“If we do not offer humans at least the chance to improve their conditions, they will eventually riot!” Lieutenant Dire snapped, losing a bit of his usually cool demeanor.
The talks had started half an hour ago. As they spoke, food had been brought out. I didn’t touch the food and instead allowed Alleya to eat from my plate The dog girl wouldn’t take any food from the plate, and would only eat what Alleya offered her. That quickly turned into everything on the plate.
Humans ate less than demons, and a petite princess like Alleya ate even less, but the dog girl’s appetite was extreme. She quickly devoured everything Alleya offered her, and then looked down at the plate as if hoping she’d be allowed to eat more. Although Alleya was extremely cruel to Daphne, she didn’t seem to be able to resist the big brown eyes of this dog girl. She ended up feeding her everything from the plate. When it was all gone, she looked regretfully at an empty plate.
I ignored the pair and didn’t consider asking for seconds. I wasn’t in the mood to receive any irritating looks from nearby demons, and when we got home they could eat whatever they wanted anyway. My focus was instead on the arguments, which had been going on and on with very little progress being made. The fact that Dire’s usual smile had fallen and he looked exasperated was a tell to how bad it was.
“Who cares if they riot? We defeated them once when they had armies. The riffraff will be easy to clean up.” One demon on the other side spoke up.
“You’re soldiers, Lieutenant. Don’t tell me you’ve become a coward who doesn’t wish to fight. I’ve found most of the generals are aching for a good fight. There have even been skirmishes amongst our armies. If anything, the humans acting up would fix some trouble we’re having,” One demon brought up.
Dire’s expression darkened considerably at being called cowardly. Many of these demons weren’t military, but for any military demon, that was an extreme insult. In another situation, he might immediately challenge the man to a duel. However, this was a place of discussion, and if one demon attacked another, the entire communication chain would break down, making the entire point of this meeting useless.
“Let me get this straight. You’re telling our men to die needlessly,” Dire declared, “so that they won’t be a problem anymore.”
Those words put an ugly expression on a lot of the demon’s faces. Of course, they didn’t want to say it, but there was a clear discrepancy between the soldier demons on the ground floor and most of the demons present in the meeting. This was a place for those in power. Demons liked to act like they favored the strong, and didn’t fall prey to the same social constructs of the other races, but I had long realized they weren’t so different.
In some ways, they were even worse, because whereas the other cultures had refined their politics over countless generations, Demons were only just figuring this stuff out. It created men who would abuse the system, or flat out throw away the rules when it was to their benefit.
“Lieutenant Dire, there is no need to go there. We of course value all demon lives. It is the lives of humans we are discussing.” Another man cut in.
“If humans go to war, of the demons forced to fight them, some would die.” Dire declared.
“It’s a necessary sacrifice to keep the peace.” The demon waved his hand.
“And how many until you can no longer maintain your way of life?” The voice that cut through the crowd shocked everyone because the person who spoke was me.
Lieutenant Dire was losing in a bad way. That wasn’t the reason I spoke up though. The reason I spoke up was that I was bored. If this talk was going to continue for hours, I’d rather see it finished. Of course, I didn’t expect anything like the enslavement that Sal suggested, but even if they were all enslaved, I’d just have to claim ownership over my girls, and then nothing would change for me or them. From the beginning, I had always felt that this was none of my problem.
Although I had seemingly made an enemy of Sal, that was something I’d deal with when I had to. Still, since I had thrown my lot in with Dire, I figured I might as well speak. All the eyes were on me in an instant. Dire seemed surprised. Other than me bringing a couple of humans to make some of the demons uncomfortable and treat them as an example, he hadn’t had any other expectations for me. Dogath was shooting a dark look at me, and Sal was narrowing his eyes.
“Um… Devon, was it? Do you have something to say?” The demon who I had cut off asked with a crooked smile.
“There are only so many demons in this world. Demons are no longer being made. The demon queen disappeared, and the demon king remains locked in his castle, seeing no one.”
My words came out like a ripple. This wasn’t exactly a taboo, but it was as close to one as demons had. Mentioning this current situation made them all uncomfortable. As much as the demons tried to continue to live on, the basic truth was that their leadership had been cut off at the head nearly twenty years earlier, at the onset of the end of the demon war. The demon queen was believed to have died, and the demon king became a recluse. I had only stated she disappeared because voicing her death might cause some to fly into a rage. Even picking my words, I was receiving quite a few bad looks for saying something that shouldn’t have been said.
“These matters aren’t to be discussed in a forum this… public.” The demon said icily, his eyes flickering to the two girls on my knees.
Speaking about the demon’s greatest weakness in front of a human made them uncomfortable. Most of them didn’t even know that she was human royalty and the last princess. It wasn’t like I hid this from them, I just never made a point of mentioning it either. Even if they did know, it would make little difference. A concept like a bloodline didn’t have much sway to demons, and they wouldn’t even understand anything about royalty. Furthermore, Alleya had no power, and even if she called humans to rise with her, it was unlikely she’d be successful.
I shrugged. “I’ve still already made my point. Every demon that dies is a demon less in this world. We cannot reproduce, and as our generation grows older, there will come a time that you will no longer have anyone to serve you.”
“That’s why we make them into slaves!” The demon hit his fist on the table.
“Until when?” I asked. “Until there are no more demons? Until their numbers are greater than our own? Then, we will be the ones dying. Is that the legacy you want? A human cutting your geriatric throat and tossing you in a bonfire with all the other has-been demons?”
My words struck a chord at that point. Some of the demons gave the girls on my lap an uncomfortable look. The future I spoke of was unlikely. Humans had lost so many men that it was unlikely they’d recover if enslaved. Perhaps the elves, with their isolated tribes, might be able to hold out until the end of demons, but the most likely path, and the one that had been revealed to me, was the complete destruction of this world in a single generation.
“Such a thing cannot be prevented.” Another demon spoke up to support the one who had been flustered by my words. “This is merely the nature of things. We can only deal with what we’ve been handed.”
“We’ve been handed a nation. We’ve been handed capable demons and desperate women.” I leaned back as my words earned blank looks. “Demons fight because all we’ve ever known is war. Demons don’t need wasteful reasons to keep fighting, they need to find a new purpose.”
The meeting exploded into demons. Some laughed, others looked on with scorn. It was Sal who raised his hand, causing the demons to finally quiet down.
“Demons can be bred.” Sal declared. “I know that more than anyone.”
I leaned forward. “Incorrect.”
The whispering started up again, but Sal slammed the table, quieting everyone as he leaned forward and glared at me. “What are you suggesting?”
“I suggest… that a human can become a demon.”
This caused the crowds to explode again. Everyone was shocked and alarmed this time, including Dire. It took a longer period before things finally settled down.
“You better have proof for such an outrageous claim!” He snapped angrily.
Although I did have a half-demon child at home, I wasn’t going to drag Diana into this. I didn’t need to.
“I do…” I looked down at my lap, and Alleya turned to me, giving the slightest nod. “Go get em’, girl.”