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The demons’ invasion into Fokalore came to a complete standstill. Once Vepar began to genuinely work on the administration and government of Vichy’s territory by dispatching personnel all across the country, her subordinates, which were lacking in numbers even under normal circumstances, were scattered even further.
For the demons, who originally survived in a region with many monsters, managing vast cities and moreover several cities where different races live went beyond being unfamiliar with it, going straight into the realm of the unknown.
“It would have been better if we had done this after more preparations…” (Vepar)
Vepar had prepared an office at her new residence. While approving one document after the other asking for instructions, she was at her wits’ end everyday.
Her new castle in Vichy was in a remarkably huge city located in the central area of Vichy and is a building that also served as inn used by the politicians formerly referred to as central committee. All of the committee members had been caught and publicly executed as an example to suppress the humans.
It wasn’t Vepar’s personal taste to do so, but to hold down the great numbers of humans with their few numbers, she decided that it would be the easiest way to rule them with fear by demonstrating their power. Since the strength of the demons, albeit being only few, was plenty of a threat for all the cities of Vichy, which had lost quite a lot soldiers against the reinforced soldiers and the first demon invasion, one might say that she more or less succeeded in her objective.
But, there were also demerits to it.
Because sovereignty wasn’t transferred peacefully, the peers of the committee members in many cities died or ran away. The populace that is scared of the demons had become easy to deal with, but the cities’ administrations had lost most of its staff with only the underlings remaining, forcing the demons to take over the city management, using trial and error methods.
Among the demons, who were appointed as the ones in charge for the cities’ control, there were also some who quickly managed to paralyze their city’s functions by making the population more afraid than necessary through their tyrannical behavior, causing large-scale migrations and riots.
“I-I don’t have any time for war right now.” (Vepar)
“Majestyyy, here are some additional documents.” (Nyarl)
The one who placed a huge pile of documents in of front of Vepar’s eyes with a thump was Nyarl who had become an aide of the king together with her partner Pheres. She managed to get ahead in her career, but with the surroundings of the current queen Vepar being too pressured with work, you can’t really describe her position as a fortunate one.
“Excuse me.” (Pheres)
“Ah, Pheres.” (Nyarl)
“Don’t “Ah” me, okay? You are losing focus too much in front of Her Majesty…here’s a report of the war’s progress.” (Pheres)
“Read it out loud. I don’t want to look at any more characters.” (Vepar)
Looking at the document that was added in front of her with a fed-up expression, Vepar ordered Pheres to read it.
“Uuummm…”Losses, insignificant. But, achieving our goals is still far off. The enemy’s defense is strong.” That’s all.” (Pheres)
“Isn’t that the same as yesterday?” (Vepar)
“Yesterday began with “Losses, none,” though.” (Pheres)
Vepar felt a headache coming up upon Pheres correcting her smoothly with a serious look. ‘In short, that means not only are they at a loss how to continue against Orsongrande and Horant in contrast to Vichy, but they are even suffering losses.
The group that got transferred to Vichy at first aimed for a border city called Rhone, but on top of an excessively firm wall having been built there, it had a magic barrier that appeared to be cast by the elves, and the demons received spear-shooting attacks through small, mysterious holes that had been prepared in the wall, causing considerable losses among them.
After that they have been continuing their approach cautiously, but the more time passed, the stronger the wall became and the attacks became more severe as well. At this point in time it has developed into a complete standstill.
“Having said that, right now we don’t have any leeway to send reinforcements…”
Even the commanding officers on-site understand that we don’t have any surplus in the numbers of our soldiers. On the other hand, they also have their pride in having been entrusted with the war’s aspects, thus not appealing for reinforcements in the letters.
Coupled with those circumstances, they apparently ceased writing about things in their reports as the situation keeps staying the same.
“… It’s just that I really want to tie a ceasefire.”
Right now the demons, who hold an aggressive stance, represent the majority. Vepar had hoped that they might settle down after the occupation of Vichy, but beginning with Bashim, who is raging after having one of his arms taken away from him, there’s no indication that he movement towards war is lessening yet.
As for Vepar, she wanted to aim towards stabilizing the new territories the demons gained, Swordland and Vichy, after having managed to conclude the fighting for now. It will take time, but unless we build a foundation and foster manpower, we won’t be able to win in a war. And even if we were to win, we won’t be able to rule those new areas.
“In contrast to those utter fools, who don’t think of anything but battles and destruction, I have to also consider the future. Besides, I don’t want to go down in history as foolish demon queen.” (Vepar)
“But, at this rate our numbers will only keep decreasing, won’t they?”
“Isn’t there something like a reaaally amazing magic? Allowing us to destroy the enemy’s defense wall or such.”
Continuing after Pheres’ calm retort, Nyarl bubbles about something ridiculous.
While managing to hold back her consciousness separating from reality to some extent as she wonders, Just how far have my staff officers fallen, she once again scrutinizes the plan she had considered for the last few days.
“I have come up with a method, but…if it fails, I will definitely get killed by the other demons.” (Vepar)
Due to her turbulent words, Pheres and Nyarl stayed silent and looked at Vepar.
