Chapter 61: The Sage Listens to the Archer’s Thoughts
Red lights scattered around the cityscape that night.
Fire rose from buildings here and there.
People were escaping into the dark night.
In the midst of that situation, I was walking around.
An angry voice filled with killing intent came from ahead.
It came from one of the soldiers who were protecting this city.
Ffom above me, they shot arrows wreathed in white light.
Those arrows, imbued with holy attributes, rained down on me.
I produced a spear with the miasma.
I spun it with my hand to deflect all of the incoming arrows.
None of the arrows managed to strike my body.
Before they could shoot a second volley, I flung my miasma spear.
The spear flew straight toward the enemy’s archers and pierced through several of them.
Their flesh was pierced on impact, followed by the sound of their blood flowing.
The soldiers who were pierced by the spear turned into ghouls after convulsing and began to attack other soldiers nearby.
I think it will take care of itself if I leave it alone.
As I made that decision, I left that area.
There were countless ghouls running around the vicinity.
They had originally been the people who’d lived in this city.
They were now eagerly biting into the living.
It had already been several days since I captured one of the Magic Kingdom’s golems.
This was one of the cities of the Demon Lord’s Territory, which was formerly part of the Empire’s territory.
The other day, the lord of territory had declared that he would side with the Empire, and began to produce weapons and tools for countermeasures against the undead.
Since he’d ignored my warning, I was forced to use my strength.
I could have just ignored it, but if I did, the same thing would happen in the other cities.
Once that happened, it would hinder the rule of the Demon Lord’s Territory.
To put it bluntly, what I was doing at this moment was closer to showing off.
It was a necessary sacrifice to ensure a smoother future.
I couldn’t be distracted by the Magic Kingdom alone.
My enemy was the whole world.
Every nation was trying to subdue me.
Apart from that, I needed to pay attention to the awakening of heroes by the will of the World.
I had no intention of repeating the same mistake.
I couldn’t neglect domestic affairs, but I also needed to consider the big picture.
The conflicts between the human nations were steadily diminishing.
There were even nations who had begun to have secret alliances amongst them.
They took the threat of the Demon Lord’s reign seriously, and thought that every nation should cooperate.
Little by little, everything was moving as I wished it to be.
I hoped this situation could keep progressing.
I heard the sound of glass breaking above me as I walked down the street.
It was a soldier. They had broken a window and had fallen.
There were several ghouls clinging onto him.
“UAAAAAAAH, let me go!”
The soldier who’d fallen to the ground desperately resisted.
The ghouls ignored his resistance, tore off his limbs and devoured him.
The cry of agony echoed together the sound of flesh being chewed.
The surrounding ghouls heard the moan and gathered around that spot.
I just walked right past them.
Even when I heard the scream of death, it didn’t pain my heart.
I just felt a little sympathy.
I was already used to it after seeing similar things too many times.
I felt that my humanity had decreased.
…Did I become a monster both in body and mind?
However, it wasn’t something that had only recently begun.
If I cared for every last one of them, I wouldn’t be able to bear to continue on as the Demon Lord.
Objectively speaking, it wasn’t a bad mindset.
A cold heart was suitable for the Demon Lord.
It wasn’t something to be pessimistic about.
I felt hatred and despair towards humans.
Perhaps I was venting my dissatisfaction by slaughtering them.
That couldn’t be helped either.
Since I couldn’t deviate from my role and purpose, I would tolerate this ugly desire.
Once I arrived at the center of the city, Henry approached me.
With a bow in hand, he greeted me in a relaxed manner.
“What the status of the area I entrusted you with?”
“Of course, I did it perfectly. I wouldn’t make any mistakes about that.”
Henry moved his bow and shot through the eye of a soldier who had been lurking behind him, all while still facing me.
The soldier who got shot froze, then silently collapsed.
From the beginning until the end, Henry was still looking at me without ever turning around.
It was a transcendental skill, as usual.
Henry had continued to train since he’d joined the Demon Lord’s Army.
His skills were being refined day by day.
In addition to his extraordinary talent, his tireless efforts had formed this man’s strength.
