Chapter 04: The Shapeshifters’ Curse
The assailants were dressed as normal peddlers.
17 of them broke into the Alunaha government office, which was still shrouded in morning mist; the numbers weren’t a lot, but they weren’t too little either. It was unmistakable that it was a shapeshifter’s skill that allowed them to sneak up on the guard at the gate and slit his throat.
There were still guards patrolling the area even after they broke through the gate, but the assailants were shapeshifters who had the ability to change their appearance, physique, and even their voice and aura, making it impossible for an average guard to spot them.
It was before dawn when the guards’ attentions were mostly focused elsewhere.
The assassins who had been raised by Palmyra, the <Succubus Princess>, since young, entered through the main entrance of the government office with remarkable speed. Their aim was Draco, who was bedridden.
But the dark elf, Chunon, could see them clearly from the second floor.
Arrows fired by the dark elves under Chunon’s command rained down on the shapeshifters after he gave the command. The blue-skinned hunters who were dressed in black were all master bowmen. Although their skills were slightly inferior to those of an elf’s, they took pride in their ability was superior to those of other races. The blow from their bows with heavy draw weights which couldn’t even be drawn without relying on their well-trained strength, was heavy and pierced through the assailants and into the floor behind them.
But the assailants were shapeshifters.
They are a soft-bodied race and can change their body shape in a way that would allow them not to worry about having an arrow pierce through them and then put their bodies back together from where they were stuck to the floor.
This was normal for lowly soft bodies, but Chunon knew that it was extremely painful for shapeshifters, who have come to imitate high class body structures, to reshape their bodies into impossible shapes.
Nevertheless, the assailants were highly skilled enough to transform their bodies without hesitation and silently at that.
The bows of his men thwumped again, sticking the figures of the pathetic assailants to the floor. With a crackling sound, the shapeshifters, with their unshaped bones exposed, tried to get out from where they were stuck on the floor without uttering a sound.
Chunon sung his hand down three times without pause, mercy or remorse.
This was a private fight.
An assassination attempt on Draco could have been prevented without dragging the enemy into Alunaha’s government office, but Chunon dragged them into here for the sake of revenge.
The red carpet on the stone pavement of the government office begun to soak up with the shapeshifters’ blue bodily fluids. Their transformations couldn’t keep up. Chunon felt dark pleasure watching the shapeshifters who still didn’t let out a single sound of anguish.
Dark elves have maintained their race by becoming the Great Demon King’s shadows. Their loyalty was absolute, and they were used to giving up their lives easily. Information gathering, sabotage and assassination. The risks involved in these missions are always great, but their greatest enemies have always been the shapeshifters.
In Chunon’s family, his father, brother and two sisters fell to the hands of shapeshifters. Of course, dark elves have killed shapeshifters as well, but that was besides the point. Killing a few of them didn’t console those who have died.
The proud dark elves were forced to leave their homeland and their mortal enemy stood in the way of the work that they had finally, albeit painfully, obtained. The ghastly shapeshifters, whose forms weren’t fixed, has become the enemy of the entire dark elf species.
He had another barrage of arrows loose down on the shapeshifters, who had already lost their shape, for piece of mind, and signalled his subordinates who were standing nearby. The shapeshifters would be stuffed into a fine-mesh sack, the opening will be tightly closed, and they would be burnt alive with oil. This primitive method was the surest way to ensure that the shapeshifters perish.
One of the larger shapeshifters yelled just as they were about to be stuffed in the sack. It was probably the leader of the group, but there was nothing he could do. The dark elves had already won. This battle had already been won as soon as Chunon learnt that their attack would take place today.
The shapeshifter shouted. The parts that formed his vocal cords must have lost its shape as well. His shout was rough and sounded unpleasant to the ears.
“Curse you, Dark Elf!”
“I’ll give those words back to you, Shapeshifter.”
Chunon usually had a blank expression on his face, but right now he had broken out in a smile. This was revenge. It was revenge that wouldn’t console anyone’s soul, but it desecrated the soul of their sworn enemy. They were burnt freely. It was a fitting end for these disgusting soft bodies.
“Dark Elf, you’re planning on making him the Great Demon King, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I will kill anyone.”
Chunon thought he heard the shapeshifter laugh when he heard those words, but it was just his imagination. There wasn’t enough left on the shapeshifter’s face for him to tell if he was smiling.
“Oh, dark elves, I curse you. Your hands are already stained with blue blood. Our blood has stained them. The shapeshifters’ ‘Poison Storage’ will kill you. Endlessly. Kill, kill, and when that’s not enough…”
“Shut him up!”
