The Conquest’s Finale — Part 2
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
“You want to slay it by yourselves?” Carlotta narrowed her gaze into a glare. “Why?”
Likewise, Nell was also confused, and reasonably so. The suggestion had come out of nowhere and involved no premeditation or consent on her part whatsoever. After subtly signalling for her to keep quiet, I turned to Carlotta and bullshat a response.
“Well, you see, I kinda want to do a certain special something, something I don’t want anyone that’s not closely related to me to know about,” I said. “And don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to hog the credit. We can still say that everyone participated.”
“And you’re confident that the two of you will be enough to handle it by yourselves?”
“Yeah, pretty much. That special something I mentioned is a trump card, and it’ll pretty much guarantee that we can kick the demon lord’s ass. Thing is, I’d really rather not have people know about it.”
The knight spent a few moments in silence.
“I suppose it would be easier for the two of you to attempt it by yourselves,” she said, after heaving a weary, resigned sigh. “A smaller, more elite group would allow you a much greater range of movement, and the ability to use larger scale spells without having to concern yourself with potentially injuring any allies. Even setting this trump card of yours aside, discarding the rest of us would probably make the fight easier than not.” She looked me right in the eyes. “Just realize that failure is not an option. The only reason I’m even considering this suggestion is because you’re the one making it. I would’ve refused it and called the person making it an idiot under any other circumstance.”
“Don’t worry, there aren’t any idiots here. I mean, sure, it would’ve probably been a bit of a hard sell if I had to do it by myself, but with Nell by my side, failure is impossible.”
For a moment, she stared, caught off guard by the bizarre answer, but then she began to cackle.
“Alright, fine. The demon lord is yours. I look forward to seeing the power of your love.”
“It won’t disappoint.”
“G-geez… the two of you really don’t need to work together to tease me, you know?”
Nell sulked, which prompted Carlotta to once again laugh at her expense before twisting it into a bit of a frown.
“I really didn’t expect you to have a trump card in tow after everything you’ve already shown us.” Her gaze remained fixed on the giant worm’s remains.
“Yeah, well, there’s a time and place for everything,” I said with a shrug. “And it just so happens that some of the tricks I’ve got up my sleeve only get to premier if both are right.”
“I see… Well then I hope you invite me to your next show. I’d love the chance to study all these tricks of yours from up close.”
“Yeah… how about no?” I said. “you’re probably the last person I’d go out of my way to invite.”
This, like all the fun we’d had at Nell’s expense, left the lady knight chuckling heartily.
“So why did you make that suggestion all of a sudden, Yuki?” The first thing Nell did once all the others were out of sight was to question my motives.
Evacuating was the choice that Carlotta had come to after discovering that no one had any idea what would happen to the artificial subspace we were currently situated in following the demon lord’s defeat.
“Oh, that? Well, I’m about a hundred percent sure that the demon lord running this place has probably realized I’m also a demon lord. The way he’s been acting is making it pretty obvious that he’s at least sentient, so I kinda don’t want anyone to overhear him screaming something along the lines of ‘curse you demon lord!’ and blowing my cover. That would uhh… kinda mess everything up.”
“That does sound like it could be a bit of an issue since he’s not just some monster… but that’s not the only reason, is it?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Because one look at you is all I need to know that you’re up to no good.” She said, as she gave my now maskless face a bit of a stare.
“Alright, you got me.” I flashed a grin. “Though, I’m not really up to no good per se. I just want to ask him something.”
“By him, do you mean the demon lord?”
The question I had in mind was one that I’d been entertaining for a long time, one that pertained to the nature of both demon lords and dungeons alike. Fundamentally speaking, what were they?
To be a demon lord was to be a bizarre existence capable of using the resource known as DP to bring forth mind and matter alike. And not just temporarily. The objects conjured through the use of DP were permanent. The oddest part was that I was capable of using it to create even items from my previous life, items that, as far as this world was concerned, were completely foreign. Technologies and concepts that simply did not exist could be wished into existence with the click of a button.
The monsters birthed from the dungeon were sentient organisms with their own distinct personalities. They weren’t mindless bots, or even copy pasted from a template, but rather truly unique. Even the plants I created were as real as any others. Each floor I added to my dungeon was a brand new space of its own and could almost be described as a whole new world. And given enough time and resources, it was in fact possible for me to make one large enough to qualify as such. And while all creatures were capable of adapting to their surroundings via evolution, demon lords were especially susceptible to change. We could very easily transform ourselves in whatever way was necessary in what was effectively the blink of an eye.
