1. Evade the Hero and Flee! 183 #21. The Stories of Others (2)>
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#2 Their circumstance: the circumstance of a man aiming for the demon king’s position
“My lord, we’ve finished taking over the demon king’s castle.”
Despite receiving the subordinate’s report, the man with a massive physique didn’t even bother to nod once.
Feeling something was off from that behaviour, the subordinate walked up to his lord, only for Aggreahrt to finally reply with a quick nod. “Good. Finish dealing with the remnants hiding out in the surroundings, then prepare for a potential counteroffensive.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Aggreahrt watched the departing back of his subordinate before sighing out once more.
“…Something is making me anxious.”
For some reason, he’d been feeling uneasy for a while. Just when had this uneasiness begun taking hold of his heart?
Was it back when he heard those curse-like words from Mekel’s lips? No, it must’ve been before that. Way, way earlier than that. Aggreahrt realised just then that he had been feeling uneasy about something for a long time now.
“Right, it started from then, huh.”
Aggreahrt combed through his memories to trace the origin of his anxiety and eventually reached the destination he’d been looking for.
“It began when all contact from the four dispatched to locate the descendant of the Succubus race was lost. Yes, that’s it.”
His plans began going out of whack ever so slightly from that moment on, resulting in his forces attacking Belegrea’s faction.
“The situation hasn’t been good since then, too.”
Not good. That’s how Aggreahrt summarised his current situation. Whatever the justification was, the party attacking first would always find themselves in a politically disadvantageous position.
It’d been less of an issue if the previous demon king happened to be a tyrant or incompetent fool, but he was one of the greatest demon kings ever to grace the throne. So good was he that some even rated him among the top five in history.
That’s why the majority of the demon tribes that supported Aggreahrt still held favourable impressions of Belegrea, the daughter of the former demon king. The only reason why they chose to side with Aggreahrt was simply that their intentions didn’t match up with Belegrea’s.
“Not good. Not good at all.”
The demon continent was mired in deep confusion and chaos right now. To occupy the currently-empty throne of the demon king, the demon race’s great general attacked the former demon king’s daughter, resulting in her going missing without a trace.
Some quarters were even saying that Aggreahrt had the princess stashed somewhere and that he was simply pretending to be none the wiser to fool everyone. That’s how hostile the public perception in the demon continent was toward Aggreahrt at the moment.
“You can use power to make everyone submit, but you can never be their king without them willingly choosing you…”
Aggreahrt closed his eyes while muttering what the former demon king used to say.
‘The number of tribal chiefs complaining about me attacking Belegrea’s camp, ten. And the number of elders grilling me for the missing Four Devas, thirteen. How troublesome.’
The electoral process to select the next demon king would remain valid once it got going until a confirmable irregularity stops it.
However, no one could tell the future.
With how delicate the current situation was, would Aggreahrt become the next demon king if a new election was triggered by the sudden demise of the Succubus’s descendant?
No. He’d never become the next demon king in that case. Aggreahrt judged that the tribal chiefs currently supporting him would change their positions and start throwing their support to Belegrea instead. That would mean she’d definitely become the next demon king.
“Even so, the most troublesome ones in my current situation are the elders.”
The matter with them was far more headache-inducing than with the tribal chiefs.
The four individuals that happened to be the strongest and most trustworthy cards in Aggreahrt’s deck… They called themselves the Four Devas, and even Aggreahrt himself allowed the quartet to call themselves that moniker. That’s how powerful those four individuals were.
Yet all of them vanished overnight.
Aggreahrt hadn’t said anything about it since he still needed to assess the situation first. But the elders of the tribes that the Four Devas hailed from seemed to have noticed something had gone awry and began showing up in front of Aggreahrt every day to demand answers on the whereabouts of their missing chiefs.
The tribe filled with the craziest battle maniacs that prided itself as the greatest spearhead of the demon race, the Dogmen race and the Lycan race…
One of the dragonewt races born with the strength of real dragons, granting them incredible magical powers and high intelligence, the Fire Dragon Race…
And finally, the Snakemen race specialised in poisoning and deploying hidden weapons, silent in their movements and capable of assassinating the enemy at any time they wanted…
Their combat powers were the most necessary factor for Aggreahrt stuck in the current situation. But to convey the news to these tribes that their chiefs were missing? Especially when Aggreahrt was occupying the seat of the demon king through force?
Absolutely the worst, then! The moment those four tribes turned their backs on him, other tribes would surely follow suit, too.
That naturally would mean the end of his ambition.
Someone would judge the current era as the most peaceful in the demon race’s history. However, some others would surely judge the current era as the most foolish one since the demons right now possessed the strongest combat power in the demon race’s entire history, but still chose not to invade the human continent.
If Aggreahrt was born far in the future, he’d definitely side with the latter group of descendants. He was that type of a demon, after all. He was also someone who did his best to turn this world into a demons’ world as per the wishes of the demon god.
“The best course of action is…”
That would be to locate the descendant of the Succubus race and prove the legitimacy of his reign.
