Settling things with the Messenger of the Dark God!
Editing: Striker, Ult
Coloured illustrations: Kasen
“Stop causing problems and strip! Do you want me to forcibly strip you!? Stop resisting!”
“Wait, stop! This is… This is…! What happened to you, Kazuma!? Lusting after my body like a rutting beast in broad daylight…!”
“I’m telling you to remove that accursed armour! Why do you keep charging straight for every enemy you see!? You’ve been cursed, haven’t you!? That armour of yours is definitely cursed!”
“There is no such curse! The moment a cursed item is put on, it will stick to its bearer until death! I can remove this armour, so that feeling of excitement whenever I engage in battle isn’t a curse, but a blessing!”
“So you do know you change your attitude when you enter battle! Then that makes this simple! I don’t care if it is a curse or a blessing, just take it off! Hey, come on, stop fighting me already! I’ll buy the best armour in this city for you in exchange!”
After that fight with the ogres, we ran into several other groups of monsters, and each time we ended up getting dragged into battle alongside our escorting adventurers.
We did manage to reach Alcanretia safely, but…
“No way! How petty can you be to demand something back after offering it as a gift?! This is the first set of armour I received from you, and it’s also a highly enchanted, Crusader exclusive piece of gear! This will become an heirloom of the Dustiness family! Until we defeat the Demon King, the only times I won’t be wearing this is when I’m bathing or sleeping!”
“Why are you being so stubborn!? You keep charging right into the enemy right off the bat, so we have no chance to use any offensive spells! Do you have any idea how much trouble you caused us on the journey here!? Even the adventurers escorting us were driven to the verge of tears!”
Darkness and I were currently having a loud argument in the streets of Alcanretia.
The armour I gave to Darkness seems to have an additional enchantment.
It could vanquish feelings of doubt, banish fear, and increase the courage of its wielder.
For a normal Crusader, that effect would undoubtedly be a boon.
But for our Darkness, it’s merely an endless source of headaches.
Whenever combat starts, she would charge directly into the enemy mob, completely ignoring any other instructions.
I had completely forgotten that Wiz was the one who picked this armour out.
I knew that Wiz had a really bad eye when it came to appraising the usefulness of magic items, but it completely slipped my mind until now.
Just then, Megumin, who had been looking on from the sidelines, said.
“Just give up on it, Kazuma. That armour has a weird side effect, but it’s undoubtedly very finely crafted. It might even be powerful enough to rival the strength of a divine relic. She might even be able to withstand a hit from my Explosion with that.”
“What are you saying now!? Do you really want to let one off so badly!? Do you want to blow Darkness away together with the monsters too!?”
Darkness fell into deep thought after hearing Megumin’s dangerous sounding words.
“I don’t think I would mind that. I lost consciousness the last time I took Megumin’s Explosion, but I won’t lose this time.”
“Yes, why don’t we use this journey to determine once and for all just which is stronger, my offensive power or your defensive strength.”
“If you are going to do that sort of thing, wait till we bring Aqua back to Axel first! No, really, stop messing around! If you don’t remove that armour right now, I’m really going to start prying it from you!”
I raised my hand towards Darkness and assumed the stance for unleashing Steal…
“Go right ahead.”
Darkness boldly crossed her arms.
“Go ahead and do it. I don’t care.”
This idiot actually said such a thing in public.
“W-What are you saying? It’s Steal, you know? You are fine with doing that in public? You don’t usually enjoy public humiliation… ”
“As I am right now, I won’t be laid low by an ounce of humiliation! And, I’m the only one who hasn’t been a victim of your Steal before. I might have given in to you in the past, but with this armour pumping me full of courage, I won’t back down! Now, bring it! If you can really bring yourself to do such an act in public, then go right ahead!”
“Y-You pervert! When did you become so aggressive!? Do you understand what you are saying!? That armour is really problematic! I get it, I can’t go through with that! I admit defeat, so stop approaching me!”
This pervert who is being drawn down to ever lower depths because of that armour drew closer to me.
“… That’s strange. We’ve caused such a commotion, but no one has come out to investigate. Almost all of the residents of this city should be of the Axis Cult, and most Axis cultists are innately curious, easily drawn to commotions, and enjoy fanning the flames of chaos. With you threatening to strip Darkness’s clothes off in the middle of the street, they should be all over you like moths to a flame.”
“Now that you mention it, yeah, that is odd. They were all about soliciting new recruits the last time we were here, but now…”
Now that I’m actually paying attention, there are almost no passersby on the streets.
If anything, it’s almost deserted.
“This is a pretty big city, so why are there so few people around? Did something happen?”
Darkness came to the same conclusion after looking around.
Then, Megumin raised a suggestion.
“Let’s go ask around about what happened. We’ll have to arrange a carriage for the road ahead anyways.”
“Welcome! What will you have? Today’s lunch special comes with a dessert, and I highly recommend that. By the way, Axis Cultists enjoy a 30% discount in this store. Please take this with you!”
The smiling waitress gave us an additional piece of paper in addition to the menu.
Of course, that is an Axis Cult enlistment form.
… Yeah, I almost forgot what kind of city this place is.
After entering a local cafe to gather information and grab lunch at the same time, we immediately received the local greeting.
“… Er, well, I’ll take the lunch special.”
“Roger that! What about you…?
“I’ll take a neroid and a sandwich.”
The waitress took down mine and Megumin’s orders with a smile.
Darkness was busy looking through the menu.
“I’ll have, hmm…”
“You can go eat dirt.”
The waitress spat at Darkness without her smile faltering for an instant, and left towards the kitchen.
“… … ”
Darkness, completely frozen with the menu in hand, seemed to be blushing and trembling a little.
“Please keep your Eris pendant hidden while you’re in this city.”