“… There was a guy good at transforming into a human, wasn’t there? I believe he returned from a human city a little while ago. Can I have you summon him?” (Vepar)
Vepar handed a hurriedly written document to the demon who arrived in her office shortly thereafter.
“Enter Rhone disguised as refugee and secretly deliver this letter. You can claim to be a merchant who brought it with him after being employed by the demons to do so.” (Vepar)
“I shall do as you order.”
Respectfully receiving the letter, the man says that he will depart at once and leaves the office.
“… All that’s left is to only pray that there aren’t just people like Hifumi among the human rulers.” (Vepar)
Two months had passed since Hifumi started to train the knights while staying in the capital. It looked like the knight’s bodies had toughened up a bit. Only the most excelled among the knight order were chosen. As for Hifumi, he thought that the training is proceeding at an adequately reasonable pace.
Not wanting to live in the royal castle, Hifumi had purchased an old mansion located around 15 minutes away. He’s living there with Origa and several servants.
Early in the mornings he meditates to relax his body, then he heads to the castle while jogging. All of his morning is used for training. After that, in the afternoon, he enjoys a slow life of training with Origa or hunting monsters on a whim to sell their materials to the guild.
“It looks like you are still moving your body, but as person, who knows the you from before, I somehow feel like you are currently living the life of a retired soldier.” (Imeraria)
He was told by Imeraria whom he met inside the castle, but since it’s a fact that he has actually retired after passing on his peerage to Alyssa, Hifumi didn’t have the slightest interest or intention to increase the troublesome burdens such as work or socializing any further.
After being released from the hectic territory administration, Origa is fully satisfied with taking care of the housework for Hifumi as well as training and going hunting together with him. Even during the times when she occasionally ran into Imeraria while inside the castle, she always kept smiling.
The national border is enveloped in a war, but Hifumi bluntly declared, “Alyssa is no little child anymore, so I will leave it to her”, without trying to get involved any further.
Beginning with Imeraria, the people around Hifumi, such as Sabnak and the knights on surveillance duty, were full of worry wondering when Hifumi would rush out to battle against the demons.
“Master, here’s your regular report.” (Viine)
“Ah, Viine, huh? (Hifumi)
The one-eared rabbit woman ran up to Hifumi who was oiling his katana in the living room while being bathed by sunlight after lunch had come to an end. Visiting Hifumi every few days in his mansion in the capital, she brought back information from Fokalore, stayed for a few days and then returned to Fokalore again. That was her usual routine.
It seems she’s earnestly coming and going in a platform wagon while being accompanied by several soldiers. She stays at Hifumi’s mansion, but as for Fokalore, she make a round trip going even as far as not staying there overnight, according to the guards’ grumblings.
While putting his katana away and scanning through the documents he was handed, Hifumi tasted the black tea with an expression as if he was pondering about something.
The movements of the demons, the economic developments in Tohno Earldom and major events have been recorded in the report. Several sheets depicting each day during Viine’s absence were tied up into a bundle.
“A large number of soldier in a short time, eh?” (Hifumi)
“According to the information from the refugees flowing into Orsongrande, there’s no mistake that the country called Vichy has already fallen into the hands of the demons,” Caim had noted down. “Moreover, there had been a contact towards our side from the demons.”
In a note put into the envelope together with the official documents to be delivered to the rulers of Horant and Orsongrande Alyssa wrote, “I leave it to you to you whether to pass it on the royal castle.”
“Don’t push the decision on me.” (Hifumi)
Taking the official document out of its envelope, he heads to a window, holds it up against the light and looks at it.
It’s said that the sealed letter arrived through a merchant, who escaped from Vichy, together with the words “I was given that by the demons.” The merchant himself was suspicious, but as result of Alyssa, who couldn’t come up with a proper reason, trying to arrest him with just a vague reasoning, the soldiers were bewildered and thus started to act belatedly, resulting in the merchant in question managing to run away.
“Boy, oh boy…” (Hifumi)
It looks like it will still take quite some time for Alyssa to act like a proper feudal lord.
“Vepar also appears to be confused by the battlefield suddenly expanding.” (Hifumi)
He returns the sealed document and the report from Fokalore to Viine.
“Please deliver this to Imeraria together with Origa. While you are at it, you might as well go talk with Puuse.” (Hifumi)
“Yes. Thank you very much.” (Viine)
Being told by Hifumi, “She’s probably in the middle of preparing dinner”, Viine runs into the kitchen while holding the documents at her chest.
Viine’s appearance from behind as she runs while her one long ear jolts up and down is a lot more confident than before when she was still a slave. While continuing to make round trips between the capital and Fokalore, she has apparently gotten used to human cities.
At the same time, the cities in-between the capital and Fokalore as well as the soldiers acting as guards were gradually growing accustomed to beastmen and elves. That might be boosted by the fact that they are no different to humans in what they eat and how they feel slowly becoming well-known.