He also served as a combat instructor at the Demon Lord’s Army, and also received support from his subordinates.
Henry and I then walked toward the lord of the territory’s mansion.
The site was currently under assault from the undead.
By the time we arrived, the location would likely be under our control.
As we moved, Henry brought up a topic as if he’d just remembered about it.
“Hey, I heard you developed a new weapon? I heard some hearsay about it, which mentioned it would replace the bow, but I forgot its name.”
“It’s a gun. Once it becomes widespread, it will become the next generation’s main weapon.”
“Hah, but is it really as convenient as it sounds? Aren’t the weapons we have now useful enough?”
Henry shot his arrow while looking skeptical.
A soldier who had been hiding on the roof rolled down.
The soldier had been in Henry’s blind spot, but Henry had managed to shoot him from in between the wall and the roof.
“By using a gun, even a kid could kill a magician.”
“— Wow, that sounds amazing.”
Henry showed strong interest after hearing this.
He was skeptical about this new technology, but it seemed he quickly understood the effectiveness of the gun.
Nobody was as devoted to battle as Henry was.
That was why he understood the value of guns.
“You could do a test-fire if you go to the laboratory. Do you want to try it once?”
“Ah, I’ll do just that.”
Henry gladly agreed.
Regardless of whether he would like it or not, it was better to experience it soon.
It was highly possible that the Magic Kingdom would use them once the war against them began.
There was nothing wrong with understanding its features at this moment.
“If the gun were to become the mainstream weapon, the bow would become obsolete…”
He had a somewhat lonely face.
This was a man who’d lived through the battlefield for years.
He must have had his own opinion about the great transition that was about to happen.
I spoke to him after I thinking for a little bit.
“You would still be active on the frontline. You wouldn’t be obsolete.”
“Hahaha, I’m glad to hear that. It would hurt me if I got kicked out because of this.”
Henry jokingly laughed.
These weren’t just words of comfort.
His bow would still be a powerful weapon, even if guns became the main weapon on the battlefield.
It surpassed the gun in every respect.
There won’t ever be a case where his power wouldn’t be necessary.
We silently walked on for a while.
Everywhere around us was filled with noise.
The gate was open in the distance; it was where people were running towards to evacuate.
They were driven to leave the city which had been run over by the undead.
As I looked at that scene, I suddenly said something.
“What is it?”
“Do you wish for eternal life?”
Henry raised one of his eyebrows as he heard my question.
He then shrugged and bitterly laughed.
“That’s a sudden question. What made you ask me about that?”
“There’s no real reason behind it. I’m just purely curious.”
I had been wondering about it for some time.
There were no other executives on this battlefield.
So I thought it was a good opportunity to ask.
“If I were to say yes, would it make me an undead?”
“Yes. You would become a high ranked undead which would retain your ego.”
It was something I could easily do by now.
Considering how strong Henry was as a human, he would surely become a powerful undead.
It would make him free from the concept of aging and lifespans, allowing him to live for eternity.
Henry pondered with his arms folded.
After pondering for some time, he answered in an unusually serious manner.
“That’s an interesting suggestion, but I’d prefer to remain human. I think it is a fortune to be capable of death by reaching the end of your lifespan. Of course, this isn’t meant to slight you, commander. It’s just my personal opinion.
I was silenced by his surprising answer.
Because I had thought that Henry, who loved fighting, would surely choose to become immortal without any hesitation.
“Well, I have no intention of dying in the near future. So I’ll have fun while it lasts.”
Henry said that as if he just reminded himself about it.
Then he added a suggestion to his good idea.
“If I were to have children and grandchildren, I’d advise them to work for you. Please help them when that time comes.”
“I see. I will look forward to that.”
I nodded firmly.
It was good to know about his unexpected side.
I would respect his opinion.
I wouldn’t force him to become an undead.
In fact, it was as Henry said.
It was an irreplaceable happiness to be able to die by the end of your lifespan as a mortal.
I had already abandoned such a choice and had dragged Grom into it.
As a person who had abandoned their own humanity, I wouldn’t be able to expect a peaceful death.