“… I-I refuse…”
This girl brought out her Eris church pendant and displayed it proudly on her chest the moment she entered the city.
It seems like she has gotten addicted to the ill treatment she suffered the last time she was here.
“… Still, even though it’s lunchtime, this place is almost empty. With all the crazy folks here, I thought it would be far more lively …”
A Crimson Demon like Megumin is saying such things about the Axis Cult.
But it’s true that we haven’t been hassled nearly as much as the last time.
Back then, we couldn’t walk three feet down the street without falling victim to some overbearing recruitment scheme–
“Under the orders of Zesta-sama, most of the Axis Cultists have left to clear out the monsters on the path between this city and the Demon King’s castle.”
A lady wearing a blue robe, with a mace in one hand and a silver shield in the other, enthusiastically explained to us in front of the Axis Cult cathedral.
We came here after having lunch to ask for more information.
Darkness ended up getting all kinds of attention back at the store, so we couldn’t gather any useful information there.
“So the Axis Cult will actually do philanthropic works?”
“Please don’t think of us as a group that does nothing other than seek enjoyment and cause trouble for others. The bad rumours about us are all spread by those heartless Eris Cultists.”
The lady confided in us in a hurt tone.
“… By the way, what are you doing here?”
“Now that most of the Axis Cult is away, it is the perfect chance for those few Eris cultists in this city to come here to make trouble. It might be because we pushed things a little too far on a daily basis.”
“So you do understand that your daily behaviors are outrageous! No, wait, will you really be fine alone?”
I asked out of concern.
Actually, I get the distinct feeling that I’ve met her somewhere before.
If I’m not mistaken, she is the same person who welcomed me when I came to this church the last time we were in this city.
The lady gave me a smile.
“Don’t worry, if any apostates show up, I’ll take care of them with this big, thick, hard mace.”
“D-Don’t do that! That’ll just increase the bad rumours surrounding the Axis Cult! … By the way, did an Archpriest named Aqua come to this city? I originally wanted to ask around about her, but thanks to a certain someone, we couldn’t get any proper information.”
The lady’s face lit up the moment she heard Aqua’s name.
“Ah, yes, Aqua-sama did come here! She even timidly asked ‘I turned your hot springs into water the last time I was here, are you still angry about that?’. Ah, Aqua-sama is too cute! Actually, the reason why everyone is out at the moment is because of Aqua-sama’s request. Aaah, I wanted to go hunt some monsters too…! If only I didn’t lose that round of rock paper scissors…”
Saying that, the lady languidly kicked aside a nearby pebble.
The pebble struck Darkness’s shins, but if the lady is aware of that, she made no sign of it.
“They are hunting monsters on Aqua-sama’s orders? What does that mean? Please tell me more about that.”
“Aqua-sama said ‘Devout Axis cultists who follow my teachings, I wish for you, strong and gallant as you are, to clear out the monsters infesting the path between the Demon King’s castle and this city so that travellers may freely pass through. As a reward for your efforts, after the Demon King has been defeated, a certain travelling Axis priest might visit this temple and reveal herself to be Aqua-sama. She might even give praise and thanks to every single participant.'”
The lady said in an admiring tone, paying no heed to Darkness who has started tearing up because of repeated hits to her shins.
Something feels off here.
Something is odd about how she regards to Aqua’s words.
Yes, it’s almost as if–
“… The Axis Cult figured out Aqua’s true identity a long time ago…”
I thought out loud.
Now that I think about it, the priest back in Axel, Cecily, was also treating Aqua really oddly the last time I saw her.
Yeah, that seems more and more likely the more I thought about it.
“Isn’t that obvious? Our sharp and observant eyes would never miss something so blatant.”
Is she serious?
“Didn’t you guys call her a fraud and throw stones at her the last time she was in town?”
“That must be the work of Eris cultists posing as us. I don’t have the slightest recollection of that incident at all.”
Hey, don’t tell such an obvious lie.
No, that’s not important right now. More importantly, why did Aqua send them out to clear the road?
… Was she hoping for us to follow her?
She really is like a runaway child purposefully leaving clues so she could be found.
Instead of doing something so bothersome, she could’ve just waited in this town.
She really causes nothing but trouble for me wherever she goes… !
“Um, was Aqua alone? Did you see a handsome warrior with a magic sword or a Crimson Demon with very little presence with her?”
“Ah, there was someone like that. When I was seeing Aqua-sama off to the entrance of the city, I saw a handsome man with a very expensive-looking sword arrive onboard a very expensive-looking carriage. It’s almost like he appeared in front of me precisely because I lost a lot of money in an investment. I used my amazing gaze of seduction, but he wasn’t moved at all.”
I feel like this person gets more and more pathetic seeming the longer she talks.
Still, it seems like she managed to meet up with Mitsurugi and his party.
That’s a relief, at least.
“So Aqua met up with them… By the way, is there any place here to rent a carriage? It doesn’t matter if it’s a little expensive. The faster, the better.”
“The horses owned by our church are probably the fastest horses in this city… But couldn’t you dogs of Eris just run out on all fours? That’d be most fitting for the followers of that evil… Ah!? You apostate, what are you doing!”
Darkness seemed to have reached her limit and charged at her.
While holding her back, I threw a bag of gold to the lady of the Axis Cult.
“Sorry, but could you lend them to us? If you need payment…”
“May the blessings of Aqua-sama go with you!”
We rested at the Axis Cult’s cathedral for a night in order to allow Megumin to recover her mana.
The next day, we took out the carriage and resumed the chase.
Perhaps it’s because of the monster extermination campaign that the Axis Cult is currently engaged in, but even though we are travelling on a barely used back road, we haven’t run into any trouble so far.
