We're inside the castle, in a bright and spacious reception room.
We sat side by side on the sofa and the Hell Lord sat opposite to us.
The butler stands at the wall.
Juice and wine are placed on the table.
The taste is magnificent.
Celica exclaims in admiration as she looks over the furniture.
"I've never seen such wonderful things before."
"*Fuhaha*, you can tell? I had them made at the workshops here. Isn't the radiance of people who have not only their blood but also their talent squeezed out of them beautiful!? *Fuhaha*"
Even though the persons involved seemed rather pleased and encouraged themselves with "Let's do something worthy of Lord-sama!" when we observed them earlier. It seems to be an honor for them if their works are used to decorate the castle. I won't say anything anymore.
I took a sip of the juice and spoke.
"By the way, Lord. Won't you negotiate?"
"About what? There's nothing of equivalent value to the egg. All you can try is getting it by force!"
I gazed into the Hell Lord's red eyes as I spoke.
"There is. I can offer a safe place, food provisions and information for making the hell even more dreadful."
The lord raises his right eyebrow.
"Heh... even, more dreadful, you say?"
--Did he take the bait?
"Ah, I noticed it when we looked around your hell. It still seems rather mild."
"Wh-What was that!? Are you saying that you could make it more hellish than me!? Tell me!"
"I could tell you if you promise to give me the egg. --But maybe I should tell you first. Then you can decide whether or not it's of high enough value. --You can bet on your pride."
"Fine with me... I'll hand over the egg if I approve of it-- and if not I'll receive your life."
The Hell Lord raised the corners of his mouth while he glared at me and laughed. His sharp canines are shining.
--It's my victory!
I spoke while hiding my smile.
"That condition doesn't matter. --First is, let's see..."
"What!? 'First', you say!? Does that mean that you have more than one!?"
"I have several ideas. I guess first would be a pension system."
"Pension? What's that?"
"You deduct a fixed amount from their salary to save it and then give them half the amount of their salary after retirement every month. The age should be depending on race, but about 65 years for humans."
"Hmm...is that really hellish? Isn't this just giving the people a peace of mind regarding their future?"
"You lack imagination, Lord! All of the working people will think about how long they'll live!"
"*Ha*, I see! Not only will I be able to deduce from the already small payment with with the sweet words, that it will be for their future, but it'll also torment them further! Moreover, they'll ask themselves whether they'll ever receive it!"
"That's right, people become dejected when thinking about getting older! And after they've become 65 years old, they'll permanently wonder how long they still have to live to receive it."
"They are driven into despair while receiving hope! To think of something that dreadful!"
I broadly grinned.
"And that's not all. You can build a senior citizens' home."
"A senior citizens' home? From the word, does that mean it's a place where old people live? Isn't this just giving them a place to live in peace...?"
"This is the hell right? Don't all the people want to escape from here?"
"Obviously. But it's impossible for anyone to flee because it's surrounded by the poisonous swamp, *kukuku*"
"Then, do you know what tortures them the most after they tried to escape?"
"That's of course, when they are caught by the pursuers and brought back, isn't it?"
With a *tsk tsk tsk*, I waved my raised finger.
"You're naive, Lord. That's just secondary. What tortures them the most is the moment they realize that they don't have any other choice but to return to the hell on their own two feet. That despair is unfathomable! Yes, and now think of the moment when the old people who are thrown out realize that they don't have any other place to go but to go to the senior citizen's home! Just when they think that the exploitation of their lives has finally ended, they'll have to return at the end to be exploited again!
The Hell Lord opened his eyes wide as he was taken aback.
"Wow-! What a dreadful thing you came up with! Certainly when thinking about it from that point of view that's even more heart crushing than bringing escapees back! There's no bigger humiliation and sense of helplessness!
"Also you could take a huge sum of money as boarding-expenses that they have to pay from the retirement money."
"That despair... it's just right for this world's hell!"
The Hell Lord was trembling and his eyes were sparkling.
"And next, how about long holidays of about ten days?"
"Th-There's still more?! --Long holidays? That again seems to have a deeper meaning behind it I guess?"
"Of course! What are they going to do when people receive long holidays?"
"Won't they be pleased? They might play or travel. ...I see, they'll suffer from the difference once they return to their usual lives. Is it along those lines?"
"Overall that's it. --However! People are living beings who forget things they aren't doing continuously. For example a swordsman needs a week to be on the same level as before when he hasn't trained for three days. How many months might it take for craftsmen to recover when they took even ten days off?! They'll have to work hard from scratch on things that they were able to do before by the end of the holiday!"
