A Demon Lord's Tale: Dungeons, Monster Girls, and Heartwarming Bliss Chapter 181
A Decision Made Without My Consent — Part 2
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
"W-where the heck did that come from!?" Nell opened her eyes wide in shock as she squeaked like a mouse. Evidently, I wasn't the only one caught off guard by Lefi's irrational declaration.
"You need not act so surprised. I am well aware of your desires."
"I-I know you are, but that came out of nowhere! You could've at least told me you were going to bring it up!"
The only response the dragon offered the panicked hero was an exasperated sigh. And here I was thinking they were on the same page.
"Wait, Lefi, hold up. What the hell's all this about? Mind explaining?" I placed a hand on the side of my head and massaged one of my temples as I reentered the conversation.
"What is it that you need me to explain?" Lefi frowned in confusion as she looked down at me. "Was wedding her not your intention? I see no other reason for you to have brought her here."
"Look, I'm pretty scummy, but I'm not so scummy that I'd go hunting for more women before I even take my wife out on a honeymoon," I said. "I didn't warp her here because I wanted to marry her. She just happened to collapse right as I got myself into a fight, so I sent her away in order to make sure she didn't end up getting caught in the crossfire."
"Were your foes powerful enough to merit such an extreme measure?"
"Nah, they were pretty weak," I said. "But it seemed like she was probably going to jump right back into the fray the moment she woke up. That kinda didn't really seem like the best idea considering how tired she was, so I did her a favour and kept her away from all the action."
Potions weren't cure-alls. They couldn't relieve exhaustion. And Nell had accumulated a lot of exhaustion. The fight she had been engaged in had left her with such a massive stamina deficit that I suspected she probably wouldn't have been able to reasonably accomplish anything beyond lying in bed for a few days. Reasonably.
If there was one thing I knew about the hero, it was that she was anything but reasonable. Her devotion to her cause bordered the line of absurdity. There was simply no way a mere wave of crippling fatigue or two could keep her in bed. And that was precisely the problem. Nell wouldn't have abided by her limits. She would have pushed forward and returned to the wingbearers' village and save all that remained. Even in spite of her body's need for rest. It would have been a literal death march, but she would have gone anyway.
Because that was what it meant to be a hero.
That was what it meant to be Nell.
"S-so sending me here was all for me? W-wow. So you really do care…" The hero began to fidget as her face flushed. Stop that. Stop blushing. And stop staring at me all embarrassed-like. You're starting to make me feel real uncomfortable right about now.
"Uhhhh suuuuuuure." I averted my eyes away from the hero's passionate gaze and turned back towards my wife. "Anyway, so like I was saying, I only had her sent here 'cause shit happened. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less."
"But was it not an action you performed only after accepting her love for you? I was informed that your heroic rescue deepened her love for you to such an extent that she chose to profess her affections immediately."
"W-w-whaaaahhh!? D-did you really have to tell him that!? I totally asked you to keep it a secret!" screamed Nell.
"Nell's just like Lefi! She loves you a whole lot!" said Illuna.
“Not you too Illuna!”
Uhhhhhhh… I… uh… uhhhhh… Yeah, uhhh shit. I don't know what I'm supposed to say. Or do. Or think. Or feel. Like, shit. I actually have no idea, I'm totally stumped. Hey, Sh*nji, dude, you listening? Er, well, I guess you probably are with that whole god thing you have going on. Anyway, I know you'd know what to do at a time like this. Mind giving a bro a couple tips?
Alright, you know what, that's about enough escapism for one day. Fuck it. Time to man up and face reality.
I took a deep breath as I reflected on my memories. Thinking back, I probably would've seen this coming if I was paying more attention to her right before she passed out. Hell, I probably should've seen it coming from a mile away even if I didn't. I always used to bitch, moan, and complain at dense protagonists who didn't notice when people made moves on 'em, you know, 'cause of how obvious it was, but I kinda totally just pulled the exact same thing myself. Fuck, dude, I feel dumb as shit. I honestly have nothing to say for myself. That was all on me.
Er, well, actually, on second thought, I do have one pretty decent excuse. I was pretty pissed back then. I was doing my best not to let it show, but shit, I was mad. Like M A D. Can't really blame me for being too preoccupied to process what she said, can you?
Alright, fine. You totally can. Shut up. I know I'm an idiot.
While both Nell and I had been caught completely off guard, our reactions weren't by any means parallel. My expression indicated that I was just plain old surprised. Hers, on the other hand, pointed to something more akin to embarrassment.
"W-why did you have to tell him!?" The hero was so flustered by the other girls' betrayal that she burst out of the throne room and dashed down the hallway with her eyes filled with tears.
“Oopsie…" said Illuna. "I think we might've made her mad.”
"You need not worry. She is not angry, she was merely incapable of containing her embarrassment."
