Preparing for Departure — Part 2
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
After ordering my pets to chill outside the city for the time being, I followed Nell to what seemed to be a break room. In it was an older lady with a familiar set of sheep-like horns.
“How… interesting. I know that the hero girl said as much, but it seems you really are a demon lord. The child you have in tow doesn’t appear normal herself either. I can certainly see why Leila’s taken an interest in you.”
She didn’t even bother greeting me. The first thing she did as I stepped inside the room was observe me as she would a lab rat. It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable feeling in the world, so I pretended it didn’t happen and tried to break the ice as would a normal person.
“Uhh… hi to you too, I guess. I’m Yuki, and as you’ve already figured out, I’m a demon lord. The kid’s name is Enne,” I said. “So I’ve been hearing a lot about you. Is it true that you’re Leila’s teacher?”
“Hi,” said Enne.
“Ah, yes, I’m sorry, that was rather rude of me.” She smiled and started to pat Enne’s head as she replied. “Hello, both of you. I am Eldegaria, a member of the sheep horned demon clan. I’ve heard a lot about you, both from Emyu, and the hero girl. Leila is one of my students, and it seems that she’s been in your care.”
Emyu? Oh wait, right, Leila’s “sister.” I remember them being pretty close, but not actually related.
I glanced over Eldegaria’s stats as I put a face to the name she had mentioned.
Race: Sheep Horned Demon
Seeker of Truth
Master of Illusions
The numbers seemed to say that she was a caster, and a pretty damn good one at that. That thing Lyuu was telling me about how their entire clan was basically made up of a bunch of nerds and bookworms is starting to check out. I’m really starting to think that there might actually be a whole race of Leilas somewhere out there.
According to Nell, Eldegaria and I were the two main parties that the demon realm’s king had decided to call on for aid.
“Honestly, I’d say it’s probably the other way around. I, er, we, I guess, have been the ones in her care. She’s pretty much the only reason our household is able to keep itself up and running.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. She has always enjoyed looking after others.” Eldegaria smiled. “I almost can’t believe that she’s finally decided to settle down. Leila’s never been the type to value anything over her curiosity, and I doubt that’s changed, even now. She must have really taken a liking to you.”
“Yeah uhh… I mean, she seems pretty normal most of the time, but I can’t deny that she gets a bit wacky when something gets her going…” I laughed awkwardly.
“That would be my fault.” The old lady heaved an apologetic sigh as she slowly shook her head. “Our race is inquisitive by nature, but Leila has always been a bit of a special case. Her need to sate her curiosity has always been a fair bit… disproportionate. She used to run around the village in search of every last bit of knowledge there was to be learned. I suspect she might have turned out differently had I been less indulgent in the way I raised her.”
Tell me ‘bout it. Nell and I exchanged knowing glances as the sheep demon divulged her tale of our super maid’s past.
“Well uhhh… I mean, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with learning stuff, so I wouldn’t really worry about it. It’s not like we really mind. Right, Nell?”
“Right,” agreed the brunette. “Leila’s really reliable when it counts.”
“I’m relieved to hear you say that,” said Eldegaria. “I know that her personality is… less than ideal, and that she can be a bit odd at times, but Leila’s always had her heart in the right place. I can only hope that you’ll continue to love her even in spite of all her faults.”
“Sure, will d—wait a second!” I caught my tongue as my mind finally caught up with the conversation. “H-hold on, I think there’s been some sort of misunderstanding. Me and Leila aren’t like that.”
“You’re not?” The goat lady looked at me with genuine surprise. “Was Leila not one of your wives?”
“Well, then I must’ve gotten the wrong impression. The way the hero girlie was talking about your relationship with her made it seem like you’d taken Leila’s hand.”
“Soooo… Uhh… Nell? Mind explaining yourself?”
“I-it isn’t my fault!” squeaked the hero. “I-I don’t think I said anything weird. All I did was tell her that Leila was a part of the family.”
And there goes Nell, trying to casually laugh it off like she totally doesn’t understand what she implied. Goddammit. I’m only letting you get away with this because of how cute you are. I did have to admit that she technically wasn’t wrong. I really did think of Leila as a member of the family.
“Alright, so, how do I explain this?” I pondered out loud. “Leila’s pretty much just our live-in maid. We’ve got more of an employer-employee relationship than what you had in mind. And I mean, we do get along well, but like…”
“Darn it, Leila! Even after all this time!” The old demon groaned and shook her head. “Do come visit our settlement some time. We’ll be sure to welcome you. And make sure you bring Leila along. I’ll have to give her a stern talking to.”
“Sure. I’ll see if we can try heading over not too long after we’re done here.”
A soldier made his way over to us right after I voiced my agreement.
“Excuse me, Mr. Yuki, Ms. Eldegaria? The two of you have been summoned.”
“That is rather unfortunate,” said Eldegaria. “I would’ve liked to talk more, but I suppose business comes first.”
“Enne, can you stay here for a bit? And Nell, can you keep an eye on her for me?”
