A Banquet with this Devil Count!
Editing: Uranophane, Ulti, Keel the swift
Near the entrance to the town of Axel, Megumin and Aqua looked up at us as we boarded the carriage that Darkness hastily prepared.
Since the two of them are staying in the city, they’ve come to see Darkness and me off while we made our final preparations for the journey.
“You can cast Create Water, so water isn’t an issue, but have you brought enough food with you? What about handkerchiefs and tissues? Hey, Kazuma, do you know how to set up a tent? I’ve heard that some people won’t be able to sleep if they suddenly change pillows, so maybe it’s best that you bring it along with you?”
“What are you, my mother? You don’t have to worry about us. We’re veteran adventurers, you know? Our levels are pretty high right now. Plus, it’s not that harsh of a journey, so you really don’t have to worry so much. Oh, and I don’t need a pillow.”
Aqua nagged at me like a mother fussing over her son.
“I can’t help it. I won’t be going with you this time, so take care. If you get killed by a monster, I won’t be able to resurrect you. Don’t pick up and eat anything strange you find, okay?”
Darkness seemed to be a little troubled by Aqua’s fussing, but smiled warmly and replied.
“Aqua, we travelled to both Elroad and Arcanretia, remember? We’re all accustomed to travelling, so relax.”
“It’s because a sheltered lady who knows little of the outside world like you is traveling alone with a shitty NEET that I’m worried.”
Why do I have to be spoken of that way by Aqua? If our situations were reversed, she’d be the one who’d be my greatest cause of concern.
“Oh, and Darkness, you need to be especially wary while traveling. Take care not to get assaulted.”
In response to Aqua’s continued fussing,
“You don’t have to worry about that. I’m a Crusader, taking attacks from monsters is my job, so don’t worry. I’ll keep Kazuma safe.”
“What are you talking about? I’m telling to be wary of Kazuma so he doesn’t assault you while you are traveling alone together.”
Darkness started fidgeting and stealing glances at me after hearing Aqua’s words, seemingly wanting to respond but unable to find the proper words.
“Yeah, you should take care not to be attacked.”
You too, Megumin?
Do you really have that little trust in me?
“I don’t think I’ve done anything that would make you suspect that I’d assault a girl… no, wait, I recall grabbing a girl’s hand and some other stuff happening back in the Crimson Demon village, but… no, sorry, it’s nothing.”
Thanks to Megumin’s questioning gaze, I remembered a lot of unnecessary things and my voice ended up wavering.
“No, what are you saying? I’m telling you to be careful not to get attacked by Darkness because the two of you will be alone together.”
Ah, I see.
“Megumin! Don’t make it sound like I’m some kind of pervert! Just how little trust do you have in… No, nevermind.”
Darkness seemed to wither in the face of Megumin’s stern gaze. Did she remember a bunch of things like I did, I wonder?
Yeah, now that I really think about it, it’ll be just the two of us.
I’m starting to feel anxious.
And recently, the two of us have been a little more conscious of each other, so things have been strangely awkward between us.
Is this alright?
This won’t cause either of us to make some kind of mistake on the road, will it?
Isn’t this really dangerous? The two of us are heading to an unfamiliar place, after all. What if something really does happen on the road? It’d just be the two of us, so if something does happen, there won’t be anyone around to intervene.
Just when I was occupied with such thoughts, Megumin suddenly handed something to me.
Is this some kind of magic item?
No, actually, I think I recall seeing something like this before…
“That’s the portable toilet that Wiz was selling at a discount at her store. It’s a convenient item when you are traveling, so keep it with you.”
I see. Yeah, answering the call while on the road is a little troublesome.
The only thing you can do is find a secluded spot to hastily do your business.
“In that case, I’ll gratefully accept it… No, wait. Say, Megumin, I know I’ve seen this thing before. If I recall, there’s some kind of flaw in its operation…”
“It seems like it has a function where it creates a loud noise to mask the sound when you’re doing business. So if either one of you are attacked, please use this to create a commotion and attract attention to yourself.”
So it’s an alarm buzzer!?
“… Hey, you don’t need that! I wouldn’t think about doing those sort of things while the children are still suffering!”
Despite Darkness’s words, I still ended up stowing it into the carriage. Just in case.
“Well, I leave the matter of the devil’s nails in your hands. Aqua and I will do our best to hold down the fort until you return.”
After saying that, the two of us shared a smile.
Megumin and Aqua will be staying back to treat the sick children.
Apparently, Megumin learnt how to brew recovery potions back in her hometown, so she’ll be making various preparations while we head out to retrieve the ingredients.
I’ve bought what ingredients we could from the apothecaries and magic item shops in the city, and the rest of the ingredients will be handled by the other adventurers who were present.
All that’s left is the nails of a high-ranking devil…
“I really wanted to meet him and forcibly peel off his nails, but I have to take care of the children, so I’ll just have to bear with it. Hey, Kazuma, you better properly finish him off after getting the ingredients, you hear?”
“Didn’t you hear what Vanir said? The guy we are dealing with might be a devil, but he’s also a noble of this country, you know?”
Yes, we’re heading towards the castle of a certain noble of this country.
Apparently, high-ranking devils have been disguising themselves as humans in order to mingle with this country’s nobility.
Darkness appears to be disturbed after hearing that, but it seems like she’s leaving that issue until after the problem with the children are dealt with.
And thus, the two of us are heading out to negotiate with that high-ranking devil.
“What? Do you still have something to say?”
Aqua handed over something to us after we both boarded the carriage.
“It’s a new test product that Wiz is offering in her shop. Apparently this is patterned after something you tried to make before. You can’t tell what will happen while you’re on the road, so take this with you, just in case.”
I took the knock-off condom that I once tried to make and angrily tossed it to the ground.
The carriage that Darkness was driving rattled as it rolled down the highway.
