Bringing the Incident to a Close — Part 3
“The old bastard’s a goddamn snake.” I cursed Jaynor yet again after summarizing everything he and I had discussed for the king. “He’s a fucking dirty schemer. Iunno about you, but me, I’d rather not deal with his crafty ass. Sounds like way more trouble than it’s worth.”
“The explanation he’s given you certainly does explain his recent inaction…” The king pondered for a moment, then slowly nodded as if to express that he’d succeeded in internally rationalizing the information I’d presented him.
“Yeah, anyway, that’s pretty much all my news. You got anything, or naw?”
“I do. I can state with confidence that the minister’s faction has been dismantled. The individuals who participated in Argus’ scheme have been detained, whereas those who did not have joined the royal faction. However, I have still failed you.” He shook his head apologetically. “I’ve failed to find enough evidence to incriminate Jaynor.”
“I figured that would happen. It looks like he knew about everything going on, but didn’t actually participate.”
“That seems to be the case,” said the king with a nod. “According to the testimonies of those now under arrest, they were, in effect, functioning under Argus’ orders. The shock of being abandoned by his superior has left the baron in a fairly cooperative state. He’s openly answered every question posed to him, but the more he tells us, the more it seems that Jaynor had no part in his scheme..”
“Seriously?” I raised a brow. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
Only after voicing my doubts did I realize they were misplaced. The minister was far too clever to get caught. I was confident that he would have been well prepared for this exact situation—that he had arranged for everything that did happen to happen in a way that would allow him to remain free of guilt.
“Under more regular circumstances, yes, but the information Argus divulged revealed that he was the one to come up with both the attack on Sengillia and the assault on the castle.”
“He did, at times, mention that he was working under the minister’s orders and instructions, but further investigation led us to conclude that Argus was merely under the misguided impression that Jaynor was involved, when he was in fact not.”
“Uhh… Just uh… wow.”
Jaynor had not only divorced himself of all Argus’ wrongdoings, but also made the other man shoulder every single part of the backlash. I’m almost starting to feel a bit bad for Argus. Almost.
Oh, who am I kidding? Fuck him. And fuck Jaynor too.
I knew that the deal the minister offered me didn’t come from a place of goodwill. It was a decision made purely based on a detailed analysis of pros, cons, and opportunity costs, which meant I could at least probably count on him not to betray me. But still. Fuck him. I hope he gets a stroke or something and dies.
The headache that was dealing with Jaynor did prove worthwhile, however. Our agreement had made it so that Nell was effectively untouchable. She was now being endorsed by not only the king and church, but also the military, or at least the slimy bastard that ran it. Am I just imagining things, or does it kinda seem like I’ve basically just made a deal with the devil?
“It seems like we were right to choose the route of having him take joint responsibility for Argus’ misdeeds,” said the king. “And I’m glad you came when you did. You’ve once again helped us flush our ranks of any less than pleasant elements. I was under the impression we’d already removed most of them the first time around, but evidently not.” He sighed. “And I assume that more will continue to surface going forward. But at the very least, they should settle down for the time being. Thank you once again for your cooperation.”
“Ehhh, it was just something I ended up doing while I was doing something I was going to do for Nell anyway. If anything, I feel kinda bad for bringing so much trouble right to your doorstep.”
“You didn’t bring me any trouble,” refuted the king. “It would be much more accurate to say that you merely exposed what already existed beneath the surface.”
Thanks. That makes me feel a lot better about it. Man, I really do owe you one helluva debt. Riiiight… Speaking of… After taking a sip from the tea that the king’s butler had presented me, I reached into my inventory and presented him with the package I’d retrieved.
“Oh yeah, before I forget, here, take these.”
“Are these… necklaces?” he asked as he opened the box and examined its contents.
“Yeah, they’re warp crystals. Channeling your mana through one will activate the circuit and port you straight to my castle. Only issue is that you can only use each one once, so make sure you save ‘em for emergencies or something. There are five in total, so feel free to hand them out to people you’d prefer to keep safe. You know, like your daughter and whatnot.”
The king wasn’t the only one to receive a set of necklaces. Raylow, Knight Lady, and Mage Girl had all been subject to the same treatment. Carlotta was the only one of the bunch that wasn’t aware I was a demon lord, so she was given a slightly different explanation than everyone else. As far as she was aware, all the warp crystal did was take her to my house.
Of the three non-royal recipients, Mage Girl was the one with the most exaggerated reaction. Like Leila, she seemed to be the scholarly type. She began carefully scrutinizing it with her eyes sparkling the moment she heard of its function. The absurd extent to which she’d started obsessing it had honestly been somewhat terrifying. Though I guess that’s just kinda how scholars are.
“Did you just say that these are devices capable of teleportation!?” The king’s gaze moved back and forth between me and the box I’d handed him several times before he finally sighed in acceptance. “You really are full of nothing but surprises.”
“Eh… That is just what the demon lord do.”
The joke prompted him to chuckle, albeit half in exasperation.
“Thank you. I’ll gratefully accept. Do let me know if there’s anything I can do for you in return.”
“Dude, chill. Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’m only handing you these ‘cause I feel like I owe you. If you keep doing me favours, you’ll just be putting me so far in your debt I’ll go bankrupt.”
“These tip the scales the other way.” He stuck out an open palm and shook his head. “I couldn’t possibly not do anything for you in return, especially considering the number of elixirs you’ve provided me.”
You say that, but I’ve basically given you nothing but consumables. They’re one time use and basically poof into thin air once you’re done with them. Besides, neither potions nor warp crystals actually even cost all that much as far as DP goes anyways. Oh… wait. Idea get.
“Well, in that case, how about you give me some of the wine you sent me home with last time I showed up and we call it even? It was so good I blew right through it.”
Well, more like Lefi and I blew through it. She’s so cute when she’s drunk.
“Then by all means, take as much as you’d like,” he said. “But are you sure you’ll be satisfied with something so inexpensive?”
“Iunno about inexpensive. It tasted pretty high class to me, so I’m sure it at least costs a pretty penny,” I said. “Besides, personally, I’d place much more value on a good barrel of booze than some dinky necklace.”
“…If that is how you truly feel, then I suppose I have no reason or right to say otherwise,” he said, after a moment of consideration. “I will have several barrels prepared for your return.”
Woo! It’s time for a good old drinking party! I’mma get totally plastered for the first time in like forever. I normally refrained from allowing myself to get anything more than just tipsy as to not poorly influence the kids, but that wasn’t to say I never got shitfaced around them. Can’t be too bad an influence if I do it in moderation, right?
Whatever the case, I was sure to enjoy myself. I was really looking forward to seeing my wives with their blood alcohol levels through the roof. I kind of want to see Leila get drunk too, mostly because she basically never does.
After spending a few moments with a smile on my face and my head in the clouds, I pressed my hands against my knees and pushed myself off the couch in the king’s office.
“Alright, I gotta go. I kinda wanted to stick around and chat a bit more, but Nell’s waiting with a carriage in tow, so I’ll let you get back to whatever.”
“A carriage?” he asked. “I was under the impression that you were not planning to return just yet.”
“Yeah, I’m heading over to Nell’s village so I can meet her mom.”
The king blinked several times in surprise before breaking into a light chuckle. “I wish you the best of luck. I know full well that the experience is one that wracks the nerves.”
“Yeah, totally. I’m so nervous right now I feel like my chest is about to explode.”
“I was not aware that demon lords were capable of feeling that way.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
After one last lighthearted joke, I gave him a casual wave and headed out the door.