< Evade the Hero and Flee! 202 #23. Policy Meant for My Dream! (9) >
#8 Their circumstance: Atia nel Karuan’s circumstance
I closed my eyes and paid attention to Reia’s voice.
“According to the report, that’s the current situation, and from then on… things will unfold this way.”
Reia’s voice stopped there, but my eyes remained closed. After pondering what I’ve heard for some time…
“What I heard just now, are they all… true?”
“According to the team leader Mirua, yes, they are all true.” Reia sounded utterly unconvinced during her report, but her reply didn’t reflect that.
I muttered. “That is insane, then.”
“Yes. It’s so like Sir Ast.”
My opinion was that it was insane, yet the reply I got was ‘as expected of Ast’. However, that answer was good enough to make all my underlings… no, everyone in the Imperial Court nod in affirmation.
Ast never was sound in his head, but…
“…But it sounds like he’s even crazier than ever before?”
“I can’t deny that, Your Highness.”
While watching Reia nod in agreement, I ended up holding my head. I used to tell myself it’d not be feasible. Even if Ast wanted to flee, would he really enter the demon continent?
I got quite a shock thinking that he hated me to the point of escaping to the lands of demons, beings clearly in an antagonistic position to humanity.
Even if he didn’t like me, wasn’t that, you know, too much?! Even if I was a tough cookie, that left a pretty severe impact on me. To think that he’d flee to the demon continent just because he hated someone!
But then, the subsequent reports on the situation wiped my worries clean. Actually, I had to seriously ponder if Ast crossing over to the demon continent was simply a part of his intricate plan in the first place.
According to Team Leader Mirua’s report currently dispatched to the demon continent, Ast’s actions could be summarised as thus:
1. Crossed over to the demon continent.
2. Acquired an individual equivalent to the demon race’s princess, a leader of a faction locked in the demon continent’s civil war.
3. Despite being a human, received the Demon God’s will and became the demon king.
4. In only one day, followed the Demon God’s will and assassinated the demon king candidate of the opposing faction.
5. He fashioned himself as a demon king in symbolic meaning while installing the demon king candidate he had acquired as the real demon king.
6. Fixed various customs and institutions of the demon race while declaring the founding of the demon race’s People’s Republic.
…No matter how many times I thought about it, those were some of the most gob-smacking achievements I’ve ever heard about in my life. What made them so much more shocking was the fact that… He achieved all this in less than one year!
I heard the old saying, ‘Revolution can happen in one day’, but I still couldn’t believe that the entire continent changed this much in one year. Not only that, he actually changed the continent’s rules, too!
“A republic, is it? Maybe Ast doesn’t want to live anymore?”
A society with no class system and where everyone was equal? If you say that out loud, nobles in every kingdom in existence would unanimously send assassins your way.
In the ‘republic’ Ast was trying to create, things weren’t as simple as nobles giving up their authority, you see. Wealth, power and everything related to them had to be given up, and everyone under the heavens would be allowed to access them equally.
It was plainly obvious that not just humans but demons would also baulk and resist that idea! But shockingly enough, Ast received enthusiastic support from the nobles of the demon continent, chieftains of various demon tribes.
Thanks to their support, Ast got to construct the roads for the demon race and their carriages. Those well-constructed roads connected the poorer tribes to large towns and cities! He even began compulsory education and gradually strengthened his control over the demon race!
“This won’t do. Bring me Ast’s disciple working in the treasury.”
Thinking more about this would only give me a migraine. Instead of giving myself a headache, it might be better to just call someone with a close history with Ast and let them take a look at the current situation from a different angle.
Reia left my office, and a short while later, a man stepped inside.
“Your Highness. I’m Maren Graine from the treasury.” The man greeted me with the Imperial Court’s accepted etiquette. He was the core of the empire’s treasury and a classmate of Rein currently educating Yugrasia’s students back during their days in Howling.
It might sound odd to have a former member of an evil organisation working for the empire’s treasury, but I heard that the finance minister evaluated this man quite highly.
Maren had a ‘coincidental’ meeting with his ‘instructor’ in the past, and the latter made sure to instil skills in this poor man. The instructor was Naruan/Ast, of course.
This man received a slightly different education from the rest of Ast’s disciples. So, how would someone like that analyse this situation?
I warned him before we got going. “What we’re about to discuss from this moment on, you must not tell anyone. Even if the finance minister asks you about it.”
“Understood, Your Highness.”
After my warning was accepted, I personally told Maren everything that had happened so far. Specifically, how Ast crossed over to the demon continent and things he had done on that side!
Maren listened to this tall-sounding tale, and then, he seemed to take some time to organise the influx of information.