Sitting next to Darkness as she held the reins, my sense of curiosity buzzed at me until I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Hey, Darkness, let me take the reins for a bit.”
It’s been about an hour since we left Axel.
Having grown bored of watching the scenery flow past, I gave in to my sense of curiosity and made such a request of Darkness.
“Don’t be stupid. It takes some skill to properly handle a carriage. You need to keep both the speed of the carriage and the stamina of the horses in mind, neither going too fast nor too slow…”
“The only thing you’ve been doing for a while is holding the reins. Come on, let me try. It’s really boring here.”
It’s been over a year since I came to this world.
In a world without easy access to entertainment, I can’t possibly let the opportunity to drive a carriage slip me by.
In the first place, I came to this world to have adventures.
Well, I ended up becoming a complete NEET recently, but still…
“Okay, fine. Just a little while, alright? Don’t pull on the reins too hard. In general, you can just let the horse handle it.”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Just grab hold of the reins and whip it every now and then, right?
“Don’t whip it! That’s only to be done in the case of an emergency! Really, don’t do it! This isn’t a joke, don’t fool around like you usually do! Do you understand that?”
I nodded my head in response to Darkness’s repeated warnings.
“… There’s nothing that looks like a handbrake or steering wheel here. And where’s the clutch?”
“What are you saying? Don’t just start spouting nonsense!”
As Darkness made a move to snatch the reins away from me, I raised a hand to calm her down.
“Relax. It’s just an isekai joke.”
I made those jokes in order to lessen the awkward atmosphere we had between the two of us.
Darkness’s been acting weird ever since we left.
No, it’s not just now that she’s been acting weird.
Recently… To be more accurate, ever since Darkness confessed to me…
“What does ‘isekai joke’ even mean….? We’ll be free until we reach the next town, so let’s take this chance to learn more about you. I’ve been curious for quite some time.”
This girl, she suddenly became lively the moment we are away from town.
“So, let’s start with your place of birth.”
Ignoring my worries, Darkness, who’s now the passenger, eagerly asked me as I held the reins.
“I come from a country called Japan. It’s one of the leading economic powers in the world, and full of people with black hair and black eyes, like me.”
Darkness repeated, tapping her fingers on her knee.
“You should have at least heard the name before. Pretty much all of the strangely named folks that you’re familiar with came from Japan.”
Hearing my words, Darkness raised her head as she made the connection.
“Yeah, that’s it! All those people with black hair and eyes like yours always seem to possess some amazing power. That Mitsu-something guy with the magic sword was also like this. He had that abnormally powerful weapon… Just how did he get his hands on something like that… The others were like that too. The ones who carved their names into history all basically had features like yours. Then, that means…”
Darkness swallowed and looked at me with an expectant gaze.
“… Don’t tell me that you also have some kind of amazing skill or weapon?”
“I don’t have anything like that. The only thing I have is the high luck I was born with and a slightly above average intelligence, and I suppose just a little bit of bravery and the heart of an adventurer… ”
In response, Darkness started twirling her hair with her finger. And the expectant gaze which she gave me just a while ago…
“In other words, you’re just a powerless, ordinary man…”
Oh, that’s the gaze you give to someone whom you pity.
“Hey, what do you think such an ordinary man like me has achieved! Don’t sigh and look so disappointed! An ordinary man like me having accomplished so much is pretty amazing, you know!? You should be praising me! Shower me me with praise and compliments!”
“How should I put this, have you changed a little recently? Is it because Aqua has influenced you, or the other way round… Or have you always been like this…”
This girl just said something unthinkable.
“Don’t lump us together. All she does is eat, sleep, and drink, and does stupid things all day. Putting me in the same group as her is…”
“Isn’t that no different from what you normally do?”
I turned my gaze to the horse at the end of my reins dragging our carriage along at a quick pace.
“Aren’t horses cute? How do I put it, I quite like how they always have such a gentle gaze. I’m fine with cats and chicks, but I think I like horses the best.”
“Hey, don’t look away. And look into my eyes… Seriously. Anyway, back to the original topic, you told me that you were a ranker in your home country, right?”
I gave her a questioning look.
“Hey, why are you looking at me like that!? You mentioned that you were a ranker in your country before, didn’t you? You were given all kinds of nicknames and were looked up to by everyone, and you spent your days hunting with your companions and challenging formidable bosses… ”
Yeah, I did.
Come to think of it, I did say those kinds of stupid things, didn’t I?
If I recall, those were me recounting the time I spent playing that MMO.
“Well, that did happen, but it’s all in the past now. It’s kind of like an embarrassing history of mine, so it’s best not to bring it up.”
“Why? What’s so embarrassing about it? Those are the memories you made together with your close friends, aren’t they? Those are all respectable achievements. You should take pride in them.”
Darkness seemed to have misunderstood something and chuckled.
“Or what, do you perhaps find it embarrassing? Even though you constantly boast about defeating how many Demon King Generals?”
… She probably wouldn’t understand it if I just honestly told her that those were tales of what happened in an MMO.
Well, she seems like she’s having fun, so I guess it doesn’t really matter too much…
“Hey, Kazuma, I recall you saying that you can’t return to your country anymore… Do you ever feel lonely over not being able to meet your family?”
Having placed both hands on her knees, Darkness suddenly asked me that with a strangely sombre expression.
“I’ve never once felt lonely since I came over to this world. There wasn’t ever a chance to, what with you guys raising a fuss all the time. Actually, I’ve never even thought of my family until now… Wait, AHHHHH!”
“W-What’s wrong, Kazuma? Do you sense an enemy?”
Darkness jerked upright and started scanning the surroundings after hearing my sudden scream.
“No, that’s not it! I just remembered! I lent my brother five hundred yen! He said he lacked five hundred yen to buy the equipment he needed for his club, so I lent it to him! He still owes me that money!”
In response, Darkness nervously asked.
