TLN: It seems the communication crystal will be used a lot in this arc, so I will denote them: <<In this fashion.>>
Whenever you see that, assume they are talking through the crystal or using some sort of communication device or magic.
<<90% lessers, 60% intermediates, and I let the high ranks retreat at their own discretion, so around 20% of casualties there, I guess?>> (Purple)
“I see. Most of the lessers died, so that would also mean most of the soldiers were lost there.”
<<I don’t really mind though? It saves me the trouble of bringing them out from the Mejis Nether and having them infiltrate after all. Also, I can prepare as many soldiers as I want if needed anyways?>> (Purple)
I confirm the number of remaining soldiers with Purple on my way to the Gahne Castle. I thought we still couldn’t see the bottom of the Scarlet Demon Lord’s power, but there being other reasons as to why he spread them out is actually troubling.
Who knows what would have happened to my mental strength -which I am so proud of- if not for the barrier Mix always has on me.
There’s barely any effect on Wolfe now that she has a barrier around herself at all times.
In the case of Ilias and Mix, I can’t see any noticeable effects on them even without a barrier. It most likely is affected by the amount of mana the person has.
That wouldn’t be all for the demi-humans though…
It is a troublesome power.
“That’s a positive outlook. Thanks, you helped us out greatly there. I am truly glad you are here with us, Purple.”
<<…Those words alone make it more than worth it. And so, what will you be doing after this?>> (Purple)
“I will be discussing a plan with Marito. I will have you and the others pull your everything for that plan, okay? Tell this to Dyuvuleori, too.”
<<It would be sad to not have a turn when we have prepared for this battle after all? …Is Mix there?>> (Purple)
“I am here-desu zo!” (Mix)
<<Make sure not to forget that you can only use that 2 times in your current state, okay?>> (Purple)
“Of course! I am super strong when things get real despite appearances!” (Mix)
<<I know. Well then, please protect him, okay?>> (Purple)
The call ended and I sigh.
Purple has more lesser monsters than any other Demon Lord. There’s a plethora of methods to use them effectively, but this time around they were expended in one go as meat shields. This means Purple has lost a great amount of total power.
Having a visible decrease in power in this battle is bad, yeah, but it is also bad in maintaining a relationship with the humans from here on, too.
We are being left be because we are equals. We need to think about the future as well.
“Mister Friend, is it that tiring to speak to Purple-dono?” (Mix)
“No, no, don’t make such a worried face. A sigh leaked out simply because I was thinking about what kind of approach the human side will take with the weakening of Purple’s forces.”
“So it was about that. You are already thinking about the future despite being in the middle of a war, huh!” (Mix)
“It is important to take actions that sacrifice some skin on our side in this battle if we are thinking about coexisting with humans. However, if we go too far, there will be people who will move to take the opportunity. Moderation on those fronts is truly difficult.”
“It is not like everyone lives in a straightforward fashion like Taizu after all.” (Mix)
We arrived at the Gahne Castle and enter the room where Marito and the others are giving orders.
Gold came to me with visible happiness, but I don’t see Marito anywhere.
“Where did Marito go?”
“He said he wanted to breathe a bit of outside air. He must be wandering around somewhere.” (Gold)
“I see, I will go search for him for a bit.”
“He is going to come back soon anyways. How about praising me instead?” (Gold)
“That can be done after Marito comes back.”
“Fumu… It certainly would feel better if he were here. Alright, go ahead!” (Gold)
Now then, somewhere Marito could be… There’s no garden in this Gahne Castle. Also, it is not like I know much about the layout of the castle. If the current state of mind of Marito is like that… It would be over here.
“Where are you going? Do you know where His Majesty is?” (Ilias)
“Somewhat. It would actually be better if he is not there though.”
I brought Ilias, who was tilting her head, with me. There were a number of branching paths, but I arrived at a room in the upper floors where you can see the cityscape of Gahne.
And there I found Marito silently watching the sun sinking in Gahne.
“So you were here.”
“…I am impressed you knew I would be here. This is a room I entered randomly though.” (Marito)
“You could say that. I simply chose the directions I thought you might take.”
“Meaning that my internal issues have been seen through, huh. I seriously can’t match you on those fronts.” (Marito)
Marito shows a bitter smile. He really doesn’t have much energy.
An army of the inhuman is trying to corner us in this big war, ignoring conventional means. He is left to take moves that are negative, and we are currently in a situation where we aren’t showing any results and are slowly being cornered.
For someone like Marito who has been ruling in a way that everyone acknowledged, a predicament of this degree is a first.
“Your commands haven’t been bad. If you were to just rush an offensive without any proper plans and clash onto the monsters influenced by Strife straight on, there would have been far more casualties than there are currently.”
