Chapter 2: Going to the Dark Elves’ Forest
Two weeks later—
Diablo’s carriage rode across the plains. Horn had stayed behind in the Royal Capital, having enlisted in the Sorcerer’s Academy, and subsequently left the party. Much had happened surrounding that, but that was a story for another time... For now, Diablo was traveling alongside Rem, Shera, Rose, and Sylvie.
As noon approached, they stopped for a break. They tied the carriage to a tree, and Rem and Sylvie unloaded their cooking tools from the tray, making swift preparations for lunch.
Today was skewered beef jerky and vegetable soup. The meat was hard, but as Diablo bit deep into it, a rustic flavor filled his mouth. The vegetable soup consisted of potatoes, onions, carrots, and the like, making Diablo long to add some curry powder into the thing. Cream stew would be nice too. Diablo didn’t usually care much for food, but found himself longing for his old world’s cooking every now and then.
—Once I handle the revived Demon Lord, I should look into picking up some cooking skills.
He’d mixed eggs with salt, vinegar, and olive oil to make mayonnaise in the inn one time; that was tasty. But, come to think of it, there was a lot of luck involved with that. The hen eggs sold in Japan were thoroughly checked to make sure they were hygienic and safe to eat. But an egg taken as is from a chicken was very likely to have salmonella bacteria on it. He didn’t know if that applied to this other world, but... That was the reason he’d heard one shouldn’t eat raw eggs from outside Japan.
If he were to cook like a modern Japanese person in a backward world like this one, where people weren’t even accustomed to washing their hands before meals, the result could end up claiming lives. They were still at the point where they dumped their kitchen waste in the back alleys for pigs to dispose of after all.
He recalled hearing about how a plague claimed half the population of Europe in the 14th century. This world was better off because the Church’s priests could use miracles to ?Purify? people, but... Come to think of it, if you used a Purifying miracle on moldy cheese, what would happen? It didn’t exist in this world, but would that make it into natto beans?
“What’s wrong, Diablo?” Shera peeked into Diablo’s field of vision.
After lying in bed for a long time, she’d regained her vigor and greeted him with a cheery expression, though she clung to him somewhat closer than usual.
“Mmm? Ah... I’ve a great many things to ponder.”
“Oooh, I see. Well, we’re almost to the forest.”
He was actually deep in thought regarding the intricacies of food, but he chose to keep that to himself.
“The Elves’ forest, huh?”
“We’re almost to Greenwood. Blackwood’s still a bit further away.”
“Yeah, we should be there in a day or two, I think?” Sylvie spread out a map. “The carriage should be able to take us all the way into the forest, right?”
“The Dark Elves use carriages too.” Shera nodded. “They live differently from the Elves.”
“Riiight. The Elves’ forest provides you with all the fruit you need, and you have plenty of game to hunt. And Blackwood’s full of poisonous plants and venomous snakes and bugs, I hear. I’ve never been there though.”
“...I hope this armlet you gave me will prove its worth here,” Rem said, running her fingers over the band clasped around her left wrist. A golden pattern in the shape of a snake was etched onto it. This ?Madara’s Armlet? prevented the ?Poison?, ?Stun?, and ?Confuse? status ailments. It wasn’t particularly powerful, but Rem could equip it even at her level.
“Must be nice...” Sylvie brought her fingers together. “Diablo gave you all this equipment I’ve never even heard of before.”
“...There are many others like this in Diablo’s Treasure Vault.”
“...It’s in the Demon Lord’s Domain and guarded by many powerful monsters, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to break in.”
“Ahaha... No matter what kind of treasure’s in there, it’s not worth making an enemy out of Diablo. But I’d be happy if you could lend me some when the time comes.”
True enough, if he were to give the equipment in his Treasure Vault to high level Adventurers, they’d become considerably stronger. He’d kept them all as part of a collection and never planned on using them after all. Giving those up was much more preferable than letting the races be destroyed. If they were going to fight the Demon Lord’s army, maybe letting others use them wasn’t a bad idea...
Rose, the Magimatic Maid, descended from the carriage, which creaked in protest as she did. She didn’t need food or sleep, and spent the whole trip sitting on a reinforced seat, like a ship’s figurehead.
“Rose does not approve of this. Rose was entrusted with guarding those items. They belong to Master, and only Master may use them. Normally, no one else would be allowed to lay hands on them... The fact that a few of them were even lent to Master’s subordinates alone torments Rose so deeply that Rose’s power circuits run the risk of overloading...”
Rem shrugged. “...I am Diablo’s companion, not his subordinate.”
“Companion? In which case, you are in no position to simply receive from Master, you must also return the favor.”
“...Ngh... I made the skewer Diablo is eating right now...”
“Hmph, so you are a mere kitchen maid.”
“...Wha!? Say that again, you overweight maid!”
