An Eventful Return
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
“You’re done already?” said the captain. “I thought you were coming back to resupply.” He blinked a few times, as if to get a hold of himself. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything less out of a group of handpicked elites.” The sailor adjusted his hat, then looked her right in the eye. “As someone who calls Poezahr home, you have my thanks. It was a pleasure working with you.”
“The pleasure was ours,” said Carlotta. “To be frank, we didn’t expect it to go this smoothly either. We were only able to wrap up so quickly because a certain individual happened to perform far beyond expectations.”
The captain followed her gaze, all the way across his ship to me.
“The hero’s man, you mean?” He crossed his arms. “I thought he seemed young, but if he’s got that much power in him, he might just be older than he looks.”
“I believe he’s only a little bit older than her, but I never did ask.” she replied. After another brief pause, she raised her voice and called out to me. “Hey, Masquerade!”
“How old are you?”
“A year and a few months.”
“Well, you heard the man. He’s apparently the youngest of us all.”
“I had almost failed to remember that he was wearing a mask to keep his identity a secret,” said the captain, who began to stroke a rather impressive beard as he continued. “And I can see why, given his caliber. If his name and face were to get out, then his life would be filled with nothing but unwanted solicitations.”
I mean, you’re kinda right, but I also wasn’t lying to you. Just saying. Man, looking back, I almost can’t believe I’ve only been here for a year. It honestly feels more like five, or maybe even ten. This has seriously been one hella eventful year.
“Oh yeah… it’s only been a bit over a year since you became a demon lord…” Nell, who had changed out of her armour and into something much more comfortable, whispered at a volume low enough for only me to hear. “And about a year since we first met…”
“Yeah, I know right? I almost can’t believe it.”
“Mhm… “ she nodded. “But the most surprising part has to be how quickly you act. I almost can’t believe you managed to convince three whole women to marry you in under eighteen months.”
“Oh, please. You’re making it sound like I’m some sort of playboy,” I said. “It’s not even my fault, and you know it.”
“I know.” She brushed off my indignant complaint with a giggle. “We all fell for you because of how sincere you are, and everything only happened so quickly because you were willing to be honest and upfront with us instead of beating around the bush.”
“Uhh… can we talk about something else? This is getting real embarrassing, real fast.” I averted my gaze.
A fair bit of time had passed since we departed from the dungeon; the galleon we were aboard had already taken us a fair bit of the ways we needed to go in order to get back to dry land.
Naturally, our departure had only taken place after Carlotta spent some additional time investigating the dungeon and confirming that it had in fact shut down. She did this by brazenly walking right in front of the dungeon’s monsters and seeing how they reacted. The conclusion? They didn’t. None of the undead we came across did anything at all even when exposed to outside stimulus. As such, the knight concluded that the demon lord was truly dead, and that all of his minions had become inert due to a lack of instructions to follow. To her, it seemed like all was right.
But in truth, it had only played out that way because I had, as the dungeon’s new overlord, commanded the monsters not to attack. The undead I had inherited from my skeletal predecessor were a bit “special.” Unlike my monsters, his lacked a sense of self. They were basically just puppets made of flesh and bone that carried out whatever instructions they were given and nothing more. Actually, that puppet analogy is pretty fucking apt. They’re literally soulless corpses that only work because someone is using magic to order them around. Might as well label them corpse puppets and call it a day.
The wraiths were the only exceptions as they apparently could not stand the thought of being ruled by an individual still capable of drawing breath. This, combined with the hatred that was their essence, led them to remain hostile. The map had even shown their markers as red in spite of their status as my direct subordinates. In the end, we chose to eliminate them before meeting back up with Carlotta. And by we, I mean Nell.
Our methodology was simple and straightforward. I used the dungeon’s farspeak function to call out to them and aggravate them such that they would come to the dungeon’s throne room and attack us, only to fall to Nell’s blade the moment they floated through the door. One could argue that it was cruel, given that they were technically my subordinates, but I saw no reason to keep them around. A rebellious subordinate was no different from an enemy, and removing said subordinate was both safer and easier than attempting to convince them to listen to me. And now I know that my monsters aren’t actually guaranteed to listen to me, which is a lesson much better learned earlier than later.
I wasn’t actually sure if the statement applied to all monsters, or just monsters originating from dungeons I’d captured. I suspected that it was the latter, but there was no guarantee that it wasn’t the former. Either way, I should probably keep it in mind. All my pets are super nice and obedient, but I need to make sure not to treat them poorly if I don’t want them to rebel. Not that I have any intention of pushing any of my adorable pets too hard. …Though Rir’s been getting pretty overworked, now that I think about it… I’ve kinda just been loading more and more work on him ‘cause of how competent he is… And honestly, it’s probably going to keep happening. Maybe I should spend some DP on him and buy some high quality dog food or something to keep him happy. Actually, I kinda doubt that’d actually work. In fact, it’d probably just get him depressed…
“So, wifey, I kinda just remembered that I’ve been pushing a lot of work onto Rir. I was thinking of getting him some sort of bonus, but I’m not really sure what would work best. Got any ideas?”
