TL note: the lap scene is changed in the light novel.
The Demon Lord’s lap and the royal sisters
My head was lying on something soft.
Someone was caressing me like they were combing my hair with a gentle touch.
It was so pleasant that I wanted to fall asleep again, but I had to resist.
“…I knew that you were going to lay your hands on me while I was knocked out, former Demon Lord.”
When my eyelids lifted, I saw the elf’s linseed-colored hair and mischievous expression.
I guessed that she took the seat next to mine and moved my body to make my head rest on her lap. Seems like the soft feeling under my head was Verlaine’s thigh.
She smiled tenderly, but a veil of worry clouded her face as she opened her mouth.
“What a shame… I hoped the expedition would last some more time.”
“…I had to take care of it, but I guess you already know it. How much did I sleep? An hour?”
“No, not that much. You were out for half an hour, at most.”
“I see. We still have time before opening the bar, then.”
I tried to get up, but the Demon Lord grabbed my shoulder and brought me back on her lap.
“…Can I get up, please?”
“Why don’t we rest for a bit? I’m tired because of our everyday schedule. If I never rest, I feel like I’ll grow old faster.”
“Are you making me rest on your lap to slow your aging down…? Won’t your leg get numb?”
“Do you think I can’t handle this? I’m the former Demon Lord, am I not?”
Indeed, she was. But if the situation continued, even a genius like me would’ve shown a man’s reaction.
“How did it go?”
“What are you talking about? …I guess it’s useless to play dumb, huh.”
“I’m the one who cast the magic, so I know that something happened. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anything to Timis or her party either. If they notice something, that’d be because of your mistake.”
“Everything will be fine. They called me ‘light insect.’ Well, that was my appearance, actually.”
Verlaine’s lips bent into a smile.
“That was surely your avatar… but I believe they won’t even imagine that it had the strength of an SS-ranked adventurer.”
The rune I made Verlaine write on Timis served to activate the invocation spell called ‘Small Spirit.’
It split my power to create a lesser body, which I shaped as a small orb of light.
It would be hard to discern something like that from a real light insect.
I moved my consciousness to the small spirit, which had a score of five thousand points that could rise to twenty-five thousand thanks to Healing Magic and Support Magic, and kept watching over Timis and her party.
Verlaine started to talk again.
“Looks like everything went well. Shall we go and see how the dragon is doing?”
“Nah, let’s leave it to our guild members. I already arranged it.”
“I see… You even thought about making them save Timis if things were to get bad, huh?”
“No, that would be wrong. In that case, everything would have been for nothing.”
As I said that, I tried to get up again, and this time Verlaine didn’t stop me.
She didn’t look satisfied, but we couldn’t stay like that forever.
“…Well, I should have endured a little more. Only a little bit more.”
“I knew it… you protected them, didn’t you? Why do you look so depressed? Everything went as planned, right?”
“No, I shouldn’t have finished the dragon myself. I was asked to make them gain experience, but they should have done it themselves. Instead, I finished the battle for them, and they will just take merits for it.”
They still had a chance even if Timis was to get hit by the fire dragon, but I couldn’t endure any longer and intervened the moment before that. I should have waited and endured the sight like a real pro.
“I see… Anyway, if you hadn’t enhanced their fire resistance, the girls would have got burned only by standing close to the fire dragon, and if McKinley’s presence wasn’t dimmed by the pomegranate syrup, the dragon would have targeted him. Didn’t the plan proceed smoothly until almost the end?”
The air surrounding the body of a fire dragon was always scorching, not only when it got mad… The girls could approach it only thanks to the roasted walnuts and salamander kotsuzake they consumed.
“Furthermore, if you hadn’t intervened, they would have died, right?
If we think about it carefully, your intervention was essential. Master, you are a cool-headed person and a sharp observer, but it’s only natural that some things bring you to act.”
“…Anyway, I want to find a way to nullify the random movements of the fire dragon.”
“More research…? Is the book still incomplete even though it has that much information? It’s almost perfect, isn’t that enough?”
If it was perfect, I wouldn’t have had to act.
To satisfy any request, I had to prepare everything in advance.
Luckily, I had plans to keep under observation the dragon from now on.
The doorbell rang.
We weren’t open yet, but a customer entered… and took the seat next to me.
He wore a green overcoat.
“Thank you for your continued patronage. I’m from the Veltem company. I’m here to deliver what you requested.”
Verlaine wrote her signature on the receipts that the man put on the table. His name was Joyce Veltem, and he was my supplier of beverages and food… or rather, that was his main job. Behind that facade, he was a merchant of rare goods that usually weren’t sold in the capital.