Rose turned to Diablo, her face turning expressionless. “Master, Rose has confirmed a hostile presence. Requesting permission to deploy ?Asterismos?.”
“...Diablo, let’s leave this scrap maid behind. It should help the carriage move faster.”
Whenever it came to quarrels, Rem’s tongue became truly vicious.
Diablo merely sighed. “Don’t you ever tire of this? I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve been at it. Rem helped us acquire this carriage, as well as helps us in battle. Rose is also quite dependable. So long as you do not wish to leave, I do not...intend to push you away.”
“Diablo...” Rem’s anger dispersed, turning into an embarrassed smile.
“M-Master...called Rose ‘dependable’...” Rose, on the other hand, was shaking. “Rose will preserve this moment’s footage for posterity and perpetually replay it in Rose’s mind...”
It didn’t really feel like he’d said something that major...
“Diablo! Diablo! Diablo!” Shera latched onto him from the side. “What about me!? I’m useful, right!? You depend on me, right!?”
“Yes, yes, I do.”
“Uuu... Why is your voice so plain when you say that!?”
His pulse still quickened when she pressed her considerable breasts against him. He turned his gaze away from Shera, only to find Sylvie smiling wryly at him.
“Heheh... You’ve become a real leader, Diablo.”
“Leader? Save me your foolishness... I am a Demon Lord.”
“Then give them orders. Rose obeys you, and Rem has the ?Enslavement Collar? on.”
True, the steel collars shone dully around Rem and Shera’s necks. When they first met, he’d ordered them to stop fighting and make up. He didn’t know they’d be compelled to obey, but... He could do the same thing here.
“Cease your nonsense.” Diablo shook his head. “They aren’t apes; words are all I need to make myself clear. A Demon Lord only issues orders for more lofty causes than this.”
“Hmm, I see.” Her words implied she understood, but Sylvie’s eyes were still laughing.
“Then Rem and Rose should shake hands with a smile!” Shera proposed.
“How absurd. Rose will not subject Rose to this foolish action.”
Diablo nodded at Rem and Rose, who voiced their disapproval. “Isn’t this a chance to show you’ve realized my words?”
“That was a nice idea, Shera!” Sylvie clapped enthusiastically.
Rem and Rose exchanged glares.
“...Ugh... Very well... I’ll prove my fortitude is far greater than yours.”
Rem extended her right hand first.
“Rose interprets this as an order from Master,” Rose said, her face expressionless. “As such, Rose judges this as a fitting enough cause to lift Rose’s hand at a sixty degree angle.”
Regardless of their wills, Rem and Rose brought their hands together. Shera called out, “Smile! Smile!” and Sylvie, with her characteristically carefree smile, gave them a harsh assessment of, “Thirty points ?” Rem and Rose somehow managed to twist their expressions into smiles, their muscles making an almost audible creaking sound as they contorted against their wills.
Diablo lifted his hand, holding a skewer to shoulder height. “My meat’s going cold.”
Rem and Rose lowered their hands, looking more exhausted than the rest of this trip altogether had made them. Shera laughed aloud, seemingly amused.
“Shera, don’t you argue with Rose sometimes too?” Sylvie asked. “You don’t mind being called Diablo’s subordinate? You said you were companions earlier too.”
“Mmm? I don’t mind being his subordinate or his belonging. I mean, we’re companions so long as we travel like this. We’re all together, and we all have fun!”
“Ah, that’s a farsighted way of looking at it... Let me get you another serving of soup.”
Putting a close to their somewhat long-ish lunch, they set out again. The forest was now in sight.
The next day—
Diablo lay down on a bench behind the carriage’s canopy, resting his head on Rose’s soft lap. She was durable enough to withstand a blow from a Magical Beast, but she was still as soft as he’d expect from a girl. Since she was Magimatic, he didn’t feel any body heat from her, but there was another sort of pleasantness to that.
Rose looked down on him, a blush on her cheeks.
“How does it feel, Master?”
“Hmph... Not bad.”
The only complaint he had was that her breathing was turning disturbingly husky.
He left the reins of the carriage to his subordinates and rested his head on a maid’s lap—now that was a Demon Lord’s life!
But truthfully, he was a bit motion-sick. They’d been on a highway for most of the time since they left the capital, but now that they were on less paved roads, the carriage was shaking considerably. Feeling the carriage’s vibrations in his stomach for so long was beginning to make Diablo nauseated. But a Demon Lord didn’t get carsick, so he simply said, “I am going to sleep, so hold the reins,” and laid down.
Had Diablo been able to look at the forest, he’d be able to see Blackwood’s entrance, but holding back his nausea was the most he could manage right now. Incidentally, Shera was also asleep on the central bench, but, in her case, she had eaten too much for lunch and became sleepy.
Rem manned the driver’s seat, gripping the reins while Sylvie inspected a map by her side.