"Sooo uh…" I turned to face Lefi again after watching the hero dash off. "I mean, I kinda get what you were going on about, but I also really don't. Like, Iunno. It just doesn't make sense. Why, exactly, do you want me to marry her?"
"We spoke at length," said Lefi. "The conclusion I reached from our interactions is that I would not mind you taking her as a mate. I appreciate her. The time that we spent in both your and Leila's absence left us without any skilled cooks."
Her voice grew quiet, and her words began to slow. Even the fiery light that normally blazed within the silver-haired maiden's eyes dimmed as she elaborated.
"It was a dark time, one that taught us the true value of a well-prepared meal. It was she who, as a skilled artist in the culinary arts, rescued us from the abyss."
The combination of her tone and expression was peculiar. Her aura almost seemed to resemble that of a sagely monk recalling the traumatic event that had landed him his permanent reservation in the psychiatric ward. So you're telling me that this whole approval thing is predicated on your friggin’ stomach? Seriously…? Er, now that I think about it, they have always said that conquering one's stomach is no different from conquering their heart. Wait. Waiiiiit. What exactly was Lefi eating before she started living in the dungeon, anyway? And, hold up, why the hell were they so starved anyway? I could've sworn I'd left them all my recipes. And that's on top of a literal fridge-full of ready-to-eat meals.
"Alright, let's hit the breaks on the whole Nell topic for a moment. There's something more important I want addressed first. Has Illuna been eating properly? Or have you just been feeding her whatever?"
None of the dungeon's monster girls needed to eat. All Shii, the wraith girls, and our pets required to sustain themselves was the dungeon's mana. To them, filling their bellies was naught but leisure. Illuna, on the other hand, would die if she didn't get the right balance of nutrients. The same applied to Lefi and Lyuu, but I didn't really care what they ate. If they even ate at all. Unlike Illuna, they weren't in the middle of growing up. Neither was as likely to suffer dire consequences from malnutrition.
"Y-you need not be so concerned." My tone had left Lefi intimidated; her reply came with a stammer. "The meals we produced certainly could not be labelled as delectable, but they were far from utterly inedible. Moreover, our kitchen adventures were rather few in number. The dishes you prepared lasted a full week."
"Yeah! Things were looking really bad at first, but then we fixed it! We all worked together, did our best, and got a lot better at cooking!" The vampire's chest puffed up with pride as she spoke.
"Did you really…?"
"Yup! Really! I've gotten so good that I bet I can make something that'll totally blow you away!" said Illuna. "I can't wait to teach Enne everything I learned and get her up to speed!"
"Sounds great. I'm looking forward to trying it." I smiled at her before turning back towards Lefi. "Alright, it seems like that's that, so let's get back to talking about the other thing. Are you really sure you're okay with me taking more wives? 'Cause to me, that pretty much sounds like a pretty big red flag."
"It would be impossible for me to state, without lying, that I think nothing of it. I would be very angry if you were to become completely unfaithful, and I do not wish for you to indulge in infidelity. Still, I do not mind you taking more mates," she said. "While you have yet to reach my pedestal, you remain far beyond the norm. To any other, you are a storm, an unstoppable, almighty force of nature that bears power overwhelming. I expect nothing but for women to swarm to your side. Because that is this world's way."
She turned away from me and looked out the door as she continued.
"It is normal behaviour, even amongst dragons, for women to flock to men of great power. The opposite is also true. Men often attempt to court their mates with brute force. It is an experience I know well. Many have endeavoured to woo me with their might," she sighed as she grumbled. "And each was shown that they deserve nothing but to grovel at my feet."
Her words were striking. They once again forced me to understand that I wasn't one of this world's natives. That my values were different. But that didn't mean I was unwilling to adapt. I understood, and accepted, everything she said as fact.
Unlike modern-day Japan, this world was one in which only the fittest survived. It made sense, even for those outside the demon realm, to value strength. Because it, polygamy, was a survival strategy. Breeding with powerful individuals was a good way to bolster the survival rates of one's offspring, one's genes. And that was the exact task most living things were hardwired to try to accomplish.
I turned away from the woman who had ended up being surprisingly supportive of me taking more brides despite always grumbling about the fact that I needed to be less of a flirt, and instead redirected my gaze in Illuna's direction.
"W-what do you think, Illuna? Aren’t you going to object to any of this at all?" The vampire was extremely attached to me, so I assumed that she would have something to say about me not having as much time for her.
"Not really!" But apparently, I was wrong. "You already promised that you were going to let me, Enne, Shii, Rei, Rui, and Lowe all marry you once we get bigger too, so I don't mind at all!"
I was stunned into silence. I remembered that they had made the request shortly after I had gotten married to Lefi, and I certainly did remember more or less nodding along and telling them to wait until they got older because I had expected their feelings to change by the time they became full-fledged adults. Shit. She isn't wrong. I did already technically agree to the whole polygamy thing.
