Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix, Joker
“Sooooo…. what now?” I looked over the girls we had retrieved from the city as I stood by the dungeon’s entrance. I had been a bit worried that it would be subject to an attack while we were away, so I had blocked the entrance with a large boulder. But as we were back, said boulder had instead been returned to my inventory.
All of the twenty odd slaves were huddled together, trembling with fear as they rested their eyes on me. They hadn’t been told anything; none of them knew why they’d suddenly been brought into the Wicked Forest’s depths. Of course, Illuna wasn’t amongst them. Her day had been a long one, and the whole kidnapping ordeal had left her thoroughly exhausted, so I shipped her off to bed the moment she got home. Likewise, Shii was also fast asleep. The slime had been so excited by the vampire’s return that it had leapt about until it passed out. In other words, the dungeon’s two noncombatants had set off together on a journey in the land of dreams.
“I presume you failed to consider the consequences of your actions?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” I answered. “I kinda sorta totally forgot.”
“…I am not surprised,” muttered Lefi. “While you appear as if you think deeply about your actions, I know that, in truth, you merely choose whichever happens to be on your mind at that moment.”
You understand me well, Lefi. The sides of my lips curved upwards ever so slightly.
“Oh yeah!” I turned back towards the crowd as I suddenly came up with an idea. “I know you guys all got captured and enslaved and whatnot. But you did have homes before that happened, right?”
Though, for the most part, they still seemed to be trembling in fear, excitement began spreading through their ranks. They began whispering to each other and discussing the implications of my words. One of the group’s members eventually ended up timidly stepping forward on their behalf. She had horns like a sheep and carried herself in a manner I could only describe as cool and composed.
“W-we do, oh venerable demon lord. Most of us were kidnapped whilst working away from our hometowns. But even those that weren’t have places they can return to,” she said with a tremble. The sheep girl was much calmer than all the other girls present, but nervous nonetheless.
“Woah. Colour me impressed. How’d you figure out what I am?”
“The properties carried by your mana are what allowed me to discern it.”
Huh. So mana really does work like that. I figured as much, but still, sure is nice to have someone confirm it.
“Alright, all of you having homes makes this whole situation much easier to deal with,” I said.
“Hey Lefi, can you have the dragons take them back to their families?”
“A simple task.”
The Supreme Dragon looked to the sky and made a gesture with her index finger. Her underlings, who had been flying way up high, descended to a much lower height and lined themselves up next to one another without a moment’s delay. The obedience sure is convenient and all that, but just what the hell did she do to them? Like, seriously… Look at how disciplined they are…
“A single glance at your expression is enough to convey to me that of which you wish to ask,” said Lefi as she turned towards me. “The answer is rather simple, Yuki. I merely engraved my supremacy into the very depths of their beings. Even their bones understand that it is none other than I who they must obey.”
Hot dayum. Daz cray cray.
“A-Anyways,” I cleared my throat and continued to speak to the slaves. “Just tell these dragons where your homes are, and they’ll have you dropped off in a jiffy. They’re pretty smart, so they should get you there without any issues so long as you give ‘em directions.”
Most of the girls had obviously been dead on the inside. Their eyes were like empty voids, and peering into them called for naught but the abyss. However, hearing my words had caused hope to fill them once more. They grew more vibrant and excited as they realized that they would once again be allowed to return to the homes that they thought they would never see again.
It seemed that the reason the only slaves that remained were young women was not because the traders had chosen to slay or ignore all the males. Rather, it was because the country the city we raided was affiliated with was currently in the midst of a war. Demons and demihumans were known to be stronger than humans, so all the enslaved men had been dragged off to the battlefield, regardless of age. Likewise, the older women had been provided the exact same treatment.
That was one of the two reasons that there were only about twenty of them in spite of the city’s size. The other had to do with legality. The country had outlawed all transactions involving slaves. Both purchasing them and selling them was prohibited; all slaves on the market were the products of illegal activity. And thus, slave traders were few in number. The only organisations that dabbled in the exchange were those that were a part of the criminal underworld to begin with, like the one that I had crushed during my stay.