“It really does shake a lot once you get off the highway. Are you okay, Rem? Weren’t you bad with vehicles?”
“...I’m surprised you remember.”
“I see my Adventurers as part of my big family after all! And I remember what my family members like and dislike.”
“...I’ve noticed this on this trip, but...I don’t seem to feel as bad when I’m sitting at the driver’s seat. I don’t feel at all anxious.”
“Wow... Maybe it’s because you have a good view of the road...? Oh, we should be near the forest’s entrance. Can you see it?”
The carriage was heading west, running toward the setting sun. For the last three days, they’d seen nothing but plains, with thickets of black trees to their left. That was probably Blackwood, the Dark Elves’ territory.
“...Forget a path a carriage can take, there isn’t so much as a trail for us to walk on here.” Rem shook her head.
“Looks like it.”
“...Perhaps Shera’s information was unreliable? Maybe the Dark Elves’ territory is somewhere else entirely.”
“You know, I’ve never been to Blackwood either. I’ve been to the Kingdom of Greenwood though.”
“...For a quest?”
“In the name of curiosity and training, I guess. You need vast outlook to overcome the races’ limit... At least, that’s what my teacher used to say.”
“He’s passed away by now. He was already pretty old during the Fallen War.”
“...I see. Then judging by your words, I assume you’ve already surpassed the limit of the races?”
“Heheheh... I am the Guildmaster of Faltra’s Adventurer’s Guild after all. I don’t just lead a frontier city’s Adventurer’s Guild for nothing!”
“...Come to think of it, I’ve never asked: What’s your level, Sylvie?”
“Hmhm, that’s a secret ?”
“...That’s why I can’t trust you.”
“Weeell, jeepers... On the other hand, I think it’s about time you consider your own future, Rem. I’m expecting a whole lot out of you. You’re simply brimming with talent.”
“...You can keep your compliments. My talent doesn’t even reach Shera’s ankles. But...I suppose I’m still considerably good by the races’ standards.”
“Huh? You serious? Your clan was entrusted with guarding a Demon Lord, Rem. You should be the same rank as Shera!”
“...I’ll be fine without your cheering me up, thank you very much. I’m aware of my inferiority, envy, and fear, and use them to fuel my ambition. Though I am grateful for your consideration.”
“Naaah, that’s not what I meant.”
Sylvie chuckled bitterly, scratching the back of her rabbit ears. Rem’s thin tail wagged left and right, signaling she didn’t quite appreciate the conversation.
“...Isn’t there a river nearby?” Rem turned her attention to the map, changing topics.
“The closest thing on the map are the shoals we crossed yesterday.”
“...It’s going to be dark soon at this rate... Though my heart already feels gloomy enough as it is...”
“Well now, let’s stay bright, then! At least in our attitudes!”
“...You being pointlessly optimistic is only making me more anxious.”
“I think I see why you prefer traveling alone, Re—huh!?” Sylvie’s rabbit ears twitched.
“Master, Rose senses a living being approaching... A large one,” Rose spoke from the bench.
“...A monster!?” However good Rem was at detecting enemies, she didn’t hold a candle to the other two.
Diablo sat up. “By large, you mean it isn’t a Dark Elf. Right, Rose?”
“Rose senses several living beings, presumably of the races, and one large one... At its current velocity, we should encounter it in thirty seconds.”
Someone of the races was there too. Sylvie peered in the forest’s direction, Rem following her example.
“...Is something there?”
Something flew out of the forest with a whizzing sound, grazing the carriage’s canopy—an arrow.
“Whoa... That’s one way to welcome guests.” Sylvie laughed dryly.
“The large lifeform is approaching!” Rose alerted. “It’s...a magical beast!”
“Rem, turn right!” Sylvie called out. “Run!”
As soon as those words were spoken, Rem grabbed the right rein and pulled, turning the carriage away from the forest and toward the plains. The carriage’s right wheel floated up with the centrifugal force tilting the whole vehicle, making it teeter on the verge of falling over. Shera rolled off the bench with a surprised, “Buha!?” Diablo grabbed a rope dangling from the carriage’s side wall, which he’d grabbed onto when the shaking started earlier. The next moment—
The forest’s trees were launched into the air, as if something had kicked them away. Several of them rotated midair, showering the surroundings with leaves and detached roots. A large and wide creature—the size of a Huge-class dragon—burst out of the forest. The uprooted trees crashed down from above, several of them falling harmlessly on the ground, while others tumbled down toward the carriage.
Rem’s eyes widened. “...We’re going to get hit!”
“Dooodge!” Sylvie screamed.
A figure hopped out from behind the canopy, colliding with the falling trees as her skirt fluttered. It was Rose.
Two steel arms manifested out of thin air behind Rose, large enough to cradle her in their palms. They grabbed the falling trees like twigs and flicked them away.