"I would be really mad if it was someone bad. But Nell's a really good person, so it's okay! She's already my friend, and playing with her makes me really happy. If we all get married to you, then it means that all of us can be together forever! It'll be the best!" she said with an innocent smile.
That's adorable. Buuuut it's also the exact opposite of what I expected her to say. Feels bad, man. There goes plan B.
"As you may have gathered from Illuna's statement, the decision was unanimous. Still, it is by no means set in stone. I understand that our conclusion was reached in the lack of your presence and that we have no right to force it upon you. You are free to pretend that we had never discussed it if you so wish. But that is not what I desire." The dragon girl paused for a moment to allow her mouth to twist into a wide grin. "Yuki, I wish for you to demonstrate that you are no mere boy. Show me that you are capable of handling a woman who has fallen madly in love with you in a manner worthy of praise. Show me that you are a man."
Lefi, please. I'm pretty sure wives aren’t supposed to get their husbands riled up about other women. That said, holy shit. That confidence though. Not to mention the open-mindedness. Hnnnng. I'm falling in love all over again. Lefi = best girl.
I quickly looked over at one of the room's corners and glanced at everyone currently seated at the table. Again, their reactions didn't do much to help me. Both maids expressed that they didn't have anything to say by shaking their heads. All Shii did was break into a big, innocent smile the moment I turned my eyes her way. Ermahgerd. What an angel. Hell, she's more than just an angel. She's probably some sort of archangel.
Welp. That didn't work. I guess I've pretty much got no choice but to resort to introspection. Alright, me, what do you make of this whole scenario? And be honest.
After taking a moment to brood, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t entirely against the idea. The thought of taking a second wife before I so much as took my first on a honeymoon was appalling. It bothered me to no end. But as a man, I couldn't help but think rather fondly of harems and harem-like situations.
The whole hero concept is a bit of a ridiculous shit show. Normally, I'd hate heroism and all that other autistic white knight bullshit, but that's just 'cause everyone's fake as fuck. The only thing retards like that do is try to inflate their own egos by making themselves look good. But Nell isn't like that. She's genuine. She's not some retarded poser that'll suddenly have a change of heart the moment they're put in real danger. She always faces every issue she encounters head on and gives it everything she has. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. She's clearly willing to put her life on the line. I don't really believe in her ideals, but I have to admit that the way she follows through on them makes her out to be one hell of a badass.
That does kinda come off as a bit of a warning flag, but it's also kinda charming, in its own right. A part of me wants to shirk away from her outta caution, but I think I'd probably rather spend more time with her than not anyway. You know, just to keep her out of harm's way. Her safety matters to me. I can say with certainty that I value her as much as Illuna, Leila, and everyone else I live with.
I know this next part is probably gonna sound shallow af, but it's important. Nell's one hell of a looker. She also just so happens to be my type. If I'd never met Lefi, I probably would've gone straight down the Nell route. Her telling me how she felt would've been more than enough to get me raising the sails and hoisting up the anchor. But that's the thing. I did. I did meet Lefi.
The Nell situation isn't like the Lefi situation. Lefi is a lazy sack of shit with an obnoxious attachment to victory. And I love that about her. I love it as much as I love the fact that she's probably the most thoughtful and caring person I've ever met. She understands how much all the little things really matter. As far as I'm concerned, Lefi is the definition of perfect. There simply isn't anyone else like her. And as much as I'd like a harem, I just can't. I can't bring myself to not give Lefi the full, undivided affection she deserves. Yeah, you know what? I should probably talk to her about it. About time too. That was way more than enough introspection for one day.
“Lefi, I love you. With all my heart," I said. "I think Nell's a good girl and that she deserves to be happy but honestly, I don't really want any more wives. You're the only girl for me."
"I certainly appreciate the sentiment. I suppose I may as well take this opportunity to discuss the target of my own affections. I find that the man I love is far too kind," she began to speak in a roundabout manner, seemingly out of embarrassment. "His disposition certainly bothers me. He is far too compassionate to guiltlessly cast aside a woman willing to, at a moment's notice, discard even her very her life for the sake of the affection she bears for him. It is a flaw I would only have appreciated if not for the fact that two such women exist."
"Wow, what a lucky bastard," I chuckled and played along. "Pulling a stunt like that must've cost him his whole lifetime's supply of testosterone."
I got the message, loud and clear, so I slowly rose to my feet and readied myself for the conversation to come.
"Look, I'm still on the fence about the whole harem thing, but I'll at least go talk to her. I think it's time she and I have a nice long chat."
"It is," said Lefi. "Now go. We will remain right here and await your return."
Lefi saw me off with a gentle smile as I walked out the door, one that radiated nothing but pure unadulterated kindness.