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Chapter 029 – Negotiation[A]
There was a group of people running through the meadow with a single-minded purpose.
The group, which was composed of men and women of all ages, desperately headed to the nearby town with panicked expressions.
At first, the villagers thought it would be the end of them, as the demons that were going to overrun them were already around the corner, but they somehow managed to avoid disaster at the last minute.
All because of a certain woman who was living in the village.
And as they were about to arrive at the town, this woman suddenly appeared in front of them.
“Everyone, are you okay?”
As the black haired woman, Hunty Kalar, appeared, the villagers felt a little more relieved.
Her sword and clothes were stained red, making it easy for them to imagine that she had been fighting before she appeared in front of them.
That was probably what the villagers, who’d never experienced nor inflicted violence, had imagined. The villagers ran up toward her and spoke worriedly.
“Hunty-san, thank you. Are you injured?”
“We’re saved thanks to Hunty-san!”
As she heard such cries from the villagers, Hunty sighed and smiled in relief.
“I’m okay. Looking around, it seems that everyone is safe. I’m thankful for that.
Hunty, who’d fought against a unit of the Demon Army, flashed a smile at them to hide her troubles.
In fact, although Hunty was strong enough that demon soldiers wouldn’t be considered a threat to her, there were still 20,000 of them, which made it difficult for her to deal with them all. Besides just defeating them, she also needed to buy time. To achieve that, she needed to keep them at bay for as long as possible so that the villagers could gain some more distance.
As a result, she achieved what she wanted. The villagers were saved, but—she noticed that something felt off then.
“? What is it?”
The villagers were showing various expressions at Hunty’s question, such as looking down or closing their eyes. Hunty tilted her neck, perplexed. The expressions of joy and relief they initially had when she first appeared before them began to cloud over. There were even those who had regretful expressions.
As Hunty began to frown in suspicion, an old man walked forward from among the villagers. Of course, Hunty knew who he was. He was the head of the village. He was clearly fatigued, and it made him seem older than he actually was. It was inevitable really, considering their current situation.
The village head went to Hunty and bowed first before speaking.
“First, let me express our gratitude. —Thank you, Hunty. If not for your help, then all of us villagers would have been slain by the demons.”
“…You don’t need to thank me. I merely returned the favor after you all accepted me in your village.”
“Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t change the fact that you rescued us… We appreciate it.”
For Hunty, that village was the most memorable and important place barring her hometown. It was natural for Hunty to protect it. However, she couldn’t just reject their gratitude. Therefore, Hunty accepted it.
Then the village head raised his head and met Hunty’s gaze. For some reason, his expression was still dark.
“…While understanding all that, I wish for you to listen to my words and do not feel upset by it.”
“…? Don’t feel upset, you say—Don’t tell me.”
The words of the village head caused Hunty to go wide-eyed in apprehension. An unpleasant premonition and an incomprehensible feeling of panic filled her chest.
And those feelings were right on the mark.
“Two… two of my granddaughters—are still in the village. Perhaps they have been caught by the Demon Army by now…”
“…According to another villager, it seems she answered the call of her little sister, who had been in the forest behind the village.”
“Kuh—I’ll go and save them—“
“! Wait, Hunty!!”
The moment she heard that, Hunty immediately moved to leave—only to be stopped by the shout of the village head. The village head had a painful expression, as if he was desperately trying to suppress a deep sorrow.
“Hunty, we don’t know how strong you are… but it is too reckless to rescue the two who have been captured by the Demon Army. Perhaps they are already … No longer in this world. We couldn’t force you, our savior, to head to the land of death…”
The village head wrenched out such a decision with a quivering voice, even though it seemed like his heart was being crushed as he made it. Both of them were his granddaughters, and one of them was carrying a new life in her stomach. Perhaps all of that was already lost by now. As he thought that, he felt such pain that it was as if his body was being torn apart.
Then another person walked forward. The next villager who strode out from the group was a young man that Hunty knew well among the villagers.
He was the husband of the village head’s granddaughter, who was also Hunty’s friend. His steps seemed to be heavy.
Just like the village head, he had an expression of regret and despair.
“There’s no way they could still be fine… Honestly, I also wish to save them and want to believe they’re still alive. However, there’s no way that could happen. If they got attacked by demons… they might have already ended up in a state worse than death.”
