The door opened, letting out a small stream of light that was cut off just as quickly. A robust person had walked into the darkroom before heading straight to a dark table in the back where he sat down. He was hooded and looking terribly suspicious, but this was an inn where everyone was hooded, and there wasn’t a single person who didn’t look suspicious.
Sitting in the corner of the room was such a group of suspicious-looking people. They seemed to come in all shapes and sizes, included both men and women. If someone looked carefully, they’d see that not all of them were elves either, but this wasn’t the kind of establishment that asked those sorts of questions.
One suspicious individual in a black hood leaned forward toward the man who had just walked in and sat down.
“What’s the news?” I asked in a low voice.
“Mostly talk about the upcoming war. According to them, the beastkin attacked one of their outposts using an army of undead.”
“Undead… no beastkin?”
“Beastkin are most known for their necromancy. Who else could raise an undead army?”
“It’s impossible!” A girl’s voice angrily came out, her long bunny ear, nearly slipping out of her hood before she pushed it back in. “Why would the beastkin attack while sending us?”
“Any thoughts, General Tucci?”
“…” General Tucci looked down, causing Lucy to glance over at him questioningly. “If… and this is purely hypothetical. My King has no particular care for the human realm. All he wants is a connection to the devil lands. He could have made a deal, a sister of the human realm, for example, in exchange for the land.”
“N-no!” Lucy cried out, shaking her head. “Then why would he send you? That prince was ready to kill both of us.”
“Is it so hard to believe? I was placed in charge of such a necromancy army. I failed the King and lost. Once the undead army is destroyed, the King can claim it was just a rogue element. He can say he didn’t know about it. He could say whatever he wanted. A high-ranking disgraced general, already in their hands, then cut off my head, sign a peace treaty and granting certain undisclosed land. The elves get what they want, and the King gets what he wants. As for me, my life would be given for my Kingdom. What better fate could a man like me hope for without even offspring to continue my line? Even speaking these words is treasonous!”
Lucy was still shaking her head in disbelief with her mouth gaping open. “But… the King wouldn’t do that to me.”
The General looked down. “You’ve always had… a fondness for our King. He’s always been a man to do whatever was necessary to achieve his goals. That has never changed. If he felt that he had enough gains, there is no limit to what he wouldn’t do.”
Finally, Lucy dropped her head, a bitter expression on her face.
“You may be able to say that about your King.” Another woman with a deeper, colder voice spoke up. “However, my father is not the kind of man to make such an agreement. He wouldn’t allow an army of undead into his nation. Thousands would die. He also wouldn’t be so underhanded as to promise Olivia or my sister away.”
Bala rarely said so many words, but when she spoke, she was seething with emotion. She wasn’t saying idle things from denial. She genuinely believed her father wouldn’t do this.
“What are your thoughts?” Baba, the shortest at the table, suddenly asked me. “You wouldn’t have brought us to an inn just outside the Capitol of our enemy just for anything.”
“We don’t need to dwell on what we don’t know,” I said. “The basic truth was a deal was struck, and the King of the beastkin is trying to set us all up for chumps. Saria, you two, Olivia… you were all just bargaining chips for someone’s political game. As for me, I was just a nuisance they tried to sweep under the rug. What am I going to do? What I always do! I’m going to turn things in my favor.
Saria’s wedding is tomorrow morning. It’s a royal wedding, so even with the conflict going on, the security in the Capitol will be tight. By then, they’ll probably know about their brother’s death too. Therefore, it won’t be easy sneaking into the city.”
“We know all that. What do you plan to do?”
“I’m a devil. My strengths are illusions and shadow magic—basically, infiltration. I’ll be getting into the castle. I’m going to go through, one prince at a time, until I find out what their plan is, and then publicize the truth. Then, I’ll be taking Saria and Olivia and fleeing this country once and for all.”
“You honestly think you can do it?” Baba asked.
“I can’t really afford to waste time thinking about it. I’m just going to make it happen.”
My final words had put a dampening mood on everyone. Captain Moar, who had been the one to sneak around and do some reconnaissance, ordered a bottle of whisky and went up to his room. The rest of us drifted off one at a time.
It was a simple plan, but simple plans had the most flexibility. Save my sister, save my fiancée, and leave. If I could find some evidence that could slow their pursuit, that would be best. I may turn to their tunnel systems to escape. They wouldn’t guess I had a map of the area, so there was no way they would assume I’d travel down there. Even if they did, I wouldn’t be heading for the human realm, so they wouldn’t even know what direction I was going.
No, once I had my sisters, my decision was to head straight for the dwarven lands. If the elves wanted me, the dwarves would get in their way. Dwarves and elves didn’t have any intense hatred in this world, but they did tend to exist like cats and dogs. I had no doubt that the dwarves would hinder the elves just for their own entertainment.
