To the Castle
Editors: Joker, Speedphoenix
I followed the observer as he leapt from roof to roof. He was moving like a character straight out of an action movie, but for some odd reason, the way he hopped reminded me of a rabbit. Indignant, angry thoughts coursed through me as I followed him. Chasing him was a royal pain. I was going to catch him. And when I did, I was going to make him pay.
A random thought hit me as I moved. You know, this might just be the chance I’ve been waiting for.
I had been able to detach myself from the hero and the order she was affiliated with in a manner that didn’t scream suspicious. I likely would have been stuck as a part of one of the church’s squads had I stuck around with them any longer, and that would have been bad. I would have lost the opportunity to act on my own. As such, I had been thinking about how I would eventually part from them. But now, I didn’t have to.
Bunny boy, the ninja wonder, was heading straight towards the royal castle. Following him would ultimately allow me to enter the enemy stronghold. The path he took would quite literally lead me right where I needed to be. I had realized along the way that our little incident had stirred up far too much of a commotion. The prince and his allies would soon realize that the church was out to dethrone him. It was only a matter of time. And catching the observer wouldn’t buy much of it. It’s not like I can get any intel out of him either. He’s just another agent. I doubt he’ll know much of anything at all.
My best course of action was to continue shadowing him. And as such, I stopped thinking about the many ways I could beat him senseless and continued to simply tail him from a distance. With my Stealth skill active the whole way, of course.
The act of chasing him on its own was repetitive. I kicked off a roof, fluttered through the air, stuck a landing, and repeated. I had found it rather difficult at first. I kept tripping all over myself and almost plummeting to the ground. It took a while, but I did get the hang of it eventually.
I had thought about deploying my wings instead. I hadn’t been all that interested in mastering parkour. But alas, I chose to. I hadn’t wanted to run the risk of being seen with them, no matter how low the risk may be. There was still a chance of someone spotting me even without my wings, of course, but realizing that I was present would be all the act would amount to. Being spotted with my wings out, on the other hand, would basically waste all the effort I’d spent pretending to be human in the first place. And I wasn’t about to chuck my sunk costs out the window for no real reason.
Wait. Are demon lords actually demons? Or are they technically two different things? My race kinda changed when I evolved, and I don’t really think you actually need to be a demon to lord over them, right? Just what is a demon lord anyway?
Most of the races were fairly well defined. Humans were well… human. Beastkin had animalistic features. Demi-humans such as dwarves and elves were defined as creatures that were human-like in nature. Demons, however, weren’t nearly as well defined. They were quite literally thought of as everything else. Anything even remotely humanoid that wasn’t a human, demi-human, or beastkin was a demon. If we go by that definition, then I guess I technically am a demon.
The issue with the aforementioned definitions was that they were fairly ambiguous. Specifically, there was no clear line between a demi-human and a demon. Demi-humans were thought of as demi-humans simply because the humans had widely accepted them as such—a fact that had seemingly resulted from the fact that they were slightly more human-like in nature. Demons, on the other hand, apparently followed the general trend of being slightly more hotblooded and combat-oriented.
But again, the terms were vague and purely up to one’s subjective judgement.
Despite starting off as an archdemon myself, I didn’t know all that much about demons. One of the few things I’d heard about them was that they lacked unity, which made sense given how they were defined.
There were too many different groups shoved under the umbrella of the demonic. It only made sense for them to be disparate in nature. The one similarity the demon tribes shared, according to Lefi, was that they were pretty much all musclebrains. When most people thought of demons, they thought of members of the fiend or wingbearer races. As such, these two races and others like them came to be known as exemplary examples of what it meant to be a demon. There was only one problem. Both fiends and wingbearers advocated that might made right. Both tribes believed that it was the strong that should rule. And because they were considered prime examples, many other tribes started to follow their lead; it didn’t take long for the vast majority of demons to become bonafide meatheads.
That said, there was obviously no way that every single member of every single demonic race was focused entirely on becoming more powerful. There were non-combatants amongst them. Case in point: Leila. Our resident demon girl was more or less the exact opposite of a musclebrain. Though she’s a bit of a weirdo, so it might actually just be her. Oh yeah, speaking of Leila…
The sheep-horned demon had told me a fair amount about the current state of the world. According to her, demonkind’s current leaders no longer believed that they would be able to defeat the humans alone. They had recently put the differences between themselves, the beastkin, and the demi-humans aside and started collaborating in an effort to surmount the human threat as a joint force. Moreover, there had been an effort to gather up the more intelligent demons in order to create a better roadmap for the future. That last bit alone already gave way to the fact that there were in fact differences between races and the members thereof. I wonder what a country run by demons is like. I should probably pay it a visit sometime.
I continued to chase the man while contemplating thought after thought. A bit of time passed, and we eventually reached the capital city’s centrepiece, the castle that I’d been gazing upon from afar ever since I first initiated this wild goose chase.
It was a splendid structure, made of pure white stone. It was polished, gaudy, and basically everything you’d expect from a neat little castle. But that was all it amounted to. Heh. Mine’s way better.
I sat relishing in a sense of superiority, but not for long. Bunny boy had finally stopped bouncing from roof to roof. He had reached his destination. After leaping off a building and falling back to the ground, he looped around the castle and entered not through its front gate, but rather, a rear entrance that was situated along one of its outer ramparts.
