Another quarter was built in front of the gate.
Peddles would carry their cargo and unpack it there without entering the castle market. People will come if there are goods. The area immediately began bustling with activity and what seemed like stalls were lined up in a disorderly pattern.
This was because they had abolished the highway tax.
Alunaha is one of the largest castle towns in this area even though it is located at the southwestern edge of the demon realm. People, goods and money will naturally gather when road tolls disappear. There are many small villages which couldn’t grow into castle cities in this area. Alunaha functions as a focal point for those small villages.
Draco watched the scene from the top of the gate and narrowed his eyes.
He wasn’t calm. It could be said that La Banan’s tax reformation had failed. Even if they abolished the highway tax and enforced a goods tax, if no people or goods entered the city, then there was no tax yield.
Nevertheless, he was also impressed. Alunaha, a city in the frontier, had attracted this many people just by abolishing the highway tax. The sight of people lively selling and buying things reminded Draco of the large market in the demon capital. He felt the strength and resilience of the people. The people may be tired, but if you give them a place to survive, they will shine brightly.
Draco came to believe that the taxes, laws, and Demon Kings were to blame.
This was something that he had not seen when he was living in the demon capital as the grandson of the Great Demon King. The prestige of the royal blood has been misused and fallen. There was no stopping the Demon Kings from wielding their power in their respective territories.
In the end, it was the people who suffered.
The <Dethroned Crown Prince> Draco didn’t think this was good.
The demon realm has been idling for a long time. Like how the hinges of a door creaks, various defects have begun to appear. The trend of appreciating old things added to this.
Draco once saw the so-called ‘Sword of the First Great Demon King’ in the depths of the Great Demon castle. It was wrapped in pure silk, and no longer held its original form. It was nothing more than a rusty lump of iron.
(That is, in other words, what the current demon realm is like today.)
He thought in self-depreciation that he felt a strong attachment to something so old.
If he hadn’t felt like this, then he could give up on the idea that he should leave the ruling of the demon realm to the hands of someone powerful ――― i.e., the <Northern Overlord>. Draco probably felt that he had to continue his fight against the <Northern Overlord> because of his own nostalgia more than anything else, even the people.
He turned around and saw La Banan.
He was haggard with dark circles under his eyes. Of course, he would look like that. He must be frustrated because the thriving market spread out before him was not bringing in any tax revenue, but he looked better than he did when Draco saw him this morning.
“What’s wrong La Banan? You look happy.”
“We have succeeded in gathering the peddlers. I will make them pay a stall tax on each plot of land.”
‘Stall tax’ was an unfamiliar law to Draco.
Draco held his tongue when he was about to ask what the source of that law was. He had left it to La Ranan to decide on new laws.
‘Old law is good law’ is a deeply rooted belief among demons. Long ago, in ancient times, it was quite common for laws to be based on decrees created by the Eighth Great Demon King and the old laws that were derived from those.
So, they don’t conform to the actual situation.
To keep the beautiful appearance of the law text, they would add important points to the text or write a lengthy cautionary note and then say, “But this doesn’t apply”. So, it was impossible for the people to expect anything from the law.
Therefore, Draco is pinning his hopes on La Banan’s fresh talent.
“I’m surprised you managed to convince the peddlers.”
“Rather than convince them, they were the ones who offered. They don’t like travelling on the highway.”
Highway tax is mostly unregulated.
It isn’t only collected by Demon Kings from castle cities. It is also collected by great and small tribes living in small fortresses, chieftains and even dragons. Paying a highway tax to all of them was like asking a peddler not to make profit.
“They want you to rule over a few more castle towns, Draco-sama. They believe that trade will flourish more if they don’t have to pay the highway tax while travelling between a few cities.”
“They would be correct.”
But it was difficult.
Neither Baal Gonane to the south nor Kili Shushutsu in the east are going to be easy to bring down.
The mud-slurpers and lizardmen are the ones who are in control of those places. So, the only thing left to do was to continue north.
“The <Succubus Princess>… I’m bad at dealing with her.”
The flower garden was full of nice aromas.
It didn’t suit the frontier. This was the only place in the Red Forest that was gorgeous, and it was owned by the <Succubus Princess>. It could be said that this flower garden was comparable to the rose garden in the demon capital. Colourful flowers were carefully arranged together and there was even a small stream running through the garden.
This was Pazan, a city located to the north of Alunaha.
This area, which was located at the edge of the ‘Red Forest of Jonan’, had many rare flowers.
There was a mixture of green and flowers that had withered. As long as one was careful about how to grow the flowers, they could grow a much wider variety of flowers than in the warmer, but drier capital.
The flower garden was also designed to take full advantage of its features and has been described as a paradise on earth.
At the centre of the garden was a pavilion. The white marble pavilion, with its serene aura, was a kind of sanctuary that only those who were favoured by the <Succubus Princess> were allowed to enter.
