Yuusha no furi
98: This world's hell!
Guided by the Hell Lord - a true ancestor vampire - we walked into the castle.
To look around the hell that he had created.
I planned to look for the egg with "Clairvoyance" in the meantime.

The Hell Lord's mantle sways as he walks ahead.
The four of us are walking behind him in succession.

Celica speaks anxiously.
"Just, where on earth does he take us...?"
"Maybe he plans to make us shudder up by showing us something extremely cruel..."
Is there torture or forced labor?

The Hell Lord turns back.
"That's exactly it! You should tremble in fear! *Kuahahaha!*"
He loudly laughed while waving his mantle.

For now, I invoked some magic in a way that the Hell Lord wouldn't notice.
It's a magic to protect from instant death.
The Hell Lord has two instant death attacks, hence I put them on Celica, Minya and Lapisia.
I was okay because I was protected from instant death thanks to the Fairy's Blessing.
I'll give them some accessories with the effect of instant death invalidation later when there's some time to spare.

When we passed through the long passage, we arrived outside under the warm sun.
The castle was erected at the cliff of the hill and the inside of the hill was hollowed out.
It's similar to a caldera. The surrounding hill has become a natural protective wall.
It was quite spacious with a radius of maybe one kilometer.

People were harvesting a field and domesticated animals were kept. There are several large buildings.
The Hell Lord turned around and had a dreadful smile floating on his face.
"How's that! Isn't it dreadful?"
"...it's a hidden village, huh. Rather, are you fine being exposed to the sun with you being a vampire?"
"I'm a true ancestor after all and don't have any weak points..., so, isn't this dreadful? I implemented all the means and strategies I know of to make them despair. *Fuhaha!*"
The Hell Lord was laughing loud. I thought for a moment that his pride is maybe his biggest weak point.

There were people who were working the field, people who were milking cows, people who were shearing sheep and people who were making cheese among others. Humans, beastfolks and demons were working.
They don't seem to be subjected to harsh manual labor.

Since the Hell Lord seemed to await my impression, I spoke.
"Isn't this normal? It doesn't look like a harsh environment..."
"*Kukuku!* My dreadfulness can't be seen with the eyes. That's why it's a real hell!"
He spread his arms, throwing his mantle backward.

I tilt my head.
"Aren't you whipping or torturing them?"
"Well, I don't do that anymore. When thinking about it, wouldn't that kill them after a short time?"
"I can easily kill people. I could kill them in an instant like plucking fruits. But would that really give them fear? Rather, wouldn't I just guide them to the peaceful afterlife from this harsh world?"
The Hell Lord speaks while looking at his hands.

"I see. Death might be a salvation, huh."
"Yes! Exactly, Hero! That's why I thought that tying them to this world and letting them slowly wither away would be the most dreadful."
"Well, I can't say that I don't understand it. However, it seems pretty idyllic though."

"You're naive, Hero! The dreadfulness is that you can't see it at first glance! First is the field. It has to be worked 14 hours a day, but the people only work eight hours. --In other words, it's a two shift system!"
"Furthermore, they have two days off a week. That way they can restore their worn out bodies so they won't escape from this living hell!"
"That's also why you organized the shift system?"

"That's not all! I even implemented a plan to throw them from hope into despair every month."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm paying them wages! However, now comes the deal, I then deduct from the seemingly huge amount of money bit by bit. At the end they are trembling from terror when they see how little ends up within their purses!"
"Are you deducting things like rent or food expenses?"
"Naive! There's more! --Look at that!"

The Hell Lord pointed at beastfolks, who were carried on stretchers.
They were the gatekeeper deerfolk and elephantfolk that we knocked out.
They are carried into a building.
"What's over there?"
"A hospital! So they won't sneak away from this hell with a sweet death granted by injuries or illnesses. Moreover, injuries at work are paid from the deducted money. That way they'll buy their friends' enmity if it's paid with their money. *Fuhaha*, how's that, isn't this dreadful!?"
"You have a worker's accident insurance!? H-How frightening!"

"*Hehe*, it seems you get my dreadfulness a little now, huh?"
"*Kukuku*", he laughed while showing his shining canines.

When we were about to pass a place where wood was processed, a single goblin approached and prostrated himself.
"Lord-sama! I'm terribly sorry!"
"What happened?"
"My wife got pregnant! The expected date is in three month!"
"Whaaat!? Both of you are forbidden to work two months before and after the delivery. And you'll suffer together as a couple, having your wages halved! *Fuhahaha*"
"As you command, it's really dreadful, Lord-sama!"
The goblin smiled while shedding tears.

I shuddered from fear.
"Isn't that maternity leave?! Moreover, with half payment...! H-How dreadful!"
"How's that, how's that!? Everyone here lives stricken by fear!"

We arrived at the hospital building that the beastfolks have been brought into.
It's a large two-story building.
There, people and beastfolks were waiting in a queue in front of the entrance.

Celica tilts her head.
"*Ehm*, Lord-sama. What's that queue? No one of them looks injured or sick..."
"*Kukuku*, blood is taken from them! It'll become a food source for me and the demons!"
I crossed my arms and nodded.
"In other words, you're keeping the working people as livestock. That's finally something that seems like hell."

"*Hehe*", the Hell Lord laughed scornfully.
"Did you think that was all? It's not over with just having their blood taken once every year in rotation. The blood is then examined for abnormalities and illnesses! If something is found they are immediately hospitalized to make sure that they won't receive the comfort of death! How's that, do you give up!?"
"Isn't that an annual medical examination!? You're going even that far!?"
"*Hehe*, are you scared?"
"This is... dreadful!"
As a result of letting them live long to experience the agony of this world to its maximum, he gives them excellent treatment like a company with a welfare program.
It's better managed than Keika Village. It's a little vexing.

