< Evade the Hero and Flee! 191 #22. Well, this is merely the beginning (6) >
From afar, a person was walking up to where we were. Actually, I should say a demon instead. The distance meant his face was not really discernible, but his attire was that of a Demon God’s temple priest.
The Demon God was basically the anchor of the entire demon race. Unless there was another me among the demon race, some random weirdo wouldn’t show up here in that attire.
“I’ve returned from my duty, your majesty.”
As I expected, the one walking up to me from afar was one of my new underlings, a priest of the Demon God’s temple.
“He refused, didn’t he?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Yes, sire. Very foolish.”
Even though we said that, the really foolish thing would be to immediately kill yourself just because someone told you to. Just because everyone else accepted it, you should also follow along and kill yourself? What would you do if everyone was being conned?
-Master, that’s not something a swindler should be saying, you know?
-The ones getting swindled are at fault here.
Didn’t someone say this before? Deceiving others was a standard tactic in the art of war. That’s why… who told you to get deceived in the first place!
-Oh? And who said that, master?
-A very famous war tactician.
Sun Tzu probably said that. Although… the last half could’ve been a bit different from the original!
“You have delivered my letter as intended, I hope?”
“Yes, your majesty!”
“In that case, let’s begin.”
I wordlessly watched the priest bow before me and back away politely.
A king had no need to make a move. Back when I was thrown into the middle of a warzone thanks to a certain insane Imperial Princess, what was the dear emperor doing? He was having fun tracking down and beating up those who disobeyed him or tried to mess around with the military supplies!
-Uhmmm, master? This could be nothing more than my mood playing tricks on my judgement, but… Why does it sound like the emperor was doing an excellent job? Is it really because of my mood?
-Well, sure. Mister Emperor of the Karuan Empire was top-notch when it came to taking care of his business. Not even once did our supplies run out during the war, you see.
-Even I can do that! I also never wanted to go to a warzone and just do jobs as simple as that, you know! If it was you in charge, master, why do I get the feeling that you would have siphoned off the military supplies?
-I might have back then, but I won’t do that now!
I was planning to retire empty-handed, so… Actually, that’s not true. After handing the throne over to Belegrea, I was planning to use that as a pretext to rip her off aplenty.
At least, enough for my family and I to live on without issues even if I decide that working for a living would be too bothersome! Things like fertile farmlands, a vast expanse of empty land nearby, and even a sizeable pension paid out on time, that’s what I’m talking about!
Yup, I’ll rip that girl off for those things and end it there.
-Huh. Sounds like you’re ripping her off for all it’s worth, though?
-I’m turning her into a ruler of an entire continent. That’s a cheap price to pay, wouldn’t you say?
How unfair is this, I ask you!
I’m trading the seat of the continent’s ruler for a little bit of land and money! And I am even eliminating Belegrea’s biggest political rival, Aggreahrt!
Uwaaahk! I’m getting pissed off!
“When angry, one should do this to blow off some steam.”
I lightly raised my hand. A simply little wave of my hand was the simple little signal for the things to set off. It might have been a simple little gesture, but I was none other than the top ruler of the demon continent, the demon king!
Accompanied by a humongous explosion, a portion of the former demon king’s castle began crumbling down.
“Will this really be fine, sire? Using the secret passageway to sneak in and quickly eliminate Aggreahrt might be more advantageous for us,” said Belegrea in a composed voice.
Even though she maintained a calm face and kept her voice composed, it was still impossible for her to hide the light in her eyes. Those eyes contained so many emotions while watching the home she had spent almost all of her life in crumbling down in flames and dust clouds.
Of course, I amply understood the emotions in her heart. I, too, had to witness my farmland dyed in the ripening golden colour get burned down not too long ago, after all!
However, that was that, and this was something else.
Instead of allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement and mess up our plan, it was far better to steel your heart and minimise our losses as much as possible.
“Do you honestly think that Aggreahrt isn’t aware of that passageway?”
“My father told no one but me of the passageway’s existence, sire.”
“I see. However, do you think Aggreahrt is an idiot? You once told me that he was one of the most trusted aides of the previous demon king. As such, we should assume that he’s good enough to correctly guess what’s on your father’s mind. And truth be told, the explosions happening right now seem way more powerful than the explosive magic devices we’ve planted are capable of.”
“It can’t be…!”
“That’s right. If we tried to slip in through that secret passageway, then there’s a good chance that we might have gotten buried alive.”
Of course, I was lying. Ah, but that didn’t mean 100% of what I said was a lie. It’s just that I couldn’t predict the full firepower of all the magic explosive devices bought with all the available funds of the Demon God’s temple.
In other words, I had no idea if Aggreahrt really knew about the secret passageway and tried to bury anyone alive if they wanted to use that route.
“I-is that so…?”
However, such a lie was absolutely necessary for convincing Belegrea, a useful underling and the future ruler of the land who would diligently pay me my pension.
People label such a lie the ‘white lie’, don’t they?