“You did it!” Sylvie cheered. “You’re amazing, Rose!”
Rose landed, a flashy cloud of dust rising around her. They couldn’t leave it as is, so they turned the carriage to the right.
“Wha! What’s this what’s that what’s going onnnn???” Shera peeked out from the back of the canopy.
The monster that appeared from the forest had black, inflamed skin that seemed to be decaying. It looked like a wild boar and had two long tusks extending from its mouth. Two large horns grew from its head as well, which it aimed forward like a pair of spears. Thorn-like protrusions grew sporadically from the back of its head down to its tail.
Rem grimaced. “...I’ve never seen a boar so big or this decayed...”
“I usually like pork, but wouldn’t want to eat that...”
“I’m surprised you can even associate that with pork!” Sylvie’s face was unusually serious.
“Hmph...” Diablo came out of the canopy as well, observing the monster. “Its skin is a bit odd, but that’s a Black Behemoth.”
It was smaller than a Green Behemoth, but was still categorized as a Large-class magical beast, and was a tenacious, aggressive one at that.
“...That’s a Behemoth!?” Rem cried out in surprise. “According to the books, Behemoths are supposed to have thick fur! Why is its skin dripping like mud!?”
“She’s right!” Sylvie was surprised as well. “Maybe magic burned it all off? Or maybe it’s sick? Ah, but do magical beasts even get sick...?”
More arrows flew out from the forest, hitting the monster they suspected was a Black Behemoth. They stabbed into its inflamed skin, sending globs of dark red bodily fluids flying into the air. The enemy was too large however, and it was doubtful the arrows did any damage. It trampled the foliage on the ground, making the earth tremble.
“Aah, whoa!” Shera mumbled in a panic.
Rem grabbed the reins, maneuvering away from the trees rolling on the ground. “...Ugh... It seems someone is fighting this Black Behemoth.”
“Is that why it ran out of the forest? It doesn’t look like the battle’s going too well though.”
Its trajectory unchanged, the Black Behemoth rushed in the direction of those who fired at it.
A humanoid figure moved within the forest.
—So it’s the Dark Elves fighting it after all?
Rose jumped out to protect the carriage and was now several meters away, out of range of Diablo’s orders. Shera wasn’t holding her bow, and was instead merely looking out from inside the canopy. Rem was handling the carriage, and Sylvie specialized in support magic but likely didn’t have a means of defeating the Black Behemoth.
Diablo took out his staff, the ?Tonnerre Empereur?.
“Stop the carriage, Rem!”
There were roughly twenty meters between them and the target, but since he was up against a large monster, he didn’t need to worry about missing. There was someone of the races in the forest, but seeing as they were fighting with bows and arrows, they probably wouldn’t get caught up in his spells. That said, the forest was close, so he had to avoid using fire spells.
“I’ll cut you down with an invisible blade...” Diablo pointed his staff. “?Press Shredder?!”
The air condensed, transforming into a giant blade. The blade rammed into the monster, and what was originally a single blow was multiplied by seven due to the staff’s effect. It was an air elemental spell that could be used as early as level 110 featuring a blade of atmospheric pressure that slashed into the beast, cut into its flesh, gouged its entrails, and crushed its bones.
The Black Behemoth gave a rumbling roar.
“Hmph...” Diablo lowered his spell. “You may be a Large-class magical beast, but I suppose one that appears in the races’ territories is still pretty low level.”
Its head cut in half by the magical blade, the Black Behemoth stopped moving, dissolving into particles of light. Unlike other animals, magical beasts disappeared after they died. Its dark red bodily fluids, its flesh, its shattered tusks—it all turned to light and floated up to the heavens.
“Whew, amazing!” Sylvie clapped. “I knew I could count on you, Diablo. You’re strong!”
“Maybe I should let you handle the next one.”
“Oh, you know I use support magic. I specialize in cheering people on! Go, Diablo ? Go, go, Diablo ?”
Sylvie’s words felt awfully phony to Diablo.
“...Your magic is always so impressive,” Rem said in amazement.
“Of course it is.”
With a target that big and without a need to watch out for his surroundings, Diablo was free to use spells with amazing firepower.
Rose finally rushed back to the carriage. “Forgive Rose, Master. Master had to dirty Master’s hands...”
“Hmph... Taking care of a weakling like that doesn’t even register as effort to me.”
Someone began walking out of the forest. Diablo expected a Dark Elf, but...what walked over to them looked like a large animal costume. Its head was big, its arms stubby, and it was wide enough to be worn by someone. It was a bear wielding a long bow, but it couldn’t exactly be described as menacing.
—These are the Dark Elves!? This isn’t some other race, is it?
They weren’t exactly how Diablo had imagined them. He wasn’t sure if they understood his language, but they aimed their bows at him.
“Don’t move!” a muffled voice ordered Diablo and his group, sounding as if it had spoken to them from behind a wall.
