Three days after Duke’s group set off on a campaign to conquer the [Insect] Demon Lord’s dungeon, they had safely returned.
He had just given me his written report.
“…I guess it’s no surprise that there are some casualties. He is a Demon Lord with an A rank medal, after all.”
“I beg your forgiveness for squandering your war potential, my lord.”
“No, don’t worry, you did just fine. Losing only 6 Avalon-RItters against such a formidable enemy is a great feat. If anything, you should be praised.”
According to his report, their losses consisted only of: 6 Avalon-Ritters, tens of golems, and about 200 resurrected monsters and humans.
Each of the Avalon-Ritters’ performance would be equivalent to an A rank monster’s, and even an S rank monster’s for the short while that their [Burst Drive] was active. Clearly, the Avalon-Ritters by themselves were plenty strong. Plus, the three knights, Kuina, and Duke were there as well.
So, quite frankly, to have 6 of them be destroyed despite my overwhelming attack force, the enemy was much stronger than I gave him credit for.
“It seems you’ve had a bit of fun yourself.”
“…yes, my lord. I deemed it necessary to go to the frontlines myself in order to support them. Here is an extra report regarding the enemy’s elite monsters. It is my hope it would prove useful in improving Avalon’s strength further.”
I had schemes and plans, but so did other Demon Lords.
Despite having an A rank medal, the [Insect] Demon Lord did not get conceited. He prepared all sort of things against those that wanted to harm him. Given that, I could learn a thing or two from him.
“Once we’re done, go and see Aura for a medical exam. You’ve activated [Berserk] for such a long time. Some aftereffects might be present. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“Understood, my lord.”
“Oh, by the way, did you bring back the broken Avalon-Ritters?”
“Of course. We have already delivered it to Rorono-sama’s workshop. According to the Dwarf Smiths, their twin golem cores are safe, so it’d be no problem for Rorono-sama to restore them.”
“That’s great to hear. I’d hate to permanently lose 6 Avalon-Ritters, after all. And did you manage get suitable replacements for the lost undead monsters?”
“Yes, my lord. The enemy had many strong monsters, some even stronger than those that we lost. After all, among them were monsters that were able to take down the Avalon-Ritters. And that’s before I resurrect them and strengthen them via my [Enhanced Resurrection]. So, in the end, we have a better undead force now. Those that I couldn’t resurrect right away were placed in cold storage.”
Duke, just like always, was so cunning.
If he wound up collecting stronger units than those we lost, losing those units wasn’t an issue at all.
“Then, let me ask again: Duke, did any of my monsters die?”
“Many were wounded, but none have lost their lives, my lord. I have understood that you wanted to avoid deaths as much as possible, so I too made that a priority.”
The thing I hated the most was monster death.
For that reason, Avalon’s general strategy began with making use of the golems as well as the resurrected monsters and humans as shields.
There were interesting points in his reports, so I decided to ask him about those.
“Nevertheless, cooperation among the enemy Demon Lords really is fragile, isn’t it? For not a single reinforcement to be sent to [Insect] Demon Lord’s dungeon, unbelievable.”
“I think the enemies’ alliance is almost non-existent at this point.”
If the enemy Demon Lords’ alliance was working the way an alliance should, the [Insect] Demon Lord would have focused on defense and stalling, waiting for reinforcements from the other Demon Lords to arrive. And when reinforcements do arrive, they could then pull off a pincer maneuver with the [Insect] Demon Lord’s forces.
It was possible the others wanted to attack Avalon while we were busy with conquering the [Insect] Demon Lord’s dungeon, but even then, they would still be willingly letting the [Insect] Demon Lord die.
In either of those cases, the anti-Procell alliance was an alliance only in name.
“Thank you. I now have a better grasp of things. Duke, after you’ve been examined, go back to your home and give yourself a nice, long vacation.”
“As you wish, my lord! …or so I’d like to say, but a long vacation, my lord? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to attack another Demon Lord as soon as we have resupplied?”
“Yes, that indeed was the plan.”
After resupplying our attack force, we had planned to send them out to attack another before any of them could fortify their defenses further.
Such tenacity to do whatever was necessary was thankfully a trait present in my monsters.
“Was? Is there a reason it isn’t anymore?”
