< Evade the Hero and Flee! 209 #24. Why Does it Have To Be Me? (6) >

#5 Their circumstances: Atia nel Karuan’s circumstance

“What did you say? The demon king has appeared?”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
I tilted my head in confusion at the report made by the dispatch rider who had made an urgent trip to my office. I turned my head to Reia and asked her. “Reia, I thought Ast was the demon king?”
“Could it be that Sir Ast finally understood your heart and decided to come back to us?”
“What, that Ast? No way.”
Reia must’ve said that to make me feel better, but I was too aware of our reality. That guy, Ast, would do everything in his power to avoid me until the day I died and was reborn. Still…
“Well, that did make me feel better, so thanks, Reia.”
“I’m honoured, Your Highness.”
Even though it was nothing more than an empty talk, I still felt better.
“Your Highness… The Kingdom of Mareid has been annihilated. The epicentre of the calamity, the kingdom’s capital, has been wiped out of the map. Even the nearby cities could not avoid complete and utter destruction, ma’am. According to the report, the influx of refugees is overwhelming the neighbouring nations.”
What Reia said ensured the office’s atmosphere would be more relaxed, but the dispatch rider didn’t seem to want to let that happen. He frowned as if to say now wasn’t the time, then spat out a report that contained threatening and urgent matters.
“So what?”
…If your kingdoms happen to be located in the north, that was!
The dispatch rider looked stunned. “I’m sorry, Your Highness?”
“This crisis is unfolding in the northern kingdoms, right? So, they should be solving it with their powers.”
“B-but, ma’am! This is the demon king we’re talking about! The abominable demon king that worships the Evil God!”
“Yes, I’m aware. I’m well aware that you’re talking about the demon king that brings destruction to our world.”
Throughout history, demon kings borrowing the Evil God’s powers had appeared several times. They went on to destroy many kingdoms, and the strongest demon king of them even almost wiped out an entire species, too.
“However, they were stopped eventually.”
“Y-Your Highness…”
I waved my hand and dismissed the dispatch rider. I already knew what he wanted to say, anyway. And that would be, “All of humanity must work together to stop the Evil God’s fragment.”
And that the world’s strongest nation, the Karuan Empire, must become the centre of this united force. In my view, that was…
“…Utter dogsh*t, I say.”
“Your Highness… Again…!” Reia frowned deeply and began badmouthing Ast. “Your Highness, such scandalous turn of words should be left to Sir Ast. If people learned that someone as noble as you were using such vulgar words…!”
“What will happen if they learn, I wonder?”
Reia’s nagging had gotten worse as she got older, so I must be quick with shutting her down.
“…Mm, well. They will all shut their mouths up and say nothing, ma’am.”
Reia spat out a grand sigh and spoke The Truth. I nodded in satisfaction. “Of course. Only you, Reia, can talk back to me in this empire, after all!”
“Was that… a praise, Your Highness?”
“Of course. Being able to say whatever you want to the person wielding absolute power is no easy feat, wouldn’t you say? It’s impossible unless you are the most loyal subordinate in history, like Reia.”
“I see. I’ll take it as a compliment, then.” Reia replied like that, but her eyes were still filled with suspicion.
“Reia, your distrust of people has gotten worse. You weren’t like this in the past, though…”
“It’s all thanks to Sir Ast, ma’am.” Reia ruefully nodded away.
I nodded alongside her. It wasn’t like Ast pulled a wool over her eyes once or twice, after all. Anyone who suffered as much as Reia would surely become a lot less trusting, too!
“Ah, aaah… I miss the young and naïve Reia. It used to be so much fun to tease you back then, but that source of entertainment has been robbed from me, I guess.”
“I’m no longer the old me, Your Highness. I’ve matured over the years.” Reia responded confidently, which was kind of cool to see. As expected of Reia, who had been voted as the No.1 role model by the empire’s female knights for the past twenty years!
“Yeah, you’re right. Now I only have your marriage issues to tease you with. How unfortunate.”
“Keu-heuk…” Reia’s body suddenly began convulsing. She was getting physically stronger as she got older, but her mental defence was still weak against the matter of her marriage even now.
Actually, it felt like the mental damage she received was getting disproportionally greater than her ever-increasing power level.
“Y-Your Highness…” Reia staggered and couldn’t even raise her head. However, she still retorted to me even as her voice was ready to give out. “You know that… you’re in the same boat as me. That’s why you shouldn’t openly bring that up, ma’am.”
Reia’s unexpected counter successfully shut my mouth up.
“Yes, you’re also past your prime to get married, Your Highness!” As expected of Reia, one of the top warriors on the entire continent! She didn’t miss the small opening in my defence and launched a merciless barrage. “You have already gotten older than the age I was when you kept teasing me about this matter! And now, Your Highness, you’re already in your mid-thirties!”
“Goddamn it…!” I inadvertently swore under my breath. I wanted to forget that inconvenient fact, yet Reia had accurately pointed out that sore point! “I never imagined you’d bring that up, Reia…!”
The shock from the betrayal of my closest subordinate was indescribably huge.