"*Oooh! That's despair! Moreover, the despair might be immeasurable right after having enjoyed holidays! That's truly, hellish!"
"It should be done once every half year, around summer and winter. Well, it shouldn't be done if you don't want to have a decline in quality of the produced goods though."
"No, I don't do it for profit and only let them work to receive the suffering of the hell.-- *kukuku*, now I'm looking forward to it."
The Hell Lord snickered evilly.
Celica, who sat next to me, smiled from astonishment.
"As expected of you, Keika-sama. To have even thought that far."
"Well, I'm a hero after all."
"It's enviable that is seems to be even better than Edelstein."
A hint of grief could be seen in her smile as she said this.
I silently took her hand and stroked it gently. She grabs my fingers tightly.
The Hell Lord raised his head and had a large smile floating on his face.
"I should run this from next year on."
I smile back.
"Oh. Does that mean that you'll adopt my ideas? I can get the egg then?"
Rather than my own ideas, it was knowledge of Japan. It won't contemplate about it though.
The Hell Lord suddenly frowned.
"Certainly, I don't mind... but, I don't really want to become hostile to the Demon Lord's army."
"Even though you are that strong? The Demon Lord can't move at the moment, so you might even be able to win."
"Yes. I know that. However, their supreme commander is Gerdolf, right? I have a bad compatibility with him."
"That guy is a Necromancer after all. My Energy Drain and Instant Death are completely useless. Moreover, he has the ability to produce an endless amount of dead souls. He's extremely hard to fight."
"I see. He had such an ability, huh? --In that case, I can introduce you to a safe place."
"Heh, where is it?"
"It's the dragon dungeon in the mountain to the west. The dragon who is the dungeon master is an acquaintance. If I remember correctly there is a huge, square floor of about ten kilometers where everyone could move to when the environment is adjusted."
--Moreover, I'll also get a floor boss if they'd move there!
I can aim for a higher ranking in the contest. It's two birds with one stone.
The dragon should cooperate if it's for her eggs.
The Hell Lord put his hand at his chin and made a sullen face.
"But there are 4000 people here, right? It would take considerable effort just to move them."
"It should be possible to prepare a castle, houses, a field and livestock. You don't really have to abandon this place. And once I've defeated the Demon Lord you can come back."
"I see. That's what you meant with a safe place and food provisions, huh."
I shook my head. My black hair sways.
"No, I meant a different kind of food."
"Hm? What do you mean?"
"You're quite slim, you're probably lacking of blood, right? I'll offer that blood. The blood can be conserved when taken, right?"
"I can't really say that I have enough... and I certainly would like to receive some... but, is it alright for a hero to do that?"
"I can do it precisely because I'm a hero. There won't be any complaints if I say that it's for health examinations. And if there aren't any problems it could be done at all villages in the country. Please teach us how you do it."
The Hell Lord has his arms folded and is deep in thoughts. An intellectual light burns in his red eyes, probably because he considers the advantages and disadvantages.
"...It might be possible if it's a dungeon made by the Creation God... The possibility to defeat the Demon Lord is low... but if it's that dungeon even the Demon Lord shouldn't be able to get a hold of it. It's safer than this place... also I could build a relationship with the dragon... Yeah, it's not bad."
"Do we have a deal then?"
"Yes, please wait a moment-- hey, Murat. Bring the egg from my bedroom."
The butler called Murat bowed politely and left the reception room.
The Hell Lord looks at me and speaks.
"Hero, I haven't asked your name yet."
"Keika, huh. I'm thankful for the ideas to make the hell even more terrifying. It would have taken decades for me to think that up."
"I don't mind."
The Hell Lord stretched out his glove-wearing hand above the table.
I took his hand and we shook hands.
Celica next to me let out a sigh of relief.
The butler returned with the egg. It wasn't just white and black, but also colored green and golden.
"Lord-sama, I've brought it."
"Thanks for the trouble. Hand it over to Keika."
As ordered, the butler presents it to me.
I took the egg and examined it. It's round like a bowling ball.
"...it has several colors, huh."
"I was told that only I should warm it. Isn't it normal to assume that something is up with it? Hence I let my subordinates warm it to examine whether it won't explode or something. It was quite troubling."
"Troubling? Did something happen?"