Nowadays Puuse often appears at official occasions together with Imeraria. At first, when Puuse’s inauguration as Imeraria’s advisor was announced, there were apparently a considerable number of people voicing their concerns on the square in front of the royal castle though.
“… At any rate, shinigami.” (Hifumi)
“You have called for me?”
“You did something to Vepar, didn’t you?” (Hifumi)
While not averting his eyes from the low table in front of him, Hifumi quietly called out to the shinigami who appeared behind him.
“Well, I wonder what you might be speaking of?”
Releasing an insincere, frivolous smile, the shinigami shrugged its shoulders, well-aware that it won’t be seen by Hifumi.
“Fair enough. …By the way, there’s something I want to know.” (Hifumi)
“If it’s something the likes of me is capable of answering.”
It bows its head accompanied by a nimble movement of its right hand, just like the polite bow of a noble, in an exaggerated manner.
“Even though it’s the same dark magic, I suppose there are people who can allow living creatures to pass through it and others, like me, who can only manipulate things.” (Hifumi)
“Magic is largely influenced by knowledge and concrete visualisation. Even if it’s the same attribute, the effect will change depending on its user.”
“I see. Visualisation, huh?” (Hifumi)
“If you use dark magic, there will be a great difference in the outcome depending on whether one is capable of clearly imagining what form it should take,” the shinigami explained in addition. For living creatures being unable to pass through the hole opened by Hifumi is very likely owed to him having read literary works in the past that doubted whether it would be normal for that to be possible.
Meaning, Vepar’s imagination power might be quite high in regards to dark magic.
He looks at his left hand, covered by a leather glove. I have no intention to rely much on magic on the battlefield, but if this mana were to be gone, I would likely lose this hand. As a matter of fact it’s not there anymore, but it’s a big help that I can still use it as fake.
He smoothly removes the glove.
“Ooh, it looks like you have been condensing dark mana. Moreover, it’s in a wonderfully stable state. Rather than something like the pseudo-living objects created with dark magic, you have accomplished a materialization that’s by far more reliable.”
“You have my admiration,” the shinigami lines up empty words of praise.
While listening to that, Hifumi stood up quietly.
“A magical living object, huh? Are you any different?” (Hifumi)
“You might refer to me as dark mana…divine power. Originally I was a human, but after I stopped being a living creature tens of thousand years ago, you can regard me as power of darkness, if you try to directly define my existence.”
As there are people believing in a surrealistic being that brings about death, the shinigami has obtained the power allowing it to exist. By causing a huge number of deaths full of outrageous curses towards the world, the shinigami is capable of obtaining even stronger powers.
“Thank you for the thorough explanation. It allowed me to understand things.” (Hifumi)
As Hifumi thanks the shinigami while standing in front of it and staring at his left hand, the shinigami smiles broadly.
“That’s wonderful then. …Eh?”
“It appears that you weren’t capable of escaping your basic structure as former human, doesn’t it? The shape of your skull is the same as that of a normal human.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi’s dark left hand had seized the shinigami‘s face. Unable to dodge the attack due to its swiftness, Hifumi’s thumb and ring finger tightly held onto the shinigami‘s temples.
“W-What are you doing…?”
“Only disposal awaits a tool that served its duty. Besides, it would be a nuisance if someone were to use a joker like you, don’t you think?” (Hifumi)
“Disposal, you say. Something like that…”
“Is possible, right? After all magic depends on visualisation.” (Hifumi)
Hifumi’s pitch-black fingers completely penetrate into the shinigami‘s head. They are no filled with power. They are simply absorbing the shinigami‘s body through the places where they touch.
Due to the sensation of its own body diminishing, the shinigami started to panic with its calm expression falling apart for the first time.
“You said so yourself, didn’t you? You are dark mana in itself. If it’s mana, it can be absorbed just like a spell.” (Hifumi)
He declared and placed his trust in the imagination that supplemented his belief.
“P-Please stop… I granted you power and cooperated with you in other matters as well, didn’t I…?”
Ignoring the shinigami‘s words, Hifumi places his palm all over the shinigami‘s forehead, having already finished absorbing half of its head.
Its eyeballs have vanished as well, but despite that the shinigami opens its mouth,
“Don’t you understand where your own soul will go once I vanish? Let alone hell, it might roam the infinite darkness! If there’s a guide like me…”
“Shut up!” (Hifumi)
Pushing his hand down to around the area of the shinigami‘s waist in one go, Hifumi scrapes off its body in one breath.
“I don’t give a damn what happens to me after my death. I have no interest in anything besides how many I kill and in what way I will be killed while I’m still alive. Besides, I have gotten gradually fed up with being used by you.” (Hifumi)
The remaining hands and feet of the shinigami started to move, trying to launch an attack, but they were easily erased by relentless palm strikes delivered by Hifumi’s left hand.
Thoroughly, in order to not leave behind even the slightest fragments.
“… Hmm. Certainly, it feels like I was able to replenish my mana. I guess it was useful at the very end. That’s nice.” (Hifumi)
He returns to the sofa and rings a bell.
Then he requested a new tea from the maid that quickly arrived in the living room.
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