For a moment, her calm expression turned vermillion, and then returned to a frightening white.
“… I do not understand what you mean.”
“I’m saying that I want you.”
“I cannot accept that condition.”
“I see. Then, I’ll snatch you away.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I will go with this plan. I’ll defeat Draco, make Palmyra submit and advance northward and eventually cross swords with Zardish. I will take you at that time.”
“… Do you know what you are saying?”
“It’s a grand ambition. Isn’t it funny that I would do this for a woman?”
“… I will pass on everything that has been said between us today.”
“To the Great Demon King’s Office?”
“Yes, to the Great Demon King’s Office as well.”
The meeting ended.
Ri Gudang felt clear even though he had ruined the meeting himself.
He felt like he had a goal for the first time ever.
First, Draco. No, perhaps Palmyra.
In any case, he could see the road to the north in front of him.
“With all due respect, that will be difficult.”
Taibanka, the General of this expedition, bowed his head apologetically at me inside the camp.
A map of Walbolt was spread out on the desk in front of us. The river was right next to us, but the march was temporarily halted since crossing the river was deemed impossible in this fog and light rain.
“I also thought it was impossible.”
“It might be possible if it were, say, an army.”
I asked Taibanka if he could reduce the influence of the ‘Church’ in Walbolt. Eulenspiegel seemed to think that having demons invade the human world would shake people’s faith in the ‘Church’ but it wasn’t that simple.
Old religions are being driven out because monotheism was spreading through the regions that have simple beliefs. That was much like the history of Europe on Earth.
It was difficult to restore the scales once they had tipped. People’s faith in the ‘Church’ may deepen the longer the demons rampage in the human world. No, people would believe in the ‘Church’ even more even if demons just run amok and the ‘Church’s’ influence would spread.
“I do not understand the situation, Hirano-sama. How many people believe in the ‘Church’? Are they a small force or a large one?”
“I believe they’re quite big. The believers in Walbolt are probably only a small portion of their total believers. Even if we were able to drive all the ‘Church’ believers out of this area, they’ll just return to where they’re from.”
Yoshinaga-san’s battle with the ‘Church’ must have been fought in the north. It must be a religion with believers in many different places.
Being a widely believed in religion does not necessarily indicate the strength of the faith, but they are an organised religion.
“If that is the case, then it will be even more difficult.”
Taibanka fell silent after saying this.
Of course, he would.
Draco had ordered the expedition to secure wealth. The method of how to secure that wealth was left to Taibanka. Lukshuna was accompanying him as a diplomat, so he probably hadn’t intended on a full-out war.
He would threaten them and gain the advantage. Perhaps, he was thinking about how to gain common ground.
But then I brought the question of faith into the mix.
I’m not being conceited, but I am an evil god as well. What I say here will bind Taibanka’s actions. That would be bad. Draco would have sent his army out for no reason if Taibanka doesn’t succeed with securing trade with the humans.
It was the same in Go, if you place a stone in a strange place with the intention of medding, then you’ll be in trouble later on. You must place stones on the board with a clear intention in mind; even more so when you are facing a new situation. I can’t help but think that my indecisiveness has disturbed that.
“Hirano-sama. Let us gather information first. Fortunately, it is possible to get scouts across the river even in this rain. I will wait for news from the scouts and come up with a new plan.”
“Okay. Do that. If it’s too difficult, then you can just leave out the ‘Church’ while you’re coming up with a plan.”
“I will try to think about a plan that would include the ‘Church’ if I can, but I cannot swear that I can come up with one.”
“That’s alright. I don’t want you to push yourself.”
I could tell from the expression on Taibanka’s face that it took great effort for him to reply to me.
I couldn’t force him any further when I thought about how I made that kind of expression in my previous life while working.
Besides, I didn’t have to do it at all costs. I’ve almost fulfilled my promise with Eulenspiegel. The demon army will soon cross the river. The promise will be fulfilled once they enter the human world. After that, I have no intention of dictating how the demon army should behave.
Taibanka began thinking silently. I will only get in his way if I stay here any longer.
I quietly left the camp.
The river was muddy.
The river was wide since it separated the demon realm from the human world. It was more like a small sea than a river, but I could still see the other side. It was possible to cross the river on foot when the weather was clear, and the current was slow.
Kwon was making a small altar as he watched the scouts heading to the other side of the river in a small boat.
Kwon was the second-in-command in this expedition, but he was selected more for his documentation skills as a former merchant and his experience as a former river crosser than as a general.
He offered a freshly strangled chicken and a rice mansion on the small altar then sprinkled something from a leather bag into the river.
“What are you doing?”
Kwon’s face wrinkled as he laughed.
His appearance was deceiving. He looked like a good-looking old Kobold but was in fact a veteran river crosser.
“This is the sands from my birthplace. It is customary to tell the Eternal Goddess of the Great River where I am from and ask for her permission to cross.”
He was scattering sand because of that.
That kind of belief must also exist in the human world, but it was disapproved of by the ‘Church’. I can’t forgive them for that.
“Kwon, you’ve been to the human world, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have. I travelled throughout the human world.”
“What did you think about the ‘Church’?”
“Oh, them? I did not like them very much.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“They are a bit different from the way we believe in Hirano-sama and Yoshinaga-sama.”