The single soldier standing guard prompted him for his ID, which he pulled from within his hooded cloak. He then began moving again, and this time, headed towards a door leading inside the castle.
I continued tailing him. I carefully leapt over the wall while making sure to make as little noise as possible before moving towards the door. To be frank, I was a little tense, so I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, and reached for the doorknob.
Only to find that it didn’t turn.
There was a bit of a rattling sound, but that was it. The doorknob didn’t budge, and the door didn’t open. It was locked. Shit. I should’ve seen this coming. Of course people lock doors behind them. Why wouldn’t they?
And though my actions should have alerted the man and informed him something was wrong, it turned out that I was lucky.
“Who’s there?” Because, although he had appeared suspicious, the man simply opened the door and stuck his head out its entrance. He seemed to think that I was the guard, and that I had business with him, but he was wrong.
The first thing I did as I saw his face was twist my body and deliver the day’s third roundhouse kick. He groaned a bit as his head was smashed against the wall before collapsing onto the door and widening the opening. But that was it. He didn’t manage to react quickly enough to make any noise.
I immediately slipped into the doorway, confirmed that there wasn’t anyone else around, dragged the unconscious peeping tom inside, and shut the door.
“Holy shit.” I heaved a sigh of relief. “That was close.”
I tried to make my break-in as stealthy as I could. I tried not to make any noise, and I tried not to get spotted. The idea was to be as stealthy as a snake in the grass, to keep things as easy as possible by preventing my foes from sounding the alarm. The less they suspected, the less on guard they would be. And the less on guard they were, the easier it would be for me to take control of the situation.
But evidently, I didn’t quite have all the skills I needed to pull it off. I didn’t even realize that I should have checked to see if the door was locked. I was an amateur attempting something that one should never try at home, something meant only for highly trained professionals.
And unlike a certain snakey dude with a beard, I wasn’t a member of the special forces. And I couldn’t just become him. Things just weren’t going to be that easy. Speaking of good old snake and ‘stache, he’s boss as fuck. He can go undetected standing in plain sight, and the genome soldiers almost never see him even when he’s right next to them.
I now understood that completing a mission without ever being revealed was difficult, and that he could only ever do it because he was special. Amateurs like me were sure to be caught in a matter of minutes. Yeah. That’s right. This isn’t an excuse at all. He’s just totes OP. Probably had a ridiculously high-level Stealth skill or something. 
“Alright, what next?”
I raised a hand to my chin as I considered my options. I had already completed all my initial objectives just by successfully making it into the building. Though I did have some overarching goals, I hadn’t bothered formulating a detailed plan on my way here. Such is the spirit of laissez-faire.
While I would have loved to continue without a plan, I knew that it wasn’t a good idea, so I reviewed my objectives. The first was to murder the fuck out of Prince Douchebag. The second was to restore the old king to his rightful place on the throne.
With my objectives and the things the knights had mentioned yesterday in mind, I realized that saving the king was probably the more important of the two. I wanted a bit of one on one time, and I needed to make sure that I got to him before he was killed. The moment he died would be the moment the prince’s faction gained legitimacy, spelling an end to the whole operation. Wait. Why haven’t they killed him anyway? If I was rooting for the prince, then snuffing out the old geezer the throne used to belong to would probably be the first thing on my list. He’s basically the opposing faction’s leader. His rescue would put me and my bros in some deep shit. So why haven’t they just done it? Are they planning to execute him in public for the sake of propaganda or something?
I caught myself considering something inconsequential, so I shrugged it off and focused on my objective. I needed to save the king. Urgently. I think they said they had him locked up underground?
“Now, if I was making a castle, where would I put my underground dungeon…?” I scanned my surroundings as I muttered, only to realize that I was in a passageway. There was nothing in front of me but a single door.
I didn’t have the liberty to interrogate the guy I knocked out. He had the whole douchey spy aesthetic going for him. It was obvious that he was tight-lipped; he wasn’t going to crack so easily. I didn’t exactly have all that much knowledge of torture. There was a pretty good chance I’d accidentally kill him if I tried. And because I wasn’t all that keen on gore, I was more likely to damage myself than extract any meaningful information.
There wasn’t much of a choice for me to do anything but proceed as is. I would stay stealthed and wander around the castle in order to fill the map. Guess I’ll set up a few Evil Eyes while I’m at it.
As they were quite expensive, I only had a few that could operate outside the dungeon’s bounds. But at least it’s better than nothing.
My next course of action in mind, I walked across the hall and reached for yet another doorknob.
 Metal Gear references, a dime a dozen.
Editor’s note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. Yup, yet another fast chapter coming out thanks to all of Boss Young’un’s hard work. He’s lookin’ for a job, keeping his skills brushed up, playing loads of games, and still has time to crank these chapters out. I dunno if I could do it. It truly is a labor of love for him. My mom’s birthday was the other day, so naturally I spent it playing DnD with a couple of friends. Started up a 5e game and they all seemed to like it, so I’m glad. But don’t worry. We went out to eat the day after to celebrate, because the restaurant she wanted to go to was closed. It was pretty good food too, so I was happy. All right, letter sack, letter sack… Ah, here it is. Looks like we got three letters today, so a big thank you goes out to Zaow (@Zaowchen), madcart, and Zehd Cashew. Remember, if you’ve got a question you’d like me to ask, post it in the comments and I’ll reply. Get noticed by your senpai today! See y’all in the next chapter!