-Master, as far as I know, a white lie actually benefits the one getting lied to, right? But you are the only one reaping the benefits right now, no?
-What do you mean by that! I’m about to hand over the position of the demon king to this little girl, so this benefit is all for her, you know!
Back when I wasn’t as wise as now, I allowed the metal bat to read my mind as much as she wanted. She didn’t call me out as often back then, but now that I learned a way to close my mind off, she began rubbing against my nerves the wrong way far, far too often for my liking.
-Oh? Since you know, why don’t you let me in, then?
-Everyone will be happy if you just learn to keep your mouth shut, you know!
In any case! Something as measly as the demon king’s castle? We can always rebuild it using the funds from the Demon God’s temple. Even bigger and flashier than ever before, too!
The first round of explosions destroyed a portion of the castle walls, destabilising the structure in the process. I gave the order for the next round of bombardment.
“In the name of our Demon God!”
“In the name of our Demon God!”
A bishop’s rallying cry prompted the other priests to yell out the Demon God’s name. At the same time, several huge pools of magical energy began gathering!
Those pools of energy were injected into the giant magic cannons to fire their magic projectiles. What we have here were magic weapons from the ancient era, sealed away in the Demon God’s temple until now!
“Yup, bombarding your target is the best.”
When long-distance damage-dealing was possible, there was no need to get up close and personal.
Only the young, energetic warriors would request for an honourable duel and fight with their swords despite carrying firearms. Someone like me, who’s already getting on in years and needing to lead the populace as the demon king, could not do something that stupid.
“As expected of a sealed weapon, huh.”
These weapons were in another realm compared to what’s on sale in the market
place. The commonly-available magic cannons were simple devices that condensed magic energy into a projectile and fired it.
However, not only did our cannons gather the magic power far more efficiently, but they also amplified the users’ magic power dozens of times by passing it through countless engraved magic circles.
When explained this way, our magic cannons sounded like the greatest weapon in the entire world, but there was a downside. Each shot required a large number of magic stones to fire, and their sizes were about double that of the regular magic cannons, which were already pretty big, to begin with. As such, these weapons rarely saw the light of the day.
However, such issues posed no problem for me after utilising the financial wherewithal of the Demon God’s temple.
Hooray for money. Hooray for bombardment!
“Sire, will this be fine?”
“No. Keep at it and utterly destroy the target.”
“But sire, they have hostages.”
“Hostages aren’t usually kept in the upper part of the castle. Destroying some walls should not be a problem.”
We had plenty of magic stones, while each and every priest here possessed top-flight magical energy among the demon race.
Some demons finished getting ready and tried to approach our position from afar, but they were instantly turned into chunks of bloody meat when the bombardment fell on top of them.
Some tried to snipe us using magic, but I’ve already calculated the distance before setting up camp here, so none of their attacks could reach us.
“Sire, this is totally one-sided, isn’t it?”
“Of course. Long-distance warfare is a battle of who can attack the farthest. It’s impossible to win against an opponent shooting at you from a spot you can’t reach.”
The current situation made me automatically recall a scene from a TV show I saw a long time ago… The scene of the admiral who never lost in the naval warfare crying out, ‘Fire at our enemies!’ to utterly sweep away the opposition!
Demons so far away that they were no bigger than ants to my eyes were visibly getting dyed in the hue of crimson energy.
“Sire, they are chiefs of various tribes.”
“Yes, I can tell.”
These chiefs looked small like everyone else since they were so far away. Despite that, I could easily guess their identities after witnessing how they managed to cut down the magic projectiles fired from our massive magic cannons.
“However, they are still too weak.”
Since they could literally cut down the magic projectiles, they probably knew how to use sword light to some degree. But that was about it, really. I couldn’t sense anything beyond that from them.
For instance, an extraordinary level of skill to push back the former Sword Star, or the fleet of foot swift enough to escape from a hero who defeated an elder dragon, things like that.
“Could it be that the chiefs of the dog, wolf, snake and dragon-headed demon tribes are exceptionally strong?”
“I beg your pardon? Ah, yes, they are. Those four chiefs were the strongest among Aggreahrt’s subordinates. So strong that people used to call them the Four Heavenly Kings.”
Usually in fantasy novels, the so-called Four Heavenly Kings appearing early on in the story would get killed off quite easily only to be replaced by others even stronger than them. However, let’s think about that realistically for a second.
Why were the Four Heavenly Kings called the, uh, Four Heavenly Kings in the first place? Simple, really. It’s because those four happened to be the strongest among their tribes. Imagine if there were stronger beings than them popping out of everywhere; forget Four Heavenly Kings, they would be nothing more than some mid-bosses, instead!
“They won’t last long, it seems.”
The chieftains initially looked haughty as they stepped forward to cut down the projectiles from our massive magic cannons, but that eventually petered out.
They began missing more and more of the projectiles, and not too long afterwards, had to beat a hasty retreat.
“Is it over already?”