Hunty silently listened to him. The young man must be in despair. Perhaps he’d wished to also stay with his wife. Although they were in a state where every second counted, that was not an excuse. He could only curse at his own helplessness and bad luck.
He likely hadn’t come to terms with it yet; although he didn’t explicitly tell her not to go to help, he also had no wish to force Hunty to run straight to her death. These regrets were crushing the young man.
However, despite knowing such things, Hunty replied to him.
The villager went wide eyed at her sudden apology. Then he heard the words that follow it.
“I’ll accept your concern. However … I’ll still go to help them.”
He was speechless when he saw Hunty’s determined expression. Perhaps it was because she figured that the possibility of their survival wasn’t zero. It was obviously better to save them if it was possible, regardless of how unlikely it was. The villagers lamented their powerlessness, even as Hunty chose to do it without hesitation.
“Don’t worry, I’ll definitely help them and return. Also—“
As Hunty was about to leave, her expression changed. It was a confident look meant to reassure the villagers.
“—Despite how I look, I’m quite strong, you know?”
After she said that, Hunty instantly disappeared from that spot.
The house that had been built some distance away from the village square was quite big.
It was the biggest house in the village. Perhaps it was the house of the village head, or some influential person in the village, Leonhart thought.
In the room was a large table surrounded by eight chairs. The kitchen was also filled with ingredients. Perhaps, they had been in the midst of preparing a meal prior to evacuating, considering that there were traces of prepped vegetables and meat.
As he took a closer look, he determined that the house had two floors, with a staircase placed near the entrance.
There were several other rooms, but perhaps they were private rooms which doubled as the previous residents’ bedroom. Considering the structure of the house, there had been at least four people who’d lived there.
This should be comfortable enough for him to stay in. Leonhart pulled a random chair and sat on it.
Then he turned his gaze toward the two people who were sitting on the floor with tables behind them.
The two people looked frightened at Leonhart’s gaze. The girl looked completely scared, but the older woman was still defiantly glaring at Leonhart.
Then Carol responded to Leonhart’s words. She stood beside the two women and asked Leonhart for his orders.
“Leonhart-sama, what should we do with two of them?”
“…I’m thinking about it right now.”
Leonhart pressed his hand on his forehead at Carol’s question. When the woman heard that, she put on a determined expression and spoke to Leonhart.
“…Would you like to negotiate for a bit?”
He let out a murmur as he was pulled from his thoughts by this unexpected proposition.
Perhaps the woman felt some pressure coming off from him as she briefly showed a frightened expression. However, she managed to shake it off and looked at Leonhart.
“I’ll be your slave. In exchange, please let my sister go.”
“That’s…! Don’t do that, Onee-chan!”
“Just shut your mouth for a bit. So… how about it?”
Even as she asked that, Leonhart didn’t reply. To be exact, his mind hasn’t caught up to the situation yet. What the hell is she saying? Does she not understand her current situation? were Leonhart’s confused thoughts.
And in midst of that, Carol was indignant and hit the woman with her bloodlust.
“Hey you! You’re being rude to Leonhart-sama just because we’ve been patient with you! Know your place!”
“I didn’t ask for a mook’s opinion.”
“A mo-mook you say?! You refer to me, the most perfect apostle of the demon realm as a mook?! …Y-you dare to say such a thing…!”
Carol pulled her gun out and pointed it at her as she heard that insult. When Leonhart saw that, he finally took a breath and spoke.
“Carol, stop it.”
“! Le-Leonhart-sama… but this human—“
“Did you forget about my goal?”
“! No, I didn’t forget about it!”
“Then you should know, right? …Sorry, but shut up for a bit. I’ll talk.”
Carol was indignant at the woman’s rude attitude, but she quickly holstered her gun and stood with a stiff pose as she was told off by Leonhart. She was quite loyal, but she was also prone to go wild because of that, so it was troublesome. He didn’t feel like fixing her attitude since he thought it was also good in its own way. He could just rebuke her every once in a while and she would fix it immediately. That was all he needed to do.
As Leonhart finished rebuking Carol, he turned his gaze toward the woman. Her gaze was still on him. He grew interested in such an attitude.
—Let’s try her for a bit.
Leonhart reached this decision and said.
“…You said negotiation. Carol also said it earlier, but are you aware of your current situation right now?”
