Of Kings and Demon Lords
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
King Reiyd Glorio Allysia took a series of long, deep breaths as he stretched out his arms and loosened the muscles that ran along his backside. Attempting to address the mountain of paperwork laid out before him had left him sore, exhausted, and only marginally less swamped with immediate to-dos.
Once his dorsal muscles stopped bothering him, he returned one hand to its position atop his desk and moved the other to his face. With his fingers pressed against the side of his visage, he slowly massaged his temples and he leaned back into his chair. Though he had attempted to ease himself into the position, he felt several instances of pain shoot through his nervous system. His joints creaked beneath the weight of his form as they failed to accommodate for movement after almost a full day’s worth of inactivity.
“I’ve gotten far too old for this…”
The monarch sighed. He was no longer in his prime, nor anywhere even remotely near it. He had reached the ripe old age where one would normally abdicate and hand the throne off to an eager, youthful heir. But as he had lost his sole successor, he had little choice but to trudge along and push forward himself.
His lips curved upward; the thought had led him to smile in a way that only a self-loathing man could. Reiyd knew that it was, in truth, he who was responsible for Allysia’s current state of affairs. All the fault could ultimately be attributed to his own lack of awareness and foresight.
He had failed to mark the changes in his son’s behaviour as unnatural. That wasn’t to say he wasn’t aware that the prince’s personality had suddenly warped for the worse. He had known it from the very beginning, but he had failed to think the cause through. The old monarch had written the transformation off as the boy finally hitting his rebellious phase. It was not an unreasonable assumption, but still one that cost him dearly. It plunged his state into a state of chaos, incited nearby nations to aggress, and transformed the court into a battlefield in which nobles of all shapes and sizes competed for influence and power. All on top of robbing him of his one and only son.
To reiterate, Reiyd knew.
He knew that all of it could have been avoided if he’d just made better use of his head.
With no crown prince to take his place, the king found himself constantly pestered by the senate. They urged him to reproduce, to father another son and raise him into a man worthy of a country. But the queen had already passed away. He would have to remarry if he wished to bear an heir. Of course, Reiyd understood that, as a royal, he was duty-bound to preserve his bloodline. But he was too old, too uninterested in indulging in lust to engage in the act of procreation. The loss of his son only made things worse. His memories of the boy robbed him of the ability to think with his loins for anything beyond a passing moment.
This unwillingness only bred more strife. Many of the country’s dukes, the carriers of its royal blood, caught on to his intentions and engaged each other in a race, a high stakes game of thrones from which only one would emerge victorious. It was precisely this conflict, this struggle, that led the demon lord to return to Alshir. He too had been caught in the political tide and wronged by those that lusted for power.
As the ultimate cause of both his and the hero’s inconveniences, Reiyd felt obligated to continue putting his all into his work. He refused to sit on his laurels whilst others struggled to deal with the repercussions of his mistakes.
“I suppose I may as well make use of this opportunity to sample one of his concoctions.”
Reiyd retrieved one of the small, rounded flasks sitting atop the corner of his desk. After bringing it closer, he uncorked it, exposing the sparkling liquid within it to the air. It appeared to be some sort of potion, a mixture of materials and magical energies crafted to benefit its consumer. Looking at the enchanted item gave rise to a vague sense of familiarity. Reiyd felt as if he’d seen a blend not unlike it at least once before, but he was unable to precisely pinpoint its identity.
Whatever the case, the king was confident that drinking it would not do him any harm. The demon lord had given him several and claimed that they were vitamin supplements, energy drinks that would revitalize him and relieve his exhaustion. And though there may have been good reason to doubt such a claim, Reiyd harboured no suspicion whatsoever. He saw Yuki as a kind-hearted, trustworthy individual, one that, despite quite literally being inhuman, was in possession of far more humanity than the two-faced conspirators that lorded over the court. Given his benevolence, the king was by no means surprised that the man had earned his daughter’s affections.
After taking a few moments to recall the princess’ most recent antics and smiling to himself, the king raised the flask to his lips and drained its contents in a single hearty swig.
His throat gurgled with a nonsensical sound as his lips and eyes shot open. It was like he’d been hit by a thunderbolt, a wave of pure primordial energy more powerful in nature than anything he’d ever experienced before. Strength poured from the depths of his core and filled his body with renewed vigour. His flesh and bones broke themselves down into their most basic components and reformed anew, unbroken, unwounded by the stress and weathering that had come with so many years of active duty. All of his pain and exhaustion had vanished without a trace. He felt as full of vitality as he had been in his youth.
The medicine’s magic needed only a few seconds to propagate through his person and fix everything from the top of his head to the tip of his toes. But he remained stunned for far, far longer. So exaggerated was the effect that he had even forgotten how to think. He sat stock still, staring blankly at the wall opposite him until a series of loud, crisp knocks pulled him back down to earth.
