I had journeyed to the Royal Capital of the Axela Kingdom.
After landing, I put the Darkness Dragons into my [Storage], and then took a rather bumpy ride in the carriage provided by the kingdom.
My companion right now was just Kuina. This being her fist time in the capital, she was leaning her body toward the window and looking at the scenery outside.
"Oto-san, there's a lot of horsies here!"
From the outskirts of the city until the entrance, a large number of horse-drawn carriages were line up.
Golem-drawn carriages had already become the norm in Avalon, so it wasn't often we get to see so many horses in one place.
"Do you like horses?"
"I do! They're so delicious! Unlike piggies, they can be eaten raw as sashimi!"
I see, I thought as I smiled wryly.
Dishes employing horse meat were one of the latest trends spreading around in Avalon. And as Kuina said, eating it as sashimi was truly delicious.
"Anyway, I'll be counting on you for whatever happens today, Kuina."
"Yeah~ ♪! Leave it Kuina!"
I had taken precautions against the worst the case scenarios.
I had three trump cards for this occasion:
First was Stolas's abilities.
Second, the silver watch I received as a reward from the [Time] Demon Lord.
And third, the reward I received from the Creator for winning my [War] against [Viscosity], [Evil], and [Steel].
"…So, the time to use it has finally come, huh?"
The last trump card I listed carried great risks, so I had tried to avoid using it as much as possible. However, if push comes to shove, I would not hesitate to use it this time.
At any rate, the carriage that we rode had entered the capital.
It feels like I'm about to enter the belly of a mysterious beast.
It was quite lively inside the capital.
If in terms of just liveliness, Avalon was the much better one. However, the capital had a certain organized and systematic beauty to it that the ever-developing Avalon did not have.
"Oto-san, it's such a beautiful city!"
"Yeah. The streets are laid out in a perfect grid pattern, and buildings too are perfectly regulated. It's a view that you can't see in Avalon."
Most likely, the buildings here were being regulated to conform to quite rigid specifications so as to not disrupt the already established beauty of the city. After all, a royal capital must be beautiful.
While talking like that, we arrived at our destination.
By destination, I didn't mean the royal castle already. We had to stop by a facility which dealt with guiding guests from foreign nations first.
We stayed there for short a while before being guided to a room.
"Woah! This room's so big! The bed's so soft!"
Kuina immediately dove into the bed.
It was nice room. At least for now, it seemed we were properly being treated as guests of honor.
A servant then appeared and informed us that should we need anything, all we had to do was ring a bell and he would come running at any time of the day—or night—to attend to that need. He also informed us that Prince Leonard would be arriving soon.
According to the schedule for today, after a short talk with Prince Leonard, we were to meet with the king and the other princes to inspect our newly built church wherein we would be holding a meeting. After that, Prince Leonard was supposed to give us a warm reception.
For the day after, together with the prince, we were to go to the [Dragon] Demon Lord's dungeon.
I had hoped that this whole trip would be over without any single incident, but I knew that was impossible.
Ruru's voice then came from my water-containing glass earing.
Being a R'lyeh Diva, she was able to use water as medium to communicate from the other dimension.
"Yeah. Loud and clear."
"Just as we suspected. Kuina felt them too. How about Aura? Have you gotten in touch with her?"
Oh, interesting. First Kuina said she alone might not be enough for the enemies, and now, Aura's this cautious.
The question now was where and when they would strike.
It was hard to imagine the attack on us would happen while we were negotiating with the royal family. The [Black] Demon Lord treated the royal family as convenient pawns, so he shouldn't want to get them caught in the crossfire.
If so, the attack might happen while taking a break after the negotiation. Or perhaps…
A servant then invited us to a reception room. We followed him there and then sat at a comfy sofa while we waited.
By the way, Kuina and I had changed into our formal attire. Furthermore, she had switched into her "lady" mode.
"Procell-dono, welcome! I have been so looking forward to meeting you again!"
Eyes full of enthusiasm, Prince Leonard rushed into the room and said such things.
