「Mazoku… you say?」
It was impressive that she was still getting ready to fight despite the fact she could barely move her body.
As Eltrinde reached for the sword at her hip, Vermudol and Shironos stepped back to put some distance between them and her.
But she showed no signs of unsheathing her sword. It was possible that Eltrinde had begun doubting herself due to the circumstances that have led up to this point, along with Ykslaas’s actions.
After letting out a sigh, Vermudol began speaking.
「…That’s right. We’re Mazoku.」
「Then does that mean you were deceiving me with that introduction earlier…?」
「It’s not as if I said I was the very same adventurer Shion well known across the realm of humanity, but… in either case, I was not deceiving you. I am Shion as well, after all.」
Eltrinde displayed even more confusion. As Shironos was about to move to take advantage of that opening, Vermudol stopped him with his gaze.
「I don’t have the time to elaborate on the details, but the Alva and I are enemies. There are some… circumstances that have led us to come here.」
「That’s right. I thought I had a chance of figuring out the Alva’s secrets here… but I’ve lost that chance now.」
Eltrinde was visibly troubled over what to make of Vermudol’s words.
「…Who are you, truly?」
「The king of the Zadark Kingdom, Vermudol. That is what I call myself.」
「…I’ve heard of you and the Mazoku kingdom… I see, you’re the Demon King.」
Upon Vermudol’s nod, Eltrinde turned to look at the man collapsed on the floor, Olred, Vermudol, Shironos, and Ykslaas all in turn.
「The Majin of the legends, huh? This would be my first time laying eyes on your kind.」
「We’re not that uncommon. We have one stationed at the Jiol Forest Kingdom as well. There are a few at Elarc too, you know?」
Hearing that, Eltrinde’s eyes widened in bewilderment.
「Wha…?! Wait, what do you mean by that…?!」
「Elarc has been run down due to the Alva’s attack. As such, the Zadark Kingdom has made the humane decision to help restore their kingdom. Charity work, pretty much.」
「T-That’s now what I mean! Well, I’m curious about that too, but… What do you mean the Alva attacked Elarc?! What on earth is going in Elarc right now?!」
「My, you don’t even know about that? How troublesome.」
It appeared that Eltrinde had been intentionally shut off from quite the amount of information.
The reason Eltrinde had been moving from area to area without returning to Elarc was likely because the intelligence squad(did we have a term for this?) that had betrayed her was manipulating the information. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it was because she got her hands on false information.
「Elarc has been run down. The only forces they have left are fractions of the Swords of Light and Staves of Light, along with the Elarc Defense Chivalric Order. They’ve only managed to survive this far because they have a legendary Maid Knight on their side. Oh, I suppose it’s also due to the fact that they managed to figure out that the intelligence squad betrayed them…」
To be more accurate, Elarc was more on the verge of collapsing entirely rather than simply being 「run down」.
It was to the point that there were some that felt that the country had a better chance of surviving as a whole if the administration was just to be handed over to Narika.
But there would be no meaning in doing that.
If Narika were to gain power, it would mean that the Canal Kingdom would become the Zadark Kingdom’s enemy.
And that would be rather inconvenient for Vermudol.
However, there were too many issues with him directly involving himself with the civil war.
「…Well, they still have a chance at recovery right now.」
Ykslaas made a surprised face, but Vermudol continued talking to Eltrinde without turning his gaze.
「The Zadark Kingdom wishes to be friendly with the Canal Kingdom. To that end, we wish to provide as much support as we can without disrupting their sovereignty.」
「…What are you trying to say?」
「I’m saying that you all need to hurry up and unify yourselves. Until the state of your country stabilizes, the interpretations of our actions will teeter between what could be considered 「support」 or 「intervention」. And that would be quite troublesome for us.」
That’s right, they were all for supporting the kingdom.
Fortunately, for many years now, there have been few wars between countries in this world. The job of knights these days mainly consisted of dealing with thieves or exterminating monsters, making them not much different from typical security personnel.
