At around the time that the Earth Dragon that Eric’s group was riding on was running around Arkverm, Vermudol and Ykslaas were facing each other with a table in between them in a room of the Demon King Castle.
「……It’s about the time they should be riding the Earth Dragon, huh.」
「I suppose. That Prince, the plan was for him to stay over tonight and go back tomorrow, right?」
What was placed on top of the table was a Demon King Army War Game board. It wasn’t that they were playing around, but were examining the pieces for Ykslaas’s group that were planned to be added soon.
Originally, Ykslaas led her four knights and entered the Dark Continent as an enemy, but it was confirmed that they were just used by the God of Life Philia, and they were now in a cooperative relationship with Vermudol.
There were many times where she would verbally refuse work, but she would perform the work seriously in the end, and was extraordinarily excellent.
「That’s right. Ichika has already finished the preparations for dinner, and it will be completed with just Marin doing the finishing touches.」
「That girl, isn’t she the most capable one of the group? Krim specializes in cleaning and indoor maintenance, and Lemon……she can do anything fairly well, but she isn’t really quite there yet. And speaking of that point……let’s see. Marin, I feel like I’m looking at Ichika in a different color. Well……they’re different in various ways when you take a good look, but even so.」
Vermudol unconsciously imagined Ichika in different colors.
A red Ichika, a blue Ichika, and a yellow Ichika.
If black Ichika were to be added, let alone the Demon King Castle, they might do the jobs of the entire Zadark Kingdom at twice the speed.
「……Hey, what are you thinking about. I couldn’t be that you were thinking about increasing the number of Ichikas, could you?」
「Yeah, I thought of that.」
「Stop it. It would be hell if that woman were to increase in number.」
While making a wry smile at Ykslaas, who said “that thought gives me shivers” and made the gesture of hugging her body with both hands, Vermudol dropped his gaze onto the surface of the board.
「……Well, that wouldn’t happen. It’s impossible after all.」
That’s right, even for Vermudol, it was impossible for him to create another Ichika.
Through the 『Sacrifice’s Rebirth』 that was imposed on her by the Goddess of Life Philia, Ichika had repeatedly gone through lives over and over again.
It was similar to how Ykslaas was killed many times and was reset each time due to Philia’s 『Sacrifice’s Cage』, but it was conclusively different.
Due to the inheritance technical skills that she had coincidentally been born with, Ichika repeatedly became a different person many times while still being herself.
Before long, she became self-aware that she would become yet another person when she died, and struggled against that fate──but she died despite that, and became a different person. Without being able to even forget her previous lives.
Whether she believed, betrayed, got betrayed, or casted away everything and tried to run away, the promised death chased after her. She fell into despair, and had faith that light would be even within that──but evenso, she learned of the truth of what had lied beyond her death.
What was created from all of that, was the current Ichika.
Even if he were to reproduce just her form, that wouldn’t be Ichika.
「Even if their appearance and personality were similar, they would be different people. That’s all there is to it.」
「……Well, that’s true. Ah, do I gain total control with this?」
Seeing where Ykslaas had moved her piece, Vermudol groaned with a “muu”.
Certainly, she had gained total control──a rule in the game where the opponent was driven to a situation where they no longer had any hands to play.
「Certainly, I have no hands to play. It’s my loss.」
「Uーn. Either I’m strong, or our pieces are strong, which one do you think it is?」
After Ykslaas picked up the piece of Olred, her subordinate, from the board, she started to spin it around. It had taken the form of a question, but it was the same as implicitly saying that Vermudol was weak.
「Well, I don’t know which one it is, but you are strong.」
「Well, that’s true. I don’t play this with Krim and the others just for show after all.」
Hearing Ykslaas say that sounding like it was her strong point, Vermudol reflexively opened his eyes wide.
「What was that……You, before we started playing, you said that it wasn’t like you played this all that much……!」
「Yes, that’s right. When compared to Fainell, that is. Did you know? That Fainell, she was the victor of the Zadark Kingdom’s coordinated tournament, you know?」
「Wait, I don’t know anything about that sort of event.」
Hearing the name of an event that he was hearing for the first time, Vermudol ended up having a serious look on his face.