"I should be the one saying that, prince. Thanks to you convincing the proper figures, the Holy Grail faith can now spread even in Axela."
"But it was the natural thing to do! In fact, I have made the spreading of your teaching—that humans and demi-humans are equal—my life's mission. In my eyes, the doctrine that says humans are the superior beings is just wrong. For our nation to develop, we must employ individuals of talent, regardless of their birth. So, you see, I did it more for my nation than to do you a favor. There's no need for thanks."
At that, I smiled wryly. It seemed like I had influenced him more than I thought.
Ruru contacted me again and reported so.
When the prince first came to Avalon, he was under the effects of the [Black] Demon Lord's magic. We had dispelled it, but there was a chance it could have been reapplied to him upon his return.
Anyway, as scheduled, the prince and I talked for a while. I asked how he had persuaded the king and the other important individuals. I also asked how he got everyone to attend the meeting that we would be having later.
We chatted for a while, uneventfully.
Once we were finished, the prince guided me outside. We rode a carriage and then headed to the newly built church. When we arrived, I saw a remarkably wonderful carriage that was surrounded by a group of knights.
There were only a few people who could have that much security on them.
When we exited our carriage, the other party also exited from theirs.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Procell-dono. I thank you for the enormous amount of wealth you've provided us. Of course, I am also deeply grateful for your medical treatment of our wounded soldiers and your intermediation with the [Dragon] Demon Lord. You have been a great help."
Although the middle-aged man that exited the luxurious carriage didn't lower his head, he said words of thanks.
For the leader of a country to say such words to the leader of a mere city in most remote of regions, it was unprecedented. It goes to show how dire things were for the Axela Kingdom.
"Oh no, I should be the one thanking you. I am very grateful for allowing us to build our church and conduct our religious rites."
"…Just to be clear, I only gave you permission. I and the kingdom are not bound by any oaths to promote or protect your religion."
In the latter case, the king probably was referring to protection from the disturbance to be caused by the believers of the [Black] Demon Lord's religion.
According to Ruru's reports, we had already been receiving some kind of harassment from them. Now that our church was finally built and our activities about to go full-swing, their harassment would probably only grow worse.
"Yes, we are clear on that. If I may be candid, we have no need for half-hearted believers who became believers only because the kingdom told them to. Our desire is not to simply gain more followers, it is to gain more followers who believe and practice my teachings."
At my reply, the king let out an ohh.
I had no need for donations or superficial believers. What I really wanted was devotion.
"I think it's better to see for yourselves what my teachings are all about."
According to Ruru, preparations for the mass were all done. Soon, she would step out from the other dimension to participate in the mass.
Aura was also in position. If anything so much as a shadow seem suspicious to her, she was ready to shoot it down.
The former swindler turned priest also seemed ready, looking very much the part.
And so, I guided the king and the princes to our prized church.
The mass was then over.
I was surprised at how great the swindler that Conanna referred. He was able to tell my teachings better than I ever did, embellishing it with fleshed-out narratives. His speech patterns, his intonations, and application of emotions were all very skillful. Impressive. One should not make light of a professional who used neither magic nor medicine, but just the art of conversation to coax people. Nevertheless, we still employed Ruru's song and Aura's [God's Smile] to have a 100% success.
"Father, you see now that everything I said was true, don't you??"
"Hmm, how to say it. Frankly, I have a bit of prejudice against new religions that are too good to be true. As the leader of my country, I still can't provide you any aid, but as an individual, I think I will take your teachings to heart and abide by them for the rest of my life. Leonard says you have holy books. Won't you give me one?"
"It will be my pleasure."
The priest descended from the stage and handed over copies of the holy book. He passed it to the king and Prince Leonard's brothers.
Counting the king as a supporter—if not a believer—was huge.
At this rate, the next meeting will go well. …now then, let's use that insurance here. It feels a bit awkward to deceive myself, but it might just decide victory or defeat.
We changed location once again, this time back to the facility earlier. Thanks in part to the effects of the mass, the atmosphere of the meeting was rather calm.
Everything was going smoothly. We quickly settled the specifics like how many injured soldiers that Avalon was going to take and when.