That was why the countries did not need large armies. The bare minimum necessary were knights that could focus on protecting the capital.
Considering that the Canal Kingdom still had enough knights to serve just that purpose, there wasn’t an inherent urgency in building up their forces back up again.
Furthermore, once the civil war settles down and the country stabilizes, the adventurers would come back.
By taking on requests involving tasks the knights can’t easily take care of, economic growth could be expected as well.
If even that would not be enough, they could enlist the help from Zadark Kingdom’s Magic Operated Armor as the Jiol Forest Kingdom has done.
In either case, the amount of support necessary would be up to the Canal Kingdom.
「Fortunately, there have not been any wars between the kingdoms of humanity for many years now. The Mazoku do not have any intention of fighting against humanity either. Essentially, this is the only country that has any need for more knights. That should put you more at ease, yes? And once the country has been unified once again, that need would go away as well.」
「Wait, Shi-… Vermudol. You shouldn’t be cornering an innocent child with cynicism. That’s kind of nasty, don’t you think?」
「Oh, I didn’t mean to make it sound that way. But personally speaking…」
「Just move out the way.」
Ykslaas pushed against Vermudol with a 「Move already」, to which he eventually resigned and took a step back.
Eltrinde had completely stopped showing any signs of drawing her sword, and Ykslaas stood in front of her with a kind smile.
「Let’s put aside what we’re going to do after the country unifies for now. The fact is that this Mazenda fellow is a thorn in our side right now. How about we focus on doing something about him first?」
「…You’re right. But I’ve already run out of options.」
The intelligence squad that had always stuck with Eltrinde had betrayed her.
That essentially meant that Eltrinde had no one to depend on but herself.
「Oh, it’ll be fine.」
But Ykslaas spoke as if there wouldn’t be any issues.
「We have all kinds of ways to make up for any missing manpower. Isn’t that right?」
Upon hearing the word 「manpower」, Eltrinde showed a troubled expression and quietly opened her mouth.
「…It will prove difficult to convince the people gathered in Casinote to join our side. The adventurer’s guild upholds neutrality, after all. That would mean we would have to hire mercenaries, but I doubt they would agree to our terms considering the situation we’re in… And even if they did, there still remains the issue of their trustworthiness.」
「Oh, I suppose choosing us to help is out of the question?」
Ykslaas spoke with an amused giggle, to which Eltrinde made a doubtful expression.
「…Of course. This matter belongs to our country alone. Not to mention that the seat of the throne is at stake here… I’m sure you all have your own reasons for why you wouldn’t want to intervene with politics of other countries, as well.」
「That’s a good point. Worst-case scenario, people might think that the Canal Kingdom has become a puppet to the Mazoku. Even if things weren’t to go that far, it certainly wouldn’t do to have rumors going around that the Zadark Kingdom is influencing the Canal Kingdom’s political power for their own convenience.」
The same went even if fellow countries of humanity were to intervene with each other’s politics.
What’s more, both sides of the civil war had rightful claims to the throne, and both of them believed they were justice.
Siding with either side here would be a gamble. By choosing a side, one would essentially be claiming that 「our country believes that this side is just.」 If their judgement turned out to be faulty, then the price they’d have to pay after the civil war settles down could very well be immeasurable.
At the time, there was no one who felt that that kind of risk was worth taking.
The Canal Kingdom had no special industry or products of note, it was a very 「normal」 country within the Four Great Kingdoms.
Because of this, it was not difficult for many fields to remain neutral about the situation. Various organizations had their headquarters stationed in the area, but after the civil war had started, many had chosen to transfer to different countries.
There was a fear of creating rumors such as 「The Demon King is taking its next step to world domination」 if the Zadark Kingdom intervened, as it would entice the appearance of the next Hero meant to destroy the Demon King.
If that were to happen, it would matter not what the truth was. All doubts would be pushed aside alongside the appearance of the gods’ agent, the Hero.
Of course, Vermudol had several foreign policies in mind to avoid this from happening, but there were far from perfect.