He knew that this game had spread even more than he had expected, but he didn’t know that it had spread to the point of creating such a tournament. Since Vermudol didn’t recognize it, he was certain that it wasn’t a nationally sponsored event, but if he himself were to become estranged from what was going on within the country, that in itself was a problem.
「Well, neither Ichika, Nino, nor Rokuna had any interest in it. Isn’t it natural that it wouldn’t reach your ears? Ah, but Sancreed was the runner-up, wasn’t he. I thought that it wouldn’t be strange if you heard it from him though.」
「……No, the last time I met with him, we had talked about the Goblin Poetic Dialogue Collection.」
「Wait, what is that. I’m more interested in that story. I don’t know anything about that sort of book, you know?」
Ignoring Ykslaas’s words, Vermudol breathed a sigh.
He was able to understand the reason why Sancreed didn’t talk about it. He had merely determined that Vermudol probably didn’t have any interest. Since Vermudol actually didn’t have that much of an interest, that determination was correct, but.
「……I’ve discovered a point about myself that needs improvement in an unexpected location. I never thought that the narrowness of my hobbies would be connected to the narrowness of my perceptions just like that.」
「Hey, more important than that, tell me about that book you mentioned earlier.」
「It’s a book that had a limited sale in the West. I’ll lend it to you next time……but, come to think of it, there was also the book problem, wasn’t there.」
It was also Rokuna’s wish, but it seemed that the publication of books were being performed quite frequently within the Zadark Kingdom. Nowadays, it had become one of the refined pleasures.
In contrast with how mankind would create books as 「records」 of things such as legends and research, the Mazoku had positioned it as 「pleasure」, but by some chance, there was the possibility that they would be popular as souvenirs from now on.
If the books that were expensive goods in their own country could be bought cheaply, putting the contents aside, there wouldn’t just be a few people that would buy it as a conversation starter or just out of curiosity.
If they were like that, bought it, and found the book that they read to be interesting, the culture of using books for pleasure would spread to mankind as well, and there was no mistake that things like books and paper would be regarded highly as exported goods from now on.
No, that wasn’t all. Via books, the fact that Mazoku aren’t villainous opponents like the ones sung in the legends should be communicated to mankind as well. If that were to happen, that might become one effective means of building peace.
「You’re making quite the difficult face there. What are you thinking?」
「It’s a simple story. For now, I was just thinking that trying out putting several books in the room that Prince Eric is planned to stay in would be amusing.」
Vermudol displayed a sneer to Yklsaas who was making deeply interested-looking face.
「That prince, maybe because he’s young as a Sylphid, he looks to me like his way of thinking is flexible. I don’t know what kind of guys the other princes are like, but depending on the situation, there’s the possibility that he might become closer to us than Sarigan.」
「By Sarigan, you mean King Sarigan, right? That’s the pitiful king who, after having his Imperial Guard unit erased by you, had his Life Seed tampered with, right?」
「That’s wrong. I told you didn’t I, that I merely erased his prejudices.」
「That’s just your opinion. Probably, if we were in mankind’s territory, I think it would be called brainwashing, you know?」
Vermudol made a bitter face at Ykslaas who was chuckling.
Since the danger of that was there, he could only talk about that matter to a limited number of people.
Even if he were to say that that wasn’t the case, as long as there were a large number of people that believed that it was brainwashing, it would be made out to be brainwashing.
「I don’t know what kinds of books you plan on putting in there, but it would be best if you didn’t go with those argumentative books that you like. Those would surely have people accuse you of planning on making his way of thinking closer to the Mazoku, a form of brainwashing, you know?」
「I wouldn’t do something like that. I was planning on going with more lighthearted books.」
「Your lighthearted isn’t lighthearted, you know. Try saying the title of the book that you sent me last time.」
Being told that, Vermudol recalled the title of book that he had lent to Ykslaas recently.
If he recalled correctly, it was The Secret Story of Sauce Development……wasn’t it?