It really was a costume...
The voice was high-pitched, so whoever was inside it was probably a boy. It seemed communication with these people was possible, but they didn’t seem particularly friendly...
Ten of them stood before the group.
“Wh-What’s going on?” Shera moaned in a terrified voice, hiding behind the canopy. “Why are they mad at us?”
“...Are those the Dark Elves?” Rem frowned. “Their clothes are quite strange. And their attitude is terrible, given we defeated that magical beast for them...”
Sylvie shrugged. “Looks like we really scared them.”
Rose’s right hand squeezed so tightly together it made a grinding sound, forming a clenched fist. “No matter who you may be, no one is allowed to direct their weapons at Master. Rose sees no reason to hold back.”
Realizing Rose would attack them if left unchecked, Diablo stepped forward, Tonnerre Empereur in hand.
The Dark Elves (?) in the costumes had seen his magic’s power, and stood in a state of alert. Maybe finishing off that large magical beast with one blow was a bit too flashy. He needed to make the Dark Elves understand that he and the others had no wish to fight, and only wanted to learn about the ritual magic. He wanted to keep it short since the situation was so tense!
Diablo projected self-confidence. His communication skills were so terrible in his former world that if there were a competition for who was the least capable of holding a conversation, he’d take the gold medal... But in this other world, he talked more often, and even had companions on his side.
—Looking at me now, maybe I’m actually a great communicator!
First, a smile. Maintaining a positive expression was key for friendly discourse. He felt like this time he’d be able to hold a conversation properly. But he mustn’t look down on them, for being condescending in the middle of negotiations would only put him at a disadvantage. And so, he opened his mouth to speak confidently.
“Fuhahahahaha! My name is Diablo! I’ve come here in search of the ritual magic passed down in these lands. I have no business with you! Lead me to the Dark Elves’ dwelling!”
The people in the costumes stirred nervously. Rem and Shera, who were both used to him, respectively sighed and smiled wryly. Rose’s expression said this was the obvious way these events would play out, and Sylvie cradled her head in exasperation.
Still, Sylvie didn’t step forward. If the costumed people were to begin shooting at them, their lives would be in danger.
“You there!” one of the costumed people who stood at the lead (in a grizzly bear costume) called out to them. “What was that...thing you did earlier!? You defeated the ?Lord of the Black Forest? with one blow...”
“Heh heh heh... It was simple air magic. Is it that unusual? I could show you more magic, if you wish. But should I use fire magic, this forest will burn to the ground.”
The costumed group all visibly trembled. Diablo wanted to say that if they were to guide him, he’d show them any magic they’d like, but fire magic was dangerous so they should avoid that... Maybe he worded it wrong?
—This is getting annoying...
With the war against the Demon Lord ahead, Diablo and the others were in a rush. If they didn’t hurry along with their preparations, they could lose and the races would fall. They didn’t have the leisure of time here.
Diablo said impatiently, “How long are you going to stand idly by? Hurry up and lead me to the Dark Elves. Do you want to be destroyed!?”
“Eep...!?” several of the costumed people cried out in feminine screams.
The grizzly-bear-suited figure in the front lowered their bow.
“U-Understood... We’ll take you the Dark Elves’ village. You just want to learn about the ritual magic, right? Can you promise you won’t hurt the villagers?”
“Hmph... Of course.”
Diablo smiled in relief seeing his negotiation was successful, then nodded.
—See? My communication skills are off the charts!
“Y-You’re going to trust this...this man!?” Another of the costumed people, one with a mohawk, stirred anxiously.
“We don’t have a choice...”
“We can’t bring someone so dangerous to the village!”
“He’s a Sorcerer strong enough to beat the Lord of the Black Forest with one spell, what hope do we have of beating him!? It’s better than letting the forest burn to the ground! Let’s leave the rest to the chief.”
“Damn it...” the mohawk person cursed bitterly.
It sounded like they were intimidated by his magic, but Diablo was satisfied nonetheless.
—I really think I managed to be friendly this time!
It turned out Shera was right and there really was a route wide enough for a carriage to drive through, but its entrance was hidden by foliage. The costumed people moved the plants aside, opening the path.
In Cross Reverie, the path was easier to find and even had markers pointing in the right direction. If he’d tried leading them down this path proudly while not knowing about this, wouldn’t he just embarrass himself? That image made Diablo sweat bullets inside.
“...Asking this now feels a bit odd, but you are Dark Elves, correct?” Rem asked the costumed people.
“Yes, we are,” the grizzly bear suit person answered, apparently serving as their representative. “No one else lives in this forest but us, unless you count the beasts and bugs.”
So these costumed people were Dark Elves after all. They used this road to come and go from the neighboring villages via carriages. They utilized Blackwood’s unique plants and herbs to make special medicine and elaborate arrows, and traded those with the villagers for crops and ironwear.