“…this morning, the anti-Procell alliance has submitted a request to settle. This request was passed through [Law] Demon Lord Baal and then through Marcho. Baal seems to hold the greatest power after the three strongest Demon Lords, but more importantly, he’s also a close friend of Marcho. That means that we can’t simply ignore this request.”
If the enemy Demon Lords presented such a request to me directly, I would have instantly turned it down, but now that an important figure was involved, I had to at least listen.
“Do those Demon Lords have no pride? They have ganged up on my lord, a new Demon Lord, and when their defeat is clear, they go to such a person for help? How shameless!”
“One could argue that life is more important than pride…but that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that [Law] Demon Lord Baal is apparently a fair mediator. The terms aren’t so bad; I might even accept. Do you want to take a look?”
I handed Duke the papers where the offers were written.
The contents of the papers would suggest that rather than requesting for a settlement, they were begging for their lives.
The first point was that for the anti-Procell alliance be disbanded at once.
Next, all participating Demon Lords on their side shall make a [Blood Pact] and promise to not cause me any harm from now on. It was no simple verbal promise, it was a contract that bound their souls to the promise through magic and the power of blood. If they were to violate their promise, they would be crippled, or even be killed.
And then, as compensation for all the troubles that they have caused me, all the original medals they would make for a full year starting from next month shall be forfeited to me.
According to our mediator, there were four Demon Lords who presented themselves as members of the anti-Procell alliance. This number was consistent with our own findings.
So, for me whose [Creation] medal needed another Demon Lord’s original medal to work, receiving almost 50 original medals was quite a boon.
“…it looks like this agreement will one-sidedly benefit you, my lord.”
“It certainly does. Killing a Demon Lord or crushing their crystal would grant me the ability to select their medal as a given month’s medal, but this deal will give me their medals directly. Moreover, they’re willing to make a [Blood Pact] to not harm me, but are only asking for me to make a regular declaration saying I won’t harm them. I mean, I get that they’re desperate, but it’s as if they’re taking things too lightly. After all, I could just ignore that declaration and end them once they’ve given me all those medals.”
Then again, if I were to do such a move, I would gain an unfavorable reputation among Demon Lords. Once that spread enough, I would be isolated even more.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but wonder why such a risky proposal came from their end.
“If I may be so bold as to share my opinion, could it be that this whole deal is so that you would lower your guard? Or could it be so that they could earn some time?”
“Both possible at the moment. What do you think we should do?”
“I think we should play along. If their goal is to make us drop our guards, we’d just have to be continuously vigilant. If their goal is to stall, we would have gained so much more strength than they would have.”
I was in agreement.
Time was our ally. Rather than fear it, we could utilize it.
“I agree. Let’s go accept their offer. And so, our feud with the anti-Procell alliance is hereby put on hold.”
“Yes…though I can’t say I’m at ease.”
“I know what you mean. We might have triumphed against this band of experienced Demon Lords, but we might have gotten the attention of other, scarier Demon Lords in the process. The only way for us to be truly at ease is to become stronger.”
Things were likely to be even more dangerous if that was the case, but that would be outside of our full control. We could only hope that pushing until we have reached the end would be enough.
“My lord, that is all for my report.”
“Ok, thank you. You may go now. Oh, and please spread the news that all participants in the recent fight are to receive a substantial bonus. Of course, that includes you as well. I hope you treat your family to something nice.”
“I will, my lord. Today, we’re going to indulge ourselves.”
Duke bowed and then left.
…I had a concern about his report: we haven’t found a believable ringleader.
Given their A rank medals, one might assume either the [Pig] Demon Lord or the [Insect] Demon Lord founded and controlled the anti-Procell alliance. However, both couldn’t be the case. The [Pig] Demon Lord just didn’t fit the bill. Meanwhile, though the [Insect] Demon Lord put up a bit of resistance, it was ultimately no challenge at all to break his crystal, making it hard to believe he could lead multiple Demon Lords.
So, assuming that there was indeed someone pulling the strings, this fellow might not be among the known members and were in hiding.
…it’s also possible that this settlement agreement is just a distraction so that I wouldn’t go look for that mastermind. Either way, it’s just so hard to believe the list of members that their side voluntarily presented to be the definitive list.
