97: The king of hell


We traveled for three days.
We headed to our destination, the wetlands where the Hell King, who has one of the eggs, lives.

I received a warm welcome by the villages we passed through as the hero who helped them while wearing a mask.
I'm happy that I'm worshiped as a hero, but it's kind of embarrassing to be called "Masked hero".
I couldn't get rid of the feeling that maybe it was some kind of harassment by Dark.


We walked cautiously through the wetlands.
At first the water is shallow and then it becomes a quagmire of mud. It's overgrown with grass that is as tall as a person.
Since we started to sink into the mud as we advanced, I decided to use magic that let us walk on the water.
Thanks to that we were able to continue.

When we went deep into the wetlands, it began to smell like the unpleasant stench of rotten eggs.
Celica's beautiful face distorted and she spoke.
"This is, a poisonous swamp. It corrodes wood and iron alike. She should be careful not to touch it."
"Just the smell alone seems to be bad-- 'Wind Zone'"
I chanted magic and the party was engulfed in a stream of fresh wind.


As we moved further through the swamp, the signs of life vanished.
This place probably isn't approachable by people usually.
About the time the eerie feeling became the strongest, a castle appeared ahead.
There is a small hill in the swamp and the hill's slope turns into a cliff. There stood a castle that looked like it was halfway buried.
When I looked at it with "Clairvoyance", a tunnel was leading inside the cliff.

There were four gatekeepers in front of the castle. When taking a closer look, they have weapons and are wearing armor.
I looked ate them with "Truth Sight" while we were hiding in the thicket.

A human, two beastfolks and one demon.
I'll omit the status since they're all weak.
It seemed that the demon was the leader.

"*Hmm*". I was slightly troubled while I looked at the gatekeepers.
There's a possibility that the human and the beastfolks are forced to obey.
They might become believers if I'd just took down the boss.


Celica speaks while we're hidden in the grass.
"What should we do, Keika-sama?"
"They're weak and it'd be troublesome otherwise, so let's march into it from the front. Simply take out the demon without killing the human and the beastfolks-- no, maybe that's a little difficult. Please just make everyone faint."
It should be enough if I'd take out the demon.

"Yes, we'll do as you say."
Celica nodded and grasped the handle of her slender sword that hangs from her waist.
Minya holds her two knives without saying anything.
Lapisia, who is carrying the "Create Hammer", clutches her fist.
"Hold back punch!"
--Will she punch with her hand that's holding the hammer?


We slip out of the thicket and imposingly approach the castle.
The gatekeepers are making a commotion when they see us briskly walking on the wetlands.

"S-Something is coming!" "*hi!*, they're walking on the water!?" "I'll tell the lord!"
The demon went into the castle.
Only the human and the beastfolks remain. They are preparing their spears and sword while they are trembling.


I spoke while we dashed forward.
"They are a human and beastfolks! You only have to make them faint."
"Yes!
"Understood."


I rushed over to the human in an instant.
"Wh-Who are you!?"
"I'm the hero Keika."
"*Hii!* Hero! *Uwaa!*"
Just by telling my name, the human gatekeeper dropped his sword and is escaping into the castle.

The beastfolks though seem to be confident in their strength and take fighting postures.

First, Celica waves her red skirt and dashes to the deerfolk with horns.
She nimbly evades the lunged spear and releases a sharp thrust.
"*Ya!*"
The point of her sword inflicts a shallow injury to his arm.
Immediately the effect of the Frozen Rapier activates and ice springs forth from the cut.
"Wh-What?"
The beastfolk raised a surprised voice but his movements have already become stiff.

Celica used the time to circle around him and hit his back while letting her blond hair swiftly sway.
"*Gua!*"
A dull sound echoes and and the beastfolk crumbles down on the sport.


Minya's Miko clothes are fluttering as she dashes forward.
Her opponent is an elephantfolk who holds a mace. He's quite well built.
"A catfolk? ...How impudent!"
The mace emits wind pressure as it is swirled around.
Minya's white robe and black skirt are dancing as they flutter.