As a Demon Lord, I was not allowed to die to begin with.
I was to reign forever as the pinnacle of evil.
This was my endless penance.
It was something that would normally drive one to insanity.
I couldn’t force anyone else to do such an act.
It wasn’t sane to accompany me forever.
It would be better to have a decisive cooperative relationship like with Henry.
It was something that reminded me of such a thing.
Afterward, we invaded the Lord’s mansion with the undead and purged the lord, who had begged for his life.
As expected, I couldn’t forgive him.
It would serve as a warning to the other cities, so I couldn’t give a naïve response to it.
After the battle, the Demon Lord’s Army returned to the capital.
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The weapons we had stolen, including the magic cannon, had all been improved.
However, they seemed to still have some problems, which made it difficult for them to be immediately put to practical use.
The gun was the closest one to reaching completion.
Even so, there were signs that the rest of them would eventually be developed enough for practical use.
Since the director was fully confident as she explained that, there was no doubt about it.
There wasn’t any need to be impatient.
Weapon development was a long term project, and it wasn’t like I needed to rush to strengthen my army.
I told the staff that it was okay if they took their time developing the weapons, so I expected solid results.
Nothing good came from rushing things anyway.
After exploring the weapons development area, we were led to a large room next.
It had a higher ceiling compared to the previous room, cages took up most of the space.
The room was filled with neatly divided cages except for the corridor.
Several layers of the bages were stacked upon each other, to the point that they reached the ceiling.
There were multiple barriers deployed on the bars.
An alarm would ring if one carelessly touched them.
They were all tightly sealed.
There were moans coming from countless cages.
These were the sounds I was already used to hearing: the voices of captive ghouls.
Those ghouls within the cages were lying restricted.
Their physical decay wasn’t progressing, and they seemed to be new individuals.
From afar, many of them were indistinguishable from humans.
We were researching ways to return the undead into living beings here.
The undead within the cages were intelligence agents from various nations.
They were people who had sneaked into the capital. It felt a waste to just kill them, so they were used for experimental purposes.
It was ideal for me, since most undead would become skeletons once their decay advanced too much.
If we were to experiment on such a thing, it was better to try it on recently turned undead.
A metal tag was affixed on each cage.
Detailed conditions of the undead were described on it.
It indicated what kind of experiment had been done to each undead.
Looking at it, it seemed that a detailed inspection was being carried out.
The enthusiasm and struggles of the researchers could be felt here.
“We have tried various medications and magic, but we are still unable to find any way to do it. It has been said that the transformation of the living into the undead was irreversible, so overturning it should be…”
The director looked around and then trailed off.
I dropped my shoulders in disappointment, but that was just how hard it was.
I was aware of how absurd my request was.
That was why I didn’t blame them.
Currently, it was near impossible to restore a completely altered organism.
It was practically common sense, even with magic which was supposed to be capable of causing various phenomena.
“You can prioritize other research and development, but do not stop working on it. Continue investigating.”
“Ye, yes! I understand!”
The director nervously replied to my command.
While I didn’t want to pressure them too much, it would be troublesome if they just gave up.
This should be just right.
I may need to explore it myself.
Regarding the method of returning the undead into living beings, it wasn’t like I researched it to use it for myself.
Since I was deeply connected to the Valley of the Dead, I would probably still remain undead, no matter what I did.
It was a powerful curse in and of itself, and it wasn’t something that could simply be resolved by any means.
It wasn’t something that could be solved regardless of all the knowledge that was gained through the research.
Regardless of my own circumstances, having such technology would be very useful.
There were various possible applications for it.
Someone like Doldar, for example, it might be alright if I returned his state to that of a human.
He was originally a rare talent who used to be great pirate.
If he were to regain his personality, he would be able to make full use of his abilities.
“I wonder how I would turn out if I were to become a living being?”
Grom muttered as he thought that.
That was a difficult question.
In his case, the process which led to his birth was complicated.
He was a powerful undead born as result of synthesizing a large number of undead using my authority; thus, he gained their memories and experience.
Grom, who wielded enormous miasma and magic power, was a monster who was only inferior to me.
