A Demon Lord's Tale: Dungeons, Monster Girls, and Heartwarming Bliss Chapter 172
Editors: Sebas Tian, Joker, Speedphoenix
Whew. Oh man, that was close. Looks like I made it just in time.
"Wow, you sure as hell look like you've been put through the wringer. You sure you're really cut out for this hero business?"
"O-oh shut up!" sulked Nell. "I tried my best… What more do you want…?"
The hero was in a terrible state. Her breathing was ragged; her shoulders heaved each time she spoke. Her clothes were a complete mess. They were torn all over and covered in bodily fluids. Mud could be seen plastered all over her body. And she even had a couple arrows stuck in her. One was in her shoulder. The other had dug its way into the side of her stomach. A single glance was enough for me to understand that she had found herself wrapped up in one hell of a struggle. Analyzing her proved that exact point. Her health was in the double digits, and her mana had been drained to a sliver. I had to squint to see the literal pixel she had left.
My match against the old butler was the last one I had scheduled for the day, so I was able to sneak out and fly off without any further hassle. My flight was, of course, accompanied by heavy use of the Ennegine. Kind of. Enne herself was more or less out of mana, so I ended up having to take full control of both parts of the process. Ughhh, that was such a pain. I almost crashed like a million times…
Even with my struggles accounted for, reaching the orb that served as my beacon and destination ended up taking less than an hour. Enne and I weren't able to do anything as fancy as breaking the sound barrier just yet, but we were still ridiculously fast nonetheless.
I had expected to see Nell upon arrival, but turns out, she wasn't there. Instead, I found myself standing amongst a group of miserable looking men and women. The first thing that had come to mind as I saw them was that they were probably refugees. Their lack of luggage had made it seem as if they had just escaped from a warzone or some other kind of disaster. The group was mostly made up of "wingbearers," a type of demon that looked more or less like a bipedal bird.
One of the two humans amongst the group had ran straight at me as I landed. While it wasn't the girl I was looking for, it was at least one that I recognized. She hadn't bothered with any sort of formality. Nell's mage friend had immediately opted to start begging me for help. Wow uh, wow. Wait, isn't she the quiet type? Shit must be real bad if she's acting like this.
Her panic had proved infectious. I ended up finding myself feeling a sense of urgency as I rushed in the direction she had pointed me in. All I had to do to reach Nell from there was literally follow my map. She showed up on it once I got close enough, and it turned out that the situation was just about as bad as I had expected. She was surrounded by enemies dressed from head to toe in black. They were fiends, and I too had dealt with their operatives on several occasions. And that was where I made my entrance.
Despite supposedly being a part of some sort of highly trained special forces, the fiends were idiots. They didn't know how to account for sudden, unexpected changes. My advent left them too stupefied to act. In fact, they were so slow to adapt that they ended up remaining completely still as I continued to engage her in conversation.
Nell began to wobble after speaking a few lines of her own. All the tension had left her body, and with it, so did all her remaining strength. She collapsed, falling forwards as she did.
"Woah! Careful there," I said as I caught her in my arms. "Man, they got you good. You really should've called me sooner."
"Sorry," she said, guiltily. "You see, uhm… The truth is… I think we might have… accidentally broken both the orbs… you gave us…"
"Wait. What? Then how'd you call me?"
"Ronia probably… fixed one of them… She's really good at that kinda stuff…"
Ronia… Ronia… Who was Ronia again? Oh! She must be talking about that mage chick. Wait. She FIXED one? Holy shit. Talk about smart.
“W-who the hell ar—”
“Shut up. I wasn’t talking to you.”
One of the dimwitted retards finally finished processing the fact that a new challenger had appeared on the battlefield. He raised his voice and tried to question me. Frankly, I didn't really care what he wanted, so I cut him off with a glare. He clearly wasn't smart enough to take a hint, so I crafted a barrier made up of jet streams in order to prevent any further interruptions.
"I can fix you up, but we'll probably need to get rid of these arrows first. It'll probably hurt, but you're just going to have to grit your teeth and bear with it," I said.
The high grade potions I had were worthy of being called elixirs given their potency, but they weren't exactly all mighty. Her wounds would heal, sure, but they would heal around anything that was embedded within her, which meant that we would have to pull out any foreign objects in her body before restoring it.
"Okay," she said.
With her consent out of the way, I looked at the two projectiles still stuck inside of her. They were arrows, which meant I couldn't rely solely on brute force to get them out else risk getting them stuck. That said, they weren't all that deep. They were still shallow enough for me to see the arrowheads poking out of her flesh. We probably wouldn't have to push them through.