"No, but the subordinates and residents both wanted to warm it, which caused quite the disturbance. It seems that they wanted to die to escape from the hell. However, at the end it was futile. It was quite a sight when they realized that it was harmless. Stricken from grief they fell to their knees and shed tears! *Fuhaha*"
No matter how you think about it, didn't the people want to sacrifice themselves for the Hell Lord when they thought that it would explode? And the tears were most likely tears of joy when they realized that the Hell Lord was safe.
--Just how loved is this guy?
Hm, I see! It might be because he is so dearly loved that he earned the "Demon God"-status!
But a Demon God and a vampire. It's a little frightening not to know how this will turn out in the future.
I couldn't do anything but to praise him with a bitter smile.
"As expected of you, Lord, you're quite cautious. Did you learn something from it?"
"It seems that it changes its color depending on race and attributes. It'll become black when held by a demon, green from the wind attribute and red from the fire attribute. Earth is yellow. And it seems to become golden when it's warmed by the 'Light'-attribute."
"Heh...hm? There are people with the 'Light'-attribute here?"
"The Vanus Church's sinner system isn't incorporated here after all. Rather, there are families, who fled and then moved here to protect their children-- and then they can't escape from his hell anymore, *fuhaha*"
"--! To celebrate our deal, I'd like to send a bronze statue of me to this hell."
"That's no good. Wouldn't that give them hope?"
"Don't you think that they would feel despair every day if there would be a hero's statue that gives them hope?"
"I see! Even though they'd believe in a hero, at the end of the day it wouldn't change the fact that they are in hell! ...You really think of ideas to play with the people's hearts. You're so vicious that one might not think that you are a hero!"
"*Fufun*, I'll take that as a compliment."
I boldly laughed. Because I might gain some more believers with the "Light"-attribute.
However, it's still only the seeding stage.
In order to grasp the hearts of the residents of this hell, I'll have to get along with the lord.
But how can I improve our relationship? A true ancestor vampire and a hero. It's like water and oil.
After that I handed the egg to Lapisia.
"Don't let it fall"
"Yup, I'll keep it warm!"
Lapisia smiled while holding the egg with her thin arms.
"Well then, thank you for your help. Next I'll go to the remote continents, so I'll make the arrangements after I'm back."
"I'll also make preparations. I'll let you know when I'm done. Were should I contact you?"
"Either at Kynmerick's inn at the capital or at Keika village, which is to the north of the capital and managed by me."
"Oh. A village?"
"To be honest, it's losing against you at this stage. ...Please visit it in half a year and look at it yourself!"
"*Kukuku*, I look forward to it. By the way, for how long are you managing it?"
"It's still only a few month now."
"Heh! It took me 90 years to create this hell. I don't think that it can compete in only half a year."
"90 years--! No, I can do it. If it's me, I'll win."
"You don't say. Very well, let me see it one day. Well then--"
The Hell Lord swung his mantle and dashingly stood up.
Celica respectfully lowers her head.
"Well then, Lord-sama, we'll excuse ourselves. Thank you very much for receiving us on our sudden visit. The hell is even more dreadful than I thought when I saw it for the first time."
"Hm? -- *Fuhaha*, it's only natural! My heart is vast after all! You can come again to look at the hell!"
We also stand up.
Minya's black hair swayed as she bowed.
"Thank you for the treat."
"The egg, thank you!"
Lapisia also said goodbye and we left the castle.
Celica murmured while we walked through the poisonous swamp.
"Even though he's a demon, he's very different."
"Well, the person in question seriously thinks that what he does is bad."
"*Fufu*, please give your best as well, Keika-sama."
"That's right. Keika Village won't be defeated."
If I create an environment that goes beyond that hell, I'll certainly develop a deep relationship with the lord, and the residents here should acknowledge me as a hero.
The country's laws might be a hindrance though.
Minya, who walks behind me, speaks.
"That juice, there were three types of citrus fruits in it. They brought out each others taste and it was very delicious."
"Heh. The sweetness and sourness created a quite complex taste, huh."
"Let's do our best and make something even better."
"The development of a food culture is proof of a rich livelihood. As expected of the lord."
"Moreover, there were beastfolks whose number should have been lower. They've fled to here."
"Yeah. It might act as a refuge for humans and demons."
"Someday, I will ..."
Celica swallowed the rest. She probably wanted to say "rebuild my country as well".
"Leave it to me"
I stroked Celica 's head.
Thus we headed to the large river to the west, and for some reason, the conversation we had during the trip was like one you'd have when returning from an amusement park.
Yuusha no furi
99: Negotiation with the Hell Lord!