This kingdom was a playground for the B-rank demon and its worshipers before I was summoned as a hero, but they were easy to collapse. The cult would immediately fall like dominoes as long as the B-rank demon which provided Evil Miasma to its ardently loyal worshipers was taken out, and so I tried taking the opposite approach.
I forced the B-rank demon into submission, and the demon worshipers came with it as an added bonus. I had obtained a toy that was the kingdom in but moments, and even this private conversation which was taking place somewhere in the royal palace was one of the results following what I did.
The queen goes bark.
“Oh my beloved. I think we must aid Sir Hero by providing funds for his activities.”
And the king’s response?
“Activity funds? Why put money towards such a useless…”
“I beseech you.”
As the kingdom’s number one beauty hugged the king’s forearm and begged him, his expression eased in an instant. The change wasn’t simply because he was in a good mood—his eyes were slack as if hypnotized.
The king replied in an even voice.
“… It can’t be helped if my queen says that much.”
“And Your Majesty, he is not a useless hero, but a great individual whom we must hold in high esteem. Please bear this in mind.”
“… I understand.”
Having finished her business with her potbellied husband, the queen sent me a wink.
The B-rank demon’s joker card was none other than the queen of this country. She was the demon worshiper who needed to be watched the most.
I had enhanced the Evil Miasma of this joker card. Following the rise of her Evil Miasma from E-rank to C-rank, her Devilishness which was deeply related to the former also rose from D-rank to B-rank. Devilishness was the power to bewitch the opposite sex.
The Dumpling King handed over to me a bag of money like he did in the 2nd Playthrough. He did so peacefully, neither of us fighting with flushed faces. There would be no problems in my character grading with this. It was proof that I had grown compared to how I was in the 2nd Playthrough.
“I’ll use it well, Your Majesty.”
“It is my humble joy to be of help to you, great hero. Please tell me whenever you need more.”
“I’ll do that. Beautiful queen? I hope that your beauty will be unfading and long-lasting in the days to come.”
The queen’s dream had already been achieved—her Evil Miasma had risen from E-rank to C-rank with my help. She had become more bewitching and lustful than before.
“Hehe! To be of help to Sir Hero is my very joy. I wish to treat you to some tea in my villa later on.”
It likely wouldn’t end at some tea.
“When there’s time, Your Majesty.”
I took my leave after bidding the Dumpling King farewell.
Although there was also the method of collecting money from the demon worshipers, I couldn’t lay a hand on the money they had obtained through illegal means: drugs, human trafficking, murder, blackmail, loansharking… My character grading would only go down if I were to use money earned through all kinds of vile deeds, and that was why I returned all of it to the populace. In exchange, I legally received activity funds from the king.
The sound of the money bag full of gold coins was truly pleasing to my ear. Perhaps it was all the more satisfying since it was a service received after working hard.
This money wasn’t salary paid to me—I was still doing volunteer work. The difference was extremely big.
“Sir Hero-! Sir Hero Hans Ssoo-!”
I saw a palace knight running towards me in a straight line from the other side of the palace. He didn’t look like he was intending on picking a fight.
“Hmm. Has something happened again?”
Alex’s exciting orientation had been postponed due to the big and small scandals that popped up in the wake of my controlling the demon cultists to completely take over the kingdom—the queen, a demon worshiper, and the king, a puppet. Even below them, among the influential families and nobles, some were demon worshipers or related to them in one way or another. A one-party dictatorship, perhaps it should be called.
“Sir Hero Hanssoo! Please help! Trouble broke out between Sir Hero Sieg and a noble, but they simply won’t talk it out.”
Not the palace knights including Alex, though. They weren’t so easy as to be beguiled by Evil Miasma; however, considering that they absolutely obeyed the orders of the one king they swore loyalty to, they were puppets of a puppet.
“Sieg, you say?”
What nonsense was this?
I decided to go to the scene of trouble.
The nobles of this barbaric world, where feudalism and hierarchy was prevalent, were no different from living grenades. If they became upset because of a commoner or slave, they would pin some truly ridiculous crime and either beat them or send them to jail. And those nobles still wouldn’t be punished…
Unless they committed murder, that is—there were frequent cases of nobles intentionally killing commoners and slaves, aiming for EXP. That was why murder was the one thing strictly watched out for in all countries. Yes, murder only.
