.
“Oh, hey, almost wasn’t expecting you to comment,” I said. “You finally feeling better?”
“M-Mhmm…” She nodded shyly as she kept her eyes pointed towards the ground. “I think I’m okay now. Really embarrassed, but definitely okay.”
Her cheeks were tinged a light shade of pink, and not because they’d been stained with tears. Rather, their newfound shade was the result of being made aware of the fact that she had spent most of the trip asleep in my arms after crying herself to the brink of exhaustion. Throwing a fit and venting her emotions had been good for her. It had allowed her to sort out her thoughts and regain her cool.
Likewise, I also found myself much less concerned; I was happy to see that her smile had returned.
Our little carriage ride had spanned the whole day. The sun had already set, and the moon had already taken its place. We would have long reached the capital had we ridden Rir, but such a feat was far too tall an order for our horses. Not even top of the line race horses could keep up with him, let alone the poor draft horses we had strapped our carriages to. As such, we had settled for spending the night in a city that was about halfway between our point of departure and our destination.
The inn we were checking ourselves into was one that the old governor frequented. Errr, I guess it’s more like his men are checking us in and we’re just standing around until they’re done all the paperwork, but whatever. Point is, we’re waiting around for our keys.
Travelling back and forth between his domain and the capital was an act that the balding man was often forced to engage in. And today’s trip was no exception. He had only accompanied us because he had no choice but to resolve himself to do everything within his power to mitigate the chaos that was sure to accompany the hero’s return. His regular trips were a result of his own growing importance. He was rapidly becoming known for his ability to keep many a situation from spiraling out of control. Hey man, that promotion? Good for you, bro, you deserve it. But just saying, you miiiiiight want to take a step back and take it easy for a bit. Ever heard of work-life balance? ‘Cause the way I see it, you’re overworked as fuck.
“De—” The governor faked a cough to stop himself from revealing my identity. “Sir Yuki, a moment of your time, please?”
“Yeah? What’s up?”
“I understand that the two of you are planning to wed. Will you be sharing a room?”
“Sure, why n—” I raised a finger, cut myself off, and turned towards the hero the moment I realized that it was best for me to consult her before I agreed to anything. “Any objections, Nell?”
Her face flushed a deep shade of scarlet as she kept her eyes glued to the floor. Slowly, slowly but surely, she nodded. The action led me to cross my arms and laugh, heartily.
“I-I know I shouldn’t be this embarrassed. You, Lefi, and I sleep together all the time. But my heart’s pounding. Because this is the first time it’s just us.”
“Sorry, what? I wasn’t really paying attention.”
My cackle had led me to miss whatever she had mumbled under her breath.
“N-nothing!” she said in a conspicuously loud voice.
The odd reaction and the big smile that accompanied it led me to raise an eyebrow in suspicion, but decided not to pursue the topic and instead asked the question I’d thought up whilst totally paying attention to everything she was saying.
“So you know how you work for the church?”
“Yeah, so I was thinking about that. Does that mean you’re basically a part of the clergy?”
“So uhhh… is this okay? Does it violate any of your commandments? ‘Cause last I heard, clergy life sucks, and is just about as strict as strict gets,” I said. “And then there’s the whole thing with me being married already. Iunno what you guys think of polygamy, but I’m not expecting it not to be frowned upon.”
Most of my religious knowledge stemmed from what I’d known when I lived on Earth. The fact that this world very much resembled the way my old one had looked in the middle ages, a part of me had suspected that devoting one’s chastity to the lord would not have been too strange a practice. Not that I’m actually about to let some stupid god keep me from Nell’s chastity. That shit’s mine. I’m just asking so I can figure out what’s normal and make sure we keep up appearances.
Nell’s first reaction was to open her eyes wide. The concerned tone I’d spoken in caught her off guard. But soon, she switched gears and began giggling for reasons outside my comprehension.
“W-what?” I asked, self-consciously.
“Just that it seems a bit late to be asking me something like that.” Again, she giggled. “Because that sounds like the type of thing most people would have considered much, much earlier in the relationship.”
“Well I’m sorry I’m not like most other people then.” I rolled my eyes indignantly. “I never really thought about it, so I only just realized that you might actually be some kinda nun.”
“I don’t think you’d mind even if I was,” she said with a teasing smile. “No sensible demon lord would ever end up marrying a hero, after all.”
“Oh, shut up. You’re the one who came onto me,” I grumbled.
“I know.” She stuck out her tongue. “To answer your question, it’s okay. Some other religions impose all sorts of restrictions on polygamy and marriage, but my God is just as uncaring as you are. As far as God is concerned, love is all that really matters.”
“Alright, in that case, it sounds like we’re all green,” I said.
Nell and I began to gaze at each other. She returned my smile with one of her own. Man, she’s cute. Talk about a jackpot.
I slowly raised my hand, and slowly moved it towards her cheek, but was stopped by a cough right before I was about to hoist up the anchor and send us sailing off to flirt-land.
Nell and I both turned in the direction of the sound, only to realize that the old governor was, in fact, still present, alive, and kicking. The look on his face was one sat about halfway between stunned and unamused. I couldn’t tell exactly which it leaned closer to, but whatever the case, he was very clearly telling us to get a room. Literally. One of the soldiers standing beside the balding old man was dangling a pair of keys in our direction.
“…I’m glad to see that your relationship is still healthy.” He chose his words carefully and did his best to remain as dignified and unaffected by the display as possible. “My subordinates have brought you the keys to your room.”
“Errr… my bad.”
“W-we’re sorry, Governor,” mumbled a flustered Nell.
“I almost cannot believe that you two are on such good terms.” His voice was a bit quieter than usual, softened by what could only be described as shock. He laughed, dryly, then continued, “Never in my wildest dreams have I ever expected to find myself so entertained and satisfied by the sight of a hero and demon lord in love…”