Honestly, it wasn’t only a problem of reversing the undead into the living in his case.
The scale of his transformation was different from that of a single individual.
It was practically impossible to turn Grom into a living being just as he was.
Might it be more practical to extract the soul and transfer it into a living body?
Even that required a high level of skill.
It was a completely different topic from what was being researched in this room.
Since there was no need to turn Grom into a living being, it wouldn’t change much for him.
Anyway, since there was currently no progress in this research, I expected it to be a long-term study.
Fortunately, there were no problems in replenishing the undead.
It would be fine if they still keep it running on the side while researching something else.
After looking at the cages, I told the director what I wanted.
“I want you to show me ‘that’ research soon.”
“…I understand. Please come this way.”
The director had an awkward look and quickly left the room.
She silently led us somewhere.
Grom and I followed her.
Grom whispered to me along the way.
“She had an awkward expression. What does ‘that’ research mean?”
“You’ll know when you see it. It isn’t anything fun though.”
If the experiments were scaled on whether they were fun or not, the weapons were probably the best part.
Grom was excited as he looked at their development.
He listened enthusiastically to the director’s commentary and wished to adapt it to the Demon Lord’s Army.
It seemed he really liked those weapons.
Compared to what he saw earlier, what he was about to see would be boring.
“We’ve arrived. Please come this way.”
The director stopped at the innermost room of the laboratory.
The magic tools installed for security in this area were particularly strict.
It was unlikely for anyone to be able to sneak in without permission.
The director went through multiple security verifications to open the door.
We followed her and entered the room.
It was a similar room to the previous one.
There were many cages, and human figures could be seen inside.
The difference was that the things inside the cages were undeniably corpses, not the undead.
Most of them had already turned into skeletons or completely rotted away.
There were some pieces of meat floating inside the liquid-filled glass containers.
It wasn’t a pleasant sight to see.
There were a few staff members in the room.
Each one of them was absorbed in their work, without noticing my presence.
They must have been very focused on their work.
Some were writing in documents, while others were inspecting the corpses.
Grom, who witnessed that, let a whisper escape.
“Do, don’t tell me this is…”
“It is research to revive the dead.”
I replied emotionlessly.
It seemed Grom had expected it, seeing as he turned silent then.
“How is the progress?”
“As the report states, we haven’t found any methods to execute or understand anything as of now. We’re very sorry…”
“Don’t worry. It can’t be helped.”
I comforted the director as she bowed her head.
It would take a miracle to revive the dead.
To raise them as undead was, strictly speaking, mere imitation.
Making them into undead merely altered their existence into something else. It was completely different from reviving the dead.
It was much more difficult than the act of returning the undead into the living.
It was obvious that there was no simple prospect to realize it.
If it had been that easy to be done to begin with, I would have already done it.
But exactly because it wasn’t possible, I prepared specialists and facilities to research about it.
Regarding this research, I expected it to take years before any significant progress was made.
Just as this research was difficult, it also had irreplaceable value to it.
After that, Grom and I left the laboratory.
I managed to inspect everything I wanted to check.
I would continue to visit regularly and listen to opinions and requests.
The staff there were excellent, so they would surely bring out the result I sought.
On the way back, I noticed Grom’s restlessness.
He had been fidgeting all this time.
It was as if he repeatedly wanted to say something, only to stop before the words could come out.
Does he have something he wants to ask me?
While I could guess his intention, I wouldn’t bring it up.
It wasn’t something to take the initiative to talk about.
It was okay if it ended without Grom asking about it.
However, after hesitating for a bit, he chose to ask.
“Hmm, Demon Lord-sama. Regarding reviving the dead, as expected —“
“It is as you thought. You’re not mistaken about it.”
I answered him before he could speak his question.
Grom definitely wanted to say things regarding that person.
He knew how I ended up like this.
If there was anyone I wished to revive, the first thing he would think of could only be that person.
My ability was incapable of reanimating her.
She refused to be turned into an undead.
It might be because of my psychological problems, but in any case, the result didn’t change.
That was why I was looking for another method.
Aside from weapon development, I commanded the research to realize the possibility of reviving the dead.