I laid her on the ground, snapped the ends off the first wooden bolt, and grabbed its shaft. "Alright, here goes."
After a quick word of warning, I yanked the whole thing out in one swift motion. Blood started spurting out of the wound. Some of it ended up splashing onto my face, or rather, the mask that covered it.
"Ow…" she grimaced a bit, but laughed it off right after. Though she was covered in a cold sweat, her smile stayed firm. "Wait… you're wearing a mask again…? And you've even changed… your hair colour this time… It looks a lot like Lefi's…"
"Yeah, totally badass, right? Lemme know if you want one. I've got a couple spares lying around."
"You know what…? I think… I'd like one."
"Woah, someone's had a change of heart. I could've sworn you said you didn't want one back when we were in the capital," I said as I pulled out the arrow in her torso.
"Ouch…!" she groaned. "I know I did… but I think the whole mask idea is… growing on me now… I'm starting to think…. they're kinda cool after all… after getting a few more looks at them…"
"Well, well, well, would you look at that? Silly old Nell's finally grown to understand the beauty of masks," I said with a smirk. "One mask coming right up."
I reached into my inventory and grabbed both a mask and a potion. I placed the first of the two items on top of her before reaching for her head and propping her up.
"Here you are. Oh, and I figured I might as well give you a potion while I'm at it. Make sure you down the whole thing, but take it nice and slow. Don't spill any, alright?" With that said, I brought the potion to her lips and slowly poured it in.
The item's effects were immediate. Her wounds started vanishing in the blink of an eye. A few seconds was all it took for her to be restored. The cuts that covered her body vanished as her skin reverted to its usual soft, supple state. Only after watching her health bar fill back up did I finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"Alright. You should be good now."
"Okay… Then I'll… just jump right back into the fray…"
"Yeah, how about no. I mean sure, potions heal you right back up, but they don't do jack for all the stamina you've lost," I flicked Nell on the forehead as I spoke. "You've done plenty already. Just close your eyes, kick back, and chill. I got this. Don't worry about these assholes. And don't worry about your friends either. I've got it all under control." I shrugged and spoke in my usual tone. I made sure to make it sound like I was doing the usual and just dicking around in order to make it easier for her to relax.
"Mmk… Thanks Yuki… I… love… y…" She was so tired that she ended up passing out mid-sentence. Her eyes closed, her breathing slowed, and her body relaxed as she drifted off to dreamland. Wew. She must be tired as fuck.
I opened up my inventory again and reached inside to grab a necklace, one embedded with a spell that would allow its wearer to warp to the dungeon. It was the one I had kept on hand in case of an emergency. I wrapped it around her neck, channeled my mana through it, and activated the magical circuit embedded within. Her body slowly began to fade. She turned translucent before eventually vanishing altogether. She's probably going to be confused as all hell when she wakes up in the true throne room. There's a chance she might not be all that happy about it either seeing as how it might mess with her agenda and whatnot. Oh well, not my problem. Besides, she probably needs herself a vacation after everything she's been through anyway, so it's not like there's even going to be any real harm done, even if I do screw up her plans.
"Sorry Enne, you mind kicking back and chilling inside my inventory for a bit?"
"Okay." The sword girl had a pretty good idea of what I was up to. Despite her aversion to being kept in storage, she immediately did the telepathic equivalent of nodding without much at all in the way of hesitation. Thanks Enne. You're a real good kid, you know that?
After putting her away, I got up off the ground, took a deep breath, and swept one of my hands to the side as I dispelled the water-based barrier that had separated Nell and I from the fiends that had been attacking her.
Raising my gaze, I found them with their weapons drawn and their guards up.
"How dare you get in our way!" The man I presumed to be the asshole in charge began shouting at me the moment I looked in his direction. "Now talk! Who the hell are you, and where did you hide the girl!?"
I really didn't feel like putting up with his shit, so I didn't bother answering him. At least not with words. Rather than being civilized, I ran up to him, grabbed his face, and began squeezing his head without a word. I didn't hold back, so my hands acted the part of a vise and began bending his skull out of shape.
Of course, the action led him to scream in pain. He was loud, too loud. I couldn't find his shrieks, yowls, and squawks as anything but obnoxious. Maybe I should rip out his tongue. Oh, what about just squishing his head and make his brain explode? Might as well. Bastard totally deserves it.