“Ah…” Then, he let out an impressed gasp and began shuddering as if he was finished organising his thoughts. “As expected of my amazing instructor! I can only marvel at your greatness!”
He began straight up praising Ast.
“Keuh~…! To think that he’d enter the demon continent and become the king there! Not just any king, but one chosen by the Demon God, no less! I knew it, my incredible instructor is cut from a different cloth!”
I felt goosebumps on my skin while watching this man shudder in pure bliss.
How can he be this ecstatic when a human became a demon king?! And this man’s supposed to be the core of our treasury? My empire, will it really be alright?
“I want to ask for your opinion on this matter. How do you view everything Ast has done so far?”
Maren began crying out as if he had no need to even think about his reply. “It’s obviously perfect, Your Highness! First of all, the construction of the roads! No matter how well-developed magic is, only a few can use it. That’s why the instructor has chosen to construct the roads. He laid the foundation for the demon race to move around much easier, and now, more products and material can be transported through those roads!”
With that, Ast successfully improved the average living standard of villages in the demon continent. So much so, the average now verged on a city’s scale!
I didn’t try to stop Maren as he continued on in agitation and excitement.
“Even the idea of a republic is like that, Your Highness. Everyone being equal! To achieve that, the finance ministry would have to deal with a catastrophic level of work, but my instructor has a cure-all medicine called the metal bat, Your Highness. If those folks don’t want a beating, I’m sure they will do their best!”
Maren closed his eyes as if he was reminiscing about his past. His body even began shuddering, too. If I were to guess, then that past must’ve involved getting beaten up by the metal bat.
“And my instructor must’ve summoned the chieftains, Your Highness. He probably tricked them by saying he wanted to discuss the new policies with them face-to-face. The chieftains opposing the changes would obviously have a ton of things to say, so they must’ve hurried on to meet the instructor, only to… get a royal beating from the metal bat.”
He began nodding for no reason and added that resisting would’ve gotten those chiefs even harsher beating. He didn’t stop there, though, and continued to praise Ast while displaying fear and awe.
“My amazing instructor pacified all the chieftains, then probably confiscated all of the private property of those tribes. The transformation of the demon continent you have mentioned will not come cheaply, Your Highness. It’d require a truly ridiculous amount of funds. An investment large enough to change the wealth of an empire must’ve gone into this project.”
I agreed with that assessment. Constructing a road network and various buildings in a kingdom-sized land would require a few years at the shortest and decades at the longest. But Ast pulled it off in one year. Such an achievement could only be attributed to the power of money.
“All this is a part of my instructor’s plan! He most likely would have summoned the demon race merchants or financiers capable of supplying the materials for a quiet word or two. And then, he must’ve handed over the wealth collected from the demon continent’s chieftains as the funds for all the construction work.”
Always keeps his promises, Maren said.
Ast never kept his promises with me, and my trust in him had hit rock bottom, but Maren nodded confidently as if it was the most obvious thing in the world and continued on from where he left off.
“And then, he must’ve beaten them up with the metal bat while saying that he’d confiscate all their wealth too for the sake of true equality!”
Ah, aaah…! To think that such enormous wealth would circulate freely!
Maren looked like he’d start praying to Ast at any second now. All I could do was groan softly. Let me say this again – a fool like this became the core of the empire’s treasury…? I knew it, this empire is done for.
I asked Maren. “Is that something amazing?”
“Yes, Your Highness. It’s the most ideal scenario for the circulation of wealth. But our current reality is that a small number of people hold most of the wealth in circulation. That’s why a perfect circulation like this makes people from financial departments sigh in admiration, Your Highness.”
Maren’s voice was filled with intense admiration. However…
“But, isn’t it basically… The whole cycle starts from Ast’s pocket and circulates all the way back to his pocket at the end of the day?”
“Indeed, returning to his hands after one round trip! It is indeed the perfect circulation, Your Highness!”
Chieftains and merchants, was it? If this man’s hypothesis was correct, then Ast had robbed the wealthiest group of individuals in the entire demon continent completely clean.
“That’s why it’s such an accomplishment, Your Highness! To think he got his hands on such an incredible wealth!”
The way Maren kept crying out, “Ah, ahhh, my dear Instructor!” emotionally made me think that if I erected Ast’s statue right here, he’d get down on his knees and start prostrating right away. No, wait… Maybe Maren would carve out the statue by himself at this rate.
“But, wouldn’t they think it’s unfair? It’s the same as taking their property through force, is it not?”
“Your Highness, money has always been fair to everyone. It’s just that those who hold all the money are not. As that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better for everyone to have the money in the hands of someone capable of using it fairly?”
Hmm… I guess.
The wealth of nobles rotting away in their safes would be used to better the world at large – that certainly sounded like a good ideal to strive towards.