Joyce ordered some rum and spoke before drinking. People usually didn’t drink in the morning, but it didn’t matter for him.
“Mister, there’s something I want to talk about. I hired a manager and started to prepare the environment.”
“Thanks. Some trusted guys will move the fire dragon and its offspring. Is there enough food for them?”
“Yes. I went to see the place and it’s really great. So pretty that I’m starting to understand why they chose a forest where men live.”
“I think that people have more reasons to go there compared to a fire dragon. That forest shouldn’t have anything special.”
“I’m not sure about that. Either way, you really thought about it. A fire dragon pasturing in a forest protected by humans… it’s quite the improbable scenery.”
Hearing that, Verlaine widened her eyes for a moment. She understood what we were talking about, but she continued the procedure to buy goods without speaking.
“Dragon’s materials are always in demand, but they’re too expensive. A single scale is worth fifty golden coins, even though it’s simple to pluck them when they’re replaced with new ones.”
“There’s no difference between the old and new ones’ value. Or rather, the former are even better, given their sturdiness.”
Joyce drank some rum and let out a sigh.
He was the same kind of drinker I was. He had a noteworthy business sense that made him deal honestly with his customers. That’s why he commented on the pasturing topic with me.
“Thinking about it, once the baby dragons will grow up and enter the breeding season, won’t forests like ours become packed with them?”
“Well, yeah. But if you tame a baby dragon, it will grow and listen to you even after it reaches adulthood, unlike an already adult one.”
“Oh, I also heard about that. People who raise them are called Dragon Masters. Do you perhaps have even that kind of experience?”
“I’m only the son of a farmer, but I know a Dragon Master.”
“Gh… Are you serious…? How deep is your connection web…?”
“After the dragon will be moved, I’ll go check on it too. There’s someone who wants to see a baby dragon.”
I cut the conversation short, and Joyce gulped down the remaining rum and shrugged his shoulders. He left the money on the table, took one of the receipts back, and walked toward the door. Before leaving, he faced us again and made a deep bow. That was his way of doing.
Timis, followed by Lia and McKinley, entered the bar when the night shift had already started. She made sure that no one was paying attention to her and showed Verlaine the scale while I was drinking my usual ale.
“You said that you’ll take care of the dragon… but where will you bring it?”
“I can’t tell you the details, but we won’t kill it. We will relocate it and confirm that the expedition was a success.”
“G-Great. I’m sure that the people leaving nearby the forest will breathe a sigh of relief now…”
Timis, Lia and McKinley’s behavior was different. They were somewhat humbler, and even the sniper’s face was more serious.
“Regarding the payment, I hope it won’t be too high… but no matter the price, I will pay you in some way. You have my gratitude. Asking this guild was the right choice.”
“We fought the dragon, but couldn’t withstand its rampage… Still, it got caught in a trap that laid in the Forest of Hunters. I don’t know how it happened… but…”
Chagrin was evident in Lia’s words, so McKinley took over the conversation.
“This mission was out of our reach, but you helped us achieve it. We feel like Duke Solver himself protected us.”
They should have thought that I was only a light insect. I didn’t expect to be idolized like that.
Technically, I only watched over them… I mean, I blinded the dragon when it attacked, hit it with some magic bullets to drive it into the trap, and used McKinley’s remnant poisonous darts to put it to sleep.
It’s impossible that they would find that out. I even thought to erase their memory, but that would have been excessive and inhuman even for me.
What saved me was that Duke was a fictional name.
They possibly couldn’t trace me…
“I have a request… If you let me see Sir Duke, I’ll pay you with everything I have. I want to thank him personally for everything…!”
…Or so I thought.
Timis pleaded with teary eyes, but Verlaine didn’t turn her gaze over me. I bet that was a demonstration of her kindness.
“I understood that I still have a long way to go, but if I could train under Mister Duke… I could get strong enough to protect My Lady! I’m prepared for anything as long as I can meet him!”
“Please, let me join your guild! Even just working here is fine!”
Lia and McKinley… I didn’t expect it… I didn’t think that they would have recognized Duke Solver’s ability only because of the book he wrote.
They nourished a deep respect for him, who accomplished the same feat before them.
But Duke was me.
Timis was looking like a maiden in love whose admiration for her lover was about to grow even stronger. Even a dense guy like me could understand how bad she would have felt if she couldn’t meet him.
“I’m still alive only thanks to Sir Duke. I should offer him even the proof of our victory… He gently led a weak person like me along the path of victory… So, if possible, I’d love to meet him and…”
Verlaine smiled gently at the knight’s plea.
“Lady Timis, if you keep improving, becoming vice-general of the army will only be a matter of time. I will ask Duke to appear in front of you when it will happen.”
