Nevertheless, I absolutely refuse to back down. Just bear with the shame; there’s light at the end of this tunnel!
“S-So… What do you demand as compensation for saving our village?”
“I demand nothing of the sort. If anything, I must strongly insist that you spread the word of my virtuous deed. Let the people know that I’ve protected this village from bandits.”
That alone should be enough to make people see the High King in a new light. But I have to be careful. Extra careful.
“I’ll be leading you in a cheer, of sorts. I want you to simply repeat what I tell you.”
I raise both my hands in a flash.
“The High King is one swell guy! Go on now!”
“Go on now!”
“The… The High King is one swell guy!”
Although completely dumbfounded, the villagers go through with my request and repeat my words. In retrospective, I can’t help but wonder how much the term ‘guy’ would even apply to an inhuman High King, but oh well.
Alright, one more!
“The High King is this world’s savior! Go on now!”
“T-The High King is this world’s savior!”
Alright, alright. I think I might’ve gotten ahead of myself, just a little. Any deeper down this hole and this might just turn into a sermon, so let’s just hold ourselves back for now.
“Now then… I’ll be taking my leave.”
“P-Please! Wait just a moment! Are you absolutely certain you have nothing else to ask?!”
The village chief calls out to me just before I make my departure, stopping me in my tracks.
“Do you need riches, or perhaps rations?! If there’s anything you desire, we can bring it to you at a moment’s notice!”
“No need. As I said, simply spreading the word of my deeds will be more than lucrative enough for me.”
“B-But… That’s hardly enough for us to treat it as a fair trade…!”
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It really doesn’t matter what they have to say. If there’s something I need, my Creation spell should be enough to take care of it most of the time. But I do have to assume that the idea of a supreme ruler that doesn’t demand any sort of payment might seem just a mite off-putting to some. It really doesn’t matter much now; I should just pick something at random and go with it.
While my mind’s in the middle of processing its concerns, my eyes rest on a single girl. She looks to be about sixteen years of age. Her breasts are neither too large nor too small, and her hair’s tied up into a neat ponytail. Her clothes are just a little on the dirty side, but her face is really cute.
If I’m going to be honest, she’s exactly my type.
That’s when a thought came to mind. Even my creation magic isn’t enough to form life, so…
I point at the girl.
“If you keep insisting on offering me something, then hand over that girl. Entrust her to me.”
Nah, just kidding. There’s no way I can say that with even the tiniest hint of seriousness. I mean, taking a girl by force and taking her home with me would really have a negative effect on my image. The exact opposite of what I want. Well, the villagers should get it by now.
“Heh, an impossible request, it seems. Then the only thing I may ask of this village is –”
“Go ahead, go right ahead!”
“If you find her to your liking, please go ahead and take her!”
“If she’s to your satisfaction, we’re more than happy to hand her over!”
“No, wait… I was just joking…”
“Hey, what’re you doing?! Come on over here!”
With the villagers pushing at her back, the young girl comes to stand in front of me.
Woah, woah, aren’t these people just a little too trigger-happy?! What’re they thinking, offering up a girl this cute without even taking a second to think it over?!
The girl stares at me, not saying a word. She… she’s so damn cute…!
“Very well then, I will take this girl with me.”
I speak before I can think. The villagers give a collective sigh of relief. I didn’t think things would go this far…
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Soon after that, I leave the village with the girl at my side, the villagers seeing me off.
I accidentally let out a deep sigh. Not good, I’ve gone and done it now…
If the rumors about a supreme ruler taking a girl away from her village and buggering off go around, then I can pretty much forget about any of my plans to up my image. And there’s no way in Hell I can take a poor human girl to a castle infested by countless demons serving under the High King. It’s not too hard to imagine what Anri would do if she found her, considering her unabashed hatred of humans in general…
The girl doesn’t say a word and continues to follow behind me. This girl has her own set of problems, too. Why didn’t she even put up a struggle when the others offered her up to me? If she had even given the slightest impression of being against the whole idea, there’s a good chance the villagers would’ve just let her stay.
Once the villagers are out of our sights, I stop walking. No, this really doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t even matter how much it would affect my reputation; treating a girl as an object and taking her away is just plain immoral. So, I turn around to the girl.
“You there. Tell me your name.”
“… It’s Rina.”
The girl responds with a voice as low as the buzzing of a mosquito.
“Rina. You will return to that village.”
Rina’s eyes go round as she looks at me.
“What I said about taking you along with me was supposed to be nothing more than a simple joke, but it seems that we were unfortunate enough for the villagers to take that just a little too much to heart. That’s why you’re allowed to return home.”
“If you’re concerned about repaying me, then pay it no mind. There really isn’t anything I want. There’s no more harm that can befall that village either, so be at ease.”
The girl, still silent, bends down. How strange. We should be around the point where she’s in tears of joy, telling me how thankful she is. Is she seriously considering the idea of being taken by the High King, of all people?
“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to return to your village?”
Well, I can’t say I expected that answer.
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“Don’t you have any family back there? Parents? Siblings?”
“…None of those. I’m a slave in that village.”
The impact of my shock leaves me at a loss for words, if only for a split second.
“… My parents sold me when I was four years old. I ended up in that village. I’ve been serving one of its households for over ten years.”
She was that young when she started?!
“Well… being a slave for that long must mean that you’ve been through some terrible things.”
“That household only ever had women, so I can’t say I suffered too much. In regards to my chastity, that is.”
Rina exposes a small portion of her shoulder. On it, I can see the vivid remnants of a scar as I unwittingly pull my head forward. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this isn’t the only scar on her body.
But this does explain the villagers’ willingness to let go of her so quickly. To them, she’s nothing more than a slave, and therefore they really don’t have any grand reason not to give her up. Them aside, this much is clear as day to me: slave or not, this is still just a young girl.
“Good grief, it looks like I just saved a bunch of rotten souls…”
Well, after hearing that story, I really can’t tell her to go back anymore.
“Regardless, I am a High King who reigns over a myriad of demons. Don’t you think you may meet a fate even worse than whatever that household had to offer?”
“… That may be so. But I’m still a slave. I have no choice in the matter.”
The tone hiding behind Rina’s words reminds me of a piece of machinery.
“For me, it just means that my Master’s changed. Nothing more. I’ve also prepared myself for the time when a man might come to own me. If you take no issue with my body, then please do whatever you wish to.”
That’s when it finally sinks in. This girl’s heart is totally shattered, lying around in bits and pieces. I can’t even bring myself to imagine just how harsh the environment around this girl must have been up until now.
“… Pardon me, Rina. There’s something I need to take care of.”
I raise my right hand in the direction of the village. I can feel an emotion close to pure rage welling up inside of me. It’s not just that household that’s at fault here. The entire village shares the blame for being so quick to hand a young girl like her over to a High King.
In an instant, the entire earth beneath us begins to shake.
“I-It’s an Earthquake!”
Screams and shrieks resound throughout the place, and I can hear the clear sound of countless buildings collapsing into ruin. This earthquake would probably register at around six or seven on the Richter scale.
Compared to all the things this girl had to go through, that amount of damage is still nothing more than the smallest of cuts.