“Fiv-Five hundred yen? Is that a large amount of money?”
“Well, if you convert it to the currency used here, I’d say it’d be worth about 500 Eris.”
“Just write it off! It’s not like you’d miss such a small amount of money. I heard that you tried to bribe Rain off when they were about to throw you out of the castle. Seems like you still haven’t learnt your lesson and caused quite a commotion back there. When I wrote to them to report that you’ve regained your memory, Claire-dono and Rain sent a tearful letter of apology along with several gifts. I felt that they were way too weighty and had them respectfully returned, but…”
“What do you think you’re doing with tributes meant for another person? I haven’t forgiven them! If I see them again, I’ll definitely make them regret being born a woman. I’ve got some really nice punishments in store for them that would traumatise even you.”
“…S-Say, about those traumatic punishments, just how far are you going to go? Could you tell me some details…”
“Shut up! It’s definitely something that even you will hate! Stop blushing!”
And just like that, the two of us progressed smoothly on our journey, encountering neither monsters nor any troublesome obstacles on the road.
“To think that our travels would progress so well as long as Aqua isn’t around. I wouldn’t mind taking a few more trips like this.”
“Hey, Kazuma, I don’t think Aqua is deliberately trying to create problems when we travel. Through I do get how you feel after having such a smooth journey… Rather than that, just what are the ‘samurai’ tribe that you mentioned? Can you please go into more detail?”
Since she seemed to be very interested, I’ve been sharing stories about Japan to Darkness over the course of the journey.
“You sure are interested in samurai, huh? Well, it’s just like I said. They wield wickedly sharp swords known as Katana on the battlefield, and they’ll split their bellies at the drop of a hat.”
“Split their bellies?”
Judging by her surprise, there probably isn’t anything similar to seppuku in this world.
“Yeah, if they offend their master, they’ll split their bellies. If they lose a battle, they’ll split their bellies. If they surrender, they’ll split their bellies.”
“Isn’t that a little extreme? If you have to split your belly when you surrender, doesn’t that invalidate the purpose of surrendering in the first place?”
Japanese culture seems to be full of wonders for the people of this world.
“Samurai value honor highly, after all. As to how much they value it, they value it enough that they’ll purposefully style their hair in a manner that would invoke fear in their enemies. Then, in battle, they’ll go around collecting the heads of their foes to use as trophies.”
“Are they some kind of head hunting tribe? But are they not concerned about wiping themselves out? They split their bellies so readily…”
Well, yeah, there are no longer any samurai left in the world, after all.
“What about the others? I want to hear more about the ninjas you mentioned earlier!”
It seems like it’s not only foreigners who love ninja, but the people of this world too.
“Ninjas are primarily active at night. They use the cover of darkness to infiltrate fortresses and take down their prey. Oh, and I also heard that they make use of poison.”
“Attacking from the cover of darkness, great at breaking into fortresses and poisonous… They really sound scary…”
I get the feeling that she’s getting the wrong idea, but…
“Oh, and in manga and stuff, they can use lighting or fire release or something and breathe fire or lightning in battle.”
“What? They are capable of using magic breath too?… What else can they do?”
Yeah, she’s definitely getting the wrong idea.
“The most famous skill they have would be the clone creation technique. They can create countless copies of themselves.”
“They really do sound scary. I see, are these ninja monsters are hermaphroditic… ?”
It’d be a pain to clear things up, so let’s just leave it be.
… Still, it seems like the awkward atmosphere that we had before we set off has been totally dispersed.
—Yes, up till now at least.
“It’s great that we managed to stumble upon this cave. With this, we don’t have to set up a tent, and we can block the entrance with the carriage after moving the horses to the back of the cave. Looks like we’ll be able to sleep soundly tonight.”
It’s completely dark outside, and the season is such that one would get chilly if they were to sleep out in the open.
That said, it’d be a bad idea to build a fire with just the two of us here.
There are monsters that aren’t afraid of fire. Lighting a fire wouldn’t deter such beasts, and are in fact more likely to attract their attention.
“We have some jerky and hardtack, so let’s have ourselves a simple dinner with these.”
It seems like Darkness is looking forward to trying out the jerky and hardtack. She’s probably never tasted them before, having eaten high-class cuisine all her life.
Well, it’s not like I don’t understand her feelings.
When you talk about adventurers going on a journey, their rations will of course involve jerky and hardtack.
Even I am looking forward to trying it myself.
“After dinner, let’s lay down a blanket somewhere in the cave and go to sleep. It’s a pity that we can’t have a bath, but we can at least wipe ourselves down.”
Darkness said as she brought out a washbasin and a towel.
I’ve just been blindly agreeing to everything Darkness said.
“What’s wrong with you? Are you even listening to me?”
Darkness glared at me.
“Yeah, I am. You want me to use Create Water to make some water for you to wash up, right? Give me a sec, I’ll do it right now.”
“I didn’t say that… Well, I do want some water, but…”
Ignoring the slightly confused Darkness, I aimed my hand at the basin and prepared to use my magic.
We both exclaimed at the same time as the tips of our fingers brushed against each other.
The horses that were resting at the back of the cave let out a sniffle.
The soft songs of the insects active in autumn filled the air.
The surroundings were only barely illuminated by the light of the stars.
It’s all very romantic…
“N-no, I don’t need any water. I had a bath before setting out this morning, after all!”
“Oh yeah, I don’t need to wash up either! All I did today was sit on the carriage, so I didn’t sweat too much.”
Yeah, it’s not like I worked up a sweat or anything, so let’s just have dinner then go to sleep.
Awkwardly avoiding meeting each other’s gaze, we brought out the hardtack and jerky.
I filled our cups with Create Water. Then, without bothering to light a fire, both of us dug into our hardtack with only the light of the stars to guide us.
We both exclaimed at the same time.
“Hey, what the hell? I’ve heard that hardtack is tough, but I didn’t expect it to be this tough. How are we even supposed to bite into this?”