The mouth of the sack was closed. Chunon didn’t look back at the sacks that were being carried outside. He had to report the results to Draco, who was feigning illness.
But that creepy voice echoed in his mind.
Someone knocked on Draco’s bedroom door as he was putting on his armour with Lana’s help.
There was only one person who could pay him a visit at this time. He permitted the person to entered, and the dark elf Chunon entered the room as he had expected. It was usually difficult to read his emotions from his pale face but today, his expression was tinged with joy. It was the first time Draco had ever seen such an expression on the face of this loyal spy.
“How’d it go?”
Draco asked briefly and Chunon simply nodded.
His nod said it all. This perfectionist won’t exaggerate his successes even if he would go into details about his failure. Chunon probably thought that he only needed to report that he had defeated the assailants who had invaded the government office, and that suited Draco just fine.
Letting him kill the shapeshifters was also a reward for his daily service. This kind of dirty work wouldn’t normally be done by spies. Draco didn’t have many ways to reward the dark elves who have no home and rely solely on their loyalty.
Resentment can be created by killing. If there’s resentment, then killing happens again.
When these things accumulate, the heart, which should be as calm and cool as clear water, can become clouded. Draco’s uncle Rehorkan told him this when he was a child.
Draco didn’t understand what his uncle was talking about at that time, but he could understand it now. Unlike usual, there was a faint light in Chunon’s eyes which was like those of a carnivorous beast. Perhaps this light will heat up and make his heart boil.
Unable to find the words to say, Draco idly reached out his hand. His fingertips touched something. He looked and saw that it was a rustic ornate short sword. It was one of the items presented by a powerful clan in the Alunaha region, and according to Shulicia, it was a very fine piece of workmanship. When he held it in his hand, he found it was heavy but comfortable to hold.
“Great job, Chunon. I will let you take this short sword as a reward.”
A look of confusion crossed Chunon’s face for a moment.
Draco had failed.
Dark elves didn’t serve the bloodline of the Great Demon King out of greed. The essence of their loyalty lies beyond the typical connection of service for favours. Draco’s only word to them should be ‘Great work’, no matter how great their accomplishments.
This cold and ‘natural’ relationship promised the dark elves a ‘privileged position’. To reward them for their labour with material goods would be the greatest disservice to them.
Even so, these were the words of the ruler.
The words of the ruler were absolute to the dark elves, and they are not encouraged to talk back to the ruler. If Draco does not change what he had just said right now, then it could change his relationship with Chunon.
“――― I humbly accept.”
He was a second too late. Chunon bowed his head respectfully and received the short sword as if it had been forced on him. His voice sounded stiff, and Draco couldn’t see his expression.
“I must make arrangements for a burial, so if you would please excuse me. I sacrificed the life of a guard even though it was for a mission. At the very least, I will bury him in a sunny place.”
“Yeah, thanks, Chunon. That would be a great gesture for the departed.”
Draco still couldn’t read Chuno’s expression. The leader of the dark elves left the bedroom without a sound.
Draco clenched his fists tightly as if cursing his own carelessness. He would have screamed if it weren’t for the pain, he felt from having his fingernails dig into his palms.
A ruler is not a ruler just because they have royal blood in them. They also must have the calibre of a ruler. The calibre of a ruler means to accept. It is the virtue of being able to use discretion when sharing what you have with your subordinates so that no one complains.
Give to those who want and don’t give to those who don’t. Taking and not giving is also necessary for the calibre of a ruler.
He wondered why Chunon, and the dark elves revered him as the ruler even though he was despised as the <Dethroned Crown Prince>. Why did they choose Draco rather than his uncle Rehorkan or Renis, who had the support of the <Northern Overlord>.
Wasn’t it because they sensed that out of everyone, including those two, Draco had the calibre of a ruler? Wasn’t that why they had called Draco ‘Lord’ from the very beginning?
Regret tightened in the pit of his stomach.
A ruler is lonely. He must make decisions and take responsibility for everything. There can be no excuses. There was only noble duty.
What if that unreliable Evil God had just been by his side? He would never have reprimanded him so strongly. The Evil God did his best to show Draco how grandiose he was, but his nature wasn’t there. It was to walk together with him.
Even the fact that the Evil God wasn’t here now was because of his own decision.
How lonely, the path of a ruler.
Lana, who hadn’t uttered a word while Chunon was in the room, approached Draco. She gently wrapped her hands around his clenched fists.
“I do not know what Milord is thinking. I do not even think I can understand.”
He waited for her to continue, but Lana didn’t say anything else.
The beautiful draconis only gently squeezed Draco’s hand.
But that was the best think she could have done for him at that moment.