(14th day of the month of Lune, Firesday)
A timid knock sounded from my door as I was making my bed. Echo had run off to somewhere before I woke up, but I knew it couldn’t be her because she wouldn’t have knocked.
“Come in,” I called out over my shoulder. I was still in my nightclothes, but in all honesty they looked so nice that I felt like they could pass off as normal clothes anyway. And I doubted that someone as prim and proper as the Black Raven would have knocked on my door without announcing himself first.
The door opened to reveal the girl who had ridden the carriage to the castle with me yesterday. She was in maid clothes today and…she still looked just as scared as she had the other day.
“Good morning,” I said to her as she stood frozen at the door.
“O-oh! G-good morning, Your Majesty,” she replied with a stiff curtsy after coming back to her senses. “I hope you had a —ahh!”
“Your Majesty, what are you doing?!” the girl suddenly cried out in a panic.
“…What do you mean what am I doing…?” I asked, trying not to panic myself.
“Ahh! I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!”
I felt a headache building up. “Calm down first, okay?” I told her. “Is there something wrong?”
“I was assigned as your personal maid, Your Majesty!” she said on the verge of tears. “I should have been the one to make your bed this morning, but I didn’t know what time you usually woke up, and I was late, and then I yelled at you, and gods please have mercy please forgive me I won’t do it again please don’t kill me!”
She really did start crying on me.
“I’m not planning on killing anybody, so, um, can you please stop crying?” I gently tried to guide the sobbing girl to my desk so that she could have a seat, but she stiffened up again as soon as I got close to her so I quickly gave up on the notion. Instead, I went to the pitcher on top of the bed stand next to my bed and poured her a glass of water. I left it on the desk next to her.
It took a few minutes before she calmed down. I was afraid that I’d just agitate her even further if I did any more chores, so I simply sat down on my bed and waited. It was awkward.
“I’m sorry hic for being a mess, Your Majesty.”
“It’s quite all right,” I said, getting her another glass of water. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Lailah, Your Majesty.”
“Well then, Lailah, can you please help me find something appropriate to wear? The Black Raven asked me to hold an audience in the throne room today, but I’m not familiar with any of the clothes in the closet and I have no idea what I’m supposed to wear.”
Lailah’s eyes began to sparkle as I spoke, so I assumed that I was on the right track with her. I’d figured that she would feel better if she knew that she was doing her job, and I guess I was right on the money.
“Of course! Please leave it to me! Right this way, Your Majesty,” Lailah said as she ushered me into the walk-in closet. She began rummaging through the impressive number of clothing in the closet at once.
All of the clothing was predominantly black. No surprise there.
I resigned myself to the fact that black was just the Demon’s King’s color. I mean, it is associated with the God of Darkness I suppose.
“Let’s see… How about something like this, Your Majesty? I think it would compliment your figure quite nicely,” said Lailah as she pulled out a rather…unique dress.
“Um, i-is there something that’s a little less revealing?” I goggled at the ridiculously low cut on the dress Lailah was holding out. It was a fairly nice design, if I must be honest, with a charming array of designs around the waist, but the cut in front was low enough that it would likely reach my navel! Not only that, but it also had a long slit along one side of the dress that probably could have reached up to my butt. The sister inside me was crying at the mere sight of the scandalous piece of cloth.
“Then how about this one? It’s a bit on the plainer side, but the fabric was imported from overseas.”
“Let’s go with this one.”
Lailah had said that the dress was on the “plainer side”, but it was still pretty elaborate from my point of view. But, at the very least, it covered everything that was supposed to be covered. And I had to admit that it was aesthetically pleasing.
Lailah helped me change into the dress. It felt a little strange to have someone help me with something as simple as getting myself clothed, but I let Lailah do it because she suddenly looked like she was in a great mood. Perhaps she had found herself a new dress-up doll in me?
I was escorted to the throne room when we were done. A dark knight —likely one of the Black Raven’s subordinates— was waiting for me on the other side of the door. The knight bowed and held the doors open for me when we arrived. Lailah curtsied and remained outside after Echo and I passed through although she had been following close behind me all the way here. I guess she wasn’t coming inside.
The Black Raven and a number of other knights were standing in salute on either side of the rich carpet that led from the entrance to the throne. I walked through the path between them as Echo urged me on and stopped to look over at the Black Raven, who was standing closest to the throne.
“How long were you standing here?” I asked him.
“We are always prepared to wait on Your Majesty,” he answered after a low bow. “It is our greatest pleasure to serve you.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“One of my men notified me when the maid entered your chambers.”
The Black Raven didn’t bat an eyelid as I stared at him.
“That…was a while ago,” I said. I was almost appalled. I would have been, but I think I was starting to get used to the Black Raven’s behavior.
I don’t know if I should be happy about that.
“We are always prepared to wait on Your Majesty,” he repeated with another short bow.
I simply stared at him. He kept his head lowered as I did, but I could tell that he grew a little nervous with each passing moment. I still had to give him full points for the acting though, because you would have never known just by looking at him.
“In the future, you can just set up a time to meet up with me in advance like normal. I don’t mind. Actually, that would make it easier for me too,” I said, suppressing a sigh. While the last part was most definitely true, I also felt like I had to put it in there or else he wouldn’t take it seriously.
