A Warning Past Dark
It was the middle of the night. The army’s camp was almost dead silent. Most of the soldiers had retreated to one of the many tents laid out atop the forest’s floor and gone to sleep. But of course, not all of them had the liberty to retire for the night immediately. Some were tasked with the duty of staying awake and ensuring that the army would not be caught off guard by an emergency. About half of these soldiers were up and about, wandering the campgrounds, while the other half cuddled around a campfire and waited the night away.
Checking the map, I realized that there weren’t any monsters in the camp’s immediate vicinity. There were several sitting off in the distance, observing it from afar, but they dared not approach. The humans were likely using some sort of magical device to deter them. I had no doubts that the technology for it existed. The slave trader we’d taken Illuna back from had used something similar on Rir.
Though I knew the camp was guarded, I made no attempt at sneaking around. I simply waltzed right through it without a care in the world. Stealth, one of my recently acquired skills, allowed me to turn invisible, so there was no need for me to be cautious. Unfortunately, the skill’s invisibility wasn’t perfect. It’s effectiveness varied drastically based on how powerful I was compared to whatever was trying to perceive me. The guards, however, were pitifully weak. They couldn’t hold a candle to me, so none of them noticed anything out of the ordinary even when I walked right past them.
I found myself in front of the largest, fanciest tent after a minute or two of wandering around.
Looks like this is probably the commander’s tent.
I gave it a quick once over in order to confirm I had the right place before nonchalantly stepping inside.
The man within got up from his bed and grabbed the sword he left by his bedside the moment I entered his tent. His voice was gruff and he spoke in a low, cautioned tone.
“Oh? It appears that you are able to perceive me.”
The man standing before me was strong. His level was far higher than that of any other soldiers present. But still, he was only human. His stats were inferior to those of the monsters that populated the forest. I was certain that rockbirds and other similar monsters would be able to crush him with ease.
His skill list contained many entries that bolstered his ability to organise his troops and take command. He was evidently skilled in logistics, and likely the army’s commander.
I was going to need to reveal myself if I wanted to talk to him, so I undid my invisibility. I made sure to do it gradually so that he wouldn’t overreact and attack me out of sheer anxiety.
“Be silent unless you wish for me to immediately deprive you of your life.”
I loosed a wave of bloodlust-drenched magical energy in order to intimidate the man, a technique I learned back when I had assaulted the slave trader. All I had to do to activate it was focus on wanting to kill while gathering my magic before releasing the built up energy into my surroundings.
Almost all of this world’s creatures had the ability to sense magic, so the method I’d come up with was extremely effective when it came to expressing my intent to kill. Like Stealth, channeling my raw bloodlust would affect my enemies more or less based on our relative power levels. Individuals stronger than me would shrug it off without a care in the world, but individuals equal to or weaker than me would be subject to intense pressure. It would often make them panic and perhaps even falter when attempting to launch an attack. Creatures that were too much weaker than me would instantly faint upon exposure.
The man’s reaction to my bloodlust evidenced that he was much stronger than your average Joe; he had managed to remain conscious. However, that wasn’t to say he hadn’t felt its effects. He’d immediately broken out into a cold sweat. But that wasn’t all. The sheer extent of the fear he experienced had caused him to obey my order and instantly shut his mouth.
“Are you the pathetic whelp in charge of this army?”
I spoke to him in a condescending tone. I’d determined that it was necessary for me to speak in a way that befitted my Demon Lord title else risk having the enemy make light of me.
“N-No, I’m not.” He stumbled over his words. It sounded like he’d only barely managed to bring himself to speak.
“And that is the truth?”
“I swear it.”
The soldier was clearly still on guard, but I didn’t think he was lying. He just didn’t to have the composure required to do so.
The fuck!? Seriously? Is he really not the guy in charge here? Oh god, this is embarrassing… I just totally walked in on him and confidently assumed that he was the guy running the place. Ugh… I feel like a fucking moron. What kind of retard assumes the strongest fighter is also always the one in charge? That’d be an awful way to manage things. God. I’m so fucking retarded I should just find myself a hole so I can curl up in it and die.
I felt an overwhelming urge to hide myself in a corner somewhere, but somehow managed to fight it off.
Okay, Yuki, that’s enough of that. Pull yourself together. You have business to attend to.
Thinking things through a bit more, I realized that I wasn’t entirely wrong. His tent and skill indicated that he had influence. There was simply no way he wasn’t among the brass.
“Oh? But are you not the strongest member of this ‘army?’”
“…They put someone else in charge.” The man grimaced as he spoke.
He clearly wasn’t happy. If I were to guess, I’d assume that the individual commanding the group was likely some noble that had the position presented to them on a silver platter, despite not deserving it. That said, I didn’t care enough to pry.
“If that is the case, then relay my message to your superior, word for word.”
Though hesitant, the man nodded. He was an excellent soldier. Though he didn’t have the Analysis skill, he could still discern that he was much weaker than me, so he remained obedient as opposed to trying something stupid. Moreover, he was constantly looking around and analyzing his surroundings in hopes of finding something that would assist in him in turning the tides in his favour as he engaged me in conversation.
“Then listen well. You have already entered my territory. If you dare advance further, then I will slay each and every single one of you without mercy or exception. I care not for your purposes. If you wish to live, then turn tail and leave this place at once.”
The man’s eyes stopped skittering around the room and focused on me. It seemed like he wanted to ask me something, but was unsure if it would incur my wrath.
“You may speak.”
He swallowed his saliva before raising his voice.
“I would like you ask you just one question.”
“I shall allow it.”
“Why would someone as strong as you bother issuing us a warning? Why not just wipe us all out?”
I grinned as would a psychotic villain before answering him.
“Have you not the sense to discern the obvious? It is because eliminating your excuse for an army would be a nuisance.”
“I care little for you and your people. I have no interest in your affairs. I have merely decided that I will allow you to leave should you abide by my decree, and that I will crush you if you oppose it. I suppose you have grasped this much, at the very least?”
The man nodded, so I continued.
“Then, I ask you this. Would you not find it a nuisance to crush each and every single ant that strays into your domain? It is easy to bring about their end, but requires a far greater time investment than it otherwise deserves. That is how I feel about you. Stamping out your lives is no difficult task, but I do not wish to waste my time.”
“A-Are you saying that humans are no different from ants!?”
“Precisely. The differences between your species are so miniscule that I find myself unconsciously placing you in the same category.”
Despite my claims, I didn’t actually think that humans and ants were the same. Ants were much more terrifying. The Wicked Forest’s ants were the toughest enemies I’ve faced to date. They had scared me shitless with their tenacity. I still felt traumatized by them even now.
“That is all I have to say. I shall provide you a short period of grace. Leave and continue to live, or stay and perish. The choice is yours.”
I activated Stealth once again as I left the tent. It was a simple process on my end, but to him, it’d almost appeared as if I’d vanished into the night itself.