“Why are you asking me that? … Aren’t I a sheltered lady? I know little of the outside world. This is something that you should know.”
Even if you ask me, how the hell are you supposed to eat this?
Nevermind, let’s just leave it aside for now.
Let’s start with the jerky…
Darkness followed my lead and picked up her jerky.
The both of us exclaimed once more.
“Hey, isn’t it dangerous to eat this? We’ll definitely get hypertension and die if we eat this. Actually, isn’t this just a ball of salt?”
“Shouldn’t this be used as stock in some kind of stew or something? It certainly looks like it’d be bad for you if you eat it straight up…”
I returned the hardtack and jerky to my place, then stood up and picked up my bow.
“H-Hey, Kazuma, where are you going this late at night?”
“I’m a NEET who grew up in a country of fine cuisine like Japan. There’s no way I could eat this! Especially not after our standard of living has been steadily rising! I have Farsight, Enemy Detection, and Snipe. I can easily bag a rabbit or two. I’ll go out for a short hunt, you stay here and gather up some twigs and branches. If it’s just long enough to cook a meal, making a small fire shouldn’t attract the attention of any monsters.”
“You really are reliable at times like this…”
—After finishing a surprisingly delicious meal made from skewering a horned rabbit I caught, we decided to turn in for an early night, but…
… I can’t sleep.
Am I feeling nervous because I’m traveling, or is it because of something else?
Even though I’ve been lying down for quite some time, I still can’t fall asleep.
Am I just wary because I’m sleeping outdoors?
Enemy Detection isn’t giving off any unusual readings.
Plus if anything happens, I’m sure the neighing of the horses in the cave will wake me up.
Or perhaps it’s because I’m not used to sleeping with nothing more than a blanket between me and the cold hard ground of the cave…
No, I know exactly why I’m having trouble falling asleep.
Just as I turned over for the countless time,
“Kazuma, are you awake… ?”
I heard Darkness say in a gentle and extremely soft voice.
It’s voice soft enough that I can only barely make out.
If I were asleep, I would probably never even notice it. It’s that soft.
It would’ve been simple to say that I’m awake, but for some reason, I remained silent.
“Have you fallen asleep…?”
I kept pretending to be asleep.
Then, I heard the rustling of cloth sliding off her, followed by the soft sound of her footsteps.
Seems like Darkness got up from under her blanket to go somewhere else.
“It’s fine, Kazuma’s sleeping… Right?”
I heard her say in a ‘I should confirm it’ tone of voice before she slowly crept towards me.
Just what is she planning?
What are you planning to do when I’m asleep!?
Was tossing away the thing that Aqua gave me a mistake?
The situation I was fearing the most… Yes, spending the night out alone with Darkness.
Didn’t she say it was unlikely for an accident like this to happen?
After confirming that I’m really asleep, Darkness took a deep breath…!
And, without doing anything to me, crept to the mouth of the cave and started fumbling with something.
A loud noise echoed throughout the cave.
“Hey, what are you doing! Why are you making such a racket this late at night?”
I rushed out in a panic.
“No, this is, umm, the portable toilet just suddenly started making this kind of noise…!”
Darkness who looked to be on the verge of tears said while pointing at the box that was continued to make such a racket.
It looked similar to the portable toilets that they would set up at construction sites and such back in Japan.
“I see. I was wondering what you were up to when you got up in the middle of the night. So you’ve been holding it in for the entire journey…”
“Don’t just casually say something like that! And you were awake!?”
Darkness blushed brightly enough that it shone through even on this moonless night.
“Of course I am! I’m alone, in the dark, with a woman who’s assaulted me many times before sleeping next to me. Under such circumstances, of course I’d be wary.”
“Who would do something like that under such circumstances!? Nevermind that, what do we do with this!? I can’t make the toilet stop ringing!”
While this situation sounds humorous, it’s actually very dire.
“Hey, monsters are starting to gather! They’re being drawn by this noise! Enemy Detection is pinging like crazy! Wake the horses up! I feel bad for waking them in the middle of the night, but we have to go! Grah, I should never have said that things are progressing smoothly just because Aqua isn’t here! You useless piece of trash!”
“I’m really sorry! I’m sorry for being a useless Crusader!”
After surviving such a hectic night.
Close to noon on the next day, we’ve arrived at a small border town a day and a half’s ride away from Axel.
The aristocrat that we needed to see has made his residence in such a remote town.
“Please, my name is Dustiness ford Lalatina. I have urgent matters to discuss with your lord, that’s why I’ve made my way here. Please call for him.”
After hearing Darkness’ passionate plea, the gatekeepers nodded and replied.
“Our lord will not see anyone without prior appointments. Even if it is Lady Dustiness, I cannot make an exception…”
“Please, can’t you do something about that?”
Darkness interrupted the gatekeepers before they could finish.
“E-Even if you say that, those are the rules…”
“Please, I don’t have much time left!”
Faced with Darkness’ usual straightforward approach, the gatekeeper faltered.
That’s how important the children are to her.
Yeah, she’s always been a direct and forthright person.
She’s hard-headed and stubborn, but that’s all to protect the people she cares about.
I’m sure she’ll resolutely stand there until the lord of the castle comes out to her.
“Now that it’s come to this, I’ll lend a hand. Hey, you guys, this girl is probably going to end up standing there until she meets the lord. It’s going to turn into an endurance contest.”
After hearing my words, the gatekeepers seemed troubled.
I’m sure they’ll at least send word to him in this case.
At least, that was what I was thinking, but Darkness—
“No, I really am in a hurry, so I can’t afford to wait around!”
“…No, come on, just go along with me. It’s not like you can just force your way inside.”
I made a troubled expression similar to the ones that the gatekeepers had.
“… If you put it that way, then I suppose I can at least send word to the lord…”
After saying that, one of the gatekeepers disappeared out back towards the main building.