Then, the elephantfolk's posture collapsed when she warded the mace off with her kitchen knives.
Minya's left hand aims at his neck.
"Naive!"
While the elephantfolk is collapsed on the ground, he entangles the hand with his long nose.
"*Hm*"
She's lifted up.
However, Minya isn't done yet.
She pulls herself upwards with a circling movement on the caught arm and performs an agile jump.

She uses the momentum of the rotation to kick the back of the elephantfolk's head.
With a dull sound, the elephantfolk falls to his knees with upturned eyes.
She stretches her slender legs and nimbly lands.
"That's it!"


"Well done, everyone. Let's go while keeping the high spirits."
"Yes!"
We climb over the fainted gatekeepers and entered the castle.


A red carpet was laid out in the dimly lit entrance. Only some magical lamps were put up here and there.
Thick stone pillars supported the ceiling and and a wide staircase was in the back.
There were no signs of any enemies.

When we approached, a demon was coming down the stairs.
He was about half the size of a human and unseemly like a goblin.
However, he wore something like a butler's uniform with a bow tie.

When he arrived half way down the stairs, he bowed and looked at us.
"Thank you very much for your visit. I suppose you are the hero."
He has a courteous attitude. Although his voice is hoarse, it's quite shrill.


I speak while I stay alert.
"I heard that someone called the 'Hell King' lives here."
"He now goes by the title of 'Hell Lord'."
"Whatever. Where is he?"
"Yes. He's this way."
He pointed at a large door on the second floor in a courteous manner.

"You're remarkably honest, huh?"
"Yes. I was told that the lord would rather confront the hero himself then leave it to his subordinates."
"That's a wise decision."
"Yes. The lord is a very wise person-- well then, this way please."
The dressed demon started to walk ahead with unsteady steps.


We slowly followed him and climbed the stairs.
Celica got close to me and spoke in a low voice.
"Might this be a trap?"
"Relax. I'll notice it if there are any traps."
"As expected of you, Keika-sama. You're reliable."
Even though she says this, she holds onto my clothes. Maybe she's frightened.

There were demons and humans hiding in different rooms, but all of them were weak when I looked with "Truth Sight", so I walked without any concerns.

When we passed through a double door on the second floor, we walked along a corridor and arrived at another large door.
The demon knocked at the door, and with the eerie sound of *squeak*, the door opened.
The demon lowered his head next to the door.

I puffed up my chest and entered boldly.


The inside looked like a spacious throne room with a high ceiling. There's an elevation in front with a gorgeous throne. Nobody is sitting on it.
The whole hall was dimly lit.
Probably because the Hell Lord is a vampire.

There weren't any traps even when I looked at the floor or the ceiling.
There were only some people and demons who appeared to be guards in the direction of the pillars.

I couldn't see the Hell Lord.
His status was displayed though.

His status was like this.
--------------------
[Status]
Name: Desperado
Gender: Male
Race: Arch Vampire (Devil)
Job: Marquis
Class: Mage Lv96, Feudal Lord Lv70
Attributes: "True Demon" "Impure Land" "Frozen Wind"

Attack strength: 2500
Defense strength: 3000
Vitality: 6800
Mental strength: 2700

[Skills]
Energy Drain: Absorb Attack strength and Vitality from the opponent just by touching. When the opponent is already shedding blood, it can be absorbed from a distance.
Sonic Blade: Bring forth a blade of wind to chop enemies.
Metamorphose: Change into an animal. Abilities aren't affected.
Freezing Blizzard: Freeze a group for several seconds. Range attack.
Death Count: Counts to zero when proclaiming a death sentence and when it reaches zero it drains the blood and kills the opponent.
Lesser Servant: Turns those who got their blood sucked into vampires.
Evil Sabbath: Instantly kills all friends and foes alike and absorbs their energy. Large range magic.
--------------------
A vampire and moreover a devil.
He's pretty strong. You could take him for the Demon Lord at first glance.