「And that’s exactly why the Zadark Kingdom does not wish to intervene.」
「…At least, that’s what you claim.」
Ykslaas stepped back and dropped her back against Vermudol, to which she then turned her face up to him.
「If you really had no intention of intervening, then why would you offer a hand in supporting us? Could you not just wait until the war settles down?」
「…We can’t just let the Alva do as they like.」
「That’s right. If the Alva were simply left to roam free, it would lead to giving the Mazoku a bad reputation, and by extension, the Demon King as well. If we can manage to show that the destructive activities of the Alva are unrelated to the Zadark Kingdom, then we would be satisfied. However, there’s just one problem with that.」
Vermudol narrowed his eyes upon Ykslaas’s words.
Eltrinde turned her gaze to Vermudol wordlessly as if she understood the implication being made.
「Your plan would all be for nothing if Princess Narika took the throne. Your support would be interpreted as intervention, and she would blame you for the Alva attack. All conspiracies recognized after the political changes would have their responsibilities shifted to the Zadark Kingdom…」
The trees shook from the wind.
Ykslaas then began speaking of a matter that had enough presence to override the noise being made by the shaking tree.
「And then the Hero would appear. The new queen would arise, having foiled the evil plans of the Demon King and taking on the grief of the people. All the conditions for justice would line up. The truth would get buried by the hills of justice and a monument singing of a pretty, awe-inspiring legend would take its place. And that’s exactly why from the moment you decided to support the people of Elarc, you’ve already abandoned the choice of siding with Princess Narika, right Vermudol?」
Ykslaas extended her hand to Vermudol’s face as if saying 「Am I wrong?」, to which Vermudol firmly grabbed.
A smile formed on the emotionless face of the Demon King, and a chuckle managed to escape his lips.
「Yes, that’s right. The Mazoku and Princess Narika will never get along. The Canal Kingdom that Princess Narikw would lead will most definitely become the Zadark Kingdom’s enemy… I cannot let that happen no matter what.」
「Really, now? Narika seems to be filled with ambition. Could you not simply join hands with her?」
Vermudol casted the idea aside with a 「Impossible」 in response to the smirking Ykslaas.
「I haven’t personally met her before, but her actions heavily resemble those made by those fools in the west of the Dark Continent. Claiming that they deserve to be the king and that they are supreme… nonsense like that. That is not what I would call ambition.」
「Oh, then what would you call it?」
「Delusions. Being a king does not involve interests, but rather responsibility, and the princess does not seem to understand that.」
At the very least, Vermudol came to that understanding while building up his country.
Vermudol’s initial goal at birth which was to protect his well-being had expanded into the desire for peace of the Mazoku. He understood that goal would not be possible without the existence of the Demon King as well.
That is why he believed that it would be impossible to come to understandings with someone who does not seek to fulfill their role as a ruler.
But the fact remained that Narika was by all means indeed a 「ruler」.
「Hmm? Then what would you consider Princess Eltrinde here?」
Seeing Eltrinde twitch in response to those words, Vermudol let go of Ykslaas’s hand with a sigh.
「it is not my place to speak of that matter. It is not I who holds the role of being selected as the next king.」
「Is that so?」
「Yes. Anyway, what do you think we should do?」
「…Like you need to ask. You think I haven’t realized why you brought me here instead of Ichika or Nino?」
The reason why he brought her with him instead of the two Maid Knights humanity was well familiar with was because he believed she was more suitable for the job.
Vermudol made a wry smile upon recognizing her deduction.
「W-Wait, I doubt this is the case, but don’t tell me you’re thinking of directly involving yourselves with us?」
Eltrinde held out her hand with reserve.
Upon touching it, Ykslaas elegantly expressed her thanks.
「Yes, that’s right, Princess Eltrinde. We are the loyal knights that have gathered to your side in order to take down that wretched Mazenda who is the cause behind all this madness. What we wish for is none other than peace granted by the rule of the rightful king. As such, we desire not to have our names known nor to claim glory… and after this confusion settles down, we will silently return to whence we came. Fufu, what do you think? Lovely, is it not?」