“That’s great, Darkness. With this, we’ve taken the first step—”
“That won’t do! Please let me see him!”
“What are you doing? I know that we are in a hurry, but you should put a bit more trust in Megumin and Aqua. Don’t you remember what we came here to do!?”
Perhaps she was moved by my words, or she remembered what she originally came here for, but Darkness slowly teared up and….
“Please, let me use your toilet…”
She lowered her head to the gatekeepers and said that in a small voice.
“—We ended up embarrassing ourselves thanks to you!”
“That’s my line! You were the one who raised your voice and attracted a crowd!”
Thanks to that little emergency, we managed to gain entry into the castle and secure a meeting with the lord.
“I told you to handle it in a secluded spot somewhere. This is why I hate dealing with noble ladies, their pride gets in the way at the strangest times. You still dare call yourself an adventurer?”
“No, I know that having to deal with business out in the wilderness is unavoidable for an adventurer, but what does that have to do with me being a noble lady…? Ugh, this is the first time I’ve regretted becoming an adventurer.”
I walked down the halls of the castle along with Darkness, who looked slightly more refreshed than before.
“Thank you for waiting, Dustiness-sama. The lord will see you now.”
The gatekeeper who was guiding us said before retreating.
We’ve come to lavishly furnished hall.
It’s not just a collection of expensive furniture all garishly thrown together either, they had a distinct theme and it all fit together quite well.
From that, I can tell that the lord didn’t just recently have a windfall.
“Hey, Darkness, you mentioned that this noble is a little odd, didn’t you? What do you mean by that? What kind of person is the lord of this castle? Is he a pervert like you?”
“Just what do you think us nobility are? The ones you’ve met are all a little weird, true, but most nobles are highly respected and an example to the common folk… Er, well, leaving me aside…”
Darkness withered before my gaze, letting out a small cough.
“The lord of this castle is Count Zereschrute. He’s known as the Lord of Brutality.”
Just hearing that name gave me chills.
I recall hearing a similar title back in Japan.
What was it again? Something about a nickname of a really fearsome noble from another country who ended up forming the basis for the legend of vampires or something?
Are we really going to negotiate with a noble who has such a scary title?
Maybe it was a mistake to just send the two of us here.
Unreasonable nobles like Alderp do exist in this world, after all.
If we earn his ire in a small backwater town like this, who knows what would happen to us?
It’d be easy to fabricate proof that we were devoured by some monster or another if we were to vanish out here.
Just as I was thinking that, I heard a knock on the main door, signalling that the Lord of Brutality is about to arrive.
Crap, I kind of want to go home now.
“Hey, Darkness, maybe we should regroup and come back with some more people…”
Just as I said that and was about to stand up.
The main door opened, and what entered was…
“It’s been some time, Lord Zereschrute. My apologies for the sudden visit, but this is a matter of some urgency…”
“Lady Dustiness, thank you for making the journey… I’ve heard the details, it seems like you need one of my nails to brew some kind of antidote… And if you are seeking that, am I safe in assuming that you know what I am?”
The two nobles immediately began negotiations after trading the necessary greetings.
But there’s something I have to say, no matter what.
“Hey, Darkness, is this man really a noble of this country? You didn’t figure out his true identity until recently, right?”
In response to my words, Darkness—
“What are you saying, Kazuma? We are currently in the middle of important negotiations, so don’t butt in. My apologies, Lord Zereschrute, this man is Satou Kazuma. He is my escort and also my companion as an adventurer.”
“I’ve heard about him. He’s said to be an adventurer who has vanquished quite a few generals of the Demon King’s Army. He doesn’t look to be anything special, but they do often say that looks can be deceiving…”
I turned towards the two of them.
“Hey, how are you two just conversing normally? Come on, Darkness, isn’t he suspicious as hell? Why is he wearing a penguin suit? Are you saying that this thing is really a noble!? Where should I even begin!?”
I yelled as I pointed at the man wearing a penguin mascot suit standing in front of me.
The two nobles suddenly fell silent. Did I accidentally broach upon a thorny topic?
Yeah, it’s a mascot suit.
However you slice it, it’s a penguin mascot suit.
“Hey, say something. What the hell is going on with this country? Not only are people like you and Claire counted as high-ranking nobles, now there’s a guy wearing a penguin costume? Did you ever tried to find out what the guy looks like underneath it?”
Hearing my words, Darkness looked at me with an uncomfortable expression.
“Do you recognise the magic armour that the Count is wearing? It’s not a costume, it’s a piece of armour from a far away land. It’s durable, flexible, waterproof and retains heat well in winter… In this country, as long as you have the talent, a few peculiarities can be easily overlooked. We require skilled people in order to fight against the enemy of all mankind, the Demon King’s Army.”
“No, no matter how you put this, this is way too suspicious. The guy inside may very well be a spy for the Demon King’s Army!”
In response, the penguin casually sat down on the sofa in front of us.
“Now, now, calm down. You don’t have to worry about that, I have no intentions of helping the Demon King’s Army. You can trust me on that.”
“Anyone who would honestly trust you after seeing what you look like needs to go see a doctor.”
Hearing my retort, the penguin shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
Those needlessly humanlike motions are really rubbing me the wrong way.
“Well, hear me out, young man. If you know my true identity, you must have some basic knowledge about devils, yes? To us devils, humanity is an important partner that we need to coexist with. Please believe me.”
“The devil Vanir who introduced you to us once mentioned that us humans are machines that create wonderful meals for you devils.”
Hearing that, the penguin suddenly turned motionless.
“What, you’re acquainted with Vanir-sama? Then that speed things up a little. Indeed, you humans produce wonderful meals for us. The dark emotions and thoughts that you experience are our sustenance. If you understand that, then hurry up and feel some dark emotions, you ill-mannered brat.”
