An Emperor’s Duty
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
“Thank you, Yuki. We really couldn’t have done it without you. I’d like to talk to you about a whole lot of different things, but I think you should see some of our medical staff first. I’ll call them over immediately,” said Phynar. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure how you’re still standing or why you seem like you’re perfectly fine. The amount of negative mana you have in your system right now should be enough to kill just about anyone.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t say I’m perfectly fine. I am feeling a bit sluggish.”
“Normally, you’d be a lot worse for wear than just that.”
Having noticed that I was still somewhat affected by all the negative mana that had eaten its way into my body, the demon king asked someone to call for some of the field surgeons hovering around nearby.
“So…. what now?” I asked, as they started looking at and treating me.
“I think it’s safe to say that this war is as good as won. There may still be a battle or two, but their capital has already fallen into our hands. They retreated as soon as they unleashed the dragon. I suspect they were under the impression that we wouldn’t be able to defeat it.”
“You think they had any idea what they were going to do if it kicked our asses? ‘Cause it looked to me like they didn’t actually have it under control. It was kind of doing whatever the fuck it wanted.”
Gallia had been more or less totally destroyed. I had certainly played a part in its demolition myself, but most of it was undoubtedly the helldrake’s work.
“Oh, don’t be silly. I’m sure they had something or another in mind. They didn’t raise it just so that it would destroy everything, after all,” said the demon king. “Oh, and I know that this is totally unrelated, but I’ve been a teensy bit curious about it for a while now. Are all the severed right hands on the ground yours?”
“Yeah. Hurt like a bitch every time.”
“I… see. I think it’d be best if I didn’t ask for any more details,” he laughed awkwardly. “Thankfully, we’ve managed to clean up all the undead as well, largely thanks to your pets. All there is left to do now is to capture the emperor, and we’ll be done.”
“I have him right here.”
A man dressed entirely in black walked over. He wasn’t alone, there was another less conscious man slung over his shoulder. I swear I’ve seen this guy before… I think his name was supposed to be Lunogill or something? Dude was one of the king’s strongest guys.
Analyzing him proved that my memory had served correctly.
“Lunogill! I didn’t think you lived. What a wonderful surprise.”
“I’m terribly sorry that I wasn’t able to provide you with any timely reports, Sir. I happened to run into a few minor setbacks along the way,” he said, before turning my way. “And Yuki, it is a pleasure to see you again. Thanks for all your help.”
“Yeah, we pretty much haven’t seen each other since the last time I was in the demon realm. So is that guy who I think it is?”
“He is,” said the secret agent, as he dropped his hostage. “He’s Draggodt, the emperor.”
The impact caused the man to awaken with a groan. After blinking a few times and examining his surroundings, he sat up and immediately began to speak.
“Did the Hadean Helldrake fail?”
“It did. Quite the awful surprise you had in store for us, Emperor Rogarde,” said the femboy. “Oh, I should introduce myself, seeing as how this is the first time we’re meeting in person. I’m Phynar Leginerris Satalunia, King of the Demon Realm.”
“I’ve heard of you, yes,” said Draggodt. “Your reputation marks you as wise and sharp. And that’s exactly what I—wait. You.”
The emperor suddenly called out to someone standing off to the side. Yours truly.
“You’re a demon lord, aren’t you? I’ve some information on you courtesy of the labyrinth and its functions, and that was the understanding I came to. Your ability to defeat the helldrake only seems to cement that theory, and if it is true then I can see why I have lost.”
I spent a moment contemplating the consequences of my answer before going ahead and stating the truth.
“Yup. You’re right. I’m a demon lord.”
“I knew it,” he muttered. “King Phynar, is this demon lord someone that you believe to be trustworthy?”
The demon king narrowed his eyes, as if racking his mind for the question’s purpose before finally giving an answer.
“…Yes, I believe so. As I’m sure you’ve seen, one way or another, he put his life on the line for the sake of supporting our forces.”
The emperor shut his mouth, closed his eyes, and took several deep breaths.
“I do not mind surrendering, but I have a condition I would like you to meet.”
“Is there any reason for us to adhere to your condition, given that we have already captured your person?” asked Phynar.
“Naturally. It is possible to prevent a significant number of casualties if my men stop resisting yours. I see no reason for you not to listen.”
“And what, exactly, is this darling little term of yours?”