Unfortunately, one of his subordinates came to bail him out while I was in the middle of contemplating my options. The man had a dagger, and I didn't feel like getting stabbed, so I twisted my body to evade it before countering by whipping the shitbag whose head I'd deformed right at his buddy. A loud thud accompanied the impact as the two crashed into each other.
Apparently, the rest of the idiots had finally realized they were under attack, as they raised their bows and began shooting wave after wave of arrows at me. There were so many that I suspected I would end up looking like something along the lines of a porcupine if I let them hit. Of course, it went without saying that I didn't. I instantly conjured a barrier made out of wind and repelled every single projectile aimed in my direction. Some of the arrows had been enchanted with magic in order to raise their potency, but it didn't matter. None could overpower my defenses. They simply weren't threatening. They were so much weaker than me that I felt as if they couldn't even be thought of as a threat.
Naturally, I wasn't the only one to realize the difference in power between the fiends and I. My opponents did too. Unrest ran rampant amongst their ranks as they realized that I had effortlessly negated all of their attacks—not that I cared. My mind was focused on other things. Namely, irritation.
I was pissed. I couldn't help but feel waves of anger surge within me. An irresistible urge to destroy everything leaked from every single pore in my body. I was seething with so much rage that it threatened to swallow my mind whole. It was stirring up my body and urging it to action. I was just as mad as I had been back when I'd realized that some dumbfuck had decided to kidnap my little sister. Apparently, I liked the hero a lot more than I'd thought I did.
Of course, I knew that I was being unreasonable, that I was more or less throwing a tantrum, and that murdering everyone and breaking everything wasn't going to undo what had been done. But I didn't care.
You know, I always have been a self-centered, egotistical, piece of shit. I've always had a habit of acting like the world revolves around me. Not that it doesn't, as far as I'm concerned.
Shit, I mean, it's not even my fault I'm selfish. It's because other people are fucking assholes. Look, just listen to me. Once you get out there in the world, you really start to understand that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Goodwill doesn't exist. People are all two-faced as shit. Everyone and their mother's got a god damned secret agenda.
Honestly, charity is the height of autism. White knight philantropist fuckbois can go eat shit for all I care. And yes, I know that some people seem like they're "genuinely kind." Some even get labelled as literal saints and shit. But as far as I'm concerned, they're all creepy as balls. They've gotta be hiding something. Or fucking deranged. Either way, they can go fuck themselves.
There's no point not living life like you're the center of the universe. You do what you want because it's for you. The point of life is to satisfy yourself and your own fucking ego. That's why I decided to live with everyone. And that's why I decided to tie the knot with Lefi. It was all for me. And only me. Because I'm a self-centred piece of shit.
It's precisely 'cause I'm so selfish that I don't want to see the people around me, the people I think of as a part of *my* world, get hurt. I don't really know when I started thinking of Nell that way, but whatever. Apparently, I fucking do, and that's what fucking matters.
In a sense, one could say that I really did act in a manner befitting a demon lord. I literally forced things to bend to my will no matter how unreasonable said will was.
"I'm going to kill every last one of you," I glared at the men around me as I hissed at them. "But before I do, I'm going to have you do me a favour and suffer. Because fuck you. All of you."
I pulled a dagger out of my inventory, filled its magic circuit with a near excessive amount of mana, and turned towards the man I had thrown. He was a bit of a funny sight to behold. He was ordering everyone to kill me, shouting at the top of his lungs in a fit of rage. After chucking the weapon at his feet, I immediately flapped my wings and took off. I made sure to gain a good bit of distance before turning to check whether or not the dagger had ended up getting stuck in the ground.
It wasn't like I was being careless. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Unlike the fiends, who knew nothing of what I had done, I had merely taken a necessary step in order to ensure my own safety.
Thinking that I had opted to run as opposed to fight, they began shouting angrily. Or at least they tried. Their rage was soon replaced by suffering, suffering I had injected straight into their worthless brains.
"W-What's going on!? What the hell!? Oh god! Oh god, no! No! No!!"
"It hurts! It hurts! My arms! My legs! The blood! It hurts! Stop it, stop it! Please, stop it! Stop pumping blood! Stop beating!"
"Why!? Why are they staring at me! My eyes! They won't stop staring at me! They won't go away!"
At first, it only affected those near the dagger. Their companions regarded them with looks of confusion, but they too soon came to understand. Because, soon, they too found themselves sucked into my spell. Incoherent screaming spread through the crowd. Its members grew terrified of spectres that never existed. Some writhed around on the ground and flailed their limbs like madmen. Others clawed away at their own chests and dug out their own hearts. Yet another group stuck their fingers into their eye sockets and gouged out their own oculi.