“Okay. I’ll wait. With Nell.”
The two of us followed the soldier into an extravagant looking tent. Several important-looking individuals were gathered within, situated around a simple round table. They were in the midst of discussing what seemed to be their plan of attack. I recognized three of them, Phynar, Reiyd, and Napholahz, but the other two were new faces. The only thing I could tell was that they were monarchs, and that one was a beastkin, while the other was a dwarf. Unsurprising, given that those two races were the others to join the alliance. Phynar seemed to be the person in charge of keeping the meeting on track, likely because everyone had agreed that his head was worth putting to use.
We weren’t actually greeted right away when we entered, as they were still in the middle of talking through their points, but both Phynar and Reiyd did glance at us and nod in acknowledgement. As there didn’t really seem to be anything else to do, we moved ourselves over to the corner, where several chairs were placed, sat ourselves down, and started listening in.
“Our enemies have holed themselves up in Gallia. They seem to be after a quick, decisive battle,” said Phynar. “I say that we go along with the darling little plan and go for an all out battle as soon as possible.”
“Surely there are other means. Victory shall be ours if we lay siege, no?” asked the elven queen.
“Likely, yes, but I’d like to end the war as quickly as we can. It isn’t productive,” said Phynar. “The longer we fight, the more we’ll have to drain our resources. And since they’re the ones who declared war on us, I think they’re going to be ready for something as simple as a little old siege.”
“Are you implying that they will likely have countermeasures in place?” asked Reiyd.
“Mhmm, definitely,” said the demon king. “They’ll either have the supplies to outlast us, or a plan to make it so that they won’t need to. Either way, we need to keep in mind that Rogarde is a major power with the resources to match. I doubt they’ll have any trouble holding their own if we try something so obvious. I’d much rather take them up on that lovely invitation they’ve offered and march right in.”
“Wirks fer me,” said the gruffest man in the room. “Sittin’ aroond n waitin’ ain’t something that’s in me nature.”
“I’m not, by any means, advocating for the dwarf king’s nature to play a part in our plans, but I agree,” said the furriest of the five monarchs. “We beastkin have much to offer in a fight, but there isn’t much we can do to keep our army supplied for long. We likely will have no choice but to drop out early if the war lasts too long. It might be possible for us to stay if we are to receive aid, but there are… limits by which that would be acceptable. To all of us.”
Of the royals gathered, only the elven queen seemed even the slightest bit doubtful of Phynar’s suggestion, but she chose to remain quiet rather than voicing her opinion. Because she felt that the demon king was trying to keep a secret, likely a piece of information that he felt it better for the other monarchs not to know. The assumption had no real basis, but simply knowing him for as long as she had led her to believe that he wasn’t telling the crowd everything he knew, and that there was another reason for his desire for a swift, decisive war.
Under normal circumstances, his intentional silence would have been grounds to suspect a betrayal. But that was unlikely. Though Phynar was fond of scheming, he remained an honest man, and one several times as intelligent as the average person, at that. That was why she refrained from voicing her opinion. She felt that, if he thought it best to keep silent, then it really was likely for the best.
“Of course, we’re not going to be silly enough to rush right on in and get ourselves wiped out, knowing that they’re ready and waiting with some sort of trap. I’ve prepared some countermeasures of our own,” said Phynar. “It just so happens that they’re sitting right over there. The one on the left is Eldegaria, a sheep horned demon, while the one on the right is Yuki, a demon lord.”
All eyes gathered on us the moment Phynar dropped our names.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Eldegaria. You may also know me by my title, the Phantom Witch.”
“The Phantom Witch? We are certain that she will be a great aid to Our purpose.”
“Very impressive. That is a name that even I have heard of.”
The elven and human monarchs both reacted with widened eyes. Damn, Leila’s teacher’s famous as fuck. Kinda makes sense, seeing how Leila’s well, Leila. It’d honestly be kinda weird if the person that turned her into what she is today wasn’t some kinda big shot.
“As I’m sure you’re all plenty aware already, sheep horned demons excel at analysis. Eldegaria will be helping us with our investigations and making sure we know everything that’s lying in store for us in Gallia. She’s also a wonderfully skilled mage, and she’ll be able to provide us with quite a bit of support on the battlefield.”
“I understand why you’ve asked for the Phantom Witch’s help, but why are we working with a demon lord, Phynar? Please, explain yourself.”
The beastkin king eyed me suspiciously, as if attempting to judge my worth.
“Soooo uhhh, hey, whaddup. I’m Yuki, and I’m a demon lord. My favorite pastime is taking it easy, and I’m good at making shit. Nice to meet you.”
“You really never are one to be affected by the circumstances you find yourself in, are you…”
I replied to the Allysian king’s strained chuckle with a casual shrug.
“I doubt you’ve ever heard of him before, as he prefers to keep to himself, but he’s the strongest fighter that our army has. It’d be wonderful if you all got along,” said Phynar.