The grilled skewer sauce that had completely become the standard of the Zadark Kingdom nowadays. It should have been an ambitious work that depicted the anguish and hard work of the grilled skewer shopkeepers in the days up until its development was reached.
「That was lighthearted and interesting, wasn’t it.」
「And just how is a book that casually lines up expressions that only cooks would be able to understand lighthearted? A lighthearted book is a book that can be read even without special knowledge, you know?」
Vermudol looked up at the ceiling as if reflecting on Ykslaas’s words……then slowly returned his gaze to Ykslaas.
「……But, wouldn’t the fun of understanding it decrease like that?」
「I was saying that the need to work hard to understand is what’s heavy though. It’s fine, I’ll be the one to choose the books. It’s fine if you just carry them there.」
If that is what Ykslaas, who had infiltrated mankind’s territory for a long time, says, then it was probably best to follow it.
After concluding that, Vermudol nodded and accepted it.
「Come to think of it, what about the ones other than Prince Eric’s group? Although we’ve treated them like ordinary people, they’re nobles, right?」
「Nn……let’s see, they’re probably going to head to the inn after a bit more time right now. There shouldn’t be any problems with them.」
「Is that so, well, that’s fine though. So, what should we do about our pieces? Is the testing done with this?」
Being told that, Vermudol once again dropped his gaze onto the game board. And then, after doing a bit of thinking, he slowly rearranged the pieces on the board.
「……Let’s have one more match. Some sort of point that needs improvement might come up.」
「That’s true. But, I need to choose the books that will be placed in Prince Eric’s room. How about doing it with those girls?」
When Vermudol turned his gaze to the direction that Ykslaas was pointing to, he saw that the door to the room was opened up a bit.
The ones peeking through the gap were Krim and Nino. ……No, after looking closely, Lemon, who was crouching on the floor, was also peeking at him.[Illustration] 「……You all, have you finished your work?」
「Since Nino is excellent, it’s all done perfectly. Since Marin has completely taken control of the kitchen, there is no longer anything else to do.」
「That’s right. It’s already nice and sparkly no matter where you go, do having no other choice, everyone went to the underground Great Library to put it in order, but.」
「……Rokuna-sama said “you’re so annoying, get out”……and we were chased out. It was, Krim’s fault.」
Being able to easily imagine the scene that Lemon described, Vermudol pressed down on the area between his eyebrows.
「Ahー……I’ve got it. Who’s doing the checking?」
「Gordy and Nino did it. That’s why it’s perfect.」
Although they were normally called things like being a slacker or clumsy, both Nino and Gordy were excellent.
Nino would be able to do Ichika-level work if she felt like it, and Gordy had a perfectionist part to her when it came to work. With those two tag-teaming, and moreover since Nino said that it was 「perfect」, there wasn’t a problem. Nino would absolutely never lie after all.
「……Got it. In that case, Krim, you will prepare the dining room under Marin’s instructions, and Lemon, you will support her.」
「Understood, Demon King-sama.」
After seeing the two off as they ran off, Vermudol turned his gaze to the remaining Nino.
「So, Nino, you’ll……let’s see.」
Relaxing his expression a bit, Vermudol tapped the table with a *kon*.
「You will do a final check of the new game pieces with me. The plan is to move them to production tomorrow, so I’ll be counting on you.」
「Un, leave it to Nino.」
Ykslaas quickly gave up her seat to Nino who tried to sit opposite of Vermudol while looking delighted.
「Well then, I’m going to choose the books. Make sure that you properly clean up once you’re done, okay?」
「Yeah, I know. Nino, check on the movements of the new pieces.」
Nino read the instructions for the new pieces, then raised her head and nodded.
「Un, it’s fine. If it’s with the decisive battle of brief duration rules and the new pieces, it’s possible for Nino to gain total control on the seventh turn.」
「……Hou, you sure do know how to talk. If you really can do that, let’s see. Shall I pat your head or something?」
「Got it. Nino, will get super serious.」
It goes without saying that the test play of the Demon King Army War Game between Nino and Vermudol had ended with Nino gaining a victory on precisely the seventh turn.