Well, it’s going smoothly, but…
“Hey, Darkness, I know we are in a rush and all, but aren’t we going a little too fast? I think it’s fine to slow down a little. The Axis Cult might have done their work, but it’s not like this path is completely free of monsters, you know? What are you going to do if a monster suddenly jumps out?”
Darkness said nothing in response.
When heading out of town in a small group, it’s best to take as small of a carriage as you can get away with.
That’s why we are currently riding a two seater.
Darkness sat in the driver’s seat, while Megumin and I sat in the compartment behind her.
“Um, Darkness…? I think we are going a little too fast too. I know you are worried about Aqua, but if you press them too hard, you’ll ride the horses into the ground.”
Megumin too tried to convince Darkness to slow down the carriage.
But Darkness neither responded nor slowed down.
I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this, so I asked again.
“Hey, did you hear me? We are going too fast. Slow down a little…”
Just then, Darkness looked back with teary eyes…
“… The horses aren’t listening to me…”
“… … ”
The two of us regarded her in silence.
“I’ve heard that in Alcanretia, even the horses have been brainwashed by the Axis Cult. So they won’t listen to anyone outside the Axis Cult…”
“Ah, Kazuma, look, there’s an Axis Cult enlistment form in the corner of the carriage! We’ve been had! That Axis Cultist tricked us!”
On the out of control carriage, I once again reaffirmed just how crazy Axis Cultists can be.
“Aaah, dammit! Instead of fighting the Demon King, we should wipe out the Axis Cult first!”
“K-Kazuma, for the sake of all of us, please sign this piece of paper…!”
“C-Come on, listen to me! Hyah! Hyah! If you listen to me, I’ll give you some fresh hay later! Soft, lively, freshly cut hay!”
Darkness desperately tried to calm the horses down, while I clutched my head and screamed.
Megumin, with the form in hand, lost her balance in the rapidly buckling carriage.
“Aah, there’s someone ahead! Kazuma, what should we do!? At this rate we’ll run straight over them!”
Darkness yelled in a panic.
I desperately tried to maintain my balance and looked ahead.
It wasn’t just one or two people, but a whole crowd standing on the road.
At this rate…!
“Just head towards them.”
“Don’t worry about it, Darkness, just keep going.”
Darkness gave Megumin a look of horror.
Just then, I realized just who exactly were in front of us.
“It’s fine. Actually, it’s best to charge straight into them! After all, those people are…!”
It seems like the group in front of us noticed the approaching carriage.
As they hurried to get out of the way, one of them stood in the middle of the road.
After seeing Megumin in the carriage, that man shouted something towards us.
The grey haired man, who was wearing a breastplate over a set of priestly robes, waved towards us.
“Oh, hey, Megumin-san! It has been some time! Do you remember me!? I’m the patriarch of the Axis Cu–!”
And just like that, the patriarch of the Axis Cult was sent flying by the carriage.
“Heal! Heal! … How do you feel? Is it better now?”
Even though the Axis Cult is the reason why the carriage went out of control in the first place, we did still run over a person, so I somewhat guiltily tried to heal his wounds with the spell that I just picked up.
“Yes, it feels much better now. Though you needn’t have done that, I could’ve healed myself. Still, receiving a heal casted by a young one sure is refreshing. Not only is my body healed, but my soul is as well!”
“As expected of the ‘anything goes’ Zesta-sama! You really are hardcore!”
“‘As long as there is a hole, even an orc is fine’ is Zesta-sama’s moniker, after all! So cool!”
This man has been spouting nothing but nonsense while I was treating him.
This guy is the patriarch of the Axis Cult, right?
“It has been some time, Megumin-san. Still, I didn’t expect such a violent greeting from you. It would seem like the only choices you have now is to either join the Axis Cult or go steady with me as an apology.”
“Just so you know, the horses that ran into you were the ones we borrowed from the Axis Cult. Please don’t do weird things to the horses too.”
Megumin let out a deep sigh as she responded to the absurd words that the old man was saying.
The old man turned towards me-
“I’ve heard many things about you, Kazuma-dono! You may call me Zesta, papa, darling, father, or whatever else you would like.”
“Hey, Megumin, why are all the people you know all shot in the head?”
“It’s not like I know him because I want to! Actually, Kazuma, you should be careful of him. Don’t let him lead you astray.”
After hearing Megumin’s warning, I once again took a closer look at my surroundings.
All the people present, men, women, elderly and children alike all had varying pieces of equipment on them. At first glance it’s hard to tell just exactly what kind of group they are.
However there is one thing in common amongst them. That is…
“You’re quite handsome, aren’t you!? Say, can I call you Onii-chan?”
“You can’t do that! Sure, he’s handsome and all, but you can’t call someone who’s not a member of the Axis Cult onii-chan… I understand you want to fawn over him, but you need to act like a proper member of the Axis Cult. Ah, what a shame…”
“I get it… Say, Onii-chan, do you hate the Axis cult?”
I don’t hate it.
I somehow managed to prevent those words from leaking out of my mouth as I faced down the young girl looking uneasily up at me.
Perhaps finding my silence disconcerting, the mother and daughter moved to call in someone else.
The person who replaced them was a cute girl dressed in a lacy gothic lolita outfit, who looked up at me…
“Umm… can I call you Onii-sama?”
“Of course not! You’re a guy! You Axis Cultists are really down for anything!?”
“Not at all! I’m just fine with both sides, just like Zesta-sama!”
“Enough, just stop talking! We have our hands full with just our masochistic Crusader!”
I shoved the gothic lolita young man away.
Talking with these guys is really exhausting.
However, there seems to be someone that seems even more ragged than us here.
That would be–
“You seemed to have gone through a lot… say, have you slimmed down?”
“Oh shut up… Tsk, what are you doing here? There are only fortresses and villages used as supply depots for the front lines up ahead. It’s no place for you to be… Aaah, this is the worst! I got wrapped up in some weird cult, and now I run into the one person I don’t ever want to see!”