“Uhm… I think food is a safe bet. Do you know what he likes to eat?”
“Nope, no idea,” I said. “I think he likes meat, but I’m not actually sure.”
As a dungeon monster, Rir had no need for sustenance and only ever ate for pleasure. Like all my other combat-capable pets, he would grab his own grub as opposed to asking me for something if he did feel the urge, so I didn’t actually know what he liked. I’d only ever caught him in the middle of a select few meals, and each had just so happened to involve meat.
“In that case, I’m sure he’d appreciate something like a barbecue. Why don’t you marinate a bunch of meat, grill it all up, and invite everyone for a nice big party? I’m sure that’d get your feelings across.”
I guess that makes sense. He’d probably appreciate the sentiment more than something physical.
“Alright, that’s that then. I’ll throw a barbecue party once I get back. You might as well join us. There’s no point missing something so fun.”
“I want to, but I don’t think I can…” she said.
“Hey, Carlotta!” I shouted across the deck. “Nell says she can’t hang out with me because she’s got work. You mind lending her to me for a few days?”
“H-huh? Wa-wait, you can’t just randomly ask for time off like that!”
“A few days? I don’t see why not,” said the lady knight. “I was planning on giving everyone that accompanied me on this expedition a few days off in the first place.”
“Sweet, I’m glad to see we’re on the same page,” I said, before turning back to Nell. “Well, looks like we’re all green. It’s time for you to come home.”
“Geez… You’re so pushy.”
Though she’d heaved a bit of a sigh, the look on her face demonstrated that she was much happier than she would’ve liked me to otherwise believe.
The trip home proceeded uneventfully for about two hours. I burned my newfound spare time by chatting the afternoon away with Nell, the adventurers, and the paladins.
“Are those… ships…?”
The brief period of repose came to an end as the captain, who had been using a pair of binoculars to look around and ensure that we hadn’t deviated from our intended route, muttered a line filled with suspicion under his breath.
“What’s the matter, captain?” asked Carlotta.
“There are four ships heading our way, with not a single flag between them.”
“…You don’t suppose they’re pirates, do you?”
“They probably are.”
He replied to the conjecture with a grim nod.
“Pirates? Fuck yeah!” I pumped my fist and got to my feet whilst directing my gaze towards the horizon.
“Uhm… I don’t think being attacked by a group of pirates is something to get excited about…” said Nell.
Really not sure what you mean by that. Like, come on! Getting raided by pirates is an important part of a balanced seafarer’s diet. Where’s your sense of adventure?
They were still far, far away. An average man would’ve thought the ships to be nothing but a dot on the horizon, but my enhanced eyesight allowed me to confirm that there were indeed four ships, and that they were heading straight for us. Size wise, they were a fair bit smaller than our galleon-like cruiser, but they were much quicker, and I could immediately tell that they were gradually gaining on us.
“Bastards!” cursed the captain. “Brace yourselves, boys, we’ve got a fight on our hands!”
The clanging of the ship’s alarm went off as soon as his crew heard his declaration. Though hurried and anxious, the sailors began working to prepare for a clash in an orderly, efficient manner. Their tasks changed from swabbing the deck and lounging around to observing the enemies, preparing their weapons, and arming the cannons.
“Hey Reyus, I figure you probably know more about this than me, since I don’t know jack about life at sea, but doesn’t a fleet of four seem a bit big for a group of pirates?”
I grabbed the archer, who happened to be standing around and in much less of a hurry than most of the others on board.
“I was thinking the same thing, mate,” he said. “There are probably a hundred and fifty to two hundred of them on board. Normally, I’d said I ain’t feeling so great, but with you on board, I’m starting to feel bad for them.”
Yeah, can’t say you’re wrong. Unlike my newly acquired dungeon’s ships, the pirate ships were in fact susceptible to fiery explosions, as they weren’t capable of suddenly regenerating their hulls. A couple enchanted daggers was all I needed to wipe them off the face of the earth, and that wasn’t even my only option. Taking me on at sea was a mistake. The sheer amount of water in my environment upped the efficiency of my water-based spells and allowed me to create larger constructs at a significantly lower cost. Sending a group over would surely result in the pirates’ premature demise.
“Want me to blow them up?” I addressed the question towards everybody’s favourite commanding officer. “They’re about to enter my range.”
“I’ll need a moment to consider.”
Carlotta brought a hand to her chin and spent a moment in thought before addressing the ship’s other CO.
“We’ll be joining you in battle, captain. Would you like us to capture the enemy’s ships? It should be a fairly trivial task with the members we have on deck.”
“…I would certainly prefer it.” He said, with a brow raised. He didn’t question her directly in order to avoid sounding rude, but it was clear that he didn’t think that it was as easy as she had made it out to be.
“Don’t worry, captain. Though I won’t be participating myself, I can assure you that it certainly will be possible,” she said with an overconfident smirk. “Well, you heard him, Masquerade. We want the ships captured intact. Why don’t you start by giving our pirate friends a bit of a fright?”
“Aye aye, commander.”
I returned her cocky grin with one of my own, albeit under the mask, as I began to channel my magical energies.