Ri Gudang was sipping tea in the pavilion. He was treated like a guest of honour.
The <Succubus Princess> was in front of him.
“Is the <Dethroned Crown Prince> that powerful?”
She was beautiful and there was no Demon King who was more beautiful than her.
She was truly a beauty who captivated all who saw her. To Ri Gudang, the <Succubus Princess> Palmyra ‘looked’ like the most beautiful goblin shaman, but others may see her differently.
The <Succubus Princess> was that kind of demon.
“Yes, he keeps his dreadful schemes to himself. My predecessor, Benan, was defeated by his schemes. We shouldn’t underestimate him just because he has few troops.”
He emphasised the word ‘predecessor’.
He was saying that he was the successor of the Demon King, Benan.
Of course, he didn’t follow the proper procedure. He was only a temporary Demon King. Even so, he had made a statement that made the <Succubus Princess> Palmyra recognise his position as Demon King because he wanted her to intervene with Alunaha. If Ri Gudang really returned to Alunaha as a Demon King, then Palmyra’s influence would increase.
It was a bargain. Ri Gudang had already borrowed a considerable amount of money from Palmyra with this bargain. That money will be set aside to hire soldiers and provide them with provisions. It was a completely empty promise.
“But Ri Gudang-dono, if I really give you the money, then will this garden not be trampled on by the enemy?”
“It will not. I swear this in the name of my Evil God.”
In other words, Ri Gudang was a mercenary.
People paid and hired mercenary leaders like him to organise mercenary groups. That was what Palmyra wanted. Despite claiming to be a Demon King, Palmyra’s race relied too heavily on the art of seduction and weren’t adept at actual combat. This was why they needed a pawn, and she had placed Ri Gudang in that role since he had flown into her arms like a distressed bird.
And Ri Gudang thought this was fine.
His escape in the forest gave him the strength to believe this.
Result was better than fame. Then, greater fame can be obtained with that result. It doesn’t matter if it’s false. Eventually, something will come along; that something may be a castle city or even the rank of Demon King. Either way, Ri Gudang wanted something that he will never get by just laying low.
Licking the shoes of the <Succubus Princess> was nothing compared to achieving results.
“So, what kind of strategy are you planning on using against the <Dethroned Crown Prince>?”
“It’s not much of a strategy, but only a simple method will work against an opponent like that.”
Ri Gudang said as he pulled out an object from his pocket. Palmyra narrowed her eyes.
It was a map of the area around Alunaha. It would be worth thousands if it was accurately drawn.
Ri Gudang noticed her stare but began to explain without minding it.
“The river flows from the north, passes to the west of Alunaha, then down to the south. This river is called Lau River, and this is what I’m going to use.”
“Cutting off their water supply? That’s an expensive plan.”
“I’m not cutting off their water supply. Alunaha is a castle city with many wells and damming this river wouldn’t make much sense. If we attack from the west then they’ll use the moat instead, so it’ll be tricky but there isn’t any real problem. We can also attack them from the north or east.”
“Hmm. A castle siege? Can you, Ri Gudang, defeat a castle defended by a clever warrior, the <Dethroned Crown Prince> even if you outnumber him?”
This was the greatest asset Ri Gudang had acquired. He could gauge the strength of his opponents without letting his self-confidence blind him. Honestly speaking, he didn’t think he could beat Draco right now.
“Then isn’t it impossible?”
“Yes, it is. This Ri Gudang cannot defeat him.”
“So, I will use Lau River.”
He cut Palmyra off and tapped his finger on the southern edge of the map. Then the words Baal Gonane were seen along the Lau River.
“The mud-slurpers. Make them attack Alunaha to lure Draco out, then I’ll use that opportunity to take the castle city. Isn’t it a great plan?”
“Ah, yes. It’s great.”
The <Succubus Princess> smiled a smile that was befitting of her nickname.
She then intertwined her soft fingers with Gi Gudang’s.
“It’s magnificent. It’s wonderful, Ri Gudang-dono. That’s the spirit. I’ll make sure you become a Demon King when you gain the city. Very good.”
Ri Gudang stared coldly at their intertwined fingers.
The shape of the fingers he could see and the shape of the things crawling on his skin were different.
The cool touch was sweet, alluring, and sensual.
It wrapped around him tenderly and pulled away enticingly. It was a feat that no five-fingered creature could pull off.
(… Fucking slime.)
Palmyra is the Demon King of a ‘shapeshifter’ race.
She charmed all who saw her with her meltingly soft body and powerful illusions. She stood at the top of all slimes and mimics.
(Is this how she plans to expand her influence without getting her hands dirty?)
The <Succubus Princess> had been chased to this remote region because she was too dangerous to keep in the capital. Ri Gudang intended to make sure of Palmyra.
(Just you wait, Draco. I’ll pay you back.)