Saying that, the priest angrily kicked a rock.
For some reason, the worshipper of a dark god, a Demon King’s general who once killed me and escaped from custody in Axel is surrounded by the group of Axis Cultists.
Seems like her priestly clothing attracted their attention while they were out hunting monsters.
Darkness is still sulking in the corner after I treated her as the resident weirdo earlier, and Megumin is warily staring down Serena, a vein popping in her temple.
In the middle of all that, the Axis Cultists who were completely unable to read the mood were sexually harassing Serena.
“Kuh, what are you trying to do with a body as sexy as yours!? Just what city and which sect do you hail from!? Name yourself!”
“Yeah, we’ll be paying your church a visit soon, so tell us!”
“Ah! You can see this woman’s bra from the back! Judging from their size, she shouldn’t be part of the Eris Church…”
“No, wait, a recent paper stated that there is no relation between the sect a person is in and their development. So, for the purpose of statistical research, you must tell me which sect you’re from! Specifically, which city your church is in, and what time would you be present!? We won’t head over to hand over a declaration of war or anything, so don’t worry about that!”
“… Y-You guys better stop messing around…”
Serena seemed like she’s almost reaching her limit.
And regarding her, I said–
“… How should I say this, I didn’t expect to run into you so soon too. But that’s just as well, I have a few things to ask you. I’m still angry over you killing me, but if you answer my questions, I can let you go for now.”
Serena gave me a contemptuous look and spat on the ground.
The Axis Cultists let out a cry in response, perhaps because that irreverent attitude struck a chord with them.
“What kind of stupidity are you spouting? Why must I answer any of your questions? Or are you trying to owe me another favour? I no longer want to make you my puppet… Hey, what are you guys doing!? Wait-stop! What are you trying to do by digging up my spit!?”
Several of the Axis Cultists are fighting over the spot of dirt where Serena spat earlier.
I can’t keep up with this level of insanity.
After a short struggle, Zesta emerged victorious and tossed the piece of dirt into a jar before carefully put it away in his pocket the same way one might stow away a precious treasure.
To be honest, I don’t want to know what he plans to do with that.
“… Phew. Well, it would seem that my companions have shown you a truly unseemly sight. My apologies, young lady.”
“You are not in a position to say that! Actually, it’s really creepy, so toss that out already! In the first place, what kind of people are you!? You’ve been doing as you please for a while now, but none of you have formed a bond of debt towards me! After sexually harassing me for so long, you should’ve at least felt a little thankful!”
Hearing Serena’s words, Zesta raised his hands in an exaggerated manner.
“Thankful? Of course we are thankful. Thankful to our goddess! Ah, our good fortune today must be the result of our daily devotion…! Ah, I’m not worthy…!”
Saying that, Zesta bowed deeply towards Serena.
“Just what is wrong with this insane group!? Ahh, this is messing with my head! Actually, Kazuma, how are you still here? Didn’t I cast Death on you… Hey, stop trying to peek up my skirt, old man! If you don’t cut it out, I’ll kill you!”
No matter how much Serena protested, the Axis Cult weren’t moved at all.
“You know our priest, Aqua, right? Her only good point is her skill as a priest. She brought me back to life… Anyway, I have several questions for you.”
Serena retrieved her mace that was hanging on her waist.
“Like I said, I have no reasons to answer any of your questions. Or what, do you intend to force the answers out of me? My level may have been lowered, but I’m still strong enough to take care of everyone present… Plus, that skilled priest of yours isn’t here right now. So what do you think? Do you want to go?”
Serena has the blessing of the Goddess of Vengeance.
As long as she has that, I won’t be able to do anything against her.
She seems to know this too, for she had a confident smile on her face.
Serena might have a rotten personality, but she is a Demon King’s general, after all. Even weakened, she’s still overflowing with confidence.
I could hear Darkness clenching her fists behind me, and Megumin’s eyes lit up with a crimson glow.
“Still, Aqua, you called her? I should’ve killed her first instead of going for you. Ah, I really messed up then-”
— The atmosphere suddenly turned chilly.
The man who had crept behind Serena to take a better look at her brastrings.
The girl who had been tossing stones at Darkness due to her being an Eris worshipper.
The girl who looked like she was about to doze off at any moment.
“What did you just say?”
Zesta, who had been lying flat on the ground in order to sneak a peek up Serena’s skirt, asked.
His demeanour had completely changed, and the old man quickly got to his feet without even bothering to wipe the dirt off his robes.
Serena, who had completely failed to notice the sudden change in atmosphere, shouldered her mace and said.
“I’m saying that I should’ve taken care of that retarded girl named Aqua from the start… So, what are you going to do, Kazuma? I’m about to reach my limits soon. Why don’t you try begging for your life? I know you are a troublesome opponent to fight. It’d be a chore to take you down, so if you get down on all fours and beg for your life, I might consider letting you go. Ah, but–”
Serena let out a chilling smile.
“I won’t let these people off. They seem to be your acquaintances, but they push things too far. Now that we are this close to the Demon King’s castle, there won’t be any knights riding to your rescue. So, what will you do?”
“Kazuma-dono, would you mind properly introducing this young lady to me?”
Zesta asked in a calm and mechanical tone, his previous pervy and cheerful personality nowhere to be found.
I gave Serena a look of confirmation, asking if it is fine to reveal her true identity here.
“Go ahead and introduce me. After all, they are not long for this world. Let them know my true identity and curse their fortunes before they die.”
It seems like Serena is almost as bad at reading the mood as Aqua.
I raised my hand in Serena’s direction.
“She is a Dark Priest who worships the dark goddess Regina, the Demon King’s General Serena. She gave Aqua a really hard time in Axel and is one of the main reasons why she ran away from home.”