“One of your guests is seeking an audience, Your Majesty,” said his butler. “May I have your instructions?”
“Y-you may permit them entry,” stuttered a half composed Reiyd.
The door opened to reveal the odd-eyed youth that had been on Reiyd’s mind prior to it being blown.
“…Good evening,” replied the monarch, after taking a moment to ensure that the rest of his composure returned.
Yuki was not wearing his mask, but that was a non-issue. The young man had already shown the ruler his face as to not cast doubt on his identity in this exact scenario. The reveal was one that had initially caught Reiyd off guard; the king had not expected the demon lord to be so young.
“You certainly have the devil’s timing,” he spoke as he set down the now empty bottle. “What exactly are these vitamin supplements? I almost cannot believe the extent of their effect.”
“Oh, those? Those are just high-grade potions.” The shocking revelation came in the most indifferent of tones. “What do you think? Pretty effective, eh?”
“W-wh-what!?” Reiyd’s eyes bulged out of their sockets as they snapped to the corner of his desk, atop of which lay a notable number of non-empty bottles. “D-do you know how much each of these is worth!?”
The monarch couldn’t believe the demon lord’s gall. Labelling the elusive, precious pharmaceuticals as mere vitamin supplements was far beyond just misleading. The atypical concoctions were worth so much that purchasing even one was enough to bankrupt a smaller state lest it was willing to give up one of its most prized treasures.
Reiyd knew that Yuki had access to elixirs. He had used an Elixir in the king’s presence once before during Iryll’s rescue. At the time, Reiyd had assumed that the demon lord was only willing to spare the expense given how dire the situation had been. Elixirs were not items one could simply frivolously distribute, after all.
“I mean, sure, I get that, by your standards, they’re probably worth a lot,” said Yuki. “But frankly, that doesn’t mean shit to me.”
“I-I am well aware of that, but even so, I’m sure that producing these must have incurred you quite the significant cost,” said the king. “Do you truly not mind providing me with so many, free of charge?”
“I don’t see why I would. They do cost me a pretty penny, but I ended up having them produced en masse, so I’ve got several hundred sitting around. Dropping a few here and there isn’t really going to make much of a difference.”
“S-several hundred!?” Reiyd gasped for breath like a fish out of water.
“Yeah, I’ve always kinda just been like this. Whenever I played MH, I’d always feel underprepared if I wasn’t lugging around a few hundred ancient potions, you know, just in case things go wrong,” he said. “Oh yeah, before I forget, you’ll probably want to drink those sooner rather than later. They go bad pretty quickly, and preserving them doesn’t really work unless you’ve got an item box like me.”
The king only half understood the demon lord’s words. The first half of his suggestion, the supposed story from his past, was filled with jargon that only confused him. But whatever the case, there was one thing made clear. And that was that the two had different perceptions of value.
“If you truly do not mind, then I will gratefully accept your gift,” said the king, after recovering his wits. “So? To what do I owe the honour of this visit?”
“Oh, right,” said the odd-eyed youth. “Sorry I’m dropping by so late. I just got back from gathering a bit of intel. You happen to know anyone that goes by “His Excellency?”
“Hmm…His Excellency…?” The king pondered. “That is a title normally reserved for our ministers. Are you suspecting that the scheme you have been looking to resolve may be one of theirs?”
“More or less, yeah. You see, I happened to notice that some guy was following Nell and I around when we went out earlier in the day. I started stalking him once he stopped bothering us and traced him until I could figure out what he was up to. Turns out, he was with the church.”
Reiyd closed his eyes for a moment to process the information presented to him. It was exactly as he had feared. The actions undertaken by the church during the prince’s uprising had not only resulted in it growing more heavily involved in the state’s affairs, but also granted it a form of political immunity. Not even he, the king, could stand strongly opposed to the religious organization’s will beneath the public eye. He had long suspected that the faction would take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen its political foothold and further spread its influence.
“One of the church’s higher-ups wants to basically sell Nell off,” spat the demon lord, venomously. “Bastard wants to coax her into a political marriage with some douchebag he was calling ‘His Excellency’ so he can further the church’s ties with the government. It’s a pretty good deal given that she’s basically the church’s trump card, so I’m thinking that ‘His Excellency’ is probably someone pretty important, and that, given all this new info, you might be able to figure out who he is.”
“I see your point.” Reiyd paused for a brief moment to gather his thoughts. “And it just so happens I do have a few candidates in mind, individuals we have also deemed suspicious following an investigation of our own.” The king leaned back in his chair. “You see, Yuki, I happen to be lacking an heir.”