“…But, the backup plan isn’t so bad, either.”
As for the backup plan in case nobody managed to locate the descendant, he’d simply claim the position of the demon king for himself and invade the human continent straight away. That way, he’d get to redirect the internal chaos to the external target while reinforcing his claim to the throne. Furthermore, he’d also get to create the world of demons that he dreamed about.
But the worst possible situation would be…
“It seems that I must find her, then.”
Aggreahrt imagined what might happen in case of the absolute worst possibility – the missing Belegrea finding the Succubus’s descendant first. He got up from his chair and walked with purpose toward his new destination. His goal, for now, was to find the Succubus’s descendant no matter what. Even if it meant he’d have to mobilise every single demon under his command!
And so, this was how Aggreahrt began sending most of his army to the human side of the continent for the purpose of locating Alice – who oh-so happened to be already in the demon continent.
#3 Their circumstance: a certain princess’s circumstance
She was feeling anxious; in too much of a hurry, in fact. It felt like crimson lights were constantly flickering disorientingly inside her head.
If she had her way, she dearly wanted to turn away the guest coming to visit the kingdom today. Too bad, she knew that such a thing was an unrealistic wish.
That’s how much of a bigshot today’s visitor to the Neidon Kingdom was.
“Please wait for me, dear sir hero.”
Princess Vera Ric Neidon muttered that to herself as hints of tears formed on the edges of her eyes, her mind still thinking about the dear hero. The hero who rescued her from the clutches of an evil dragon.
Just how desperately would he be waiting for her right now!
If it weren’t for that detestable fox-like woman appearing out of nowhere, Vera and the hero would’ve been enjoying their together-time by now!
With her brain 100% filled with her very subjective point of view regarding this situation, Princess Vera headed to the room with ladies-in-waiting to prepare herself to welcome the incoming guest.
“You look as beautiful as ever, Your Highness.”
“Thank you, Serel.”
When the lady-in-waiting smiled brightly at her, Princess Vera responded with a warm smile of her own, but her inner thoughts at that moment were somewhat different.
‘Ah, aaah… Sir hero should be the one to whisper those words to my ears…’
The princess thought about the hero one more time. With more hints of tears in her eyes, she steeled her resolve once more.
‘I shall definitely rescue you, my dear hero!’
The last memory of the hero in Vera’s mind was him getting kidnapped by an evil wench. Sure, that assessment was quite far removed from the truth, but Vera firmly believed in her heart that sir hero would never willingly run away from her side.
“We still haven’t found their traces, I presume?”
“I’m sorry, Your Highness.”
“No, no need to apologise. It’s the fault of that evil wench. You and your colleagues haven’t done anything wrong.”
Princess Vera smiled as if she was fine with it, but Serel had been serving her since their childhood. She could easily read the true intent behind that smiling face.
“It’s all because we’re not good enough, Your Highness. None of us imagined that we’d lose sir hero to a lone individual.”
Sadness. Serel had never seen Princess Vera so sad in all of their time together. That only reaffirmed Serel’s resolve to locate sir hero no matter the cost.
“Thank you, Serel.” Princess Vera seemed to have understood what was in Serel’s mind because she returned a blindingly bright smile. “Well, then. It’s time that I get ready, yes? How much time do we have left?”
“About three hours still remain, Your Highness.”
Three hours. Depending on one’s mindset, that could be seen as either too long or too short. As the princess of a kingdom, that length of time seemed a bit excessive just to get ready for a visitor, but today’s situation was different.
“We can’t afford to lower our guard and give the Karuan Empire a pretext, now can we?”
The guest coming to see her today was someone in an even loftier position than Princess Vera.
The sole hegemony of the continent possessing the mightiest army on the land! The only nation deserving of the label ’empire’ on this vast continent! And a visitor hailing from such a nation was coming to the Neidon Kingdom, a small kingdom found in the northern part of the continent. Unsurprisingly, the royal court and the nobles were in a panicked uproar.
Everyone believed that just one division of the empire’s military could easily wipe out the Neidon Kingdom… No, not just the Neidon, but three other nearby kingdoms, too. To think an envoy from that Karuan Empire was paying them a visit!
Was this an opportunity or a grave threat?!
Most people in the kingdom saw this as a crisis. But that’s because of the envoy’s identity: it was none other than the First Imperial Princess, famed for not really interfering in the matters of the imperial court.
If it was the Crown Imperial Prince or the First Imperial Prince in charge of the northern borders, this visit would’ve been less alarming… But to think it’d be the First Imperial Princess without any connection to these parts!
The Neidon Kingdom didn’t know the goal of the empire, so it could do nothing but wait anxiously. Actually, there was something that the kingdom could do, and that was to do its utmost best to welcome the envoy.
The empire boasted enough military might to not really worry about the pretext before invading, but that didn’t mean it could actually do that. As befitting the reputation of being the strongest nation on the continent, it had countless many enemies, so starting a war without a good justification would lead to the second continent-wide great war.