Then, I shifted my hand over to the completely silent and stony faced Axis Cultists.
“And these are the infamous Axis Cult from Alcanretia, and their patriarch, Zesta.”
— The moment I finished my introduction, Serena, trembling from head to toe and covered in cold sweat, let go of her mace which hit the dirt with a dull thud.
On this narrow path leading to the Demon King’s castle, where normally only the songs of insects and the chirping of birds can be heard….
“String her up! String her up!”
A mob of Axis Cultists with bloodshot eyes chanted as they surrounded Serena.
As for Serena herself, she’s been tied up and left dangling from one of the larger trees in the area.
As tears and snot flowed down her face, Serena frantically pleaded.
“I-I-I’m sorry! Please forgive me! I didn’t know! I-I-I didn’t know that girl was a goddess!”
“Huh? That girl? You dare refer to our great as glorious goddess as ‘That girl’?”
“Eeep! I-I-I’m sorry!”
The cultists that surrounded her had a response to every word that came out of her mouth.
After dropping her mace out of fear, it wasn’t long before Serena was captured.
She was soon tied up to the point where she resembled a cocoon, and now the female cultists seemed like they are about to execute her…
“U-Umm, sorry, but I have a few questions I wish to ask of her. Those questions concern Aqua’s safety, so can you please leave her in my care for a few minutes?”
I was a little frightened by their current fanatical behaviour, but I still made my voice heard over the chanting.
As I did so, Serena pleaded towards me.
“K-Kazuma-! He… Help me! I’ll answer anything you want, so help me! We were once both followers of Regina, weren’t we!? I’ve fulfilled all of your selfish requests and even did side jobs to let you live in luxury! I mean, we got into a fight at the end, but we are still close friends who’ve spent a lot of time living under the same roof- Ouch! It hurts, cut it out! Hey, cut it out! What are you doing!?”
Megumin started throwing rocks at her halfway through her speech.
When a rock clipped Serena on the forehead, a bump appeared on Megumin’s forehead too.
She might have been reduced to level one, but it seems like she still has the blessing of the goddess of vengeance.
Despite that, Megumin continued throwing rocks at Serena until Darkness had to physically stop her.
I don’t know exactly what made her so angry, but I tried my best to calm her down as I used my Heal on her wounds.
Just then, Serena shouted like she’s suddenly reminded of something.
“O-Oh right! If you kill me now, Regina-sama’s curse will ensure that you will all go down with me! Regina-sama is the Goddess of Vengeance! Anything you do to me will be returned back to you! This isn’t a bluff! If you understand that, then let me down already! I’ll die if I fall from this high up! If I do, everyone who bound me and strung me up here will die as well!”
Serena said that in a triumphant tone, but the Axis Cultists surrounding her barely batted an eye.
“What of it?” x3
This insane answer not only gave Serena pause, but the three of us too.
One of the cultists smile up at the dumbfounded Serena and said.
“You seem to have some kind of misunderstanding. We are of the Axis faith. When we die, we’ll be sent straight to the side of Aqua-sama. Yes, right to the feet of our beloved Aqua-sama! And then, and then… ! After we die, we’ll be reincarnated in the world that Aqua-sama presides over! Yes, the paradise known as Japan!”
What did she just say?
Why would she bring up Japan here?
Zesta stepped up, almost as if he intends on speaking for the rest of the cult.
“Japan. That’s the dream-like paradise of a country that Aqua-sama told us about. In that place, even a man like me who swings both ways can live freely… And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! The place is overflowing with many special books that appeal to all kinds of interests! It’s a world where we who are decried as perverts and heretics can lead an unrestrained life!”
“Even someone like me who enjoys dressing as a woman can live without worry there! I’ve heard that they call people like me ‘otoko no ko’…!”
Stop. Seriously, don’t say anything more
“That is a world with no hunger and little strife, where one does not need to live in fear of monsters. Furthermore… It is said that books of handsome men getting into intimate relations of all kinds are sold freely there…! And, and… even books concerning little boys… Ah, I’m glad I joined the Axis Cult! I’m so happy to be alive…!”
The young woman blushed heavily as she cupped her cheeks.
… Ah, I see.
These people are all beyond help.
Serena, tears flowing down her face, muttered.
“Y-You damn maniacs…!”
On this, at least, we share the same opinion.
“… Now then.”
Zesta’s casual words causes Serena to tremble in her bonds.
“Would you mind answering Kazuma-dono’s questions?”
Serena, her face almost completely green, hesitantly shifted between me and Zesta.
“Right, why don’t you give me some more specific information regarding the Demon King’s army? How many troops will be left behind to guard the Demon King’s castle? What are its defences like? And, of course, tell me everything you know about the demon king himself.”
“Judging from the date, the Demon King’s daughter would have already led the bulk of the army away on the offensive. In other words, there aren’t any generals defending the castle right now. But there is a reason for that.”
After getting lowered from the tree, Serena plainly explained.
“Some time ago, back when Wiz just became a lich, she forcibly broke through the barrier and penetrated deep into the castle. After that, the most senior Demon King’s general at the time voluntarily retired in order to keep a constant watch over.”
“The most senior Demon King’s general, huh? That sounds like a pretty strong person. How does he fight? Does he have any weaknesses?”
Serena instantly answered.
“He won’t be easy to take down. He’s created a magic circle that allows him to draw mana directly from the demonic realm. Though he is no longer able to stray far from the castle, as long as he’s on the castle grounds, he’s able to draw upon a tremendous amount of mana. Any wounds he suffers can be healed almost instantly, and he can cast a powerful barrier on himself that makes him practically invulnerable. On top of that, he’s a powerful spellcaster. If you attack the castle head on, he’ll just blast you with an endless stream of long range magic, and that’ll be the end of it.”