“Yes, but you’re not allowed to overwork yourself. You’re still young, there’s no need to be so impatient. I’m sure that even Sir Duke expects to see you more mature and will patiently wait for that time to come.”
“Aaah… Sir Duke… If he will wait for me… I will get stronger!”
Pledged Timis with teary eyes.
I had to thank Verlaine for that, but I still had to clear a stage before it.
The doorbell rang, and two figures stepped in the bar. They were Mylarka and Manarina.
Timis turned to face them and noticed right away that her beloved sister was standing there.
“…Why are you here, Princess Manarina…?”
“Timis, it’s been a while. Sir Dick told me that I could meet you if I came here.”
“Dick…? Who is that?”
To make the sisters meet, I told Mylarka and Manarina to come… but thanks to that, I was about to get busted.
“It’s that guy. He is my benefactor…”
“I see… his name is Dick. I thought he was Duke Solver, but I guess I was wrong.”
“I-I see… So that’s it. He’s generous, but he’s no more than a drunkard.”
I couldn’t understand if Lia was really sharp or really dense, but thanks to her I was saved.
As she connected the dots, Mylarka looked in my direction with a suspicious look.
“Gentle Mister, will you offer us something to drink? I’d accept suggestions, if you have any.”
“Kh… S-Sure. I’ll treat you all, so why don’t you sit at that table?”
“Sir Dick… no, I understand. Today I’ll enjoy the time with my sister.”
Guessing my mood, Manarina brought her sister to one of the rooms that had a curtain. Lia and McKinley also sat at different tables and started drinking something to blend with other customers.
The werebeast was glad that Timis could meet her sister, and McKinley, even though he was drinking alone, wore a satisfied expression. He seemed serious about the proposal he made before.
Verlaine looked at me for a while as she was arranging things up, and spoke as soon as she had a spare moment.
“Mister, you have to take some responsibilities for making Timis show her true self.”
Verlaine called me like that only in those kinds of times.
I let my body fall on the counter, and the mug still filled with ale shook slightly.
I surrendered to my fate.
“Adored by the royal sisters… It won’t take long before you control the capital from the shadows, ‘Fifth phantom’.”
“It wasn’t my intention… I don’t understand how women think.”
“Should I teach you about it? Maybe I’ll write a book called ‘How to understand women’.”
“…When I have a little of time, I’d love to read that.”
While Verlaine laughed happily at my words, I could hear Timis and Manarina’s merry voices come from their room.
The truth is that I called Mylarka for another reason. After drinking, she would have been in a great mood, so I could start negotiating for a certain thing… after all, I asked her to come with me on her day off.
The day after, I brought Mylarka where the dragon was pasturing.
The guy that Joyce hired was an old man with experience as a Dragon Master.
The merchant didn’t know about it and recruited him only due to his knowledge on the subject. The old man gave us a warm welcome and guided us to the dragon nest.
The dragon that fought Timis and her team wasn’t vigilant around him, and it looked quite docile when we got closer to its babies.
“Fire dragons are super adorable when they’re young, so I wanted you to see one.”
“Mmmh… I see. I can’t think of them as adorable, though…”
In the middle of the cave was a nest made with tree branches, and three little dragons, as big as a human infant, were crying high-pitched “Piii” in it.
One of them approached the edge tottering with its round body and scrambled over, falling in front of Mylarka’s feet with a dull sound.
Once it got on its legs again, it kept crying and clung to the girl. It looked like the baby dragon wanted to be petted by her.
“Oh, it likes you quite a lot, young lady. It’s even the most cautious among the three.”
“You heard him, Mylarka…? Mylarka?”
Without saying another word, she embraced the baby dragon and started to pet it.
“…Super adorable… I want to grow it… I can’t believe that something this cute actually exists… Yup, yup, who’s a good boy!”
The dragon’s cries sounded cheerful while Mylarka fawned over it.
She loved cute animals, so I thought to let her see a baby dragon, but she was enjoying the experience way more than expected.
“…Hey. I believe you’re not imagining me fawning over our child, Dick. If you are, I’ll kill you.”
“Sorry, I care about my life… wait, why are you so mad now?”
“S-Shut up! Oh no, cutie pie, I’m sorry! Did I scare you? It’s all that bad guy’s fault. Come on, let’s go play there together!”
Mylarka started to walk toward the other side of the cave while talking sweetly at the dragon. The other two young ones also followed her, crying with their high-pitched voices.
Even if she was mad at me, she was acting no different from a mother that plays joyfully with her children.
Mother dragon watched over her playful babies from a little distance, letting out a soft rumbling verse every once in a while.