It was truly everything goes apart from apart from murder. The fact was that the country was also aware of the tyranny and atrocities committed by the nobles and some of the royals, but turned a blind eye as the loss would be greater if the matter escalated into a political problem. Those governing the country were nobles, to begin with—it was impossible for nobles to establish the law in a way disadvantageous towards nobles.
However, there was always bound to be that meddlesome guy overflowing with justice. Hot-blooded, were they called?
“I saw it clearly! That pig grabbing the lady’s hand and dragging her away by force!”
Sieg was in the middle of quarreling with a palace knight.
“Sir Hero Sieg, please look well and calmly. How did it seem forced? This lady was following the lord baron because she truly likes him. Didn’t you even ask her directly because you insisted on disbelieving?”
The palace knight tried to persuade Sieg in a weary tone, but it didn’t have any effect.
“She must have been threatened to say that! Isn’t it obvious? Because she’d get payback if she exposed the truth. What do you mean she started dating that pig from yesterday? It’s suspicious just hearing it.”
The mediating palace knight heaved a deep sigh. Behind him, the noble who was being continuously insulted as a pig by Sieg was shaking hard as if suppressing his anger.
“Just what wrong did I do to suffer such insult…”
“I’m really sorry this happened because of me, lord baron.”
The pretty miss hugging the thick forearm of the baron was fretful, at a loss as to what to do.
“… I’ve roughly grasped the situation.”
I was also familiar with the chubby baron who had been continuously insulted as a pig by a hero from a while ago. He didn’t know me, but I knew him…
… because he was an F-rank demon worshiper.
He was the legitimate heir of a count’s family. Unable to restrain his appetite due to the stress brought on by the lessons of an heir in a wealthy family, he was struck by severe obesity and various other complications all at once: diabetes, hyperlipidemia, arthritis, gallstones, cancer… Even fantasy magic wasn’t omnipotent.
The baron who fell ill turned to Evil Miasma—it was the start of a tragedy. The baron, whose nature grew violent by the B-rank demon’s wicked designs, committed all kinds of vile deeds and drew public criticism: assault, rape, abusing power, arson… until he received judgement by the hero. That’s how it went in the 1st Playthrough.
“Sieg. What are you doing here?” I first asked Sieg, pretending to not know the baron.
“Ah! Hansoo! You say something too. I clearly saw this pig molesting that lady, but he keeps on denying it.”
“What about proof?”
“I have it! You can see it too, right? This pig has the Skill Evil Miasma(F)! It means he’s a demon worshiper!”
I gently pressed on my throbbing temples. What was he saying in front of my Evil Miasma(SS)?
“Sieg. Possessing Evil Miasma doesn’t necessarily make someone a demon worshiper. Evil Miasma is permanently formed in one’s body upon consuming the heart of a demon, and there are other ways as well be it through training or elixirs. The methods to obtaining Evil Miasma are various.”
That didn’t mean Evil Miasma was a good thing, however; Evil Miasma not controlled by a demon would run amok. It would change the personality of its host to become like a low-class demon: cruel, arrogant, insolent, obsessive, obscene, greedy, violent… yet despite this, many would lay their hands on this power.
“That pig is a demon worshiper.”
Sieg began to be persistent. No, this guy’s words were right. Although the baron hadn’t committed any wrongs yet, he was a demon worshiper without a doubt. This was definitely true, but…
This wasn’t the moment to support him—the gazes of the onlookers were extremely ugly.
“Accusing the kind lord baron as a demon worshiper…”
“His Lordship, a pig? He’s a regular patron of our restaurant!”
“That person’s a hero of legend? Haha! It’s the end of the world.”
The young lady who was the cause of all this put a full stop to the matter.
“My father, a restaurant owner, twisted his foot and ended up spilling food over Lord baron’s head and clothes. What a shocking moment that was… but what came next was even more surprising. His Lordship said it was fine and forgave my father. I felt so grateful about it that I stuck to His Lordship from yesterday. I’m really sorry! My Lord, if it wasn’t for me… sob!”
He was in trouble now.
He had made a woman cry.
He had reached the point where public opinion couldn’t be turned around.
The palace knight heavily placed his gloved hand on Sieg’s shoulder, saying, “Sir Hero Sieg. Is there still something you have left to say?”
“If not, then let us return. We’ll promise an adequate apology and compensation for His Lordship Baron, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
“You two, politely escort Sir Hero Sieg to the royal palace.”
Sieg was dragged off by two apprentice knights like a criminal.
As I looked at the receding figure of my companion, leaving the scene in a pitiful manner like a defeated dog, my thoughts became complicated like a tangled ball of yarn.
Was that punk really capable of letting me graduate?
Sieg recovered his vigor in but moments, as if I had been anxious for nothing. Although I didn’t have a hobby of observing the private life of a man, I was helpless as Professor Morals had told me to learn from this guy. Don’t they say when in Rome, do as Romans do?
The very first thing Sieg would do upon waking up was to wash. Despite that it would be comfortable to leave the cleaning of his body to the carefully selected maids of the kingdom, he would wash himself with the obvious demeanor of a cherry boy.
After that he would go poking his nose in around the kingdom’s capital. His first reaction upon seeing someone in plight was to rush in and, without even checking the truth of the situation, he would run errands or help with work for free. The individuals he helped were mainly female. Sieg was an omnivore who didn’t care for race nor age. Perhaps this showed he too was a male…?
“Master. Do you have any other orders for me?”
The beautiful woman who was calling me “master” in a pleasant tone and natural manner was the mother of this country, the queen. The identity and status of those drunk on a demon’s power were meaningless; their minds would be controlled by the drug-like addiction to the power. This was why demon worshipers were dangerous.
I shook my head at the queen.
“No. Keep observing Sieg like now and report to me.”
“Yes. Call me whenever. Even at night.”
The queen turned around and took her leave with confident footsteps, her hips swaying left and right as if to seduce me. I rested my chin on the frame of the window, looking outside from within the palace.
“Hey! Stay right there!”
I saw Sieg in the middle of playing tag with a baby kitten. As there were no real incidents of note, he was wasting his time doing things like finding the lost pet of Kid A, and this was only to be expected too.
This kingdom which had fallen into my hands was extremely peaceful, just like the calm before a storm. And that wasn’t all—I was in the midst of mobilizing all the demon worshipers active in the kingdom to raise my reputation bit by bit, and was promoting an anti-royalty sentiment in the public. All so that the Dumpling King could rest for eternity.
“As for Sylvia, she’s nothing to be concerned over.”
The future Elf Queen who carried out a raid on the black market was captured alive as predicted. Unless a hero buys her when she is put up for auction ten days later in the black market, she would be sold to a perverted noble. I was, naturally, not going to go, and Sieg who didn’t know the ‘promised code’ which was recognized in the Dark Commerce wouldn’t even be able to enter the black market. I had already closed off the shortcut I used in the 1st Playthrough.
Sylvia would naturally be out of the game. With this, even Professor Morals wouldn’t be able to say anything.
And as for what remained?
The future Sword King. He had dropped out a little early by my hand, because he was neither useful, nor to my liking. In this 3rd Playthrough, however, I left him in one piece for the time being as I had discovered Alex’s use.
‘Of course, Professor Morals. Didn’t they say even dog shit was used in medicine? *Grins*’
As the kingdom, which had been in disorder due to the demon worshipers’ movements, became stabilized, Alex also returned to the royal palace from his outing. And then that day arrived.
“Haha! Heroes, welcome to the royal palace training grounds! Looking at your skins so unmarred like a pansy’s, it seems you’ve never received proper training before. But worry not. The number one sword of the kingdom is going to raise you into an excellent Hero! And in no time at that.”
Alex’s heart-racing orientation had begun.
“I’ll give it my all! Instructor Alex!”
Sieg was brimming with motivation. After casually echoing Sieg, I awaited Alex’s next words.
“But before we begin training, Her Majesty the Queen has specially come to observe. She seemed to be eagerly looking forward to the two heroes’ sparring.”
“… Say what?”
“Well if that’s what Her Majesty wishes for then…”
‘Can’t be helped even if I don’t wanna fight with a friend!’
“Since that’s how it is, give your best against each other. By the way, my fist will not forgive any disgraceful behaviour such as surrendering or fleeing before Her Majesty.”
Alex moved back after making that threatening remark.
“W-, wait… Hansoo? We’re friends, right?”
Sieg anxiously called out my name as he backpedaled.
“Come at me already. If Her Majesty wishes for us to spar, then we have to voluntarily do so for the kingdom. Sieg, isn’t this what you wanted?”
‘Hooheheheh-… Ahem! This isn’t it.’
“I’m really sorry! My friend!”
Although I did see it coming, it was extremely agonizing whenever I landed a punch on the lower jaw of Sieg who had spouted crap about doing charity work straight from day one.
Managing the look on my face was deathly tiring.