This penguin suddenly changed his tone!
“My apologies for his rudeness, Lord Zereschrute. We have not shared the fact that you are a devil with the citizens of Axel, and we promise not to speak of your secret to anyone else. So, please…”
The penguin that was so rude just a moment ago changed his tone to one of interest after hearing Darkness’s words.
“If I recall, Lady Dustiness is a devout follower of the Eris church, yes? Is it really okay for you to overlook a devil like me? And you are an important figure in this country too. Surely you can’t let a suspicious character like me run free, can you?”
The penguin said teasingly. Darkness turned to look at me, a serious look on her face.
“In the past, I’m afraid I wouldn’t simply let it go.… However, this man made me realize just what it is that I need to protect. What I should be protecting isn’t the pride of the nobles, but those without power. He taught me what it really means to not let my principles get in my way of what needs to be done, and I believe I’ve become a better politician because of that. And… I need to thank you, Kazuma. If it weren’t for you, I would still be a hard-headed crusader. If it were the past me, I most likely would not have been able to overlook Lord Zereschrute after learning his true identity.”
Darkness gave me a smile as she said that.
“So, what do you think, Lord Zereschrute? Was that a satisfactory answer?”
Darkness turned back to the penguin.
“… No, it’s not my intent to hear your motivations… If I recall, Crusaders are able to use holy magic. I was simply worried that it might cause problems if you were to lose your magic by going against the teachings of the Eris church…”
The atmosphere suddenly became extremely awkward.
“Umm… I can’t use magic, so there won’t be any problems on that front… Thank you for your concern…”
Darkness seemed to be shriveling up from embarrassment.
“Well, that’s good then. Oh, those are the feelings of shame that Vanir-sama likes so much. I’m not particularly fond of them myself, so there’s no need to offer such emotions to me.”
Facing the teasing of the penguin, Darkness hid her blushing face under the table.
“—Now then, let’s go back to our original topic. You wish to have one of my nails, yes? Unlike greater devils like Vanir-sama whose real body still remains in hell, for a devil who has brought his true body into this world like me, even removing a small portion of my nails causes me great pain.”
The penguin said in a dignified voice while regally crossing his legs.
His voice and mannerisms are a splitting image of a big shot noble, and clashed horribly with his comical appearance.
“Regarding that, we don’t have a lot of money on hand currently… but I swear, on the name of the Dustiness family, that I will repay you. It might take some time, but I’ll definitely offer a fitting recompense. So, please…”
The Penguin remained silent in the face of Darkness’s passionate pleas.
According to Vanir, devils in general place great importance on contracts.
Simply pleading like this probably wouldn’t work.
Guess it’s time for me to lend a hand.
“I’ll prepare the money.”
Darkness turned to me in surprise.
What do you think I tagged along for?
It’s to help out in precisely these types of negotiations.
“I may not look like much, but I have quite a sizable fortune. And I’ve been doing some forward trading lately as well.”
“Y-You, since when did you get involved in that? Don’t do it! An amateur can very easily go bankrupt fooling around with that.”
To the worried Darkness, I smugly waggled my finger.
“You see, Darkness, according to the information I gathered, it seems like a higher than usual amount of snow sprites are predicted to appear this year. That means that this year’s winter will be colder. With that in mind, I targeted crops that will be highly affected by the cold… Furthermore, I even got an expert on such matters to handle it.”
“T-The moment I took my eyes off you… How did you even get acquainted with such an expert…?
Darkness seemed to have gained a modicum of respect for me, if her gaze is anything to go by.
But our conversation doesn’t seemed to have piqued the Penguin’s interest at all.
“No, I’m not concerned about money. I’m sure you are aware of the state of my finances. My territory is prosperous, and I make great contributions in taxes every year. That’s why I’m allowed to hold such a rank despite my appearance… On that front, it could be said that I contribute more to this country than the Dustiness family that’s known for its poverty.”
This penguin may look cute, but he sure doesn’t hold back.
“… I see, then, how about using the backing of the Dustiness family to help expand your territory?”
“Kazuma, what are you saying? Don’t go deciding that on your own!”
The penguin shakes his shoulders in response, almost like he’s laughing.
“No, no, I’m quite happy with the lands I currently have. I have no desire to expand my territory at this point.”
Does this creature really want for nothing?
“Hey, Darkness, doesn’t your family outrank him? Can’t you use your authority to strongarm him into giving what we want?”
“Don’t be stupid! I did say I wouldn’t let my principles get in the way earlier, but even so, there’s no way I’m doing that!”
“I can hear you, you know?”
The penguin interrupted as we were whispering.
Damnit, if it’s come to this…
“Hey, we aren’t demanding anything unreasonable like asking you to hand over your fortune or anything. It’s just a mere piece of your nail. Why don’t you just hand it over. Like that, the children will be happy, we will be happy, and you’ll get to keep your identity secret. It’s a win-win with three wins, so just hand it over.”
“I can’t see that as anything but a threat.”
The penguin said in an interested voice, tinged with just a bit of amusement for some reason.
Yes, that was a threat.
“Hahaha, Zereschrute-san, did you know? There’s a fearsome Archpriest of the Axis Cult who would fly into a rampage at the mere sight of a devil in Axel. If she learns that you rejected our request, I wonder what will happen…”
“Hey, Kazuma, that’s going too far! I can’t tell who’s the actual devil now!”
The penguin let out a hearty laughter that shook his body.
“Hahaha, as expected of an acquaintance of Vanir-sama! I didn’t expect there to be a person bold enough to try and intimidate a devil! Truly amusing! Well, I’m not entirely without desires. It’s just that what I want is not wealth or material goods.”
Hearing the penguin say those words, Darkness enthusiastically raised her head.