“You started it first, Your Highness! Even if it’s you, I cannot back down on this subject matter!” Reia cried out as the look of unyielding determination filled her face.
That expression stopped me from saying what was in my head, and I said something else instead. “Fine, I understand. I’ll watch my words from now on.”
I could retaliate here, but doing so might cause Reia to run away and never return to my side. She was making a resolute face right now, but I’ve known her long enough to realise what was happening here. That determination of hers was actually her final, desperate struggle. She was giving her all to hide her inner self about to fall apart and protect what’s left of her dignity.
“Besides all that. Will this really be fine, Your Highness?” Reia quickly changed the topic once I gave her my assurance.
“Of course it will be. The northern region and the empire are quite far apart, after all.”
“That’s not what I meant, Your Highness. Will it be fine to not offer our help?”
“Mm, well. We should consider helping out the Neidon Kingdom, at least. We’re in an alliance, after all.”
Did my reply sound too flippant for Reia’s liking? She held her forehead as if a migraine was assaulting her and groaned deeply. “Your Highness! This is the Evil God’s fragment we’re talking about. The whole world might get destroyed!”
Reia was speaking in a serious tone since the topic was indeed a grave one, but if I’m being honest, I thought she was more serious while talking about the marriage problems a few seconds ago.
I dismissively replied to her. “If this world was frail enough to get destroyed just because we didn’t help, it would’ve been annihilated a long time ago.”
This was the basis of my relaxed attitude. Besides, I had something more pressing to think about.
“Your Highness, people will start resenting the empire.”
“We already have plenty of those people, anyway. What does it matter if their ranks grow by a little more? Actually, many bastards would be waiting patiently for our strengths to weaken after confronting the demon king.”
If Ast was here, he’d have said the same thing. No, hang on. If it was him, he would’ve suggested sacrificing a few kingdoms to make the demon king run out of steam first and then swoop in to finish the creature off to hog all the glory for ourselves.
Ast said such a move was called the ‘Last Hit’ in the professional circles or some such.
“Your Highness! Are you saying that Sir Ast is more important than the world?”
“Of course not. If there’s no world left, I wouldn’t have a place to call home with Ast, no?”
That’s why the world getting destroyed would be troublesome for me. The ideal situation would be for only those areas where Ast could possibly escape to getting destroyed while everything else was left unscathed.
“Besides, the Evil God’s so-called apostle is supposed to be defeated by the united coalition of heroes from various religious orders. You need divine powers to defeat the demon king since magic doesn’t work on it.”
The Evil God’s fragment, the demon king, couldn’t be harmed by sword auras or light, magic, and even the ancient sorcery. That meant the ordinary soldiers and knights couldn’t offer much help other than dealing with the monsters stained by evil so that the heroes receiving divine blessings could have an easier time fighting the demon king.
I didn’t see a need to send the empire’s troops since that’s the case.
“But, Your Highness. The religious orders will no doubt request for our aid.”
“I’m sure they will. That’s why we should use the hidden ace up our sleeve. After all, haven’t we been ‘looking after’ the followers of the Order of Nature?”
Ast told me something quite important a long time ago. The one who didn’t work didn’t deserve to eat.
Since we had been treating those two like royalty until now, it’s about time they start working to repay the debt, so to speak.
Reia gasped in surprise. “Could it be…!”
“That’s right. The hero of the Order of Nature’s real name is Raina lel Swinn, a direct descendent of the renowned Grand Duke family of the empire.”
“Isn’t he staying with Sir Ast in the demon continent?”
“He has apparently crossed the border early this dawn. It’s probably true as the Goddess of Nature herself has been tracking him ever since he left the demon continent.”
Earlier in the morning, the Saint of the Order of Nature, Hill Shuttle, had rushed to my office to tell me that. As this person was connected to Ast, I couldn’t fully trust this new information, but Hill Shuttle was still a saint of a religious order. No matter how talented Ast was, he couldn’t have brainwashed a saint to lie with a straight face.
If he could, then the Evil God’s fragment, the demon king, should bow its head in awe at Ast’s feet.
I proudly declared our next step. “We shall help that hero and his companions to show our support of the Order of Nature.”
“…is what we’ll say while capturing Hero Swinn and extracting information from him.”
“As expected of Reia~!” I grinned faintly as Reia whined back at me, saying this scheme wouldn’t work out. “Don’t be too concerned, Reia. If things look bad, I’ll simply have the demon king defeated before we set upon our quest to capture the other demon king in the demon continent.”
I revealed my intention to kill the Evil God’s fragment if the world was really in danger to put Reia’s mind at ease. She sighed in relief. “That’s good to hear, Your Highness.”
“Of course. I mean, it’ll be too unfair if you and I lose our lives even before experiencing what married life is like, right?”
“Your Highness!”
While listening to Reia’s cry, I grinned in satisfaction.

