Editor: Ghost Ape
The town’s preparation for a sudden onset of swamp were flawless.
The sinking was taken into account when constructing town’s essential facilities, which in turn helped keep the damages to minimum. They had also stocked up on the necessary materials for the temporary mending of common buildings, while the materials for permanent repairs were ordered smoothly through the guild. All the expenses were covered by the town administration’s “Lady Saintess’ Mud Festival Fund”.
As per the original prediction, this year’s harvest would decrease due to the damage to many crops caused by the mud, but there was no need to worry. As a result of Lady Saintess not making the mud gush forth in approximately 100 years, the accumulated fund had long ago reached sky-high levels. There was an excessive sum reserved for damage compensation, while the festival budget itself was also virtually inexhaustible.
On top of that, the mud was fertile, which made the next few years of harvest more than promising.
“―― Or so they say.”
Ariante finished her explanation.
“I guess there can be nothing more humiliating as a demon than someone taking such airtight countermeasures against you.”
I was admiring the festivities, after I took advantage of a commotion caused by the festival to safely retrieve my medicine from the inn and once again turn into my mini size. At the square in front of the spring, a play was being held, praising Lady Saintess’ blessing upon this town. With big gestures, a narrator was emotionally explaining the state of affairs.
「Our ancestors, the founders of this town, were forced to flee for their very lives from their homeland by demons. Compelled to escape through dangerous, demon infested plains, they banded together in cooperation to defend against the dangers in those wild spaces where demons ran rampant. Searching, searching for a land they could finally settle and find again the peace they sought. Just when they began to despair, losing hope their dreams would be lost, they found, right there in the middle of the plains, a miraculous swamp – a swamp gifted with wide expanses of fertile mud welling up bountifully from the earth.」
”You set up your trap in the middle of the plains? Being able to see it clearly, no wonder no one fell for it.”
Lady Saintess was still in her demon state, lying face down and sobbing bitterly. The townspeople took her for a maudlin drunk, so no one paid any attention to her.
Actors were reading out poor lines on an improvised stage, created by laying down planks on the swamp.
「Oh my! What excellent looking soil this looks like! Even though it is a muddy swamp filled with mud, it is well drained and has many good nutrients that probably make it good for growing things in it.」
「And if we were to filter it to take the dirt out of the mud we could even easily get drinking water from it, that’s how lovely this mud is!」
「What’s more, the demons aren’t approaching near here at all, are they!」
Probably the reason low-grade demons didn’t draw near was it being another’s turf.
Come to think of it, the settlers had to have some extraordinary guts to do something bold like that. In less than 3 days after arriving, they had grasped the mud’s special characteristics, and devised a perfect way of using it effectively.
Humans’ drive to live is amazing, I was simply full of admiration in my heart.
Lady Saintess, who remembered her painful past, was still crying.
“… Sniff… Humans ganged up on me and, and grew food in mee… Even though I did, I did my best by blending mud every day, but then nobody hardly ever fell in… Even when someone sometimes fell in, they just pulled out their legs like it was normal… And and and, they just picked up mud as they pleased? And then went and sprinkled it on the ground around here…”
“There, there. You’ve just made the ratio of the blend a bit too suitable for agriculture. Don’t feel so down about it.”
Well, taking into account the fact that the caught people were able to escape easily, she clearly failed as the bottomless swamp.
The play was beginning to enter the first harvest stage.
「How can this be! Although the harvest is right around the corner, you’re telling me the demons are coming?!」
「Oh no… Just when we thought to have at last found our new home, it’s going to be snatched away by demons again…」
It looked like a demon strong enough to not fear stepping on someone’s turf had appeared. When I was watching the play feeling nervous as to what was going to happen next, from behind the stage a man wearing a demon mask made an entrance.
「Wahaha― I came to assault this town―」
And the one who responded by reading her lines in a monotonous voice was a girl entering similarly from the back, wearing an azure wig.