“Could that be… my body!? You are eying my body, aren’t you!? You want me to offer myself to you in order to save the children! Damn you, Lord Zereschrute! As expected of one with the title of the Lord of Brutality. Fooling everyone with your cute appearance, only to reveal the brute hiding inside…”
“N-No, that’s not it! Devils have no gender and are have no interest in the bodies of humans. Stop making me sound like some kind of brute!”
For the first time since we met him, the penguin seemed flustered.
“You guys are adventurers, aren’t you?
He happily asked.
“Then, would you like to accept a little noble’s challenge?”
The penguin said in a dignified voice, in complete contrast to his cute appearance.
“You see, some nobles like to entertain themselves by watching monsters fight and betting on the outcome.”
There’s an arena underneath the castle.
As a servant guided us there, I listened to Darkness’ explanation.
“Didn’t the prince bring out a gryphon when we were in Elroad? It’s something of a status symbol for nobles to have powerful monsters on hand.”
It seems like that penguin also has a hobby of collecting monsters.
And the condition that the penguin gave is…
“Fight the monsters that that penguin brings out and show your strength, huh…”
This might be the most adventurer-like event I’ve experienced since coming over to this world.
Fight through a gauntlet of monsters that an aristocrat has prepared in order to receive an ingredient needed to create an antidote for a sick child.
It certainly sounds cool, but…
“The problem is if Darkness can win on her own.”
Yes, only Darkness will be taking part in the battle.
“I don’t know what he’s planning, but you need to be careful now that you’re fighting alone. Sure, he says that devils have no gender and aren’t interested in the human body, but who can tell if that’s really the case. Seeing a female knight get roughed up and flung into all sorts of positions is just what a villain would want, so who knows what kind of monster he would bring…”
Darkness shivered upon hearing that.
If she were any other girl, I would’ve asked her if she was afraid, but…
“You’re looking forward to that, aren’t you?”
“…No, not at all.”
We eventually parted ways as Darkness entered the arena, seemingly unperturbed.
The arena in the basement of the castle is a splitting image of a colosseum made during the time of the Roman Empire.
It’s wide enough that dozens of people could fight at once, and the ground is comprised of stamped dirt.
The servant guided me to a seat next to the penguin.
The penguin looked at Darkness in the arena and said in an excited voice.
“Welcome to my colosseum. Normally, this place is used to pit monsters that other noblemen bring against each other, but… Today, the main event is you, Lady Dustiness!”
The penguin enthusiastically announced, making exaggerated gestures to the non-existent audience.
Of course, the only people present were me, the penguin, and some servants. The entire arena was lit up by some kind of magic item, and looked like it was under direct sunlight even though we were underground.
“Bring it on, Lord Zereschrute! I’m a devout believer of Eris and a Crusader, no matter what kind of monster you bring, I’ll never submit!”
Darkness shouted back in a voice just as enthusiastic as the one the penguin used, a blush rising to her cheeks.
… Am I imagining it?
It feels like the two of them are extremely excited over this.
“As expected of the honourable Lady Dustiness! Well said, very well said! The feelings of shame, humiliation, and anguish that such confident warriors experience when laid low are the kind of emotions that I desire! Now, proud Crusader! Show me what you can do!”
As the penguin excitedly exclaimed, the iron gate on the other side of the arena slid open.
The two of us looked expectantly at Darkness who was standing in the middle of the arena, and what appeared before her was…
“Let’s start small. Lady Dustiness, show me how you handle this group of goblins!”
At those words, a group of goblins close to a dozen strong rushed at Darkness.
It’s been about ten minutes since the penguin announced the start of the battle.
“This is terrible.”
The penguin and I said at the same time.
“Kuh, to think that I’ll be restrained by goblins…! You little demons, what do you intend to do after immobilizing me!?”
Darkness, who was unable to defeat even one goblin despite her reckless flailing, yelled after getting mobbed by the goblins and pulled to the ground.
“Just what’s the meaning of this, Lady Dustiness… You are a great noble of this country, and the one who vanquished many generals of the Demon King’s army. You shouldn’t be having this much trouble with such a small group of goblins… Oh, I see!”
The penguin muttered to himself, then nodded as though he has stumbled onto some kind of revelation.
“I see, so you understand that this is for show. True, if you were to demonstrate your true strength, these goblins would be defeated in a flash. But that wouldn’t make for good entertainment, and thus the point of this exercise would be…”
The penguin continued mumbling to himself, then confusedly tilted his head.
“Furthermore, I cannot sense even the slightest hint of humiliation or anguish… I see, I see… So you intend to demonstrate that you can withstand any attack from a monster without having to lift a finger!”
The penguin, who seems to be having some kind of grave misunderstanding, shouted towards Darkness in a solemn voice.
Darkness, who was completely restrained by the goblins at this point, flashed a confident smile.
“I will not sully my blade with the blood of goblins. My sword does not exist to vanquish monsters at your leisure, Lord Zereschrute. It exist to protect this country!”
It sure sounds cool, but the truth is that she couldn’t hit a goblin with her sword even if she wanted to.
“It would seem that mere goblins won’t be able to bring out your true capabilities… Enough, goblins, you may retreat!”
Perhaps acknowledging the penguin as stronger than them, the goblins obediently released Darkness retreated out of the arena.
The penguin looked upon their retreating forms contentedly.
“Lady Dustiness, I should warn you.”
The penguin declared in an serious voice.
“What I’m about to release now can be said to be natural enemy of Crusaders. They might be close to extinct now, but they were once known as female knight killers, princess knight killers, and other such names. Yes, they are a legendary monster indeed.”
With an expectant expression, Darkness asked in an excited voice.
The penguin seemed to take this as a sign of fear, and cheerfully continued
“Yes, you should at least know of the name. Monsters that are known as the enemy of all women…”
“Wait, the enemy of women? Don’t tell me… A demon slime? Or perhaps a roper? No, wait, you said they are extinct…. Don’t tell me, you—!”