I finished my own drink and started heading up to my room. Lucy was still there with her head down, but she had General Tucci, who I somewhat trusted to keep her safe. I opened my room to see a woman inside it. It was the woman I expected would be there.
“My sweet baby…” She raced over and wrapped her arms around me, rapidly kissing my cheek and neck.
“It’s okay, mom!” She had started crying while she hugged me, and suddenly her hands started trying to undress me. “Ah! Mom!”
I ended up finding myself having to fend off mom’s lightning hands for some time. By the time I calmed her down and got her out of my room, I was out of my pants and shirt and was covered in red lipstick. I pushed her out the door and slammed it, giving myself a breather. We each had our own room tonight. I wasn’t planning to take any of the girls to bed with me tonight for various reasons. We basically had rented out the entire inn, which allowed us to remain conspicuous. As for the innkeeper, we gave him enough coin and promised more in the morning as long as he kept his mouth shut. Elf or human, when you went to the commoner class, their loyalty only went so far.
Rinsing my body, I finally got into my bed. It felt like no sooner did I turn out the lights and close my eyes than a feeling of cold steel press against my neck. I could feel the pressure of a body on top of me, and I could only let out a sigh and open my eyes.
“I have a very busy day tomorrow. Can we do this some other time.”
“No!” Lucy hissed, pushing the knife slightly.
She was no longer in her cloak. In fact, she had cleaned up entirely and was wearing a long dress for sleeping, but she had managed to slip into my room with a knife in hand and was now threatening me with it. She had a flowery soap aroma emanating from her body, and her hair had the appearance of having just been washed. I really wasn’t in the mood to deal with another emotional swing from this girl.
“Are you going to kill me?” I asked simply.
Her hand shook, and she didn’t meet my eyes. “I… read the note. The letter the King ordered me to send.”
“Oh, so, what did it say?”
“Don’t you already know that answer?”
“How could I?” I said, but when she pressed the knife to the point it felt like it might cut, I added. “I had my theories, but all I have are my own guesses!”
She lightened her grip, her entire body shaking this time. “It was as General Tucci said. I wanted to prove him wrong. I wanted to tell him that the King he followed hadn’t abandoned us. However, it was exactly as he suggested. The King stated that they could have me and that with a strong hand I would make a meek bride! It’s as if that bastard doesn’t understand me at all! I have given everything to him, and he calls me meek!”
I could only listen and give a grim smile. It almost seemed like she was more upset that the King misread her than that he had given her away. I knew the relationship between her and the King wasn’t simple. She likely used him as a replacement for her father. It turned out, that relationship wasn’t as close as she had thought. The thing was, she did have someone who saw her as a daughter, but she didn’t seem to notice.
General Tucci was all but committing treason by following along. If he knew his King’s intent, it shouldn’t have mattered. He was a man of honor, and if his King told him to fall on a blade, he would. In a normal situation, he would have been the King’s patsy deliberately. Yet, here he was, in direct defiance of the King. Not only did he not turn himself in, but he was working along with someone he considered an enemy.
To me, the reason for that was as clear as day. He loved Lucy as much as he loved his own son. He wouldn’t hurt her willingly and was even willing to go against his King’s desires for her. It couldn’t be easy for him, but Lucy, who only had eyes for the King, hadn’t seemed to notice how he saw her.
She stared at me, unblinkingly, for quite some time. Then she shook her head.
“Tucci was to take responsibility for the attack, and I was to be married off to one of the brothers. It had been their plan from the beginning.”
I licked my lips. “Was this letter addressed to the King?”
She cocked her head, her long ears falling to the side, and then she nodded. “Of course? The King of Peri, may he live forever.”
I nodded slowly. “I see…”
“Why? What are you thinking?”
“Nothing much. Just that Bala is probably right. Her father wouldn’t do this. As for his sons, I couldn’t say…”
“You think… they’ve taken over the country?”
“The King hasn’t been seen, correct? It seems like every brother was bribed to participate. They’re young, hotblooded, and determined… it makes sense, doesn’t it?”
She nodded slowly. “So, that’s how it is. My letter wasn’t intended for the King, but for whatever King happened to capture me.”
“Perhaps the coup d’etat was pure accident. Perhaps the original King was intended to receive that letter, and Benatong’s King was hoping to cause one of the sons to defect. Or perhaps he had already known they’d defect ahead of time. Even if a coup d’etat hadn’t occurred, after being attacked, the King would have been placed in a hard place. His only options would be to go along with Benatong’s Peace agreement or start a war they didn’t want to start. It was a war where they would look like the aggressors, seeing as they had you and the General. In short, the King had us all playing in his hands from the get-go.