“Give the Dungeon Core that resides within the Rogardian capital to this demon lord. Do that, and we will surrender.”
Seriously, the fuck is this guy thinking?
“So what you’re basically saying is that you want me to be in charge of your dungeon?”
“Exactly,” said Draggodt with a nod.
“Because what I sought was power, the power that you already possess.”
“Yeah uh, Iunno about anyone else, but that makes no sense to me.”
“Then I’ll just have to explain,” he said, with a bit of a tired sigh. “The dungeon that is centered in our capital is one that has been passed down from emperor to emperor, throughout the generations. But the first was the only one to have full control over it. None of us who followed in his footsteps were ever capable of activating all of its functions. There is no purpose in handing a labyrinth to one who does not have the power to manipulate it. We can do nothing with its potential but sit idly, croaking threats from the bottom of our wells.”
I could certainly see his point. We knew that the enemy had a demon lord somewhere in their ranks, but they never quite seemed capable of making use of the dungeon’s power. All the deaths would have surely generated far more than enough DP for him to turn things around, but he never laid any new traps or summoned any new monsters, likely because he lacked the ability to make full use of the core and all its functions.
The thought of inheriting a dungeon was certainly something I’d considered. If the dungeon died, then the demon lord in charge of it would as well. And if the demon lord died, then the dungeon would lose most of its power and eventually follow suit.
Or at least it was supposed to. There were always exceptions to the rule, like the first dungeon I’d inherited. It hadn’t been destroyed, and instead integrated itself into a part of my domain. My adjustments aside, it was still exactly what it was back when the other demon lord had controlled it. Its strength had never waned, because as far as it was concerned, I’d become its demon lord. Doesn’t that mean that Lefi, Lyuu, Nell, and Leila are all substitute demon lord candidates too? They can do things with it because I gave them permission to, but they don’t have access to as many things as I do. In theory, even if I was to die, the dungeon would probably still be fine, but it’d probably be kinda like what happened with the emperor where the new person in charge can’t actually do all the stuff the original person did. Probably has something to do with all that essence and pliability stuff the Spirit Lord went on about that one time.
I would always gain access to additional features whenever my essence was altered to better suit the dungeon’s needs. And according to the old guy with the floating cane, that was because I was a demon lord. My essence was out of the ordinary in the sense that it could adapt to whatever change was necessary for survival.
Normal people didn’t exactly have that liberty. The only way for anyone else’s essence to change was for them to evolve, which was to say that only demon lords could truly inherit dungeons, while everyone else that tried would end up with a downgraded version that only kind of worked.
Actually, what if it’s just a matter of time? It’s like how dragons get stronger as they age because their bodies adapt better to magical particles. What if someone just lived in a dungeon basically forever and had their body slowly adapt to its conditions? Couldn’t they technically end up qualifying as a demon lord eventually? I mean, it obviously won’t work for humans because they die too fast, but still.
“And that simply won’t do,” continued Draggodt, who was still ranting in a scholarly manner. “Rogarde is surrounded by potential enemies on all sides. We’ve fought with each other for generations, and though we’ve cooperated on many occasions in the past, it always does come back to war in the end, whenever the thrones change hands. It is largely in part because this region contains little but grassland, and it is difficult for us to use geographical features to demarcate our borders. The climate is also rather unstable, and it appears that while peace comes whenever warm winds blow over our plains, we quickly descend to war whenever the weather takes a turn for the worse.”
Is it just me, or does he seem more like a science guy than a king?
“The previous emperor focused his policies on peace and reconciliation. Striving towards his ideals earned him nothing but scorn and disapproval. Others looked down on him for being weak and took advantage of his kindness, cutting us deals that were far from favourable by any means whatsoever, which in the end led only to strife and suffering for our people. Everyone wants peace. But peace is not something that can be truly achieved without power.”
“Uhhh… dude, is it just me, or are you trying to preach about peace when you literally just started a war? And haven’t you guys been doing nothing but fighting wars for a good while now anyway? How’s this any different?”