The king chuckled. It was a response to how the demon lord’s face had twisted in realization before almost immediately reverting to its prior state through force of will. The reaction was so human, so genuine that the monarch couldn’t help but find his mood brightened.
“Nothing, nothing at all.” After one last chortle, Reiyd regained his calm. “My lack of a son leaves me with only two choices: remarry and procreate, or adopt a man who carries royal blood in his veins. The former option is not one I personally regard as valid given my age, and as such, I have little choice but to default to the latter.”
“Basically what you’re saying is that the faction you end up adopting from is going to profit like mad, so everyone’s putting their candidates forward and trying all sorts of shit behind the scenes, right? I’m guessing they’re doing their damned best to mess with the balance of power while they still can to make their own guys look better. Especially since you’re probably just going to pick whoever’s got the best shot at keeping the country going in the long run.”
“Precisely. This power struggle could have been circumvented had I allowed Iryll to be courted, but I’ve no intention of involving her in Allysian politics and all the troubles that accompany it.” The king flashed a teasing smile. “You are more than welcome to lay claim to her if you wish.”
“L-let’s uh… save considering that for when she’s older. Anyway, I’m starting to see exactly how this whole scheme comes together.” Yuki made no effort to hide that he was evading the topic and promptly shifted the discussion back to the conspiracy. “What I’m getting from all this is that ‘His Excellency’ is one of the people vying for the throne. And that he’s probably trying to join hands with the church in order to max out his chances of getting it.”
“I believe you’re most likely correct,” said Reiyd. “Three of the men most likely to succeed me are the Minister of Finance, the Chairman of the Senate, and the Minister of Defence. All three are in positions of power that lead others to refer to them in the manner you’ve described. I personally believe that the Minister of Defense, Jaynor Redrius, is the most likely the individual behind your frustrations.”
“I see… What’s he like, generally?”
“Jaynor is… so patriotic that his passion borders on zealotry. He is very clearly dissatisfied with the current state of the nation and has long advocated for an increase in military spending. Another notion he often proposes is investing in further education of those involved in military affairs. His goal is to bolster the country’s might in order to ward off our enemies.”
“Oh boy… So he’s an archetypical militarist. Great. Just… great.” Yuki rolled his eyes. “Iunno about you, but me, I’d keep an eye on him. Guys like that generally don’t mind resorting to crazy shit so long as they can convince themselves that it’s for the greater good.”
The king nodded, deeply, and frowned as he began speaking at length.
“I often find myself contemplating the same concern. Minister Jaynor is the one man I would like to keep the crown away from. His nature is too forceful, too pushy. I do not think that he would make for a good king. Regretfully, there are not many that feel the same way as me. The minister of defence is adored by both the masses and other members of the court and he is both the most capable candidate and the one with the greatest number of prior achievements.”
“…Sounds like he’s probably the asshole I’ve been looking for.”
“If I am to speak at length, I will likely rant for quite some time, so I will be as brief as I can. I believe that, based on what I know, you are most likely correct. The information you’ve brought me regarding the church only serves to further enforce my doubts. If the man who stands atop the military joins hands with the organization responsible for domestic affairs, then I will have no choice but to hand him the crown and empower them both. Their interests perfectly coincide.”
“Just out of curiosity, who do you want to become king?”
“That’s… a very good question. After much brooding, I’ve come to the conclusion that the senate’s chairman is the best choice. He is both trustworthy and competent enough to handle all that my position entails. The senate, however, possesses very little authority, so I suspect that I may not be able to hand him my crown.”
“Wait, why are you so insistent on retiring anyway? Why not just keep doing your thing?”
“I would have loved to, lad, had I not accrued so much experience. A younger man would be ambitious enough to appreciate all the work that comes with kingship. But not I. I am sick of it. It is an awful position, one that requires far more effort than I would like it to. The incident in which I lost my son only served to convince me of my own incompetence. I would have abdicated and left matters to someone more suitable and willing had I still a strictly defined successor. But as I do not, abandoning my crown would do little but cause the country harm. And as a king, even one that cannot be described as stellar, that is the one thing I cannot do. I will continue carrying this burden for as long as I must.”
The words were carried with every bit of the exhaustion they were meant to testify. Though clearly pushed to the absolute brink, the king did not falter. He continued to strive to do his very best for his people. So powerful was the force of his will that even the demon lord found himself offering a moment of silence to appreciate it.
“…Alright. Then how about this? When you abdicate, give me a call and head over to my dungeon. You can treat the place like a resort, kick back, and get the break you deserve.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea.” The king smiled, gently but wholeheartedly, as one would upon being gratified by a friend. “Thank you. I hope that you won’t mind if I accept that offer of yours and bring Iryll for a nice, long vacation once the situation at hand has been resolved.”