Sounds like a troublesome opponent.
“How do you defeat someone like that? Is there a way to go around him somehow?”
In response, Serena shrugged her shoulders, or as much as she could considering how tightly she was bound.
“It is impossible to defeat him. You won’t be able to break through his barrier without some serious firepower, and even if you do manage to wound him, there’s no way to keep up with his regeneration. Even if the barrier around the castle isn’t there, it would probably take all the Crimson Demons casting their most powerful spells on him to even seriously inconvenience him. As for going around him, well… you might be able to sneak a small force in somehow, but breaking through the barrier with magic will definitely draw a lot of attention. Either way, you’ll definitely be discovered and get taken out.”
Serena freely volunteered that information without even the slightest hesitation.
Still, breaking through the barrier will be conspicuous, you say?
I wonder if it will be the same if Aqua dispels it.
“In a certain sense, he might be more troublesome to face than the Demon King himself. To my knowledge, he is the strongest mage in the world.”
Hearing the phrase ‘the strongest mage in the world’, Megumin suddenly perked up.
In other words, as long as he is in the castle, he is even stronger than Wiz.
Well, I can think of a way to deal with him on the journey.
“Now then, about the Demon King himself-”
Serena immediately clammed up, a complete 180 from her attitude just moments before.
“I’m going to be executed after this anyway, right? So that’s all the information I’ll provide. Unless you wish to make another deal with me? In that case, my condition is to be set free. If you can agree to that, I’ll give you information about the Demon King in exchange.”
Saying that, Serena let out a confident smile.
“Do you really think you are in a position to be demanding terms? Right now, those maniacs behind me are just chomping at the bit to torture you, you know? If you send me away–”
“Go right ahead. Torture and the likes won’t work on me. After all, anything that gets done to me will be returned to the torturer. Now, if you want to kill me, go ahead! As long as you don’t mind me taking what I know to the grave!”
She said such bold words with a smile.
However, I noticed the slight tremble in her words.
She’s putting on a strong front, but she’s definitely getting desperate.
“… In that case, leave the rest to me.”
Just as I was considering my options, Darkness walked in front of me.
For some reason, her face is flushed, and her hands were trembling as she reached out to Serena.
Wait, she isn’t going to–
“I’m confident that I won’t give in to mere pain! Allow me to give you a full body workout, and whoever screams first is the loser! Let’s start with something intense… No, we should start with…”
“H-Hey, cut it out, you pervert! Ah, hey! What are you planning on doing by removing my shoes… Hey. No wait, wait! What are you doing with my pinky toe!? Where did you get that brick from? Stop! What are going to do with that brick!?”
As Darkness drew closer, Serena became more and more panicked.
Zesta, who had been silently watching the two of them, suddenly shouted.
“I just had a divine revelation!”
Everyone present jumped up in shock upon hearing Zesta’s sudden proclamation.
Zesta is acting really strange right now, even for him.
His eyes went wide and he was trembling in place. It’s almost like he’s suffering some sort of seizure.
… I don’t know what he means by divine revelation, but I have a really bad feeling…
“I just realized something really amazing. This must be a revelation sent to me by Aqua-sama herself…”
“Zesta-sama, is something wrong?”
“Zesta-sama, what exactly are you thinking?”
The other Axis Cultists gathered around him, but Zesta didn’t take his eyes off Serena for an instant.
“Young lady of the Regina cult, any damage done to you will be reflected as is to the person who dealt the damage… Is that right?”
“Eh? Ah, yes, that is true…”
Shying back in the face of Zesta’s gaze, Serena hesitantly responded.
“Then allow me to ask you one more question. Are you a virgin?”
“That’s a really bold question! … At the end of the day, I’m still a servant of the divine. You understand what I’m saying, right?”
Serena answered somewhat bashfully.
The moment Zesta heard her answer, he grabbed his head in his hands and fell to his knees.
“Aaah, how could this be!? That means, even a man like me… ! When I take the innocence of this Regina cultist…! At that moment, even a man like me can know the pain of getting deflowered! This is truly a divine miracle to allow such unique experiences to be shared…!”
“What are you saying!? I don’t understand! I don’t want to understand!”
I really don’t follow what this old man is saying.
“Zesta-sama, p-please give this chance to me! I want to truly experience what it feels to be a girl!”
“That’s not fair! You are always taking the best parts for yourself, Zesta-sama!”
“Me too, me too! There’s no way such a rare and unique chance will come around again!”
Starting with the young man wearing the gothic lolita outfit, other members of the Axis Cult soon joined in.
“Hey, wait, wait, stop! I-I’m going to be… Kazuma! Kazuma! I apologize! It’s all my fault! I’ll tell you everything, so please stop them!”
“Power! Protection! Blessing! … I shall be the one to take that Regina cultist’s purity! If any one of you think you can defeat me as I am right now, go ahead and come right at me!”
“That’s low, Zesta-sama! Using the blessings of Aqua-sama for such an endeavour is really dirty of you!”
“Coward! Scum! You’re abusing your powers as an Archpriest!”
Ignoring the Axis Cultists who’ve begun fighting amongst themselves, I squatted before Serena who is practically trembling in her bonds.
“So, Serena, I know of a way that will probably save you, so hurry up and tell me everything you know about the Demon King. If you do, I promise I’ll do my best to help you get out of this.”
“R-R-Really!? You really can get me away from those maniacs!? I can trust you on this, right!?”
She must be really scared out of her wits if she’s giving me such a pleading look.
When I nodded, Serena immediately started talking.
“The Demon King himself is… Due to his advanced age, he isn’t very strong in direct combat… But his special ability that comes with his lineage is extremely powerful. You could even say he became the Demon King solely due to how strong his ability is.”
“… Special ability?”