Our good friend the governor had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to handle the slaves himself, so he had eagerly jumped on the opportunity we presented him and pushed them onto us instead. Thinking about it that way makes me feel a whole mixed bag of emotions… but oh well, whatever. I’ll just consider the whole scenario a part of Illuna’s request. She almost never asks for anything, so I should probably give it my all.
“A-Are you truly willing to send us home?” the sheep girl asked, wide eyed.
“Yeah, I don’t particularly mind. One of ours got kidnapped too, so I might as well help out everyone that happens to be in the same boat as her,” I said. “Oh and make sure you speak up if you don’t have anywhere to go. We can figure something out. I was the one who brought you guys all the way out here, so I’m obviously not going to be doing something as ridiculous as kicking you out and ditching you in the middle of the forest just ‘cause you don’t got anywhere to go.”
We could afford to take care of a few of them. Might be in a bit of trouble if too many of them stay behind though.
The girls began chatting amongst themselves again, this time, a bit more noisily. A minute or two later, they came to an abrupt stop. They arranged themselves in as orderly a manner as they could before initiating a deep, simultaneous bow and speaking in sync.
“We’re all different. We’re different races, and we come from different backgrounds. But we shared the same circumstances. That’s why we all want to offer you our gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for all the compassion you’ve shown us.”
“Okay, that’s another group gone. Looks like you two are the only ones left.” I turned towards the last two girls after watching another batch of dragons fly off.
“I was raised with the belief that I should always pay back any debts I accrue in full,” said the first of the two. “I would be glad to be in your service, but only if you don’t mind, of course.”
She was the cool and collected sheep girl that had stepped out of the crowd to speak up for her peers. Sheep-like horns aside, the first thing I noticed about her was the dazzling white hair she had. It extended all the way down to her waist. Following it led me to realize that she had excellent proportions. All the parts of her body that needed to bulge did exactly that; all her curves were exactly where they needed to be. Her body’s lines were only further emphasized by the rags she wore. They were far too small for her, and they basically showcased a certain part of her body. I had no idea where to look. Fortunately, she herself wasn’t making much of a big deal of it and instead continued to carry herself with an air of nonchalance. How do I put this… she just seems… more mature than me. She’s got that older sister type vibe to her, if you know what I mean.
“Uhm… Is that a Fenrir over there…?” The other girl was a beastkin. She had ears and a tail, both of which resembled that of a dog. Her hair was short, curly, and had about the same colour as a chestnut. Unlike the sheep girl, she didn’t appear nearly as seductive. I know this is hella rude to say, but she, Lefi, and Illuna have pretty much all got the exact same proportions.
Still, she was ridiculously pretty. Both of them were. A single glance at either of the girls was enough for me to understand why they had been targeted.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I-I knew it!” She yelled ecstatically. “Can I please stay!? I’ll do whatever y’want! Please!?”
“U-Uhh… sure… I guess…” I blinked a few times, taken aback by her sudden vigour. “Is this because of Rir?”
I pat the wolf’s fluff to indicate to her that I was talking about him.
“To us warwolves, Fenrirs are basically gods! Man, I’m so happy! Leavin’ the village was worth it! Everyone told me it was a bad idea, but now I get to tell them that I got the chance t’serve a Fenrir!”
“Uh huh… Good for you…” I did my best to nod along as I recoiled from the wolf girl. Welp. Looks like we’ve got another strong personality on our hands.
“You hear that, Rir?” I gave the wolf another pat. “She says you’re basically a god.”
Rir replied by whining and smiling as wryly as a wolf could. Yeahhhhh, I getchu bro. I’d also be pretty freaked out if some random chick started worshipping me.
“Okay… oh wait, right, introductions. I’m Yuki, that’s Lefi, and this is Fluffrir,” I said as I pointed to each of us in turn. “We’ve got a few more, but they’re already fast asleep so I’ll introduce you guys tomorrow. What were your names again?”
“My name is Leila,” said the sheep girl. “Please issue me whatever orders you see fit.”