“I’ll do anything you ask. I think I look quite decent, if I do say so myself.”
“That’s not what I mean. You are not in a position to ask for a negotiation. I’m in control and can decide if I want you dead or alive. I can do whatever I want.”
“…A child won’t be good enough as a slave anyway.”
Leonhart snorted as he heard her words. She sure was quite pure. So much so that he felt a little envious of it.
“You’re ridiculously naïve. I’m telling you that demons not only make humans into slaves for their enjoyment. They also like to make them suffer without rhyme or reason. Demons also enjoy killing humans.”
“…gh, what’s with that… that’s the worst…!”
“…Yes, I agree with that. So let’s return to our topic.”
She couldn’t control her harsh words as she imagined what he described. Leonhart continued to speak to the human in front of him, although his emotions were a little agitated.
“You’re not really in a position where you can negotiate, but let’s do it since you brought it up. What can you give me?”
“That’s… I will—“
“I told you first that I hold ownership of you two right now. Even if I turn you two into slaves, that isn’t something that you can offer to me.”
“Isn’t that ridiculous?!”
“—And that ridiculous situation is your reality right now.”
Leonhart said those words with a crushing gaze. It was amazing enough that she could talk without any reservations to a majin, but it would be hard for her to do so in this state. He understood from experience that a majin could simply force other creatures to understand the difference in their ranks as living beings. Their instinct would generate fear against the majin and produce words like run away, obey them, beg for your life, inside their mind. The people without combat experience had no choice but to submit.
Leonhart mentally sighed. I guess that’s her limit.
She was quite courageous already to be able to talk to majin on equal footing. Therefore, he released them from his pressure by reducing it. At that moment,
“—! You… don’t underestimate humans!!”
The woman suddenly stood up and the top of her head hit Carol’s chin, causing the latter to cry out in pain.
Did her rope unravel? But how? Leonhart pondered on this, but then he quickly understood as he saw the object that was pressed against Carol’s neck.
It was a small knife. That was the object that was currently pressed against Carol’s neck. He could guess that the woman had hid it on her person but it was quite something that she’d managed to keep it hidden. Perhaps the demon captain had underestimated the woman and let his guard down, or he was blinded by his achievement of finding them. Perhaps it was both of those factors.
Leonhart calmly watched as these events unfolded, and the woman spoke as if she had really taken Carol as her hostage.
“You let your guard down. This apostle, I guess? Must be an important subordinate to a majin, right?”
“I bhitt ma thong…”
Leonhart was dumbfounded by Carol, who was more worried about the tongue she bit than the knife at her neck. She was being too carefree in this situation.
However, to the woman, it must’ve felt like she was at a crossroads between life or death. She spoke out with a determined tone.
“With this, our situations have reversed. If you don’t want her to be hurt, let us go. Then I’ll release her.”
It was quite gentle for a threat. To be honest, they were in a situation where they needed to declare that she would kill her, even if it was a lie.
Leonhart sighed at that, and he shrugged.
“…Carol, get back here.”
At Leonhart’s command, Carol responded like that since her tongue was still hurt.
As she grabbed the woman’s arm that was holding the knife, she quickly moved behind her and grappled her arm.
It was an obvious thing. There was no way a common human woman could suppress Carol, who was an apostle. Apostles possessed top class power among the demons with exception of the majin and the maou. Although it hasn’t been long since Carol became an apostle, her physical ability surpassed demon generals. There was no way this woman, who had been easily captured by the demon captain, could resist Carol’s power. It was understandable for her to have such a misconception though since Carol’s appearance was similar to a human’s.
“Our situations have reversed, you say?”
“Kuh… this…! What monstrous power…!”
“Fufhun! Heherse ma hsitutiaon!”
“…Carol, your tongue should be healed by now so talk normally.”
“Eh? Ah! You’re right!”
He could only sigh as he watched his apostle who felt no tension at the situation at all. He needed to continue with the discussion before Carol’s head became even worse. Leonhart finally decided what to do with them and spoke up.
“…It’s about time. I will tell you both what I’ve decided.”
“! Do-don’t touch my little sister!”
His words caused the sisters to tremble. She was probably remembering what she just did. She must be scared about what he might do to her. He had no such intention though.
As Leonhard glared at the two… he remembered something he needed to confirm beforehand.
“—But before that, I want to ask… can you cook?”
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