「I won’t let you! I will protect this town and its people!」
A thunderous applause had welcomed her entrance. The narrator then delivered his lines with a zealous voice.
「At that time, the one who revealed her honourable figure to protect the town had been the Lady Saintess herself. Yes, she was the guardian spirit of the gushing swamp in the plains. And to her, who had splendidly driven away the demon, settlers have decided to offer their faith. 」
“… Because… Because… That’s because, it’d be really frustrating if he snatched my territory… They took so much of my mud, they had to know I wanted to prey on them…”
“I guess they ruined it in all sorts of ways.”
However, I hardly ever got to see a play, so no matter how bad it was, I thought it to be pretty fun. They continued with the background explanation.
「Around the time when the town started growing bigger, the swamp suddenly turned into a pure spring.」
“… They were using my mud, so I tried pulling instead of pushing…”
「Taking it as a blessing, everybody drew waterways in an effort to cultivate the fields even further. 」
Lady Saintess was rolling around in anguish. It seemed she was having a vicarious experience from the last few hundred years.
Like that, the drawn-out play continued,
“And now in this town, we live here. Come now everyone, let us offer our gratitude to Lady Saintess.”
They closed it with those words of prayer.
“Look, they’re making an offering to you.”
I peeked at Lady Saintess’, while she was sitting grasping her knees and facing the mountain of materials placed around here.
Oh? I thought. Even though her face is tainted purple from the demon erosion, a normal skin colour is returning to around half of it.
“I-I see… Maybe everyone depending on me isn’t that bad… Somehow, I’m welling up with a mysterious strength, maybe watching them a little more before eating them is also fine…”
She was grinning. Somehow, I’m relieved. We might have crossed the mountain.
“Evil Dragon Lord, I just returned.”
Thereupon, Rēko came back. She went outside the town to send back that dragon of the Demon King’s army along with the three-headed elephant to their distant forest.
“Using Evil Dragon Lord’s teaching methods I taught them to never again assault human habitats. I did not wound them.”
I had no clue about those teaching methods. Still, if I were to pry too deep I most likely wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, so I let it slide. It’d be nice if there were no wounds to the dragon’s mind.
“At any rate, the prosperity is amazing. The reason Evil Dragon Lord intentionally let that incompetent Saintess over there be controlled, was all for the sake of holding this festival, is that right?”
“Ah, yeah. After all, it’s more fun when it’s lively.”
“As expected, a keen insight. You even took into account the Saintess’ foolishness.”
“… Yes. Hm?”
During that stressful exchange, I abruptly felt a weight on my back, and when I looked behind me it turned out Lady Saintess had reclined on me. Her complexion had finally recovered to her normal state.
“Oh, you’ve finally returned. I’m glad, with this the issue is settled.”
However, my heart still carried a shadow of doubt. It seemed like she was forcing back the brainwashing little by little, so why exactly did her recovery progress all in one go, and then only at the end?
When I was thinking that, a voice echoed inside my head.
『I can’t use this water demon any longer. Nigh time to start over again. Dragon over there, I’m going to make use of your body. Come now, gaze into the darkness of your heart.』
Without even a chance to have considered my blunder, my consciousness had been dyed black. The past wrongdoings started gushing out from the bottom of my memory, trying to taint my heart. Thinking about how he possessed Lady Saintess, I had let down my guard.
『Expose your true nature. Lying bare your heart brings into existence genuine power. I am a being who can grant your true desires. Go on now, reveal your unsightly nature.』
The devil’s whispers have filled my heart.
―― I have…
―― Hogged a tree with delicious leaves all to myself.
The instant I had expressed my innermost thoughts, I regained my consciousness.
“As expected of the Evil Dragon Lord.”
“Huh, what did I do now, Rēko? Why are you praising me?”
Please don’t be so humble, Rēko smiled happily.
“Just now, the aforementioned spirit demon has tried to transfer onto Evil Dragon Lord, but he was swallowed by the Evil Dragon Lord’s great torrent of darkness―― it seems he has been annihilated.”
My heart was troubled.