“Oh? Now that is quite the interesting statement to make.” The king of the furries’ gaze sharpened into those of a predator. “I suppose it must be true if you are the one making the claim, Phynar, but I would very much like to put it to the test.”
“We are in the middle of war, Valderoy.” The demon king sighed. “Let’s save that for some other time.”
“Ah, yes, yes… I nearly forgot. Forgive me.”
Alright, so he’s a muscle head. Got it.
“Aye, but can we troost ‘im? I ain’t aboot to make meself out a fool ‘n find meself stabbed in the arse ‘cause I made an ally offa demon lord.”
“Rest assured, mountain dweller. We shall vouch for him. He is a reliable ally and meant to be trusted. But We shall not criticise you for your choice, for We are aware that you lack the courage that others possess,” said Napholahz.
“Now, you’ve said it, eh, forest dweller! There ain’t nothing out there that ain’t got more goots to ‘em than we dwarves!” The stout manlet stood up and literally pounded the table.
Is it just me, or is everything suddenly a lot more chill all of a sudden, just ‘cause of the banter? I wonder if all monarchs switch gears this quickly.
“So uh, that reminds me. You kinda never really explained what I’m actually supposed to be here for,” I said.
“I’ll fill you in on all the teensy little details you’ll ever want later,” said Phynar. “First, I’d like to ask you to take a moment and think about everything you’ve heard us talk about. Has anything stuck out at all?”
“I mean… not really…?” The sudden question led me to effectively freeze up. “It just seems like a trap to m—”
Wait a second. Didn’t Nell mention something about a potential demon lord? Holing yourself up in your capital and literally waiting for the enemy to march in on you seems pretty dumb, normally, but having a demon lord on your side flips everything on its head. Which means…
“There’s probably a dungeon in the empire.”
I muttered my conclusion outloud. It was said in a quiet tone, but it instantly grabbed the attention of everyone in the room. They all stopped talking amongst themselves and turned to look at me.
“Can you elaborate?” asked Phynar.
“Honestly, I’d kinda rather not tell you, since it has to do with how dungeons work, but I guess I probably should since we’re teaming up and whatnot. So, basically, dungeons are capable of absorbing life energy and using it to do shit.”
I had no intention of describing the ins and outs of DP and its various functions, but I was willing to give a surface level explanation.
“Yeah.” I wasn’t actually sure who the question had come from, but I answered it regardless. “So life energy is basically like the extra energy that living things naturally give off all the time. It’s also the energy that escapes their bodies when they die. Dungeons use it to make traps and monsters and stuff.”
And yes, that is total bullshit. I don’t actually know how it works ‘cause I’m a fucking lorelet. This is just how I understand it, and it kinda checks out.
“So basically, dungeons profit when things live and die inside of them. If the battlefield ends up being a part of the dungeon, then all the soldiers that gather there will end up feeding it. Doesn’t matter if they live or die either. Just being there’s enough.”
“I see…” Phynar raised a hand to his chin. “That reminds me. I was under the impression that the Rogardians had developed a technology that enabled them to control monsters. But it’s possible that they’re under a demon lord’s influence instead. That would also make sense.”
“Yeah, sounds plausible. Dungeon monsters tend to listen to their orders. They’ll pretty much fight whatever the hell you tell them to.”
It wasn’t exactly unconditional obedience, as could be seen by how I was attacked by a whole mob of wraiths after taking over the ship dungeon, but generally speaking, the monsters were willing to obey me. Oh yeah, that reminds me. I’ve actually seen the monsters the Rogardians were using back when Lefi and I were heading to Drakenstead. I’m pretty sure a bunch of them were attacking some weird plane thingy. The fact that they were using bugs makes sense too. Bug monsters don’t really have a will, and they pretty much listen to whatever orders. They’re not exactly versatile, but if you tell them to swarm something, they will. I kinda wish I analyzed them back then so I could see if they had the Demon Lord’s Kin title that all my pets have, but I guess I kinda shit the bed on that one. Didn’t exactly bother ‘cause of how weak they were. Oh well, hindsight 20/20.
“Based on what I’ve been hearing, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the empire’s got a dungeon in it somewhere. And probably a big one, at that. I doubt sieging it down is going to work. If you’re inside the dungeon’s territory, then you’ll just be literally feeding their troops ‘cause dungeons can turn life energy into food. And if your encirclement is set up outside of it, then it’ll probably be spread too thin for it to really matter.”
The more I think about it, the more sense this whole demon lord theory is starting to make. ‘Cause I’d totally be trying to pull the exact same shit if my dungeon got caught in some sort of huge ass conflict. Dungeons basically specialize in defense, after all.
“That would explain quite a lot. I’m very glad we have you on our side, Yuki,” said Phynar. “Well, what does everyone else think? It sounds to me like he’s only given us another reason to continue as we originally intended.”
None of the other monarchs voiced any sort of disagreement.
“Lovely. If that’s that, then let’s get our campaign underway.”