Leila bowed as she spoke. No more bowing please. I’m starting to catch more than just a few glimpses of something I really shouldn’t be staring at.
“I’m Lyuuinne Gyroll, a warwolf. I’d be real glad if you called me Lyuu for short,” said the dog girl. She seemed to be the kind of chick you’d leave in charge of looking after a boys’ softball team. She kinda reminds me of H*mura from P*wer Pr*s. Not because of how she looks or anything. It’s more like just the way she carries herself and whatnot.
“Anyway,” I said. “I’m sure you’re both tired, so we can leave figuring out all the more complicated stuff for later. For now, you might as well just make yourselves at home,” I said, as I turned towards the dungeon’s entrance.
“Uhm, My Lord…” The sheep girl hesitated for a moment before voicing her thoughts. “This is just a cave, isn’t it?”
“I know what you’re trying to say, but don’t worry. I’m not about to make you sleep on top of a rock or anything. You’ll see. Just follow me.”
I gave the two a quick sidelong glance as I entered the cave. They seemed a bit scared, but timidly followed me nonetheless. And so, with that confirmed, I turned my eyes to Lefi, who had taken up the rear. The look on her face and the air about her both made it obvious that she was proud of herself and her accomplishments.
“Sooo… uh… Lefi…”
“Yes? What is it?” She looked right at me as she answered.
“…” I awkwardly paused for a bit before I continued. “Thanks for today. I couldn’t have pulled it off without you.”
For a moment, she had let her emotions show. She stared at me in blank surprise, completely taken aback by the sudden expression of gratitude. But soon, she twisted it into a shiteating grin.
“Are you perhaps referring to the moment in which I embraced you and calmed your nerves as I would an infant?”
“…C-Can we pretend that never happened? Like, seriously. Please?” I groaned in displeasure. She’d started to tease me right where it hurt.
Seeing my reaction caused her to break into a hearty laugh. It lasted a good bit, but ultimately came to an abrupt halt.
“Yuki, I…” She shifted to a completely different tone. One that was much more sincere. “I have spent many a year in solitude. I have been by my lonesome for as long as my memories serve. The world itself had grown dull and bland. Boredom was my sole emotion. And I had accepted it as the norm.”
I wasn’t able to bring myself to answer her. The words she spoke reflected the loneliness brought about by her overwhelming power. They described the memories that she had made during the time she had spent as the Supreme Dragon.
“That, however, no longer holds true. My days began to change soon after a certain fateful encounter. On that day, I met an individual who dyed my world in iridescence. He filled it with all sorts of colours and shades, the likes of which I had never imagined. So fresh and pleasant were the experiences he brought that I could not help but hold them dear to my heart.” She looked right at me as she spoke. “And that is the reason for which I would like to request, Yuki, that you continue to bring colour to my world.”
She began to laugh as she finished speaking, almost as if to brush the confession off as a joke.
But I knew.
And that was why the short and simple reply I offered her was accompanied by a heavy nod.
Joker’s Editor’s note: Hey, guys! Joker here. The gap closes even more. We’re almost caught up here, so I’m sure the site’s reader count will shoot up once we have everything filled in. Can’t wait. To all the new people, welcome. To the old hats, welcome back. Looks like we’re adding two more to the hare- I mean, staff of the dungeon. Lyuu reminds me of a tomboy, and Leila the studious type. At least, from what I’ve read of them so far. Only time will tell if I’m right or wrong. (Or, you know, the chapters we have of them up already) But enough about my thoughts on the chapter. Let’s get to what everyone’s excited for. Part two of #AskJoker, where I answer any questions you might have. Not a lot this time, only one.
Elvenneet asks: Have you ever read Akuyaku Tensei Dakedo Doushite Kou Natta(Eliza for short)?
I’d have to say no, I haven’t. Hit me up on Discord, if you’re part of the community, and lemme know what it’s about. I’m PhantomThiefJoker on there.
That’s all for this time. Like I said, only one this time. If you have a question you have for me, leave it in the comments below with the hashtag #AskJoker and I’ll answer it next time. See y’all in the next chapter!