Although it was a ridiculous demand, they faithfully conducted their research.
“I must be obsessed. Do you think it is stupid?”
“No, no, I don’t dare to think so! I will do my best to answer the Demon Lord-sama’s wishes!”
Grom clenched his fist and promptly responded powerfully.
It wasn’t something he said due to the situation.
He really meant what he said.
Once again, I appreciated my loyal retainer’s spirit.
Chapter 56: The Sage Comes to Learn the Inventor’s Name
Staff members in white coats were lined up beyond the door. They looked at me and Grom, and then greeted us.
“Welcome to our establishment, O’ Demon Lord! We, the staff, deeply appreciate your presence!”
The director, who happened to be a woman, greeted us cheerfully. She was a young, glasses-wearing magician who had a seemingly unreliable smile on her face. When combined with the freckles on her cheeks, it gave an overall impression of naivete.
At a glance, she didn’t look dependable enough to be in charge of the Laboratory in the Demon Lord’s territory. However, she was actually a very talented magician. She had quite a special background. She had worked at a magic workshop in the Imperial Capital up until two years ago. Not only did she research forbidden spells without permission, but she also spent a large amount of research funding for that. This resulted in her demotion. The location she was demoted to was one of the locations the Demon Lord’s Army invaded; she was eventually caught and imprisoned. Thanks to her capabilities, she was currently entrusted as the chief executive officer of the research institute within the Demon Lord Territory. She was a pretty weird person, to say the least.
Most of the staff members had their own personal quirks. They volunteered to work here to further their research. All of them possessed abundant magical knowledge, and had no preference or prejudice regarding race, gender, age, etc. They were all devoted to their research, especially with the abundant resources given to them. I received a regular report which stated that they were very satisfied with the treatment they received.
“Guide us around now.”
“Roger that! This way please!”
We proceeded according to the director’s lead. There were several small gates beyond the entrance. They were large enough for around one human to get through. Demons and demi-humans with large statures would be cramped in them.
“This gate will allow entrance through magic power authentication. It will refuse entry to everyone except the people who are already registered in it. If they ignore this and attempt to proceed, an alarm and interceptor device will be activated.”
“Ho hou, that’s convenient.”
Grom stroked his chin, impressed.
The technology of magic power authentication came from some of the documents we had stolen from the Imperial Capital. It was listed as one of the possible crime prevention plans. However, since this plan had been only theory on paper then, I built the basis for this technology. I left it to the laboratory after that, but it seemed they had managed to firmly adopt it into workable equipment.
This laboratory handled a large number of confidential documents. All of them were forbidden to be taken out from the premises and, in a sense, more important things were stored here compared to what was stored in the capital. Therefore, Luciana had to deeply investigate the identities of the staff to prevent any possibility of an intelligence agent from another nation getting mixed in. It would be very troublesome if the research contents of this facility were to be taken out of the nation. Currently, there weren’t ’t any reports regarding spies.
“Both of your Magic powers have already neem registered, so you don’t need to worry.”
The director went through the gate as she said that. There weren’t any signs of anything activating. Grom and I also followed in. The entrance was so small that Grom’s head and shoulders hit its borders, but he somehow managed to fit himself in.
The inside of the laboratory was kept clean. There was no dust within the white corridor. Since it was also well organized, it didn’t feel cluttered. It was quite the functional environment.
Additionally, there were numerous magic tools discreetly installed in several places. They were there to detect suspicious magic usage and intruders. This made it possible to immediately detect abnormal situations.
Perhaps that entrance gate was merely there as a diversion. The real prevention methods were those hidden magic tools all around the place. They were all precisely installed.
With all this equipment , it would be near impossible to steal any of the things inside unless they used some kind of crude method like transferring the whole laboratory elsewhere. Also, that was an unrealistic method which only someone who was at my level could do.
The director stopped in front of a room and unlocked it with a key. She then invited us to enter.
“This is a gun storage room. We also made it so you could test-fire the weapons.”
As soon as I entered the room, the ceiling light turned on. There were metal shelves lined there, with guns and bullets stored inside. It looked similar to the prototype I had robbed from the empire, but there were modifications. It seemed that they were in the stages of iterating improvements and production trials.