Although the Neidon Kingdom didn’t want to see a war break out, it still would choose the second great war if that ensured its own survival. Of course, the most optimal path would be resolving everything as peacefully as possible.
And for that most optimal path, the Neidon Kingdom was doing its utmost to prepare the welcoming ceremony of the VIP guest.
“I beg your pardon? She wants… me?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
The First Imperial Princess of the empire finally reached the royal castle, but she rejected the banquet prepared for her and instead expressed her wish to speak to Princess Vera directly.
“Do you know why?”
“No, Your Highness. No one seems to know.” The noble affiliated with the foreign affairs department lowered his head apologetically.
Princess Vera nodded at him while making a complicated expression.
Since someone from the kingdom had to speak to the empire’s Imperial Princess regardless of what, Princess Vera steadied her trembling heart and went to the meeting venue.
“I beg your pardon, but… Do you mind repeating that one more time?”
The words coming out of the Imperial Princess’s mouth set Prince Vera’s heart racing once more.
“The Hero Swinn you’re looking for? I said I shall lend you my help in searching for him.”
Princess Vera was stunned when she came face to face with the Imperial Princess for the first time.
That silver hair that surely couldn’t have come from this world, and those crimson eyes emitting mysterious light that seemingly saw through Vera’s everything in an instant!
Vera was called the most beautiful woman in the north, but she paled in comparison to the Imperial Princess’s looks.
She stared at the beauty in front of her in sheer stupefaction, but when the talk of her beloved hero, Sir Swinn, was brought up, the Neidon Kingdom’s princess sobered up immediately. Her eyes began gleaming dangerously next. “…How did you find out, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well, let’s just say that we have a similar goal. It’s just that we’re searching for different people.”
Vera’s heart nearly tumbled to the pit of her stomach when she heard that ‘similar goal’ part, but her head began tilting to the side at the ‘different people’ part.
“What do you mean, Your Imperial Highness?”
“It’s not that complicated. I’m also searching for someone, and that individual happens to be accompanying the person you’re searching for, Swinn the hero.”
Right at that moment, Princess Vera began recalling the faces of the hero’s entourage.
‘Surely, it can’t be that female Elf… Could it be that saint named Hill? Even if the Order of Nature allows its members to freely marry anyone they want, having a tryst with the empire’s Imperial Princess is still…’
Even though the Imperial Princess merely said she was searching for someone, Vera immediately connected that to a romantic relationship and eventual marriage. Well, it was the same term she used, after all.
Normal people would’ve called themselves crazy for even entertaining such thoughts, but…
“The person I’m looking for, you know him as Naruan. Although, he does like to change his aliases quite often.”
“You were searching for sir hero’s instructor…?”
The issue here was that such a crazy thought happened to be the truth.
“I should be mobilising the imperial army for this purpose, but realistically speaking, the Karuan Empire needs to mind its movements at all times.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
Just one military division from the Karuan Empire could deal with a kingdom’s entire army. That’s how strong they were. Something like that didn’t sound logically possible, but several of the empire’s divisions really did possess combat prowess to earn such evaluations.
That’s why the empire’s army performing any kind of actions outside their own borders would create massive ripples influencing the entire world.
“That’s why my preparations to search for him had to get delayed somewhat.”
Even though things were advancing at a nonsensical pace, the fact that several annoying hiccups did happen in the middle of the process hadn’t changed.
What was the reason for the incredible average skill level of the Kidnap Ast Squad in the first place? It was to rely on a small number of elites to quickly infiltrate and kidnap their target.
But their target was an existence that had already defeated twelve swordmasters. So, it seemed unreasonable to demand a small number of elites to kidnap him at this point.
“And so, to skip all the annoying parts… I was looking for a suitable kingdom to ally myself with. As luck would have it, I found a kingdom related to the matter involving the hero.”
“A kingdom related to the hero…”
“Indeed. As an aside, your dear hero hails from my empire. More than that, he’s one of the direct descendants of a grand ducal family of the empire. Meaning, he’s someone not anyone can marry, not even if she happens to be a princess of a kingdom up north.”
Princess Vera’s eyes shot open so much wider at that moment.
She had never imagined this. She always thought that the hero was a commoner, but he actually was a bigshot from the Karuan Empire! A direct descendant of one of the top authorities in the empire, the Raina Grand Ducal Family, no less!
“However, if I step forward on your behalf… I’m sure that you’ll get everything you want without too much trouble.”
Princess Vera nervously swallowed back, her eyes fixed on the empire’s Imperial Princess. Even if she was the princess of this kingdom, her position wasn’t high enough to decide on whether to form a military alliance with the Karuan Empire or not, so she should abstain from…
“Oh, and as an aside, we found out where the hero was last seen.”
“We shall do it!”
Too bad, she… No, these two women were brutally honest with their desires.
They freely shared what their hearts desired with each other, then added several lip-service clauses on their official agreements to make it look like they were doing this for the benefit of both nations.
And this was how the seed of the Great Alliance was planted – the alliance evaluated by the future generations as the sagacious move made after both parties predicted the upcoming events.