After that there were things like a smithy and a glass manufactory. There were painters and people making ceramic art.
Furthermore we saw people playing instruments during orchestra practice.
Celica speaks.
"Nevertheless, you have quite a lot of different jobs, huh? There are even craftsmen who work with glass and musicians."

"*Kukuku*. That's also something I thought up. What will they do if everything they lived for is taken from them!?"
"It doesn't make sense to let everyone work on the field like slaves. Anyone can do that once they get used to it. I realized that humans will despair the most when I let them do the work that makes best use of their innate abilities! Humans grow old. Just how much despair will they feel at the time they've grown old and their talents are running dry! Isn't that dreadful!"
"Th-That's truly dreadful... you even have freedom of job selection. Moreover, you're investigating their innate talents?"
"Of course! I also have a place to teach them the jobs."
Certainly, if you do a job that makes good use of your talents, it'll double your joy but the despair will also be deep if you are unable to do it.
But everyone who is working has sparks in their eyes. They work while being happy that they can do what they want.

After that we further looked around the hell.
People have gathered in front of a building that looked like an apartment building where residents are living. An old man is in the center.
"Thank you for your hard work" "I've troubled you until now" "Take a good rest once you've returned home"
I spoke.
"It sounds like a farewell party. Do you let them retire once they've grown old?"

The Hell Lord protrudes his chest and laughs.
"*Fuhaha*, after they've been like slaves for many years and put to work, they are given a small amount of money and then are thrown out, getting strayed on the streets! They can live the rest of their lives as vagabonds!"
"You're even giving retirement money!? How far does your dreadfulness reach...?!"

Then the residents approached and and knelt.
The retiring old man speaks.
"Hm? What is it?"
"I'll now bid farewell to the dreadful days, these were really hellish days."
"*Fuhaha! This is this world's hell after all. Of course it's dreadful, right?"
"""Yes! It's extremely dreadful!"""
The residents spoke in unison. Everyone was vividly smiling.

I was astonished when I saw that scene.

That guy, is extremely loved.
Or rather, shouldn't this be natural? Such high treatment can't even be seen in Japan.
I'd certainly receive their grudge if I'd kill the Hell Lord.
Moreover, there seem to be about 4000 people here from what I heard earlier.
It might be the end if I'd buy the grudge of 4000 people and a mixture of truth and fiction spreads around.

Rumors might spread with me being the villain who killed the non-resisting Hell Lord.
Even if each one of them told the story to five others, that would already make 20000 people.
Rumors are accompanied with exaggerations, and it wouldn't be long until it spreads throughout the country.

As a conclusion, I can't kill him.

The Demon Lord must have come to the same conclusion.
Vanus also needs believers.
It's not that he acknowledged his strength but he was unable to bare his fangs at him because of the possible significant decrease in believers.

One of the residents looked at us.
"Lord-sama, that person is?"
"He seems to be a hero."
The residents stood up and gushed around me.

"Hero-sama, please! This is a very dreadful place!"
"We're alright, so please escape somehow, Hero-sama!"
"Lord-sama is a dreadful person! Please hurry and run away!"
Everyone desperately pleads.
It seems that they don't want to lose this environment.
Well, of course. They are working in shifts, have a worker's accident insurance, maternity leave, physical examination and retirement money. Moreover, they can do jobs that suit their talents.
There are no bonuses indeed, but it seems that they are getting rewards when the vegetables, goods and so on have fetched high prices.
I don't know of any other place in this world where employment has been perfected to that extent.

Only the Hell Lord is loudly laughing when he's looking at that scene.
"*Kuhaha!* That's good, cry and scream! Cling to that fleeting hope!"
--That guy, he's really thinking that he's creating a hell in this world from the bottom of his heart.
It's a paradise no matter how you look at it. The people are thanking him honestly.

I urge the residents to stop.
"I got it, I got it. I'll think about running away."
"""Thank you, Hero-sama!"""
The people are so happy that they shed tears.

Nevertheless, I have to recover the egg.
If I can't take him down I'll have to negotiate.
However, the Hell Lord and this village might get attacked if he gives the egg, that was entrusted to him by the Demon Lord's army, to me.

The Hell Lord spoke while I was in thoughts.
"How was it? Did the dreadfulness break your hearts? Well then, now that you're stricken with fear it's time for you to leave this world. Follow me!"
The Hell Lord walks ahead while spreading his mantle.
It seems that we'll fight.
If you're injured, Energy Drain will mean instant death. I'm alright, but Celica and Minya will be in danger.

That said, it would be bad if I'd take him down. It'll bring bad reputation.
Should I silence all residence to prevent that?
But then I'd probably become an evil god or a god of calamity if I'd take such inhumane actions.

I spoke to the Hell Lord who was walking ahead.
"Lord. I'm a little thirsty. How about having a talk while having a drink?"
"Heh. A drink before a fight? --Or rather, a last supper? Very well, be thankful to my benevolence. Let's head to the reception room first."

I was still thinking about how to get the egg.
Celica, who was walking beside me, looked worried and held onto my arm with her hand. She seems have the same thoughts. Whether it won't be bad to defeat him.
I return a silent nod while looking in her blue eyes.
Her supple fingertips are transmitting a gentle warmth.