“Yes, special ability. Just like all those people with strange names like you, the Demon King has a powerful ability of his own. If you are a monster or a demon, you’ll receive a massive power boost just by being in his presence. With him present, even a lowly goblin will be able to go toe to toe with an experienced adventuring party, at least.”
“What kind of cheat is that?”
If a mere goblin is buffed to such a degree, just how strong would the Demon King’s bodyguards be?
“On top of that, the Demon King can also bestow his protection upon his underlings. You’ve fought with the Dullahan, Beldia before, right? I’m sure you’ve noticed that he was especially resistant to holy magic.”
… Not only can he buff his minions, but he can also practically remove their weaknesses entirely. Isn’t this a little too outrageous?
Perhaps noticing what was going through my head, Serena let out a wry laugh.
“… It think it’s best if you give up on taking down the Demon King. If you really want to, your best chance of success is to resort to ambushing him while his minions are away or other similar tactics… Plus, most of his powers have already been transferred to his daughter. That is the reason why she’s personally heading to the capital with the greater portion of the Demon King’s army. As the Demon King is right now, even if he were to lead the army, he won’t be able to dramatically increase their combat prowess… But he is still powerful enough to boost the power of anyone in the same room as him. As long as he is around, it’s best to assume that every single member of his elite guard is as strong as a Demon King’s General.”
This is bad.
I should probably stop treating the Demon King as an opponent I can defeat if only a few things went my way.
After we meet up with Aqua, I’ll have to convince Megumin and the others to teleport back to Axel using my and Yunyun’s spells.
Not that it’d be easy considering how pumped up everyone is right now.
Aqua will probably be easily convinced. The Demon King is already pretty old, so we can just laze around for a while and he will die of old age before long.
… Yes, that’s probably the most realistic plan.
Yeah, let’s go with that.
After I tell them what Serena told me just now, I’m sure they’ll all agree with this course of action.
“Hey, that’s enough information, right? I’ve already told you pretty much everything I know about the Demon King. The only other things I know about him are stuff like how he really dotes on his daughter, or he is really having a headache dealing with matters of human resources–”
“Ah, no, that’ll be fine. Those guys seem like they’ve pretty much decided things too.”
As I said that, I looked over to Zesta and the others.
“Hahaha! Oh, great Aqua-sama, I offer my heroic deeds to your glory! Behold, I have taken care of all of the rebellious heretics!”
“You damn old man, how could you treat your own faithful as heretics!?”
“Don’t get full of yourself just because you can use a little magic! We have the blessings of Aqua-sama too! Get him!”
Even though Zesta stands alone, he was easily able to fend off everyone attacking him, sending people flying with just his bare fists.
There are some issues with his personality, but he isn’t the Patriarch of the Axis Cult just for show. He could probably wrestle an ogre into the ground right now.
Eventually, Zesta walked over to us, wiping his sweat with a towel with the same air as someone who just went for a morning run.
“So, have you concluded your business yet? I think it’s about time you hand that heretic over to us.”
Zesta’s words caused Serena to shrink up even more, and the glare of the female Axis Cultists behind him is somehow even scarier.
It feels like they are ready to kill her at any time.
Serena looked up at me with a hint of desperation in her eyes. Seems like she’s clinging onto what I said earlier about getting her out of this.
In response to her hopes, I produced a piece of paper.
That was the Axis Cult enlistment form that I found in the carriage.
In other words…
“Are you willing to turn over a new leaf and let go of everything you have now to worship, revere, and respect the goddess Aqua as a devout Axis Cultist?”
After hearing my words, Serena, tears in her eyes, could only mutter…
“–Hey, underling, stop moping around! We’re leaving!”
“Y-Yes! Sorry, senpai!”
“Senpai does have a nice ring to it…! Call me senpai too!”
“Eeep! W-What is it, S-Senpai…!”
“Hey, underling! Don’t get too comfortable! We aren’t going to pamper you! For now, go buy enough neroid for everyone! I want the limited edition hell spicy-sweet neriod.”
“S-Senpai… It’s almost winter now…”
“Did you say something?”
“No, I didn’t! I’ll go buy some right now! I’ll go around to various cities to get enough for everyone!”
Serena pushed an obviously forced smile onto her face, even though her eyes seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“Well, all’s well that ends well.”
“What exactly ended well!?”
I muttered to myself, and Serena immediately shot back.
Seems like she’ll be brought back to the Alcanretia cathedral for all her crimes to be laid bare and an appropriate punishment be meted out.
At the same time, she’ll be spending her time as the underling of the Axis Cult for many years as punishment for all the stuff she did in the past.
I can only hope that she hadn’t killed anyone else apart from me.
Well, with that wrapped up, I suppose it’s time we get back to catching up to Aqua.
Just as I thought that.
“Now then, Kazuma-dono, shall we hit the road?”
The person who said that was–
“– Darkness, please squeeze in a little more. You take up a lot of space with all the bits popping out of you. Can’t you make yourself a little more compact?”
“I-It’s not like I grew up this way because I wanted to… Besides, you are a little too compact- ow! Ah, ah, Megumin, don’t pull on my hair…!”
The two of them jostled within the narrow carriage.
“Ha ha ha! Now now, flat and bountiful both have their own appeal. You shouldn’t fight over that. If you really must settle things cleanly, allow me to judge as a neutral party. Go ahead and show me your bare chests–”
And, coming along with us to handle the Axis Cult horses, is Zesta.
“Hey, old man, stop harassing my companions. That’s a privilege only I can have. Otherwise I’m going to throw you off this carriage. While it’s still moving.”
“If you keep saying stupid things, I’m going to throw both of you out… Say, Megumin, is it really fine to bring this man along with us? There’s no need to specifically bring this man along just to control the horses, right? Couldn’t we bring along some other Axis Cultist?”