“Stay away from the black grass.” The grizzly bear person pointed at an herb on the side of the road. “They’re all venomous. You’re dressed lightly, and it can poison you through contact with your skin. The horses could also be affected.”
“...Huh? The black grass... Wait, so all of this?” Rem, who was holding the reins, asked nervously.
There was hardly any green grass in sight; the majority of it was black.
“Even the magical beasts begin rotting if they’re inflicted with this poison.”
“...So that’s what happened to the Black Behemoth...”
“Many of the forest’s beasts absorb this poison and use it as a natural weapon. If you ever find yourself fighting them, exercise caution. Even a scratch could be fatal.”
“...Thank you for the warning.”
They used bows and arrows to keep a distance from these venomous creatures, and wore such thick costumes to protect themselves from the poisonous plants.
They progressed through twisting roads for some two hours until they had reached the village. The road eventually parted into an open space where the trees were cleared away, and dwellings dotted the place without so much as a blade of black grass to be seen. The place didn’t seem very big, and one could circle the circumference within an hour. In terms of size, it was in the scope of a village.
In Cross Reverie, the Dark Elves would hide between the trees, and lived in dwellings that couldn’t really be called houses. Buildings and NPCs that didn’t contribute to any events weren’t included in the game, making this village completely different from what Diablo had known. Being in a completely unknown place was a bit frightening, but was also new and fresh. Diablo couldn’t help but feel a bit excited.
“This...is the Dark Elves’ territory, right?” Shera peeked out of the canopy.
“So it seems...”
Diablo didn’t know what lifestyle the Dark Elves led, but there were less than a hundred dwellings here. Assuming each dwelling housed six people, it put the village’s population at roughly 500.
“Isn’t it kinda small?”
“I wonder... If they have several villages like this one, they could form an independent territory... Or maybe because there are only this many of them, they’re treated as a different race from the Elves.”
“Ah, I see~”
Diablo and his group were only concerned about the ritual magic the Dark Elves knew, so the question of how many of them were out there wasn’t any of their business. Be that as it may, however, they couldn’t hold back their surprise at how the Dark Elves were living.
“It’s pretty different from what you told us.”
“Yeah, it’s totally different from the Kingdom of Greenwood. I’m pretty shocked.”
The Dark Elves used trees for pillars, planks for their houses, and leaves and branches as their roofs, living generally on the ground. Their lifestyle was similar to the way houses were built in the past in Japan. The only difference was that the entrances were left open, and there were no planks over the doors and windows. The most they did was hang cloths or furs which couldn’t have provided sufficient shelter from the wind and the rain. This probably went to show this forest wasn’t subject to many typhoons or other natural disasters.
The climate was warm all year long, which must have meant it was terribly hot in those costumes. It was very humid too, and Diablo rolled up the canopy to allow some wind into the carriage, catching sight of the backs of the dwellings.
“Huh?” His eyes widened.
Since the house they were headed toward was made of wood, the hearth was stationed outside, with cooking utensils and a well beside it. It appeared to be shared among several of the households, and several Dark Elven women were gathered around it who weren’t dressed in their costumes. They had dark, tanned skin, black curly hair, and dark purple eyes. Their long ears were evidence of their Elven origins, but their sensual figures gave them a different sort of impression. They stood around the well, chatting and scooping water up in buckets from the well.
That was all good and well, but the problem was their clothing. The water splashed about as they transferred it from the well’s bucket to their own, which was why you would usually wear an apron when drawing water...
But these Dark Elven women were all topless.
Their tunics were hung on nearby branches, their black hair tied up, and the only clothes on their bodies were their knee-length skirts. As for their breasts...the word “abundant” felt far too lacking to describe them. Just one of them looked to be as large as Diablo’s head.
No, they were mega boobs.
They were really. Big.
Diablo almost spoke without noticing, and just as he was about to, Shera cut into his words.
“Wow, that’s humongous.”
Diablo shifted his gaze in a hurry, not wanting to make it known he was interested in the Dark Elves’ breasts.
“O-Oh... Really? I was too occupied looking...at the forest...”
“I mean that! I’ve never seen one that big!”
Shera leaned forward. She may have lost to the Dark Elves in terms of size, but she still pushed up her plump swellings with her arms.
—Have I died and gone to heaven?
He had to hold back the urge to reach out.
“See! That house is built into the tree, but it’s so huge!”
“Yes, yes... Large, round... M-Mm? House?”
Diablo’s consciousness was reeled back from that luscious, pink world at the last second. That was dangerous; he was almost about to say something he couldn’t take back.
He turned his gaze in the direction Shera had pointed in. The carriage was headed toward a large structure, its summit larger than any other tree. It was hard to believe this was a building made out of planks. The castle and the Inner Sanctum in the capital were larger, but they were made out of bricks and stone. But the building standing in their way was, despite being made of wood, imposing in its own way.