Kwon continued with a distant look in his eyes.
“For example, Hirano-sama, you save Draco-sama with thunder. If you make an offering to the Goddess of the Great River, she will help you cross the great rivers safely. The God of Rice, the God of Wind, the God of the Mountains, the God of Travel and many other gods keep us alive, but not the ‘Church’.”
“How are they different?”
“The ‘Church’ teaches people about the afterlife. They preach that only one god created the world and under him are angels. If you do not live according to God’s will, then you will go to hell. That is what they preach.”
No other gods will survive if they spread their religion far and wide.
I can understand why Yoshinaga-san views them as enemies.
Can monotheism exist and survive in a world where there are actually many gods?
“I don’t know. I don’t know, so I have to know. Kwon, tell Taibanka that I will be leaving for a while.”
“Understood. Where are you going?”
“I can’t tell you. I don’t know if I’ll return soon, so tell him to proceed.”
“… As you wish, O’ Evil God.”
Kwon said as I flew towards the river.
I have to see it with my own eyes.
What is the ‘Church’?
How do I stop the ‘Church’?
When I passed the scouts in the small boat, the plains of the human world were already spread out below me.
Draco formed three squads of 500 soldiers.
Two of the squads were to take turns defeating the bandits and the remaining squad was the rear guard.
The bandits were active on the road connecting Alunaha and Pazan. They attacked merchants and villages. Each of their movements were small but Draco saw their actions in a different light.
This was definitely the work of Ri Gudang.
For example, even their retreat was too skilful for them to be mere bandits. They were well-trained.
“I recommend that the merchants hire guards.”
Lu Gun, who had come to the office to report, was still wearing his leather armour. He was in charge of the overall defence of the city while also going out to defeat bandits. Draco entrusted him with this important task because he had defected from being Benan’s commander.
“The bandits are moving in groups of 30 to 50 people. I’d like to try dividing the 500 soldier squads into smaller groups.”
“Do it, but you have to leave enough people in the rear guard. Ri Gudang might have laid a trap for us to let our guards down so he could ambush us with 1000 or 2000 fighters.”
He said it out loud and reminded himself that this situation was a war.
Ri Gudang, who had turned the small city Catania into his base, had become the bandit’s boss. He would have been, but a small obstacle had he remained as a bandit’s boss, but there was an issue with the edict. If he could bring together the neighbouring powerful tribes with that edict, then he would become an opponent that the current Draco would have to resist.
Ri Gudang has already made contact with a messenger from the Great Demon King’s Office according to the Dark Elves.
“I have set a trap in the forest with the help of the werebears. We will try cutting down the number of bandits by driving them there.”
“Try everything you can. If you underestimate them because they’re bandits, then we’ll suffer greatly.”
“How about employing the bandits we have captured?”
“It would be disastrous if they join our army, then betray us. We should give them land and let them cultivate it. They may be bandits right now, but they are people.”
Bandits beget bandits.
The men whose villages were ravaged by bandits automatically degrade to being bandits. That was how Ri Gudang increased his forces. So, Draco will do the opposite. He will give food to those who have lost food and he’ll give land to those who have lost land.
It was a simple and honest approach, but Draco thought it might work.
“But is La Banan alright? I have not seen him all day.”
“He has notified me that he is ill and won’t be working for a while.”
“I’ve heard that the chief Goblins have gathered at his house. Did you already know this?”
“They are probably there to pay their respects. I’ve entrusted him with a lot of work, so he must know many people.”
“Don’t say another word.”
If Ri Gudang calls himself the <South Barbarian King> because of the edict, then La Banan can also do the same. He has more rights to the title than Ri Gudang did.
Many are suspicious of La Banan because a lot of Goblins are visiting his home. They will rebel against Draco and take over Alunaha; many think that the Goblins are plotting to do this.
“Why don’t you pay him a visit at the very least, Draco-sama?”
“If the chance arises. He’ll be too mindful of me if I go visit him even though he’s sick.”
“… I will take that as a sign for me to leave.”
Draco watched as Lu Gun left and let out a sigh.
Then, the Dark Elf, Chunon, entered without a sound.
“Chunon? How was it?”
“Everything is going well. Here is a report from a subordinate who is guarding La Banan’s home.”
He took the leather parchment and read through its contents. It contained the names and impressions of the guests who visited La Banan.
“It seems that Ri Gudang’s father, Ryu Giroku, has also visited him. He asked if La Banan would join forces with Ri Gudang.”
Chunon said as he knelt down.
“That’s great. What a beautiful display of kinsmanship.”
“But Ri Gudang might make his move now that Ryu Giroku is on the move, and the bandits are gathered in Catania.”
“I agree. Have Lu Gun and Dadda prepare.”
It will be a hard fight.
The enemy outnumbered them even though they were bandits.
That was why he had to quickly dispose of any Goblins who might betray him. They couldn’t fight a defensive battle without fortifying their own ranks.
“Continue to keep an eye on La Banan and find Ri Gudang. Keep an eye on Palmyra too.”
It was hard to believe that the <Succubus Princess> wouldn’t take advantage of this opportunity since she loved schemes.
He was taking precautionary measures, but he wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t be able to predict his moves.
This is a critical moment, Draco told himself.