“Most of our previous conflicts were born of the passive stances we took. This war, however, is one we chose to enact of our own volition. It isn’t one we were forced into. Naturally, it is possible that many will not understand the difference and that they will simply think that war is war, and perhaps it is. But at the end of the day, I am Rogarde’s emperor. I will not hesitate to open hostilities against another nation if it means ultimately bettering the lives of my people. As you can see, it has clearly ended in failure, but the effort was made nonetheless.” He scoffed at himself. “In the end, I’ve nothing but ideals. I am good for nothing but coming up with theories that I cannot see through. But you are not me. You are like the first emperor, one of the chosen, capable of drawing out all that the dungeon can offer.”
“Your power exceeds the norm to such an extent that you are able to bring the Hadean Helldrake to its knees. If you become this country’s supreme leader, then those who border us will fear you and Rogarde by extension. Their respect for your power will bring about an era of peace and stability,” he smiled. “And there are benefits for you as well, demon lord. As I know you are already aware, a demon lord’s strength grows with the size of the domain under his control. The Rogardian labyrinth spans far, very far indeed.”
“So uhhh… what’ll you do if I decide that I don’t really give a shit about your country and go on a killing spree?”
“If you were stupid enough to make such a choice, then you would not be here to begin with. They trusted you. That is why they called upon you for aid.”
Following his eyes, I realized that all the other monarchs had gathered around. They were standing by, listening in to our conversation.
“I’m not saying that you have to take control of the politics and function as a true ruler. All I ask is that you eliminate anyone who attempts to invade us. The rest, you can leave to all the other rulers. I am sure they are willing to oblige. There is profit to be had in it for them as well, and that alone dictates that they have little reason to refuse.” He turned back to phynar. “King of the Demon Realm, I repeat, the condition for my surrender is that you allow Rogarde to stabilize itself under this demon lord’s rule. And that is all I ask for.”
“Well, Yuki? What do you think?”
“I mean… I kind of get what you’re saying… but why?”
“Because bettering the lives of my people is my duty as emperor.” Draggodt smiled, as if he was awaiting the question all along. “They are in your hands now. Please, take care of them.”
A fiend by the name of Delvis, the faction’s supposed second in charge, showed up shortly after we dealt with Draggodt and surrendered.
From him, I learned that Gojim was dead. The man I had planned to kill had already fallen at Draggodt’s hands.
Not exactly what I was expecting, but oh well, whatever.
“…I think he said it was here?”
I entered the emperor’s private quarters, as per some instructions he left me.
And in the middle of the room was the core.
“You sure you’re okay with this, Phynar? ‘Cause there’s not really any take backs. This whole area’ll be mine the moment I touch it.” “It was the condition for Draggdt’s surrender, and not something I personally consider a problem,” said Phynar. “None of the other monarchs seem to mind either. Just think of it as an additional reward. We probably would’ve lost the war without you to begin with. The Helldrake was a teensy bit too big of a problem for us to handle on our own.”
“Works for me.”
The core was, like the first I touched, sucked into my palm the moment I laid hands on it. The option to view the sub region that was the Rogardian Empire showed up in my menu right away as well. Looks like I can just put a gate here too, and go back and forth between the empire and the Wicked Forest whenever.
“Did it work?” asked Phynar.
“Yeah, looks like I’m in control of it now.”
“And I believe that means that, by Rogardian law, you are now the emperor. Congratulations! You’re a king now, just like the rest of us,” he said, with a chuckle.
“Lay off,” I groaned. “I don’t know jack shit about politics or economics, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to get the people to think of me as some sort of benevolent overlord. I’m staying the hell out of government affairs altogether. All that shit’s going to be on you guys instead.”
“I’m well aware,” laughed the king. “But since you are still the king in name, we will be respecting your decisions if anything happens.”
I looked around the room as we spoke and confirmed the suspicion that its previous owner was much more of a science guy than he was a ruler.
There was nothing about his private quarters that served to indicate that he led anything even remotely close to a luxurious lifestyle. There were nothing but notes and various pieces of scientific equipment lying around.
Honestly looks like he lived a pretty humble life to me. You know, it really goes to show that the winners are always the ones writing history. One country’s hero is another country’s villain and whatnot. I know everyone says it, but it really is how it is. There really aren’t any clear good or bad guys. Everyone’s just a different shade of grey.
“Ughhh… Fucking asshole making my life harder and shit. I can’t believe he pushed this onto me at the last goddamn moment.”
You know what, man? Fine. I’ll fuckin’ do it. I’ll at least watch over this country and see your will through. Because this country is now my territory. The least I can do is keep an eye out for any invaders.