Editor: Ghost Ape
“Hey, what’s wrong with you suddenly? Your eyes look scary. Plus, there’s that whole ‘sinking the town’ deal.”
“I am a water demon―― I thrive on humans’ bottomless despair――”
“It’s no good. Maybe she respects Rēko too much.”
I haven’t seen such sudden change since Rēko’s awakening. Whether it was her remarks or lack of judgement, they both were similar. I hunched my body and drew near her face.
“Wake up, Lady Saintess. I doubt anything good is waiting for you down this road. You’re idolized by everyone in this town, so don’t purposely go and make them all draw back.”
“Sink… Mud… Let all and everything be swallowed.”
“Haah, she really went all-out this time. I wonder what’s wrong with her.”
Yet, even while saying so, I still had some composure left. Even though she fell into darkness, in comparison to Rēko, its severity was much lower. Frankly? It lacked vigour. The time when Ariante was playing the Demon King’s subordinate was more terrifying.
“For now, I guess I’ll take her to Rēko and have her persuade Lady Saintess. Once she’s warned by the object of her worship, she should open her eyes.”
“Kukuku… Writhe within my mire, foolish humans…”
I grabbed Lady Saintess with my teeth by the collar and passed through the door with her dangling from my mouth. The second my feet stepped on the door’s boundary, I got sucked in rapidly and flew out of the spring like a fountain. I barely avoided letting go of Lady Saintess.
I arrived with a splash. Good thing the ground had turned into soft mud.
“Watch… This is the mire of the Abyss… It will drag you all the way down to hell…”
I checked my feet. It was a normal mud. It wasn’t anything nearly as bad as Lady Saintess had said. I wasn’t sinking much, even with the weight of my large build. If one didn’t move at all, he’d go down just a little bit, but anyone could break free by taking a single step. Its stickiness also wasn’t too bad. It was clear, however, that anyone could see the small damage dealt to structures, which couldn’t move on their own. Although the sinking would stop at a certain depth, the slowly listing private houses probably couldn’t avoid being submerged up to the first floor. The repair costs seemed to be increasing.
I put Lady Saintess on the ground. Instead of standing on her feet, she just had simply toppled sideways and became half submerged in mud.
“Hey, listen. You can’t do something like this simply because you were in the mood. Haven’t the crops just been planted? If you make the ground muddy like this, their roots will rot.”
“Everything will sink into the dark depths of the earth…”
“Haah, even after all this it’s still useless. There’s no helping it.”
I inhaled in a hurry and shouted randomly while surveying my surroundings.
“He―ey, Rēko. If you’re somewhere close, come here for a second.”
At that moment, enormous jet-black wings spread in the sky at the outskirts of town. It was a flight far exceeding the speed of sound. The owner of those wings approached instantaneously, while pulling along a ring of clouds created by the shockwave.
“I have made all haste to join you, Evil Dragon Lord.”
Rēko kneeled, folding her wings. Let’s not summon her thoughtlessly from now on, I firmly vowed in my heart.
I thought to ask her to reform Lady Saintess, but I first inquired about what was bugging me.
“Ah, well. First of all, Rēko, did anything strange happen when I wasn’t around?”
“Excluding this mud, there wasn’t much. I made the earnest effort to play with children.”
“Ah, I see. I’m glad. What game did you try to play with them?”
“I was searching for a docile dragon, called Doradora, since it looked like the children wanted to feed him.”
I broke out in a cold sweat.
“A, aah―… Yeah. And what happened? Does it look like you’ll find him?”
“I have already secured a dragon fitting the description.”
I wonder what dragon exactly had the misfortune to be caught. Anyway, I can’t do much more than say I’m sorry.
“I wanted to cut off his head and use it for the feeding game―― however, at that time the town turned into the current state of affairs. I decided it’s not the time to play and discontinued it temporarily.”
“Wow, that’s some game alright. Was that supposed to be a heathen ritual?”
Despite trying to maintain my calm mental state, my legs were trembling like those of a fawn. That was because, if I was to make one wrong step, my future would be that very spectacle of playing with my head like a toy. I was really glad she stopped. After an experience like that, someone’s going to have to tend to the captured dragon’s mind.
“Incidentally, Evil Dragon Lord. The one laying there, is that the Saintess?”
“Ah, that’s right. Because of her, there’s a thing I need to ask you for.”
“Sheathe your dagger.”
She didn’t understand at all. She was clearly planning to finish her off.
“I don’t really know how to say it, but that child really respects―― err, rather, she’d like to become friends with you.”
Rēko made an extremely disgusted face. She even indignantly pouted a little.
“Inconceivable. She has ridiculed the Evil Dragon Lord many times over. I won’t forgive her.”
“Don’t say it like that. As an evil dragon’s kin, size of the vessel is also important.”
“… Is that how it is?”
Somehow, she gave me a nod. Now we can have her persuade Lady Saintess. If Rēko said something along the lines of “A true demon can’t cause only fear”, she should open her eyes.
