Count Ismalia’s Messenger
A messenger arrived one day as I continued to spend my time governing Ashtaroth castle. A messenger from a neighboring country.
I had seen this messenger before. Now that I thought about, it was the first messenger I had met after being born in this castle.
An old knight who was tall and had an eye-catching beard. And just like the last time, he talked to me in a self-important manner.
“I hope that you are well, Lord Demon King…”
The only reason that he sounded a little more polite than last time, was because my forces had grown. I now had more lands than the count who he served.
That difference might have made him less insolent, but I felt that it was mostly just this knight’s personality more than anything. Besides, he clearly hadn’t forgotten that I had tricked him last time. And so he was quick to get to the point.
“I have come here as a representative for Count Ismalia. You may have fooled us last time, but that can all be water under the bridge. I hope that from now on, we can build a fair relationship without deceit.”
He was talking about how I had manipulated Count Ismalia into fighting against Demon King Sabnac. I doubted he would ever forget it.
And it was no wonder. Count Ismalia’s forces were weakened in that battle. In the meantime, I defeated Sabnac and grew rapidly.
I had not committed to keeping my promise in the beginning, so it would be ridiculous to suggest that he shouldn’t be angry. And so I was a little surprised that he wanted to form an alliance now.
It made me suspicious.
“I have heard that Count Islmalia hates me. There are rumors that he thinks I’m a traitorous coward.”
“Of course, my master is a very proud man. And so he is angered over your betrayal. However, he is also the ruler of many. Currently, the people are fighting over the water supply in your lands. If you can bring an end to it in a way that is advantageous for us, he would like to forget all past grievances and form a non-aggression agreement.”
“Hmm. Rights over water.”
I turned to Eve, and she nodded.
“It’s true that this issue with the count has been brought up. But it hasn’t evolved into actual fighting yet.”
“But it’s likely only a matter of time then. …Yes, very well. I will give the count the rights to that water supply.”
“Are-are you certain!?”
The old knight’s beard shook.
“I am. I owe your master a debt, and I do not wish to fight him anyway.”
“He will be overjoyed to hear it.”
“Indeed. Tell him that I would be glad to form this alliance.”
The old knight nodded and then continued.
“That is good to hear. However, would you consider coming to the Ismalia territories in person as proof of your goodwill?”
“To the Ismalia territories?”
“My master is very eager to share a drink with you.”
“In a poisoned cup, I presume.”
I muttered under my breath so that the old knight would not be able to hear me. However, I agreed to go.
The old knight smiled upon hearing this and bowed his head.
Once he was finished with the negotiations, the old knight left Ashtaroth castle and returned to Ismalia.
As I watched him from the window, Eve hesitantly stated her opinion on the matter.
“Master, about this visit to Ismalia. I cannot agree with it.”
“And why is that?”
“Because he will poison you.”
“Oh, you heard me? Well, you are a demon, after all.”
I said jokingly. But Eve did not laugh.
“That old knight is not the type to plot something like that. He is intelligent, but also simple at the root.”
“That may be, but there are surely others working with him. There is no doubt in my mind that the count will attempt to assassinate you.”
“I’m sure that he will. I would do the same in his place.”
“And yet you’re still going to jump into the tiger’s den?”
“Yes. Because I know that the tiger has lost most of its teeth. I’ll let him bite and see what happens.”
“And then what will you do?”
“After that, I will declare that the count is not worthy of my trust. And then maybe I could attack. Perhaps I’ll just annihilate him completely.”
“So you are going to purposely get caught in his trap, and then use it for your own gain.”
“To put it simply, yes.”
Upon hearing this, Eve let out a great sigh. But it wasn’t out of worry or annoyance. She was deeply impressed.
“Very good, master. You truly are a strategist. I don’t know why I ever worry about you.”
“No, I’m glad that you do. I don’t always make the right decisions, after all. And so you should continue to share your opinions without hesitation.”
A wise and loyal maid like Eve was incredibly valuable. Regardless of what lofty names people gave me, I still made mistakes.
A good lord had capable subjects, and listened to what they had to say. And so I wanted to create an environment where they would not hesitate to speak.
Well, I had assumed that it was already the case, but it was also possible that they trusted me so much, that they started to feel like there was no need to talk.
And so I was grateful that Eve continued to worry and point out problems that she found.
I was happy to have a maid like her. And though I did not wish to sound greedy, I wanted one more person like her.
Currently, I had Toshizou Hijikata of the Shinsengumi, Jeanne d’Arc of Orleans, Bradenboro the Werewolf, Kongming the strategist, Gottlieb the dwarf, and Fuma Kotaro the ninja. Very few of them could be counted on for advice about politics.
It was either just military, internal administration, or strategy with them.
I didn’t have enough personnel like Eve, who knew a lot about both war and politics.
And so I wanted people who were just as good as her.
However, such people were hard to find. I could not just snatch them up somewhere. That’s why it was important to treat my current people well.
I turned to Eve.
“Which do you want, a vacation or gold?”
I thought that I would make her happy by offering something that she would want, but this failed.
Tears filled her eyes.
“Did I do something to displease you?”
Apparently, she did not want to leave my side for even a moment. And the idea of a vacation was similar to the pain of hell.
As for money, she thought that there was something pure in the idea of serving someone without a reward. If anything, she wanted to pay me.
After witnessing once again the proof that my maid was the most loyal in the world, and being greatly moved by it, I went down to the town and bought some flowers for her.
I did feel that sending flowers again lacked variety, but I did not possess the talent to convey my true gratitude to her.
If I asked the number one playboy of the Bakumatsu, Toshizou Hijikata, then he would tell me to sweep her off of her feet and kiss her. But that was a little too much for a Demon King like me.
Perhaps such bold acts as that would come naturally to me one day in the future. It was with such thoughts that I gazed at my happy maid as she put the red rose into a vase, and I started to select the people that I would take with me to Ismalia.