Just when we were about to end the meeting though, the atmosphere suddenly changed.
I felt a shiver down my spine. All of my instincts were roaring wildly, telling me to escape.
The king, the princes, and the other statesmen then immediately stood up and jumped at me. The other party being who they were, I couldn't carelessly shake them off.
And due to my order not to harm the royal family, Kuina's response was a little delayed.
"What has gotten into you?"
I tried to ask so, but no answer came.
Their eyes were unfocused. It was clear that they were being controlled even though I was sure we eliminated all possibilities of it happening.
However, rather than how, the question was why they were being controlled at this moment.
There was just no sense in restricting me like this.
For better or for worse, the answer came right away.
"Oto-san, outrageous magic power is coming from the sky. It's a ceremonial magic done by hundreds of people!"
Kuina said so as she concentrated all of her magic power into her hands that she had pointed upwards.
"It can't be. Does he intend to blow away this building even though the royal family is in here too!?"
We had expected that there would be an attack, but not such an extreme one where everyone in the same building—including the royal family—would be annihilated.
Nevertheless, the attack came. It was a pillar of light that had the holy attribute.
It punched through the ceiling like it was nothing.
"I won't let you kill Oto-san!"
Kuina erected a barrier of flame. However, flames were originally not geared toward defense. Moreover, the attack in question was a ceremonial magic that needed to be prepared beforehand by several hundreds of individuals. There was no way her barrier would hold.
She then used her golden red flames and clad herself in it. Even with that though, there was no way the pillar of light would be pushed back. But then, as though fully aware of that, Kuina looked and smiled at me with a face full of resolve. She then leapt leaping toward me, brushed away the royal family members that were restraining me, and pushed me down herself.
"Even if Kuina dies, Kuina will protect Oto-san. Oto-san, sorry, I don't think Kuina can keep our promise of being together forever."
Right after she said so, she transformed into a giant fox that covered all of me. Using what magic power she had remaining, she hardened her golden furs.
Shortly after that, the pillar of light made a direct hit.
The ceremonial magic finally stopped and the pillar of light gone.
The sky, it's visible even though I'm inside a building. No, wait… I have to check something first.
"Kuina, are you alright?"
There was no answer.
Unconscious and back to her humanoid form, she laid on top of me. Her body was covered in wounds and her face had gone pale.
"Kuina, answer me, please, Kuina"
No matter how much I begged, there was no response. Not even so much as a twitch. At that moment, a grave thought crossed my mind. No, no, no, I will not accept that.
Accept it or not though, particles of light were rising from Kuina's body. Soon thereafter, the particles and Kuina herself were gone.
I screamed so as loud as I could. I tried to reach for one particle of light, but all I grasped was air.
Kuina was my first monster as well as my most beloved.
We were supposed to always be together, but now, she was gone.
"Miserable, that's the only word to describe you right now, wouldn't you agree, [Creation] Demon Lord?"
The moment I heard that voice, two angel-type monsters pinned me down and bound my arms behind my back. Soon after that, the [Black] Demon Lord himself appeared.
"You! Why, why involve even the royal family!?"
Due to the situation, I was late in realizing that the members of the royal family that were present for the meeting had all perished.
"Haha. How should I put it? They're nothing more than mere pawns. Easily replaceable. But isn't it normal to do whatever it takes to catch your opponent unprepared?"
"Even so, don't you feel anything for your believers? As imperfect as you are, they worship you. Doesn't your chest hurt at the very least when you kill your believers!?"
"You do say the strangest of things. Wait, don't tell me you actually believe what you're saying. These so-called believers are nothing more than livestock. Expendable livestock that will believe whatever convenient thing you say. So, no, my chest did not hurt. Well, expending the livestock with role of royalty was a bit wasteful, I admit, but you know what? Humans are unexpectedly clever; I'll have a replacement soon enough."
The [Black] Demon Lord said so and then laughed heartily.
Surveying the field one more time, I finally accepted defeat. It would take considerably less time to kill me than for Aura and Ruru to mow down the group of angel-type monsters.