“And also, avoiding the punishment of the metal bat by simply giving up some money? They would’ve gladly done that at the first opportunity, Your Highness.”
I almost inadvertently nodded just then. That couldn’t be helped since I too, had experienced the beatdown in the past. That thing was… Even I didn’t want to remember it, after all.
“What do you think will happen in the future?”
“All the infrastructure has been constructed, and it only took one year. I’m honestly terrified at the prospect of how far the demon continent will advance at this rate, Your Highness. However, this growth is completely focused on the economy, thus neglecting the military side of things, Your Highness.”
Tap, tap, tap…
The noise of my finger tapping on the desk echoed within the office.
This man was right. Looking at the current situation in the demon race, it was clear to me that the new infrastructure going up was in consideration for Ast’s own future, not the improvement in the general warfare capability of the demons.
Because he was on another continent – and he also probably thought that I didn’t know his exact location – Ast must’ve decided to transform the demon continent to secure his comfortable life instead of improving the demons’ fighting power.
In that case, this could be an opportunity.
A large contingent of elite operatives… The best course of action would be to dispatch a large group of operatives on a similar level as Mirua and secretly kidnap him.
“Very well. In that case…!”
I finished making up my mind and began instructing Reia to prepare to capture Ast for once and for all. However…!
“M-my liege!” A magician burst into my office, having completely forgotten about the Imperial Court etiquette. This individual was in charge of communicating with Mirua. “Y-you must read this, ma’am…!”
He delivered a piece of paper to me, his hands clearly trembling. An ominous foreboding crept up in my heart just then. And when I read the paper’s contents, I ended up staggering dizzily for a second.
“Y-your Highness!” Reia panicked at something I had never done in my life and hurriedly propped me up.
I had a dizzy spell? It really was the first time in my entire life that I lost myself like this.
My trembling hands held up the paper so that I could read it one more time.
I became a demon king! But, uh, there are 101 other demon kings, too!
And I think more will be chosen in the future too, Your Highness!
What nonsense was this?!
The demon king was the ruler of the demon continent, but to think that there would be 101 of them! And one of them happened to be a spy sent by the humans, no less!
Reia cautiously asked me. “Your Highness, just what’s in that communique that you…”
“Here, see for yourself.”
“…Huph?!” Reia took a glance and sucked in a cold breath. Just one glance, and she was already shuddering in shock. “T-that’s insane…!”
101 demon kings? It certainly sounded insane, but we were talking about Ast here. If it’s him, then such a scenario didn’t seem so outlandish anymore. Although, only those who knew the human named Ast would feel that way.
“Y-your Highness, this…”
“Ng, that’s right. Most likely… he’s now planning to foster a combat force rivalling the power of demon kings.”
“Would such a thing even be possible, Your Highness?”
It seemed that only Maren from the treasury had failed to understand our conversation. But that wasn’t so surprising if you thought about it.
If swordmasters and archmages could simply be created through nothing but education, then individuals boasting such powers wouldn’t be praised as geniuses chosen by the gods.
“Yes, it’s possible.”
However, Ast managed to do exactly that. The most obvious example of that was…
“You and your classmates, then there’s also Yugrasia. That’s the proof.”
Yugrasia’s students had already demonstrated their strengths and capabilities to the empire… No, to the rest of the continent by now. A student ranked around 70th in the academy for their combat prowess… No, for their academic performance had a set a precedence of soloing a hero party chosen by a god. Oh, and Yugrasia had only a hundred students per year.
In other words, a student ranked mid-low in the academy managed to defeat a hero from a religious order!
As for this man before me, Maren, he also possessed combat strength rivalling a captain of a knight corps., even though he was a mere accountant in the treasury!
“Your Highness, what does that mean…?”
“It means Ast is now also shoring up the military strength, too.”
The demon king was the strongest warrior in the demon continent. So, the meaning behind selecting 101 of them… And the meaning behind selecting more in the future…!
“Does it mean he already knows what I’m planning?”
The plan of sending a large number of elite operatives was already a failure. Even with the full army, there were still no guarantees of achieving victory against individuals trained by Ast.
If I could, I wanted so badly to mobilise everyone and march straight into the demon continent right now. However, far too many hurdles stood in my way. The first hurdle would be to deal with the political blowback, then I’d have to break the unspoken agreement among the human countries not to invade the demon continent, too.
By the time I deal with all those matters, Ast would probably have finished constructing the perfect army for himself.
“Just a little bit more… Just a bit more…!”
I had to be patient. Just a little bit more patient!
I clenched my trembling fists and closed my quivering eyelids while resolving myself once more.
“Next time we meet, I swear to finish it once and for all!”
Until then, I will be patient for a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer.