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Chapter 25: The Demon Lord Presents a Ruthless Choice
I pondered for a while at the Acting Chief’s words, before replying unconcernedly.
“Tell me the details. I’ll answer then.”
“Yes, I understand…”
The Acting Chief nodded and began to share the details.
According to her explanation, this all began about ten days ago.
Suddenly, an army of humans had visited the forest, wishing to be supplied with trees.
Naturally, the clan of elves refused this.
This was because none of the resources that existed in the Forest of Yggdrasil could be handed over that easily.
It was an old tradition for the elves to protect everything in the forest, unless there was a very good reason not to.
When the human army was refused the trees, they quietly withdrew from the situation.
A few days later, however, they made an even more forceful move.
They invaded the Forest of Yggdrasil, and began to cut down trees without permission.
This infuriated the elves, who immediately attacked.
However, the strength of the human army was so great that the elves were no match for them.
Even with the homeground advantage, they were unable to overcome a difference in numbers several dozen times greater than their own.
A number of elves were kidnapped, and some parts of the forest were even set on fire.
“Seeing this as a distressing situation, we held an emergency meeting. It was no longer possible to resolve the situation through discussion. Everyone came up with measures to drive back the human forces. Among them…”
“The idea of asking the current Demon Lord for help was brought up?”
“… Yes. There were some objections, but we had to push through with this. We don’t have any other options.”
The Acting Chief expressed with a regretful look on her face.
From the way she said it, she was probably the one who proposed the use of the Demon Lord.
Naturally, there must have been those who opposed it.
“By the way, which country is behind the invasion?”
“It is the Empire. There is no mistaking their flag. I saw it with my own eyes.”
The Acting Chief replied hatefully.
I could feel her emotions through the tone of her voice.
The feelings she held would surely be unfathomable for me.
The empire was a nation adjacent to the Forest of Yggdrasil.
It was a powerful country that has swallowed up the small nations surrounding it and grown in size.
It had a history similar to the current Demon Lord’s territory, in the sense that it had strengthened its power through war.
In the empire, the supremacy of the human race prevailed.
Other Demi-humans were despised and traded as slaves.
Slavery existed in other countries as well, but it was more pronounced in the case of the Empire.
Demi-humans were treated as inferior, and even those who weren’t slaves were discriminated against.
It was known to be the cause of great friction with other countries.
Why is the Empire chopping down trees?
They had purposely aimed for the Forest of Yggdrasil.
They were not simply after the timber, as there should be plenty of wood available within the vast territory of the Empire.
If so, they could only have one aim.
That is, the blessing of the Forest of Yggdrasil.
The trees in that place housed the power of the spirits, and possessed a holy power.
It was a trait that could not be substituted by any other tree.
It was considered rare, and I remember the wood being auctioned for a considerable price on the black market.
The problem was the reason why the Empire wanted holy power at this moment.
It was hard to think of it as a simple campaign to raise funds.
They were trying to occupy the forest because they wanted to make use of something in there.
—A countermeasure against the Demon Lord?
I had many hypotheses, but that seemed the most plausible.
This was an empire that thrived on wars.
They might be planning to invade the Demon Lord’s territory, taking all the necessary measures against the undead.
If it is that country, they might even be planning to snatch away my entire territory.
If that’s their only plan, it’s still good.
After all, the Empire has also been planning to obtain the Forest of Yggdrasil for a long time.
In addition to its resources, another objective was to obtain the elves.
However, if they did that, they would inevitably invite criticism from the surrounding countries.
It would also make them an enemy of the demi-humans.
Even though they were an empire, they wouldn’t want to make enemies on all sides.
That’s why they had refrained from making any major moves.
However, the situation had changed drastically.
Under the guise of defeating the Demon Lord, they could request for cooperation— or perhaps even brazenly invade the forest.
The empire’s goal was probably both the Demon Lord’s territory and the Forest of Yggdrasil.
If this was the case, it would be evidence of their extreme greed.
However, it was quite possible.
The Empire’s history as an invading nation spoke for itself.
Most of this was my conjectures, but it couldn’t be far from the mark.
We might find out if we get our spies to closely investigate it.
Besides, the fact that the Empire was invading the Forest of Yggdrasil was undeniable.
At any rate, it was no doubt a tumultuous development.
Humanity, regardless of country or race, would join hands to kill the Demon Lord.
This would create an illusion of peace.
The empire’s move was an act that trampled on that ideal.
They only cared about their own country.
If they really wanted to cooperate, they could formally offer an alliance.
Instead, they were skipping that process and advancing into the forest.
Their methods were not in line with my ambition of world peace.
There was no doubt something must be done about it.
“There were rumors that the Demon Lord of this generation hated the human race especially. We figured that if that was true, he would save the demi-human elves.”
The Acting Chief spoke as she peeked at my state.
I find it a bit surprising that such a rumor is circulating.
It is true that the Demon Lord’s army has only slaughtered humans until now.
We have not carried out any attacks against demi-humans.
It seems that the elves interpreted this positively.
“I am well aware that it is wrong for us to depend on you, the Demon Lord. But I beg of you, save us elves.”
The Acting Chief prostrated deeply before me.
A beat later, the other elves bowed as well.
They had been pushed to their limits.
That’s why they were asking for help from the Demon Lord who had destroyed a country.
They were trying to save their clan, even at the risk of being killed.
Standing in front of them, I told them emotionlessly.
“I refuse that offer. The Demon Lord’s army will not save the elven clan. I’ve only been attacking and destroying humans simply for the sake of convenience. I have no intention of showing favoritism to demi-humans.”
This was not a lie, but my true intentions.
Helping the elves would spread the impression that the current generation’s Demon Lord was on the side of the demi-humans.
As a result, there was a risk of war breaking out between humans and demi-humans.
The conflict would intensify between the two forces, and the world would be a far cry from my ideal.
If I was alive, I would have been the first to lend them a hand.
I would have done everything in my power to help them.
I’m sure she would have done the same.
However, the current me is the Demon Lord.
The Demon Lord must be an evil for all.
If he sided with one of the forces, his reason for existence would crumble.
I don’t want to be a Demon Lord who saves.
I wish to reign as a Demon Lord who kills, till the very end.
The acting chief looked up in despair.
An atmosphere of resignation drifted through the elves behind her as well.
Some of them even looked at me with resentment and hostility.
They didn’t expect to be rejected this bluntly.
I had expected such reactions, and I continued to speak.
‘”However, there is one way left for you guys to avoid being trampled down by the Empire.”
“W-What is that…!? We will do whatever it takes to keep our clan alive!”
The Acting Chief strung her words together eagerly.
She was not telling a lie just for the occasion.
She had the resolve.
She was prepared to lay down her life without hesitation for the sake of her clan.
She was quite the remarkable character.
If this is the kind of person you are, you can make a choice.
Having decided that, I turned to her and said.
“— Servitude. Accept the Demon Lord’s rule, and I will drive away the invading Empire.”