It was over. There was no use resisting.
"Kill me already, [Black] Demon Lord"
At least this way, I would die with honor, for whatever that was worth.
"Now, why would I do such a wasteful thing? You're a fool, true, but you have an excellent ability. With my ability, I could dye your heart [Black] and make you useful for once."
According to the [Time] Demon Lord, in exchange for a huge amount of magic power, the [Black] Demon Lord could dye his target's heart black and control them. This worked even if the target was a Demon Lord. That meant that no matter how much a war was progressing badly for him, he could still turn the tides in just one fell swoop. Worse still, there was no direct defense against it.
Considering that it was a fate worse than death, I tried to break free, but the angel-type monsters' hold was just too strong. Furthermore, they reached for the silver watch hanging from my chest and snatched it off.
That watch was awarded to me by the [Time] Demon Lord. If I used it to stop my own time, the [Black] Demon Lord's ability could be prevented and because of the high magic power consumption of his ability, it was unlikely he could use it on me again so soon. Alas, with the watch stolen from me, this was no longer possible.
"Now, become mine, [Creation] Demon Lord"
"Fuck off. For taking Kuina, there's no way… there's no way…"
I wasn't able to continue my sentence. My heart grew darker and darker. And then, I vanished.
Who am I? That's right, I'm…
"Your wish is my command, [Black] Demon Lord-sama."
I am the [Black] Demon Lord's loyal servant.
"Fuhahahaha! I've obtained the ultimate power! I should be able to win against [Dragon] and [Time]!"
The [Black] Demon Lord laughed heartily.
"First order of business. [Command] all of your monsters to swear loyalty to me. You probably have some deployed nearby. Let's start with them. Summon them here and make them swear their loyalty to me."
"As you command, [Black] Demon Lord-sama."
Like he was ordered, Procell called Aura and Ruru.
Riding the wind, the first to arrive was Aura. With a thump, she landed by Procell's side.
"So, this is the rumored Ancient Elf. I see, such a beautiful monster. I've always wanted a monster with such talent and beauty. Let's see, why don't you demonstrate that talent of yours? Using your weapon, shoot the clock tower two kilometers away in that direction. If anyone can do it, it's you, right?"
The [Black] Demon Lord ordered Aura so. Procell had already commanded her to be obedient to the [Black] Demon Lord's commands.
And so, she readied her prized anti-materiel rifle and pointed it toward the aforementioned clock tower.
"Then, please observe my shooting."
Aura said so and pulled the trigger three times. However, rather than the clock tower, her actual targets were the heads of Procell and the two angel-type monsters that restricted his movements.
At the sight of what should have been an impossible thing—a monster attacking their own Demon Lord—the [Black] Demon Lord was wide-eyed.
"Phew. Even though it's a fake, it still bothers me to shoot master."
After saying so, Aura then looked at the [Black] Demon Lord with cold eyes full of disdain.
"What- wh you, what are you doing!?"
"What, you ask. I'm eliminating the enemy, duh?"
At that answer, the [Black] Demon Lord was confused.
Before he could say anything else, the water beneath his feet surged and formed a cage. Right after, R'lyeh Diva, the beautiful, blue-haired otherworld songstress, appeared.
"Aura, everything's OK on my end too. The capture has been safely completed."
Ruru said so and then gracefully smiled.
"You! How dare you! Release me this instant!"
"Eh. Even if you say that, I'm under no obligation to obey you."
"Yup. Me too. Our master's the only one we'll listen to."
The two girls responded so and then smiled.
Right then, the sound of footsteps could be heard and everyone turned to see whom it belonged to.
"Did you have a good dream? Frankly speaking, your cowardice and arrogance has made your moves readable. But I guess I have to thank you for that interesting speech. You've awakened a lot of people to the truth."
The one who spoke was none other than [Creation] Demon Lord Procell. By his side were the supposed-to-have-perished royal family and Kuina the Celestial Fox.
At that moment, the [Black] Demon Lord finally realized who was doing the trapping and the one getting trapped.