We still had a ton of magic stones and magic energy recovery potions. I figured that we could still continue bombarding our target for the next twenty, no, make that thirty minutes as long as we managed the load sensibly.
Of course, our opponents wouldn’t be sitting on their butts doing nothing in the meantime.
“What is the current status of the demon king castle’s siege weapons or defensive capabilities?”
When attacked with weapons, the right way to fight back was to use your own weapons. Whatever weapons our opponents possessed, it shouldn’t be as good as the ancient artefacts sealed away in the Demon God’s temple. Even so, it was better than not having any.
For instance, they could prevent us from firing our massive magic cannons in time, which should put them at an advantage over us thanks to their greater numbers.
“There are none, sire.”
However, the reply I got was shockingly anti-climactic.
But, but! That’s the castle of your leader, you know! A castle is constructed as a defensive structure, you know! How can there be no defensive weapons or measures built in?!
The massive magic cannons we were using were designed to utilise the powers of the low-rank magicians that were basically useless in warfare. Fundamentally speaking, these cannons were never meant to be lugged around on the battlefield as I have done. No, their true intended purpose was to sit pretty in a castle somewhere and fire at the enemies by sucking out every drop of magic energy from the castle’s occupants!
But to think that the biggest castle in the demon continent, the demon king’s castle, didn’t even have a single anti-siege weapon! Not even a magic cannon, you say?
Belegrea tried to explain. “No enemies came this far in our history, sire. And as I’ve told you earlier, my father also knew a part of this world’s truth.”
“Fine, no human managed to come this far. I get that. Putting that aside, what about the breakout of a civil war?”
“The instances of civil war in the demon race’s lengthy history are so few that they can be counted in one hand, sire. Even those conflicts ended overnight due to one side sneak-attacking their opponents. Or the leaders of each camp fought it out in a one-on-one duel to end the conflict.”
“So, you’re saying that the demon race doesn’t have much of a history in siege warfare?”
“Even though an artefact from the ancient era is this powerful?!”
“As far as I know, these weapons were created to destroy the castle walls of the humans back in the ancient times, sire.”
Huh, huhuh… What a bunch of weaklings.
Humanity’s continent was overrun with all sorts of wicked trickery and schemes since the days of old. It was only normal to see dozens upon dozens of anti-siege weapons installed in human-controlled castles. Hell, humans even kept hundreds more anti-siege weapons in their storage just in case!
“So, then. That huge castle doesn’t have a single anti-siege weapon. That’s what you’re saying?”
“Yes, sire. Aggreahrt argued for the installation of siege weapons, but those capable of reaching this far are catapults and not much else. But they…”
“No need to explain. They need time to assemble the catapults. Right?”
Catapults can be quite a cumbersome weapon. They were big, too unwieldy, annoying to move around… Not only that, those things were made out of wood and iron, so any rain would rot and rust the components. But their huge size meant it was impractical to store them as-is.
That was why people normally disassembled the catapults before storing them or moving them to the battlefield. Magic could be used to teleport them, too. That’s how catapults were used in this world.
Unsurprisingly, catapults wouldn’t be assembled and ready to fire all day, every day, since that was a ‘normal’ castle we’re talking about. And catapults weren’t even a proper anti-siege weapon, to begin with.
“Wowsers. I’m getting a bit deflated here.”
Why do I get the feeling that in a head-on clash, just two of the empire’s corps would be enough to sweep these demons aside? The way these demons mobilised and reacted seemed systematic and not at all amateurish, but… How should I say this…
“…They are just weak.”
The way I saw it, these punks wouldn’t even serve as my shield before getting shoved aside if the Imperial Princess decides to invade this continent.
Dammit! Looks like I now have more things to do!
“At the very least, someone make a breakthrough. Please…”
The plan I cooked up oh-so-carefully seemed to be drawing to a close during its first phase.
Regular soldiers were too busy hiding from the magic bombardment by staying behind the collapsed castle wall. Meanwhile, the chieftain-level combatants couldn’t do much other than evacuate the surviving soldiers to a safer location.
Which meant only one variable remained unaccounted for.
“Who dares to do something this horrific!”
And there he was, a man with a hulking physique pulling out his greatsword and stepping forward menacingly.
“I’m guessing that’s him?”
“Yes, sire.” Belegrea nodded while pointing at the man advancing towards our position. That man dodged or deflected the magic bombardment while expending the least amount of energy. “That man is the strongest fighter in the demon world right now, the great commander, Aggreahrt!”
Befitting his fame as the strongest warrior in the demon race, he made a beeline at the closest magic cannon to his position with a blinding turn of speed.
“Well, now. Time to enjoy the show, then?”
And near that massive magic cannon was…!
“Let’s enjoy the battle between the one closest to the demon king and our own hero!”
…Our blonde hero on standby!
“Since ancient times, nothing is more entertaining than a battle between a demon king and a hero, after all!”
While watching the clash of black sword light of the demon and the golden sword light of our hero, I pulled out a bucket of popcorn prepared earlier.