They shrieked in agony and howled for release, but those that had failed to die only continued to suffer. There was no release. Not for them.
The dagger I had thrown was one made of mythril, one engraved with the spell that Enchant had unlocked upon reaching its final level: Nightmare. Nightmare was a brutal, inhumane spell that would engulf a large area and destroy the minds of those that lay within with a series of horrifying, soul-consuming hallucinations.
Hellscape was the only term that could even begin to describe the scenes they were shown, and not even that was enough to encompass the full extent of the dread that I had inflicted upon them. It was only natural. Nightmare had come hand in hand with a level ten skill. Level ten skills were so powerful that they could only be described as god-like in nature; the power they represented could no longer be thought of as that of mere mortals. Of course, such an abstract description was unnecessary in the face of the results it wrought.
The most terrifying part about Nightmare was that it would feed off of the person it was affecting. It would fuel itself with their magical energies and force the illusions it created to persist until they were drained dry. And it did it slowly. The spell made sure its targets suffer for what seemed like an eternity. Those that bore through it without killing themselves would often wind up brain dead. They became invalid vegetables incapable of function. That said, it wasn't as if it was impossible to remain sane even in the face of the spell's horrors. Some were able to endure without losing themselves to the madness. But without mana, there was little that they could do. As far as combat was concerned, they were just as crippled as every other unfortunate survivor.
While it was about as effective as effective could get, Nightmare wasn't without its downsides. Mythril was literally the worst metal that anything enchanted with Nightmare could be made out of, and it only barely managed to make the threshold because it happened to be especially magically conductive. No inferior metal could stand the sheer amount of magical energy required to activate the circuit. Anything worse than mythril would literally melt. That said, it wasn't as if mythril itself was that much better off. A single use of Nightmare was enough to destroy the mythril blade that functioned as its catalyst. It was possible to milk a few extra casts of the spell out of something made up of a rarer material, but it wasn't worth it. The weapon would eventually end up turning into a pile of mush anyway. And since the price of metal grew exponentially in relation to how precious it was, mythril weapons actually ended up having the best cost/cast ratio.
All in all, casting the spell was ridiculously expensive. I only had a few Nightmare-infused daggers on hand, and I considered them one of my trump cards. Honestly, using one here was a waste. Oh well, totally worth it. Fuck these shitheads.
After spending a good chunk of time loitering around in midair and watching just about everyone suffer, I realized that the spell had begun wearing off. Most of the retards affected had already died. The few that hadn't lay sprawled on the ground with all sorts of bodily fluids covering them and their surroundings. Once they realized that they could finally move again, they promptly raised their weapons and slit their own throats, one after another. Only one of them had survived my house of horrors and retained the will to live. Unlike the others, he was slowly crawling away, desperately trying his best to escape.
I recognized him. He was the first to react to my arrival, the dumbfuck that had barked commands and bitched at everyone else. Huh. Wow, turns out he's got balls. Here I was thinking he was some sorta pussy. Well, works for me. Hell, this is perfect. I've been looking for a few answers anyway. Might as well have him "cooperate" before I finish him.
After looking at the dagger and confirming that it had turned into a puddle of junk, I decided to let gravity take control. I plummeted back towards the earth and landed right in front of him. The action dashed his hopes; he squealed like a piglet the moment he saw me.
His response led me to grin. I knew that the smirk on my face was a sinister one. In fact, I was willing to bet that, if there had been a third party watching over the situation, they would have thought of me as malice incarnate. "Hey, asshole, y'miss me? I heard you were heading out for a bit. Mind if I tag along?"
Editor's note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. It's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry for the absence, but y'know, life gets in the way sometimes. I'm running 3 different DnD campaigns, taking part in a fourth, working full time, taking care of the housework I need to take care of, and trying to complete a shitton of games while barely leaving enough time for about 6 hours of sleep. It gets rough, and my motivation for this segment kind of faded away over time. Hopefully, I'll try and get back into the swing of things now that we got a set schedule. I guess you can call this Season 2 of Joker's Corner? We'll see. I'm sure all of my fans missed me, so I'm actually kind of happy to get this going again. Remember, if you have any questions for me, just leave them below with the hashtag #AskJoker. Nirvash isn't around right now, she's off doing her own thing. Who knows? Maybe a certain subset of you will see her soon? See y'all in the next chapter!