The skills are quite troublesome. Not only the instant death and so on, but also the Energy Drain is dangerous.
I and Lapisia are fine, but Celica and Minya are in danger.
He doesn't seem to have the egg with him, so I should defeat him as soon as he told me where it is.


However, for some reason the Hell Lord was right overhead the throne.
At first I thought it might be some magic but apparently he stuck to a dark curtain and hid behind it. He covered his face like a bat with his mantle and hung from the ceiling.
--What does he do there?

We advanced cautiously.
For now I just told Celica about it in a whisper since it might be a trap.


Then, when we arrived before the throne, the lights in the hall suddenly went off.
Only the throne is illuminated by a spotlight.

--Then.
A voice could be heard throughout the room. The voice echoes.
"*Fuhahaha!* How brave of you to come here, Hero! I am the Hell Lord! It's my privilege to create this world's hell!"

*Pika!*
Lightning-like sparks shone on the elevation.
The lightning occurred two times, three times. Furthermore, white smoke comes from the sides of the elevation.

Then, together with the fourth lighting, the Hell Lord appeared in the air above the throne.
He floated in midair and spread his mantle while bathing in the spotlight. It's a black tailcoat. His expression shows his brutal canines. From the looks, he's a slim, middle-aged man of about 40 years.
"*Fuhaha*, tremble from terror! Cry and scream from fear! You can mourn about coming here! *Fuhahaha*...what's this, it seems rather badly received, huh?"


The Hell Lord frowned when he saw that we weren't surprised and simply stood there discouraged.
He looks disappointed when he sits down on the throne.

I spoke.
"That's quite the cliched entrance..."
"That's right. The theater troupe from the capital was flashier."
"I wasn't surprised because I knew that he was above."
While we gave harsh critics, only Lapisia's eyes were sparkling.
"It shone so bright, so cool!"
The Hell Lord opens his mouth wide and laughs.
"I see! You weren't frightened because I looked too cool! It was a blind spot, *fuhahahha!*"
He threw his head back and laughed loudly while sitting on the throne.
--What a positive way of thinking...


I spoke while scratching my head from amazement.
"Rather than that, you are the Hell Lord, right?"
"That's right! This me is the personification of the fear in the darkness, a true vampire!"
"Where is the egg that you got from the Demon Lord?"
"Egg? Ah, that. I have it, so what?"
"Hand it over"
"I can't do that. It'd be a problem if I'd betray the Demon Lord. You'll die here anyway, so it wouldn't matter even if you had it."

"Do you think so?"
I prepared myself to draw my Tachi.
The Hell Lord stands up and takes a daunting pose.
"*Kukuku*, I look forward how long you can keep up that bluff! I'll show you my hell!"
"Heh, that's just what I want! --Here I go!"

The moment when I wanted to rush over, the Hell Lord flew to a door in the back.
--Hm, why?
I took a look with "Clairvoyance" but there was just a passage.

The Hell Lord opened the door and turned around.
"What are you doing? Come quickly."
"Hm? Are we changing place?"
"You're going to take a look at my hell, right? Look around this hell that I created and then shake in fear! *Fuhahahaha*"
"Ah--, so that's what you mean?..."
Isn't he going to fight? Does he want us to see the people who are suffering in hell?


"What should we do?"
"It doesn't seem to be a trap...it might be advantageous to learn about the internal structure of the castle."
When Celica and I were looking at each other, the Hell Lord spoke with an irritated voice.
"What's wrong? The working hours will be over if you're not hurrying up!"
"Why does the hell have working hours?"
No way, it won't be something like a theme park-like hell, right?... Who knows..."
My head was thrown into confusion.

Celica frowns with her cute brows.
"It doesn't seem like we have any other choice but to follow him until we know where the egg is..."
"You're right. We can only find it if we're looking around. --Don't leave my side!"
"Yes!"
"Understood."
We climbed the elevation and headed to the door where the Hell Lord was waiting.