“As for the goblins, they were probably the work of whoever the prince is who is leading the coup d’etat. They were trying to create a reason to weaken their father’s position. They wanted his most loyal sent away to deal with foreign threats. I had interrupted his plans when I solved the goblin crisis, but they lucked out when Benatong attacked. Whether they figured out you were a ruse or not, that’s not clear, but it was a pretty good plan. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, or something like that.”
“I see…” Lucy finally lowered her knife. “So, it was like that all along.”
She had a somewhat sad smile on her face. It had to be tough learning that your idol was actually a master planner who had sealed your fate and used you for his own ends.
“So, are we done?” I asked, having finally given away just about everything I knew.
“Olivia… you impregnated her. She is your slave, isn’t she?”
“…” I remained silent, watching her hesitantly.
“You don’t have to say anything. I can smell it. It’s like a scent. Your smell is all over her. It’s even inside her. It’s like you’ve claimed her.”
“She asked me to do so,” I responded, not trying to come off as defensive.
“You know where she is? You can sense her direction?”
I nodded slowly. “At the moment, she’s in the direction of the Greenvale.”
It was one of the reasons I wasn’t more worried about her. If it was needed, I could follow her to the end of the earth, just like Aeryn and Bala could follow me. The one I was more worried about was Saria, but when it came to her, I knew exactly where she would be tomorrow morning, so I planned to use that information to the fullest.
“If… you did the same to me… you could find me no matter where I went too, correct?”
My eyes widened. “Lucy?”
She blushed, her hand tightening on the knife as she waved it menacingly at me. “Don’t get me wrong! I think you’re a pig who should die!”
She let out a breath. “I’m done with this. I want to abdicate the throne to you. Since my King has already tossed it away, then I will as well.”
“Even if you said that it has to be done in front of the council and witnessed.”
“I know that!’ She hissed. “I’m just saying, I don’t want to have any of the human lands! You win, okay?”
I bit my lip bitterly. “I haven’t won anything. You still have 1/6th, and I have 1/6th. Even Olivia, she also has 1/6th. Until we’re all back in the human realm and protected, our country is still divided.”
“You… really want to save them? The humans? They were the ones who rejected us! They called us freaks! They rejected you most of all!”
“They’re my people, and I owe it to this world to keep the balance.” I sighed. “A threat is coming, and I feel the human realm is going to need to be at full power to resist it. All of the nations will have to come together. What we need now is unity, not division.”
This world had offered me my second life. By all account, I should have been dead. Many would call your life priceless. Since I owned something so valuable, I would try my best to do what I was put on this planet to do.
“Then… it is best if you imprison me as well.” Lucy spoke lightly.
“Excuse me?” I was sure I didn’t hear her properly.
She wasn’t just inquiring about it, but it now sounded like she was actually asking.
“The things that bond me were shattered today.” She responded. “I have nothing to fight for any longer. So, I might as well give you what you want, right? So, impregnate me! Put your seed inside me. Make me your slave!”
As she spoke, tears began to fall down her cheeks. I reached up to touch her cheek. She drew back at first, but then slowly lowered her head until her cheek was in my hand. She closed her eyes as even more tears fell. I cautiously wiped them away.
As a brother, I wanted to comfort my sister. However, as someone trying to save this world, I couldn’t afford too many pleasantries. I knew that her mind was disordered after her betrayal. She was throwing herself at me exactly because her faith in her King had been shattered. It was a natural response, giving yourself to a new Master to hide from the pain. Bala had done something similar. Perhaps, that was why she was even willing to go so far as to behead her own brother at my order. Yet, I didn’t have time to do things the soft or civil way.
“Don’t think such words are idle,” I responded. “I’m a devil. I won’t be considering your feelings or dreams. I’ll take what I want from you. I won’t just have your land and your body, but I’ll take your mind and soul as well. If you succumb, I’ll take everything.”
As I said this, one of her hands had touched the one on her face. Even though her eyes were closed, she rotated my hand, causing my thumb to rub across her lips. She opened them and then took my thumb into her mouth, sucking on it. The action immediately caused blood to flow to areas. Those areas were areas Lucy was already straddling.
A realization I should have noticed before only came spiraling at me now. She was wearing a pajama dress, but there was no underwear under it. She had cleaned her body thoroughly, done up her hair, and it even smelled like a floral perfume. From the second she had broken into my room, this had been her plan. She hadn’t come to my room to threaten to kill me or to find out what my plans were. She was simply trying to build up the courage to give herself to me.
So, I gave her exactly what she wanted. I took her.