“However, Evil Dragon Lord, at the moment it seems she’s being controlled. According to what I heard, an executive of the Demon King’s army―― a demon capable of manipulating people’s hearts has planned to possess the Saintess. I can feel a heterogeneous magic power dwelling inside Saintess’ spirit.”
She was being controlled? I was bewildered by this out-of-the-blue information. Wait, certainly that sudden change was abnormal. I had been numbed by Rēko’s precedent. The grasshopper demon that flew in that time―― he might have carried that executive to her.
“Evil Dragon Lord also should have felt that. Why did you let the Demon King’s executive go and possess the Saintess? Are you, after all, planning to deal with them all at once?”
No good. It surely had to be incomprehensible from Rēko’s point of view. The fact that, of all people, the Evil Dragon Rēvendia would have overlooked a scheme of the Demon King’s executive and let the town submerge in mud was an inconceivable blunder.
“―― Good grief, you don’t even understand that? You got yourself quite a dull kin, Rēvendia.”
When I turned my gaze to the unexpected voice, there was a figure standing on the house’s roof with her arms folded. She was clad in heavy armour and helmet, but one couldn’t feel weight from her light movements.
“Who are you?”
“Ah―― Ariante? Why are you here?”
“You’re asking me why? Enough with the games, Evil Dragon Lord.”
Ariante jumped off on the ground. I didn’t know what kind of technique it was, but she wasn’t sinking at all, despite wearing armour on the swamp.”
“This town’s guard had begged me through the guild, saying “An infamous evil dragon has come, please send help”. Of course, I know that you’ve no intention to hurt humans. Still, I doubted conveying that through a messenger would get rid of their anxiety. That’s why I came personally, to talk with them directly.”
Rejoice Rēvendia, Ariante continued.
“You can expect to have the price on your head temporarily suspended. Since putting a bounty on someone proactively cooperating with humans is just way too rude.”
“Hmph. From the beginning, the Evil Dragon Lord wasn’t someone to be hunted by the likes of you humans.”
My heart was dancing with joy. It seemed like I’d be able to eat fine grass today.
“Ah right―― Ariante. If it’s fine with you, could you give Rēko an explanation? My intentions in regards to this case, that is.”
She came to help with perfect timing. Honestly, I really didn’t feel like I could make an excuse this time. In these circumstances, I even might’ve had to go with Rēko’s conjecture, that I wanted to round all of them up.
However, Ariante brought me to despair by uttering a meaningless sound.
‘Don’t eee me! Didn’t you think of something and come to help?’
‘I bought you some time to think, didn’t I? You can think now. If you don’t hurry and cover up your incompetence, a new evil dragon will emerge.’
‘No way, no way, no way! After all, I’m old and slow-witted.’
That exchange unfolded in an instant, using only our gazes. Rēko’s mood was visibly dropping. She probably couldn’t stomach that, me and Ariante were behaving as if we came to a mutual understanding.
“Evil Dragon Lord, teach me your intentions too, if you please――”
Ariante gave me thumbs up with a solemn face.
So she’s saying good luck? Curse you. Since it’s come to this, I’ve no choice but to go with something like “There’s no point unless you guess it yourself”. She may possibly go on a rampage with a convenient interpretation like she always does, but needs must when the devil drives.
It happened exactly when I opened my mouth.
“Hey, everyone! Rejoice! It’s a blessing of Lady Saintess! For the first time in well over 100 years, a mud festival!”
Bustling, the townspeople rushed out of the buildings―― everyone was wearing wide geta designed for walking on swamp―― and they cheered repeatedly.
A resident passed by me when I was standing dumbfounded. Holding two wine barrels under his arms with a flushed face like a boiled octopus, he likely flew out from a tavern somewhere. Then, he looked at Lady Saintess while laughing from the bottom of his belly.
“Oi, that lass lying over there has already started drinking? It’s going to take a while, so don’t rush it too much. After all, for the mud of blessing to well up, it hasn’t happened since grandfather’s times. Everyone’s going to use heaps of saved up money for the festival, and people’s excitement won’t settle down for one or two nights.”
Like that, he ran through the town while sending the mud flying with each of his drunken steps. He wasn’t perturbed even when seeing me in my original form, probably because he was either greatly drunk or too festive to pay attention, or most likely it was a combination of both.
Suddenly, from somewhere came the resounding sounds of drums and other instruments. When I looked closely, it turned out that most of the town’s warehouses had raised floors and weren’t affected by the swamp.
“Erm, Rēko. This is, well…”
While I was troubled and couldn’t think of what to say next, a crying voice came from near my feet. It was Lady Saintess in demon-mode, who covered her face and shed tears.
“Whyy… Even though I’m doing my best, making a swamp… Don’t cultivate it… Stop picking it up as you please… It’s a special mud to sink people… Stop saying how it’s the best thing for soil… I beg you, someone sink please…”
I pretty much understood now how this town came to be, and the reason Lady Saintess turned out like that.