“Hmph... I assume that is the Dark Elves’ castle.”
“It sure is big...” Shera was as easygoing as ever.
“...Soldiers are stationed at the windows...” Rem whispered. “They’re taking aim at us.”
“Well, it only makes sense they’d be suspicious. We’re outsiders after all.”
Sylvie seemed calm. This level-headedness of hers probably came from experience.
Diablo also seemed composed, but was nervous under the surface.
—You don’t really run into this kind of pressure in-game...
He had no prior knowledge of what was going to happen, and there were no admins that could place balance fixes into effect or retries in case he failed. If there were any plans in place to catch him unaware, would he be able to get away unscathed? This was another world, and, at the same time, reality, so there was no revising your strategy if you failed.
Diablo alone may be able to get himself out of trouble, but he was working with a party now. He had to exercise caution if he were to protect everyone. He’d probably have to rely on Rose, who was as proficient as a high-level warrior, to command the front lines.
He turned his gaze in her direction.
—Huh? What’s she doing...?
Rose had placed both her hands over her breasts, lifting them up softly. Since her outfit was open on both sides, they looked like they were about to spill from her clothes.
“Wh-What are you doing?”
“Master, by Rose’s evaluation, Rose’s mammaries are not small... Rather, their size ranks above the average value for the races, but...does this size not satisfy Master? Does Master prefer lumps of meat that sag in accordance to the laws of gravity, like those of these Dark Elves?”
“Bfwa! I-I-I have no idea what you’re talking about! There are traps lying in wait, so stay vigilant, fool!”
“Pardon Rose, Master...” Her response was as polite as ever, but she continued lifting up her breasts in an attempt to accentuate them.
Diablo tore his gaze away from Rose’s shivering breasts. In all seriousness, they had to stay vigilant. If the Dark Elves weren’t aiming bows in his direction, he would have had more time to look though!
“Damn you, Dark Elves...” He found himself mouthing his frustration.
His anger turned into magical energy, which rolled off him like palpable rage. Rem and Shera turned to face him with tense expressions.
“C-Come now, Diablo... Strangers just walked into their land, it’s only natural they’d be nervous, right?”
Maybe they just misunderstood how he felt? But he couldn’t explain what was actually going through his mind, so Diablo folded his arms haughtily.
“Look at that, Diablo, they’re huge!” Shera, who was as detached as ever, continued looking around.
“Yes, yes. It’s an impressive castle, given it’s made of wood.”
“Not that! These Dark Elf ladies have huge boobs!”
—You’re just now noticing that!?
“...What are you saying, Shera?” Rem said with an exasperated expression.
“I mean look at them! I’ve never seen boobs this big! Dark Elves are amazing!”
“...We’re risking life and limb here and that’s what you’re thinking about...!? How shameless!”
“I-I mean, yeah, buuut... But they really are!”
While Shera was frantically trying to make excuses, Diablo thought back on Rem’s words.
—Forgive my hormones, Rem!
While Diablo’s mind was being throttled to and fro by breasts, the carriage finally stopped before the castle.
Diablo and his group stepped off the carriage, looking up at the castle. Wooden boards were built on top of each other, forming the shape of a castle out of five dwellings stacked on top of one another. It was similar to a Japanese five-story pagoda, a tower made of wood. A thick branch extended outside from one of the openings in the planks that served as windows, leaves blooming on it in abundance.
“...Could this place have been built around a large tree and its branches?” Rem asked, knitting her brows.
“I get it!” Sylvie nodded, a convinced expression on her face. “It’s a natural support pillar!”
Shera voiced an impressed “wooow” while Diablo shared Rem’s impression.
—It’s like a castle made of papier-mâché...
He kind of wanted to take back that moment of being impressed earlier. Though, it wasn’t like they had come here to evaluate the Dark Elves’ castle, nor did they really care much about how they lived.
The grizzly bear person, who served as their guide, removed the head portion of their costume. A curtain of black hair overflowed, hiding the slender nape of their neck. They without a doubt had the head and face of a woman, but she had something of a virile atmosphere to her. Her skin was very tan and dark. Diablo couldn’t really ascertain an Elf’s age, but she looked to be about twenty-five in Human years.
“...So you were a woman.” Rem was seemingly surprised as well.
“Yes, there are some circumstances regarding that. All the Dark Elves in this village are women, with the exception of babies. Dark Elf men leave the village to work away from home.”
The others removed the heads of their costumes as well, and, sure enough, they were all women.
“...So there are no men here. I’m a female Adventurer myself so I don’t think this is reckless, but since you’re fighting magical beasts, I’d imagine you’d want to have the men around for a sturdy vanguard.”