Darkness’s voice became shrill due to her excitement, and the penguin who seemed to be in much better spirits raised both his hands.
“Looks like like you have an idea of what’s coming. The natural enemies of Crusaders, and a monster that was once as common as goblins!”
At that time, the cage attached to the arena slid open with the sound of metal sliding on metal.
“Come forth, pure-blooded male orc! Show us the strength that once struck fear into the hearts of women all over!”
What appeared was a monster once thought to be extinct, a male orc.
Two male orcs jumped out of the cage.
The two orcs regarded Darkness warily, who was trembling head to toe and blushing bright red.
“How could this be!? They were supposed to be extinct! To think that there are still male orcs left in this world…!”
Hearing Darkness excited scream, the penguin happily laughed.
“Mwahaha! Now, entertain me! Let me see what it looks like when a pair of lecherous orcs starved of female contact make a proud Crusader submit to them! Let me taste the best emotions of shame!”
Orc vs Female Knight.
How did this happen? We went on a quest to get ingredients to save a little girl, and now it’s just one adventurer-like event happening one after the other!
Even though Darkness might end up facing a horrible fate, why am I feeling so excited?
Of course, I can’t stand by and let something really bad happen, but Darkness herself will probably enjoy a little tormenting, so I suppose it’s okay to continue observing for now.
“Dammit, how could this happen? I really want to step in, but if I do, all your previous efforts will be wasted. Hang in there, Darkness! Don’t you dare lose to these orcs!”
“Why did you move all the way to the front seats? It’s true that having you interfere would be a problem, but hearing you get this excited is also a little…”
“Go forth, orcs!”
Hearing the order of the penguin, the two orcs looked at each other…
And immediately turned around, revealing a pig like tail as they ran as far away as they could from her.
“Hey, Darkness, what is this? Did you do something to those orcs!? You didn’t buy a bunch of orc children some time ago and did unspeakable things with them, did you?”
“Who would do such a thing!? Please stop treating me like some kind of slut! Anyway, these guys seem to be afraid of me for some reason.”
Just what’s going on?
“Hey, penguin, do your job and train them better!”
“I don’t want to hear that from you! Just what’s going on? Why are the orcs frightened?… Could it be the divine protection that Crusaders receive? Evil creatures like orcs must be able to sense that and be scared away by it.”
Hearing those words made something click in my head.
Oh, I see.
Those orcs must have been traumatized by female orcs when they were children.
“Enough, seems like you two won’t be able to deal with her. You may stand down.”
Hearing the words of the penguin, the orcs beat a hasty retreat.
“What’s wrong, Lord Zereschrute? Weren’t you going to bring me to my knees? Is that all I can expect from the Lord of Brutality!? You disappoint me!”
Darkness taunted the penguin, her face flush with frustration after having her expectations dashed.
She probably already forgot why she originally stepped into the arena.
“Fufufu…Mwahahaha! I underestimated you, Lady Dustiness! It seems like neither goblins nor orcs will get us anywhere. Very well, allow me to handle this personally!”
Is he serious!?
“Hey, are you seriously going to fight in that costume? Isn’t it too early to give up? Come on, you still have a few more dangerous monsters, right? If you have orcs in your bestiary, you must have some demon slimes or ropers or something, right!?”
“Well, it’s true that I may have such monsters at my disposal, but if she’s still resolute even after seeing evil creatures like orcs, I doubt monsters on that level will do much better. After all… I’ve not sensed even a hint of fear or dread coming from Lady Dustiness.”
No, they’ll work. They’ll definitely work.
Such creatures will definitely be very effective on her from her
But the penguin casually leaped down into the arena.
Darkness let out a squeak of surprise in response to the sudden appearance of the penguin.
“Now, show me your power, Lady Dustiness! I’ll bring you to your knees and feast on your delicious dark emotions!”
The penguin charged at Darkness with both arms raised—!
“… There’s nothing I can say.”
Having left Count Zereschrute’s castle, a dejected Darkness and I were riding the carriage back to town to find a place to spend the night.
“… I didn’t expect you and that devil to be so compatible.”
I said while sitting next to Darkness.
“… There’s nothing I can say.”
“Yeah, there really isn’t.”
Zereschrute, the Lord of Brutality.
He truly does live up to his name once he starts fighting.
“… I didn’t expect you to actually forget that I was there and thoroughly enjoy it…”
“Hey, don’t make it sound so obscene! That’s a first for me too! To think that he could be hiding something so hideous under that cute exterior…”
During the battle between the penguin and Darkness, the penguin unzipped the zipper on it’s back, and from within popped out…
“Well, I did end up seeing something amazing, so I guess it’s fine…”
“Please forget about it! Ugh, first Vanir and now Lord Zereschrute, I really hate dealing with devils!”
For the sake of her honour, maybe it’s best that I don’t remember what happened.
“It’s good that devils have no gender, otherwise…”
“Didn’t you say you liked me just a short while ago…?”
In the face of my reproachful gaze, Darkness averted her eyes.
Still, what should we do now?
That penguin was trying to make Darkness feel fear, but instead she ended up joyous beyond belief.
After being unable to get the dark emotions that he desired, he eventually lost interest and sent us away.
Judging from how things stand, it’s unlikely that he’ll give us another chance to negotiate…
Just when I was troubled over such matters, I spotted the figure of a familiar thief ahead.
“Hey, Darkness, look at that.”
“… Really, there’s nothing I can say… Is that Chris? What’s she doing here?”
The silver-haired figure who was waving at us while running towards our carriage is indeed my Big Boss, Chris.
I have no idea why she would appear in this town.
Chris ran over to the still dejected Darkness and,
“Hey there, your old pal has come to help out.”
Greeted her with a bright smile on her face.
END OF CHAPTER 5
Because the illustrators failed to include any pictures of Lord Zereshrute in this volume, here’s a random picture I plucked off the web to give you an impression of what he looks like.