The director lovingly stroked one of the guns.
“Well, the guns are great. I’m sure it would be the next generation’s primary weapon of choice.”
“This pea-shooter as a primary weapon? It doesn’t look like it…”
Grom suspiciously picked up a bullet. He was an undead who preferred magic and miasma-based combat, and he could fight an army alone. That was why he doubted the practicality of guns. In fact, even if he got hit by hundreds of bullets he wouldn’t die.
The director began to explain the practicality of guns to an unconvinced Grom.
“It would appear like that for Grom-sama, but this is a powerful weapon which can be used by common soldiers. Unlike magic and bows, they can be used without much training and aptitude and could still kill humans from a distance.”
“Uhm, I can’t deny that.”
Grom grumbled as he couldn’t argue with that reasoning.
The director’s opinion was correct. For humans without any magic aptitude, an easy, ranged method of attack was valuable. And these guns were a new option for it. It was much easier to aim than a bow.
“Would you like to try shooting one?”
I received the proffered gun. It had two barrels and two triggers. It seemed to have been designed to allow fir two shots in a row.
At that moment, one side of the wall opened and revealed a space hidden within. There, pieces of armor and shields were installed in varying locations. All of them had holes or dents. These seemed to be practice targets for shooting.
I studied the gun and understood its structure. The mechanism itself was quite simple. It wasn’t too different from the prototype. It seemed that they focused on improving the accuracy and ease of use.
I aimed at one of the pieces armor from a distance and pulled the trigger. Along with a bursting sound, shock ran through my arm.
The fired bullet penetrated the center of the armor. Its momentum was stopped by the shield behind it.
I fired at a fixed sword next. There was a dull, metallic sound, and the blade was chipped where the bullet struck. It had brilliantly pierced through the blade.
“As expected of Demon Lord-sama! What wonderful skill.”
Grom applauded, giving his praise. It made me a little excited. He wasn’t interested in guns until just that moment though. Did he gain some interest after witnessing the shooting scene?
On the other hand, the director hesitantly asked.
“How is it? It’s the latest model…”
“It’s easy to use. Not bad.”
I answered as I returned the gun. There had been a clear improvement compared to what I’d taken from the Magic Workshop. As it was, it could already be used in actual battle. However, we needed to prepare a certain amount of guns for it to be feasible.
According to memories I gained at the Valley of the Dead, it was better to shoot with a large number all at once. The increased gunfire would destroy the enemy’s formation. The guns could be used in a similar way to bows. Considering that guns were easier to use, it was superior in overall power.
“We would eventually be able to engrave a spell on the bullet itself. We’re tentatively calling it a magic bullet, and it would be ideal if a magic bullet could be used accordingly based on situations in the future.”
I observed the gun that the director was carrying. I pondered some things as I did so.
The director noticed my gaze and looked down at the gun, slightly puzzled.
“Err, is there any problem? I’ll fix it right away if there is…”
“Do you know the person who invented this gun?”
The director had a surprised expression as she heard my question. It seemed it wasn’t the question she was expecting. She looked at the ceiling as she went over her memory.
“The inventor was it? He was a male engineer who was temporarily dispatched from the Magic Kingdom. He only stayed for a short time, but came up with many groundbreaking ideas. Most of the prototype weapons brought to the Imperial Capital were invented by him.”
“Do you know the name?”
“Was it John Doe? I think it was something around that.”
The director uttered the name of the person. It was a name that came up several times in the Magic Workshop’s documents. Just like what the director had remembered, John Doe had mainly been involved with the development of several weapons.
And he belonged to the Magic Kingdom, the nation which had a secret alliance with the empire.
John Doe… I guess I should have Luciana to investigate him.
I had a feeling this man shouldn’t be left alone. If the director and the documents were correct, he had the intelligence and imagination needed for the creation of various weapons. He might not have been a soldier, but without a doubt he could change the flow of war. Perhaps he was still trying to develop more weapons. In any case, the Magic Kingdom should be investigated thoroughly.