“The soldiers have no leeway to think about other possibilities. The soldiers are aware that they are being pushed back and suffering in this battle. There will obviously be people showing up that hold doubts about me who is taking command, right? When that happens, it won’t only cause disarray in morale, it would also affect the execution of the commands from here on.” (Marito)
Such issues will happen to a sickening degree when hierarchy exists. Hired people will hold dissatisfaction towards superiors who only see them as tools for profiteering, and superiors will hold discontent towards subordinates who can’t take the most ideal actions.
You might be able to understand the feelings of both sides if you have experienced them both, but you won’t be able to avoid fatigue despite that.
“Not anyone can stand as a king after all. Even so, the knights of Taizu alone are standing by you without any doubts.”
“Right. They have been seeing me from up-close. But the effect drops with the Gahne and Mejis soldiers. I must show results in order to gain trust. But…this is a difficult situation to accomplish that.” (Marito)
Marito is laughing here, but I can’t feel the fearlessness he usually shows. It is the Marito that is always trying to look like a good king towards his friend, me. Words won’t suffice.
What would serve just right around here is… Ah, there, there.
I find an antique-looking vase nearby, pick it up, and slowly bring it to Ilias.
“Ilias, sorry, but please hold this.”
“Hm? O-Okay.” (Ilias)
“Be careful. If you accidentally drop it and it breaks, who knows what Gold would ask in return for it.”
“…What are you doing?” (Marito)
“Just a bit of preparation.”
“Your actions sometimes turn incomprehensible.” (Marito)
I place my hand on my waist as I send a number of signs to Kutou with my fingers. I taught a number of signs to Kutou for situations where I can’t speak and trained it to act according to those signs.
I spread both hands exaggeratedly and walked towards Marito. As for the other person…well, let’s just pray he takes a hint here.
“Marito, I understand you feeling down by this. I understand that you want to spill out your grievances. I definitely would complain, and even run away at worst.”
“Really…? What you are shouldering is around the same as me, right? But you haven’t run away.” (Marito)
“If it is in terms of the amount of humans alone, you… Well, let’s leave that aside. I will take on at least that much of a role as your friend.”
“But I will also fulfill my duty as someone with a heart.”
I make a fist with my spread out right arm and punch the face of Marito with everything I have. Kutou wrapped around my right arm at that moment and forcefully increased my speed. A right hook that you normally wouldn’t imagine from the usual me shook his body greatly.
If he can’t feel any pain even when I punch him with all my strength, then I will borrow the strength of a devil… But the protection to my right hand was soft and it hurt a whole ton.
It is like stopping a flying rock with your fist. Of course it would hurt.
Marito unknowingly fell on his butt from the shock of having been punched and was looking up at me with a dumbfounded face.
By the way, I really want to see the shocked face of Ilias behind me, but I should endure here.
I sealed her movements preemptively, considering the possibility that she would jump in by reflex, but was there a need to? Well, my biggest worry was whether Anbu-kun would come in to protect him, but he must have noticed what I would do or was caught off-guard by it, there’s no movement from him.
“What are you—” (Marito)
“It is in part because I wanted to do it, but your normal self would have without doubt wanted to punch your current self, so I did it in his stead. Is what you want to show me the current you? It is not, right? It should be the proud figure of the Wise King of Taizu and my friend, Marito Taizu, right?”
Marito takes a casual attitude only when it is in front of me, but when he is in front of Ilias and the knights of Taizu, he would always act like a strict king.
He has to be strict with me when there’s 3rd parties in order to avoid confusing public and personal relations.
Deliberately keeping a strange relationship like this one is because Marito wants me to see him when he acts as a king, and wants to appeal all the time that I am his friend.
And so, I take that intention of Marito into account and accept it. That’s why, if Marito is breaking what he has been trying to persevere on, I have to correct him. That’s the friend Marito wishes I am after all.
“Or what, you want me to console you? Were you wishing for someone that would lick your wounds? Are you so weak as to seek that from me? Is that how you want to take this as?”
“There’s…no way that’s the case.” (Marito)
Marito slowly got up and rubbed the place he was punched at. It is a bit swollen. Or more like, I put so much into it and yet it only ended up with that? Maybe the people of Taizu as a whole are monsters?
“Then what do you want me to do? I owe you, so I will act as you please for time’s sake.”
“A foolish question. You are fine the way you are. I want to continue being a friend of yours as you are now. Also, the debt has been repaid with what you did just now.” (Marito)
Those eyes are different from before. They have returned to the usual eyes overflowing with confidence.
“That’s a relief. I would have had to do that until my hands broke if that wasn’t enough.”