#6 Their circumstances: Reia lil Areis’s circumstance

Right after my discussion with Her Highness, I went to deliver her intentions to the Saint of the Order of Nature, Hill Shuttle, and his companion, Selena the Elf. Then, I assigned 100 of our finest to accompany them on their quest to appreh… Ahem, I mean, to reunite with Hero Swinn.
Basically, their new situation was not that different from the house arrest they had been under for the past couple of years. Even then, the two of them readily accepted our offer. And they remained just as accommodating even after I told them we had ulterior motives for accompanying them.
The Saint explained that the Goddess of Nature had given him an oracle. And in that oracle, the hero might turn his back on the world and run away somewhere. So, they needed to stop him before that happened.
In other words, our interests aligned rather nicely.
On the same day of our discussion, the Saint and the 100 ‘guards’ departed from the empire’s capital with enough supplies. A few days later, I received a report saying that Hero Swinn had been found on some nameless mountain range.
Considering Sir Ast’s training regime… This was rather fast. However, this result proved once and for all that you couldn’t escape from the eyes of the gods unless you were right next to the Evil God’s fragment or on the demon continent where the divine influence held no sway.
The hero seemed to have put up quite a struggle, but the 100 ‘guards’ I sent along did their jobs splendidly. Hero Swinn had defeated an elder dragon all by himself, but outsmarting 100 summoners from Yugrasia was still a step too far for him.
The report went on to state that the captured hero was tortu… nope, not that, but threa… Oops, not that one either, was requested to divulge everything that had happened on the demon continent.
Hero Swinn apparently sang like a canary and spat out every little piece of information he knew.
“That’s surprising…” While organising the new influx of information, I discovered a surprising bit of news. “Team Leader Mirua was captured, too? I guess we shouldn’t underestimate the demon continent’s capabilities.”
Even I couldn’t see through Team Leader Mirua’s depths of talent. She was the core member of the Kidnap Ast Squad with skills to prove her worth, yet she still got captured!
She hadn’t been making her reports lately, so I figured that glutton must’ve relocated beyond the reach of magic transmission just to find a new diner or something. But the truth was far grimmer than that. Sir Ast had already captured her and was using that poor girl as a slave!
“Should we consider dispatching more operatives into the demon continent…?”
A defensive fortress wall was being erected on the border of the demon continent, and there were now hundreds of new demon kings instead of the usual one. Not only that, even the one and only Team Leader Mirua got captured by them! Did we have someone talented enough to infiltrate a place like that?
“…This isn’t a problem that I can decide alone, anyway.”
I organised the report into more digestible summaries and headed to Her Highness’s office. After lightly knocking on the door, I spoke to the lady-in-waiting beyond the doorway, then stepped inside the office.
Her Highness welcomed me in. “Good day, Reia. You’re a little late than usual.”
“Ma’am. The report from our agents dispatched to accompany the hero has arrived. They have secured him without encountering any problems.”
“The power of a goddess is rather convenient, isn’t it? To think we can find someone so quickly.”
Before Her Highness could grow too interested in the divine powers, I hurriedly stopped her. “However, the goddess still can’t locate Ast, ma’am.”
“…Yes, I’m already aware of that.”
If you know, why are you making such a rueful expression, ma’am!
If I hadn’t stopped her now, Her Highness would’ve kidnapped a few saints and heroes and threatened them to capture Sir Ast through the powers of their gods!
“Here’s the report, Your Highness.”
I handed over the report that I did my best to summarise. Her Highness only needed to know the really-important stuff while the sundry could be handled by other team leaders and myself, or alternatively, the applicable military personnel.
Her Highness perused the summarised report that only contained information related to Sir Ast, then with a grave look on her face, she began pondering something. “This is odd.”
“But ma’am. Sir Ast has always been odd. As such, one shouldn’t be surprised by his antics by now.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” Her Highness pondered something, then ordered me to bring the map of the continent. “Take a look.”
She spread the large map on the desk, then pointed at a certain location.
“It began in the Kingdom of Mareid. Then, the kingdom next to it…”
What Her Highness pointed out was not Sir Ast’s movements, but the demon king’s. I’d normally have omitted the information on the creature, but as it was related to Hero Swinn, I left it in the report.
“Now look.” Her Highness used red ink to trace the demon king’s path so far. Then, from the creature’s last reported sighting, she began tracing a new path that it should take, eventually stopping at a certain location on the map.
And on it was…
“…The City of Burbelion?”
At the end of the surprisingly-straight crimson line was the Final City, Burbelion.
“Is this a coincidence?” Her Highness quietly muttered, but I couldn’t offer a reply. That’s because… She probably was thinking the same thing as me. “The demon king is heading towards Burbelion? That can’t be it.”
“I concur, ma’am.”
“Yes. This demon king… The possibility of this creature heading to the demon continent is great.”
This behaviour was noticeably different from prior demon kings in the history books that simply laid waste to everything around them.
I narrowed my eyes in confusion. “This is so strange, ma’am.”
“Indeed, very strange. However… What if it’s related to Ast?”
“Then, well… I can confidently accept this strange event as ‘normal’, ma’am.”
Sir Ast had a way of utterly smashing your common sense apart. If it was him, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was an acquaintance of the Evil God!
Her Highness muttered with a suspicious grin on her face. “Looks like we now have one more reason to let the demon king be.”
And so… The demon king we left alone crossed the border as expected and disappeared into the demon continent.

Click Donate For More Chapters
Next Chapter(s) on Patreon and Ko-fi