Thankfully, Duke was able to bring back the [Insect] Demon Lord alive.
I had told Duke to break the [Insect] Demon Lord’s crystal, but also spare and bring back the Demon Lord himself if at all possible.
My plan was to use every means at our disposal to extract information out of him. Even torture wasn’t off limits. Obviously, I disliked such violent methods, but I wouldn’t hesitate doing them for the sake of Avalon and my monsters.
Showing leniency towards an enemy was akin to putting an important friend in danger. If one let an enemy flee from the battlefield, they might find the next day that a friend was attacked by that enemy. I don’t want to become the fool who cry and regret the things he could have prevented.
A short while after Duke’s report, I exited my office. When I did, monsters who were waiting for me to come out surrounded me.
“Oto-san, Kuina did a lot!”
“Your majesty, I’ve become really, really strong! I’ve gained, like, more than 20 levels!”
Kuina, Tiro, and Raph exclaimed so. Kuina’s fox tail was swinging left and right; Tiro’s tongue was out; and Raph’s wings were spread wide.
These three were among the easiest to guess what they were thinking out of all my monsters.
“And you’ve all returned safe.”
When I replied so, the three then began talking simultaneously. I couldn’t catch a word they were saying. As ever, they’re quite the handful.
“…hey, why don’t we go for some sweets? Talking about what you did while eating them is a lot better than talking while standing here, right?”
Duke had already recounted the battle for me. However, his report was from the perspective of a commander. The bird’s-eye view, if you will.
Hearing stories from other fighters, especially those that fought on the frontlines, could prove beneficial. Maybe I’ll even discover something.
But above all reasons, these girls wanted to boast and listening to such things was also a Demon Lord’s duty.
I had travelled to Marcho’s dungeon.
This was the venue chosen for the settlement. It was safest for both sides to use the dungeon of a third-party Demon Lord. And since we were asking the [Law] Demon Lord Baal and Marcho to stand witness anyway, it was pretty much a choice between the two of them. In the end, we decided Marcho’s dungeon was the most neutral.
By the way, [Law] Demon Lord Baal looked like a strict, middle-aged man.
According to Marcho, he put value in fairness more than any other Demon Lord, and as such, he would not intentionally favor one side more than the other.
Anyway, when all was present, we began the proceedings.
Just like what we initially discussed, I declared to not harm them anymore. Meanwhile each one of them swore through [Blood Pact] that they would not harm me anymore too, and also to give me one original medal each month for a whole year.
After that, [Law] Demon Lord Baal announced that his duty here was over and then left.
The former members of the anti-Procell alliance quickly followed suit and escaped.
And so, only Marcho and I remained. Finally, I can loosen up. Geez, that was so tiring. I’m even tempted to say I would rather fight than go through this again.
“Glad that ended peacefully. Thanks to this, there shouldn’t be any Demon Lord challenging you into a fight anytime soon.”
Marcho said so as she walked to my side.
“I hope so, but I’ll still continue to prepare. I mean, whether that proves true or not, I’d still need to gain more power for my upcoming graduation.”
“My, aren’t you a responsible and independent child? I guess there’s nothing left for me to teach you.”
“Maybe, but I can say with great confidence that I am who I am today largely thanks to you.”
“I feel blessed as your guardian to hear you say that, but why are you suddenly saying such an embarrassing thing?”
“I don’t know; I just felt like it.”
Truth be told, I wanted to go on another date with Marcho now that the meeting was over, but sadly, I had an appointment. I was set to go to Belial’s dungeon.
I was going to use this meeting as the way to retrieve the listening device I planted in his crystal room.
This listening device was the final confirmation I needed.
Demon Lords typically stay the longest in their crystal rooms because it was there that they could monitor their dungeons.
Moreover, because it was the innermost place in their dungeons, they assume that it was also the safest place. In other words, they let their guards down there.
I must find out the meaning once and for all of that sudden and short reaction of his.
And so, even though I was reluctant to say goodbye to Marcho, I headed for his dungeon.
I had expected this day to come sooner or later. In accordance, I have been preparing as much as I could. I even borrowed the help of Stolas and Ronove.
Alright, let’s go end this doubting.
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