Darkness said uneasily as she looked at Zesta sitting in the driver’s seat.
“What are you saying? I might not seem like much, but I can confidently say that I’m the strongest person in the Axis Cult. I assure you, I’ll deliver you to Aqua-sama in one piece.”
Zesta, reins in hand, said with a laugh.
Megumin frowned upon hearing the word strongest come out of his mouth.
By the way, the carriage that we are riding right now is designed to carry three people, including the driver.
I begged them to let me sit in the passenger compartment too, but they refused to in the end.
That’s why I’m currently squeezed in the narrow driver’s seat together with Zesta.
“Ah, the warmth of a young man. What a great reward! Thank you, Aqua-sama!”
“Please, just shut up. Say, Megumin, Darkness, is there really no way we can change seats?”
“N-No way. I feel like I’ll end up getting harassed.”
“Y-Yeah. I’m used to getting harassed by you, but getting it from that man is a little… ”
The two of them instantly rejected my request.
“Now then, we should get going. I’ll leave the rest to you, my followers!”
“Understood. We’ll be praying that Zesta-sama will be able to be of aid to Aqua-sama in our place.”
The female cultists happily waved us off.
“Bye, Serena. I think it’d be best for you to get used to living in the Axis Cult as soon as possible.”
“Shut up. Hurry up and go already you embodiment of ill luck!”
Leaving Serena’s voice far behind us, the carriage driven by Zesta headed off towards the Demon King’s castle–!
Useless Goddess Interlude 4
“This really was a surprise, Aqua-sama. To think that we would end up running into each other.”
The group lead by the warrior with the magic sword easily sent the ogres packing.
Everything happened so suddenly, so I still don’t quite understand exactly what happened.
“It’s been some time, Magic Sword Man. It really is a coincidence, running into you here–”
“Yunyun-san! Yunyun-san! Thank you for saving me, Yunyun-san! Let onee-chan give you a big hug as thanks!”
“Isn’t that what you always do, Cecily-san!?”
Next to the Magic Sword Man, Cecily wrapped Yunyun into a tight hug.
“To think we’d happen to run into each other just as Aqua-sama got into a crisis. This must be what they call fate–”
“Yunyun-san, help yourself to the crabs. Thanks to Aqua-sama, we got a lot of them today. We’ll have a crab feast!”
“You shouldn’t do that, Cecily-san. Mitsurugi-san is being serious… Feast… A feast with everyone… Everyone… ”
The Magic Sword Man seemed to shy back a little upon hearing Yunyun constantly mutter “everyone” under her breath.
“N-No, we can’t hold a feast here. Plus, we defeated the ogres. Ogres have a very strong bond of kinship towards each other. Others will definitely come around here to investigate their lost companions before too long. In the first place, we came out to aid Aqua-sama in her efforts to take out the Demon King. Now that we have met up, we should make haste towards the Demon King’s castle…”
“Y-Yeah, that’s right! A feast… isn’t something that we should be doing now… ”
Despite what Yunyun said, she seemed notably sullen after hearing Mitsurugi’s words.
“How can we not have a feast!? Aqua-sama wants to eat crab meat, you know!? Even if you are handsome, there’s no way I can’t go along with that request!”
“You are… Cecily-san, right? We met at the church in Alcanretia, haven’t we?”
It seems like Cecily knows the Magic Sword Man.
“Have we met before? … Oh, yeah, you were the guy who hit on me back at Alcanretia when you were looking for a priest, right!?”
“I didn’t hit on you! Moreover, all I wanted was a priest of the Axis Cult, not you in particular…”
As the Magic Sword Man said that, he gasped like he just remembered something.
“Aqua-sama, my apologies for not explaining things earlier… We came after you in order to offer our aid in your quest to defeat the Demon King. When I had my fortune told by the foremost fortune teller amongst the Crimson Demons, she told me ‘you will run into a priest of the Axis Cult in the near future. She will be a key figure in deciding the fate of this world. No matter what happens, you must protect her.’ … In other words, this is…!”
“Aqua-sama, a younger, handsome man just proposed to me!”
“That isn’t about you, Cecily-san! Ah, wait, Aqua-sama–”
Cecily and the Magic Sword Man seemed to have some stuff to catch up on, so I helped myself to the crabs instead–
— After spending the night with the crab feast.
“Aqua-sama, Aqua-sama, your humble servant Cecily has something to confess.”
While on the carriage heading towards Alcanretia, Cecily said with a serious look.
“Cecily, where did this come from? I don’t know exactly what you did, but I’m sure it’s not a big deal. If you want, I can come with you to apologize.”
“Really, Aqua-sama? You see, I’ve angered quite a few people… Ah, no, that’s not what I want to say.”
Cecily seemed a little regretful as she said.
“Aqua-sama, the truth is, I’ve been delaying our journey in order to allow Megumin-san and the others to catch up, but it seems like this is as far as that will go. I’ve actually brought a few games to attract your attention, but at this rate, we’ll be at Alcanretia within an hour.”
“I’m a little curious as to why exactly you delayed us, but I’m sure you had a good reason for doing that. First that ghost girl, and now you. Why does everyone want to delay me? … But very well, I forgive you.”
Cecily smiled upon hearing my words.
“With this party, it might be possible to take down the Demon King, but personally, I hope–”
She trailed off.
“Ah, it’d be boorish of me to say anything more. As a low-leveled priest, I would only hold you back going forward. When you reach Alcanretia, you must pay the headquarters a visit. When you do, you should give Zesta-sama and the others this order…”
Cecily leaned over to my ear.
“Now then, your humble servant Cecily prays for your success! This is but a small offering, but it’s the best a lowly priest like me can do… May the protection of Aqua-sama be on you! Blessing!”
With a smile, she casted a buff upon us.