Let’s have some tea and cookies while chatting about the war…
The Second Informal Conference ①
Author’s note: The pope’s point of view.
My hopes were undermined right from the very start. Grandly so.
To the person who casually greeted me with a hand raised, I could only bow my head. I cannot allow my current expression to be seen. Even if it means that my subordinates see me bowing my head to the leader of the demons. Surely that is somewhat preferable to me showing them the expression of terror that appeared on my face, even if fleetingly.
「It has been a long time. Or maybe, how do you do, would be better perhaps.」
I smoothed over my expression, and gave that greeting in return after raising my head. The monster in the form of a girl in front of me, displayed an identical smile to the one she started with. Did she notice my terror perhaps, or maybe she noticed but is pretending not to perhaps? I fear it is the latter.
「It’s the same either way, right? For now, let’s get cracking.」
Compared to my recollection of her she is considerably more carefree, leaving me feeling lost. Beneath the smile pasted onto her face in the past, an unconcealable rage was burning. But, what I can feel from this person now, is a rather mellow emotion. Even still, that’s only on the surface, and in her innermost heart she should still be boiling with hatred towards this world. After having lived for so long, it is probably a trivial matter for her speech and behaviour to have changed. At any rate, unlike myself, this person has been continuously alive without dying since before the System was put into operation after all – the oldest Divine Beast.
The oldest Divine Beast, the origin of spiders, Ariel-sama. Having lived since the time before the System was put into operation, the strongest existence within this world with the exception of the Administrators. After she had taken no major actions for a long time, I had never expected her to become the Demon King of all things.
I feel such a fool. If I had only thought about it briefly I should have seen that this person has a connection to Shiro-sama, the Nightmare of the Labyrinth. Until this instant I had completely failed to perceive this.
Perhaps that is because I had perceived there to be hostility between the Nightmare of the Labyrinth and Ariel-sama. The last actions taken by Ariel-sama, that we have been able to verify, was an attack on a nest built by the Nightmare of the Labyrinth near the main town of the Keren territory in the country of Sariera. Thence, we can only presume that for some reason she was hostile towards the Nightmare of the Labyrinth who should have been a relative as a spider monster, but that is the last actions taken by Ariel-sama that we know of. After that, being unaware of any actions taken by Ariel-sama, we were under the impression that she had once again left the historical stage. I can only curse my own foolishness. The time when Ariel-sama had hidden herself, and the time when the Nightmare of the Labyrinth vanished are not quite the same, but they are close. During that time, it would not be strange for the two of them to have reconciled their hostility.
Thinking about it there are many points that are consistent with this. The relationship between the Nightmare of the Labyrinth and Ariel-sama. The new Demon King who completely reversed the previous generation’s policy and pressed for military expansion. And most of all, the existence of someone significant enough for Black Dragon-sama to warn that she was “merciless”. Line up all the points, and they become a line. It’s as if what I couldn’t see, suddenly came into view.
「Yahoo? How about coming back to the present?」
Ariel-sama claps her hands together while calling out to me. In real time the time I spent thinking should have been short, but it is likely that Ariel-sama realised that I had gotten lost in deep thought.
「Excuse me. This bad habit of mine is something I have not been able to cure no matter how many times I reincarnate.」
「I’d say that over-thinking things is bad. Why not empty your head a bit and take it easy?」
「I wish I could do such a thing.」
I sit down facing Ariel-sama who is resting her chin on one hand on the desk. While there were some who frowned at Ariel-sama’s rudeness, nobody said anything, probably due to the effect of me bowing my head at the start. At the previous conference with Shiro-sama, I am sure that the others also understood just who was in the superior position. That Shiro-sama takes a seat besides Ariel-sama. By yielding the central seat to Ariel-sama, she probably intends for Ariel-sama to be the focus of the conference this time around.
「Then, let’s get going. Though saying that, I haven’t heard what’s going to be discussed today. Is it really the case that there’s mutual agreement on the main point of jointly bringing down the elves?」
Ariel-sama asks that while alternatively looking between Shiro-sama and myself. When Shiro-sama silently nods in assent, I followed that in assenting.
「That is indeed the case. To bring down the elves is one of my dearest wishes. If it is for making it possible to achieve that, then I am glad to cooperate.」
To be able to bring down the elves, or rather, their ringleader Potimas, could be said to be for the sake of the world as well. If it is for the sake of being able to kill him, then joining hands with the demons who should be our proper enemies is no hardship at all.
「Good, good. Then, let’s go with that in regards to the elves. To put it bluntly, our preparations aren’t ready yet anyway. We’ll mobilise as soon as the situation allows, pretty much I guess. Is that okay?」
Even if we were told to immediately take action we wouldn’t be able to move that quickly. Ariel-sama’s proposal is a godsend.
「Okay, next. So, this time the demons will be waging a large scale war, but how does the Divine Word Religion intend to act with regards to that?」
While disclosing the future actions of the demons as if lightly gossiping, Ariel-sama asks about our actions.
「I regret to say this, but that is beyond the scope of our agreement. We have no reason to disclose that.」
It must be remembered that our cooperation is only in regards to bringing down the elves. How the demons intend to attack is beyond the scope of that. As such, I cannot just simply hand over our information. I am sure that they understand that as well. At any rate, that should be why Shiro-sama had previously informed us about the future movements of the demons at least. In doing so, perhaps by causing the human side to also prepare for war, I can see her scheme to increase the number of casualties on both sides. In that case, she should also want the humans to seriously desire for war. Even if we refuse to disclose information, that also has the effect of declaring the intent of the Divine Word Religion to face this battle with all our might, which should be in accordance with Ariel-sama and co. It would not lead to the agreement being broken.
As I expected, Ariel-sama readily nods in agreement without any indication that her mood was harmed.
「Hrm. Well, yeah, I guess we wouldn’t be able to disclose such information either. I’ll tell you this just in case though – that neither Shiro-chan or I are intending to personally get involved in the battles, so don’t worry. We’ll only push the course of action down the route of demons and humans killing each other. If you lot are saying you want to preserve your war potential as much as possible then we won’t force you to participate. Though that does mean that the damage to the humans will likely be greater.」
While saying that she wouldn’t disclose information, Ariel-sama tells us something valuable. That Ariel-sama and Shiro-sama won’t participate directly is significant information. If those two participated in the war, the humans would inevitably be crushed. However, so long as that’s not the case, the war is worthwhile.
「Ahh, excuse me a minute? For that war, I intend to participate on the demon side, so best regards in future.」
However, as if to dash my hopes, Wrath-dono makes that statement.
With regards to Ariel being called “merciless” by Kuro, see the chapter translated by turb0 called “The Pope and the Administrator”.