“I won’t deny that. But the Lord of the Black Forest doesn’t approach our village often. It usually leaves us alone if we intimidate it but...its eyes were so bloodshot this time. What could have riled it up...?” Her expression seemed pensive for a moment, but her thoughts shifted back to her current duties. “Whatever the case may be, we’re grateful that you visitors defeated the Lord of the Black Forest. However, we do not welcome the other races. Especially the Elves.”
Feeling the Dark Elf’s glare on her, Shera hid behind Diablo. The fact that her appearance was unusual for an Elf on account of her breasts was one thing, but if they found out she was the Kingdom of Greenwood’s princess, things would become needlessly complicated. For this reason, she was currently wearing a robe.
“...You wear these furs to avoid the poison, yes?” Rem asked, trying to change the subject. “Is this place safe?”
“Ah, this!” The woman rubbed the costume’s belly. “We call this the ?Black Cloth?. Blackwood is rife with poisonous plants, so we wear these when we go hunting. But we can’t let people who cover their faces in the castle, so, for that reason, we are to remove them here. Though, there are no poisonous plants growing within the village.”
Diablo looked up at the castle. “So this is where the Dark Elves’ leader is.”
“Our chief is there.”
“Hmph... Introduce them to me. I’ll allow it.”
At Diablo’s words, the woman who wore the Mohawk costume spoke up angrily. It was a girl with short-cut hair and a sharp gaze in her eyes.
“How disrespectful, you fool!”
She looked to be about fifteen in Human years, roughly the same age as Shera and Rem. But even if she got angry at him, Diablo had to keep up his Demon Lord role play. He couldn’t change to some polite character at this point. The Demon Lord way was to answer coercion with even more overpowering coercion.
Diablo opened his mouth to retort, but Rem and Sylvie intervened in a flustered fashion. They’d probably realized what he was going to say.
“We’re sorry! Could you kindly take us to your chief!?”
“...Ahaha...Diablo is both from another race and a bit foreign to our culture. A tiny bit, yes?”
The girl didn’t seem in the mood to fight, so she stepped down easily. If she wasn’t going to stick to her bluff until the end, she may as well have not started this to begin with.
—Her personality’s kinda off...
The woman in the grizzly bear costume took off the bottom of her outfit. Diablo took two steps back despite himself.
She wore an undershirt that was similar to a tank top and a pair of extremely short low-rise pants.
“Phew... These are necessary to block off the poison, but it’s terribly hot in them.”
“...Aren’t your clothes a bit too thin?” Rem frowned.
“Haha! There are only women in this village. None of them will mind.”
“...Diablo’s a man, you know!?”
“But he’s from another race.” She really didn’t seem to care.
“...But he’s from the races! This isn’t exactly trivial!”
“You say one strange thing after another, guest. Your outfits aren’t much different from our own.”
Rem had equipped—or rather, was wearing—the ?Gemstone Gambeson?, an item she received from Diablo. It was a highly effective item, but was also a very revealing outfit.
And while no one seemed to care much because of her childish physique, Sylvie was wearing nothing but a bit of cloth, and Rose’s outfit was open at her back.
—The clothes-to-exposed-skin ratio is kinda skewed in this party!
The Dark Elves also didn’t seem to mind seeing each other naked. They didn’t have their tops on when they drew water after all. No, it didn’t just come down to that, some were even laughing boldly as they did.
Some of the women present seemed bothered by Diablo’s gaze, blushing profusely or turning their backs to him.
—Wait, why’s the mohawk bear girl doing that too!?
Watching the girl who glared daggers at him earlier shy away because she was effectively naked was a jarring feeling, to be sure.
“Uuu... Don’t look at me!”
The woman who wore the grizzly bear costume gestured for Diablo and his group to enter the castle. “This way, guests! Can we ask you to be friendly around the chief?”
Could the mohawk bear girl’s behavior be considered friendly though?
“Worry not.” Diablo returned a smile. “I was amicable enough, no? Were I an enemy, this forest would have been a sea of fl—”
Rem and Shera both cut him off with a loud, “Ah! Ah!” desperately trying to smooth things over.
—Huh? Are they trying to say things would go quicker if I just kept quiet? This is weird... Even if my communication skills weren’t as off the charts as I thought, I thought I made some impressive progress... No way... Am I still socially inept? There’s just no way!
All of the confidence Diablo had built up suddenly crashed against the rocks...
They entered the castle. It was dim and dark. The window was blocked by a tree branch, filling the building with the shadows of its leaves. Since the place was made of wood, there was no fire to light the place up.
“...The Elves have superior night vision, so they can see just fine in this darkness” Rem whispered in Diablo’s ear.
There was something like that in the game’s setting, come to think of it. In Cross Reverie, any information needed to progress the game was always visible to the player regardless of their race, so it didn’t matter. Since Elves and Dark Elves hunted in dim forests, they had night vision as a racial ability.
Their guide stopped in her place.
“This is the seat of our chief.”