“This is not something the one who was punched should ask but…is your right hand okay? Punching with the power of a devil without any mana strengthening won’t leave you unscathed.” (Marito)
“It hurts like no tomorrow. I would be kicking and crying if this wasn’t a serious atmosphere.”
“Get that mended. My cheek will heal by tomorrow even if left be.” (Marito)
The one who punched is clearly having the more serious injury here. I probably won’t be able to hold a pen for a while.
“I wanted to break a tooth at least.”
“Wouldn’t you have been stopped if it went that far?” (Marito)
“I think Anbu-kun would have understood.”
“Well, I was actually caught off-guard because of how out of the box that method was. Haha! If it had mana strengthening, I would have at least sliced off your arm.” (Anbu-kun)
“You really frighten me!”
Looks like he let it be since I am only thought of as a fly. Why is it that the one doing the punching is the one narrowly escaping death? What an unreasonable world, seriously.
“But it certainly does hurt. I am happy.” (Marito)
“Being happy about pain is treated as a fetish in my world.”
“I think that’s the same in this world. But I am so happy that I can accept that evaluation right now.” (Marito)
It is not that he has gone crazy because of the punch, right? No, I can understand what he is thinking, but I am impressed he can get so deep about it.
“Ah, Ilias, you can put that down already.”
“…Hah?! H-How could you do that just now?!” (Ilias)
“I am repaying him for before. The knights of Taizu move by reflex, so I sealed your movements. Sorry, Ilias.”
“So this vase was for the sake of that… No, that’s—” (Ilias)
“Don’t blame him, Lady Ratzel. If you blame him, your standing would be gone as someone who was deceived by him and allowed violence towards your king right in front of your eyes. That vase was a show of consideration towards you. My friend most likely had already planned on punching me before he arrived here. If you were told ‘I will be punching your king in front of you. Stand there and watch’, you would have to face unbearable restraint as a knight.” (Marito)
“Hngh, that’s…” (Ilias)
“Right, right, Ilias didn’t see anything. The end.”
As expected of Marito. Despite having said the vase made no sense, he can read my intention now. There’s no need to worry anymore then.
“But it was necessary for the sake of getting back up on my feet. Sorry for showing you such a pathetic sight. Please forgive me.” (Marito)
“I-It is not something for you to apologize for, Your Majesty!” (Ilias)
“No, it is true that this wasn’t an appearance I should have shown not only in front of my friend but also a knight that’s taking the sword for the sake of the country.” (Marito)
“And while at it, also the little sister that’s hiding in the shadows.”
A sound came from in front of the door. You are way too surprised, Mix.
“What, so you were there too, Mix? No, that’s a given, huh. Sorry for showing such a pathetic sight as a brother.” (Marito)
“N-N-N-N-Not at all! A-A-Ani-sama is a person before a king after all!” (Mix)
I can tell she is losing it at the other side of the wall. Looks like fixing that is still far.
“Now then, time is of essence. Gotta think about a good plan if I have the time to be moping.” (Marito)
“Yeah, I have finished preparations regarding that. We will be able to fight back thanks to not having lost soldiers until now.”
“That’s a terribly enticing opener. Can you please tell me?” (Marito)
I explain to him the preparations I have done, the details of the plan to execute, and the way to accomplish it. If they get caught properly in it, the camp of the Scarlet Demon Lord would crumble in one go.
“That’s basically it. The message I left before was groundwork for the sake of this.”
“…You really think up the most unbelievable methods. It goes beyond impressive and becomes nasty. You have my praise.” (Marito)
“And take it I will. But it is pretty effective, right?”
“Yeah, it is extremely effective even when considering the information of the Scarlet Demon Lord’s power we have obtained until now. It would also boost our morale drastically. I give my seal of approval as a king and as the one who commands in this battle. Counting on you. I will be returning now. I will match your timing, so do it as you please.” (Marito)
Having regained the spark and having obtained a method to break through this situation made the motivation of Marito burn even brighter. He left with a more casual stride than normal.
Now then, I have to go prepare to execute things, too.
When I exited the room, I saw Mix sitting there. Did she see the face of Marito when he was leaving?
“Are you okay, Mix?”
“…Yes, I am okay. But what you did has truly shocked me, Mister Friend…” (Mix)
“Sorry, I thought that was the fastest and most effective method.”
For Mix, Marito is close to a target of worship. It can’t be helped that she would have her own thoughts about Marito having been punched in front of her eyes. I should give her something next time as an apology.
“Sorry?! Not at all! You have shown me something extremely wonderful! It has become a treasure of a lifetime!” (Mix)
Yeah…I kind of understand the state of mind of Mix after seeing her face, but…it would be better to not touch on it. That’s how easy to understand that face is.
Gold: “He is not coming back.”
Marito: “He already left.”