In other words, demon lords were capable of taking on whatever form they required whilst also creating literal worlds filled with life—we were capable of just about everything that gods were.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more ill suited to being a god…” said Nell, after hearing my thoughts on the matter.
“Oh please,” I twisted my lips into a huge shit-eating grin. “What are you talking about? I’m one of the most benevolent, loving gods to have ever existed. Look all you want, but you won’t ever find any other god this virtuous.”
I was just joking around, but upon turning to look at Nell, I realized that I was the only one enjoying the moment. If anything, she seemed anxious.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Uhm… you’re not just going to suddenly vanish into thin air if it turns out you really are a god, right?”
“Why would I?”
“W-well… gods can’t exist within the mortal realms, right? If you really are a god, then it means you’ll have to leave us…” Her words were hesitant, almost as if she didn’t want to say them out of fear that they would come true.
“Listen, Nell…” I took her hands and stared right into her jewel-like eyes from point blank.
“M-m-mhm? Y-yeah?” she squeaked. The sudden gesture left her so panicked and embarrassed that she began directing her gaze at the floor with her cheeks aflame.
“You’re an idiot?”
“…H-huh?” All her embarrassment was promptly replaced by shock.
“I said, you’re an idiot,” I said. “Come on, think about who you’re talking to. Do you really think that I of all people would just up and vanish because for some dumb reason like that? Listen closely. I’m me. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t matter what I turn out to be. I’ll still be me, and that means I’m going to stick around and live my life the way I want to, so stop worrying.”
The only response I got from her was silence. She was too stunned by the answer to respond. But the claim was true. I had no intention of becoming anything but me. My dungeon was where I belonged, and I wasn’t planning to ever truly leave it. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter if I was a demon lord, dragon king, god, or really anything. None of it mattered in the least. Actually, on second thought, that’s total bull. I’ve grown pretty attached to my demon lord title. Still, that’s the only one that matters. No other labels do.
“I’m always going to keep doing whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, even if it does turn out that I’m some sort of god,” I said, firmly. “I don’t give a fuck what other people think or expect. My life is mine, and I’m going to spend it holed up at home in the dungeon. Period.”
“…Mmk.” She breathed a sigh of relief as she pressed her head into my chest.
“You’re such a worrywart,” I said.
“It’s not my fault,” she huffed. “I don’t know anything about what demon lords really are, so I couldn’t help but start worrying. I really didn’t want you to disappear…”
“I mean, I know I said that this has been on my mind for quite some time, but honestly, it’s not something I give that much of a shit about. I’m not stuck up enough to think I’m really a god. It was just a thought.”
“Here, if it makes you feel any better…” I took her hand with one of mine and gave it a squeeze, as I placed the other around her shoulders.
“Thanks.” She giggled, then squeezed back.
After a brief exchange of warmth, she stepped back. The anxiety was gone from her face, replaced with a serene smile.
“I’d really like to stay like that forever, but we should really get to work,” she said.
“I wouldn’t really mind if we did though.”
“We can’t. Work comes first,” she said with a giggle.
“If you insist, boss,” I said as would some secret organisation’s grunt.
“Good,” she nodded solemnly, momentarily playing along before switching back to her usual tone. “So I know what you want to do, but do you really think the demon lord is going to answer you?”
“Probably not,” I shrugged. “That’s why I was planning to beat the crap out of him before sitting him down and making him talk.”
“Wow uhm… that’s an awful lot like how a thug would go about doing it, isn’t it?”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. We’re going up against someone that we’ve got no intention of reconciling with either way, so does it really even matter?”
Since we’re, you know… going to kill him once we’re done no matter what.
At best, I figured that there was something in the realm of a 20% chance that we would be able to hold a conversation with the demon lord in the first place. But even then, I at least wanted to give it a shot. It wasn’t everyday that I had the chance to dive into another demon lord’s dungeon, after all.
“Alright, if the demon lord isn’t alone, then I’ll take care of him while you handle his cronies,” I said. “Otherwise, we can just play things by ear.”
“That’s not much different from usual then,” she said.
“Yup. Now let’s go.”
I opened the door and stepped inside.
The room we entered was one that had returned to being shiplike. Sort of. While it was made entirely of wood, it looked far larger than anything that we’d come across whilst wandering throughout the rest of the dungeon. And at the far end of it, sat a single throne.
Atop it was a skeleton, one wearing a tattered, worn down robe. It was completely deprived of skin, save for a few trace pieces here and there. But unlike all the other skeletons, this one was packed to the brim with mana.
Its eyes glowed a pale, eerie red as it turned its gaze upon us, a gaze filled with pure malice and hatred, one that did his identity as the Undying Overlord justice.