“I am most grateful for Your Majesty’s kindness and consideration,” the Black Raven said with yet another low bow. This time, the rest of the knights bowed down with him. I balked.
Lo and behold the Demon King—getting thanked for doing something completely normal that literally everyone else would do in this kind of situation!
We stood there in awkward silence for a while before Echo playfully reminded me that I was supposed to go and sit on the throne. The throne, like everything else in this castle, was very nice. It was both elegant and yet somehow also chic, and there was a cushion at the seat to ensure that it was comfortable.
Or, at least, it would have been comfortable if I didn’t feel like a damn idiot sitting on it.
I looked down at the Black Raven and his men, who were kneeling, from the elevated seat of the throne. My left hand naturally gravitated toward a large blue gemstone that was engraved on the throne’s armrest. It was a lovely half-sphere with a six-pronged star shining on its surface. What was it called? An asterism, I believe? Its surface was cool and smooth and genuinely nice to touch.
Stroking the gemstone helped alleviate the growing aggravation I was feeling toward the knights. Whoever put the stone on the throne had great sense.
“You can start now,” Echo said, now sounding a little bored. “Any more kneeling and none of us will get anything done this morning. This child doesn’t like wasting time, and neither do I.”
Oh. Is that why they were just kneeling there?
“You waste time all the time, Echo,” I said with a small glare to the little girl floating to my right.
“Aww, I don’t consider spending time with you a waste at all, Elie!”
I sighed as I saw the Black Raven stand up. His every movement was fluid and practiced. And by that, I really did mean to say that I was impressed…by how much he had probably practiced it beforehand.
Arlen, too, had practiced for literal days before he kneeled prettily enough to do it in public. He made it look easy, but I knew better. Even recently, he’d get in a bit of practice beforehand whenever he had to make an appearance before royalty. And all that work just to maintain the image of being the perfect Paladin.
“Thank you for sparing us time for an audience with you this morning, Your Majesty.”
I threw another glare at him and rubbed the blue stone again. “I get it, so can we just get to the point please?”
“But of course,” the Black Raven replied without missing beat. “I was hoping Your Majesty could enlighten us on what your plans for there future are. We Ravens of the Demon King will strive to do our best to make your every desire a reality.”
Wow, that’s a bit much.
“That’s a little too broad. Can you be more specific?”
“For instance, will Your Majesty be gathering an army?”
“An army? What for?”
Echo snickered next to me in great fun.
“Demon Kings of the past have often gathered large armies of the undead and other dark creatures for their personal use. Otherwise, the armies’ primary function has always been to drive away adventurers and so-called heroes from the Cathedral of Shadows,” the Black Raven explained.
I see…and then they would end up in the dingy-but-not-actually cells from yesterday.
“Oh…” After a bit of thought, I continued, “I understand that the general public doesn’t know why there has to be a Demon King, but it’s not like any heroes of the past have ever had national backing from any kingdom. They were always just wannabe legends who never actually made it that far, weren’t they? And I doubt that the heads of any state or church will start openly antagonizing the Demon King anytime soon. Do we really need an army?”
I could see that a few of the Black Raven’s men had become visibly relieved.
Even the Black Raven himself gave a small wry smile and said, “well…the Demon Kings of the past have had many uses for a personal army.”
“And for what?” I asked. “To conquer more territory? What would I even do with it? Or to kidnap princesses? I’m not interested. Or what, do I have to do a bunch of generically evil nonsense just because I’m the Demon King now? I’m not interested in any of that. I don’t need a personal army.”
“You should still have a standing army though,” Echo cut in. She sounded a little serious for once. “It’s always better to be safer than sorry, and I don’t want you to take any chances. If you don’t want a large army, you can always have a smaller one with stronger tier undead.”
“Fine,” I said, turning to her, “but you deal with it. I’ll leave it to you, so you can go ahead and do whatever you want.” It wasn’t as if I knew how to organize an army or summon undead anyway.
“Okay! I’ll talk things over with the Ravens later then~,” Echo said, back in her usual cheer.
“Understood,” the Black Raven said with a bow. “Incidentally, may I inquire as to what does interest you, Your Majesty?”
“Research.” Finally, an easy answer.
“Yes, there’s something I want to look into.” Something that I planned to make my number one priority as soon as I learned that I was a Demon King candidate and the Church of Darkness had come to announce their intentions of putting me in the position over the other candidates. Because, no matter what, I…
“Then, please let us know if there is anything we can assist you with,” said the Black Raven. “All you need to do is call and I or one of my subordinates will be there.”
“Alright. I’ll do that. Thank you.”
The Black Raven gave yet another low bow. He, too, had become considerably more relieved by then. Of course, he never let it show on his face. Really, with his looks and acting skills, he could have chosen another career for himself instead.
“Teehee, you miiight wanna start delivering food to the library every now and then. Elie doesn’t like to come outside once she gets her hands on a few books!” Echo cried out in glee.
“Oh, shush,” I said as I flicked her on the head. She responded in a theatrical fashion. “It’s bad manners to eat in a library. What if you get food on the books? Or my experiments!?”