It had been a week since the defeat of Sabnac inside of Forest Ashtaroth, though things were still hectic.
The village that still survived in the remains of the old Ashtaroth's castle hadn't been prepared for its population to suddenly double as my Master moved what remained of the people living in Sabnac's castle into his own territory.
Of Sabnac's remaining forces, which had been left to guard the castle, most of them ranaway the moment the castle's core broke, knowing that their lord was beaten, but one hundred of them remained and surrendered to Master, begging him for mercy. Mercy that he had ended up giving them.
Master said he would pardon them and grant them full citizenship in his territory, if they performed an act of penance by assisting those who had suffered under Sabnac, helping to move them and nursing those who were injured back to health. He also gave all of those who had been ruled by Sabnac citizenship and promised to do his best to help them get back on their feet.
Such a thing was unheard of. Normally, when you took an enemy territory, you would enslave those who lived under. However, my Master said that he could never permit slavery in his lands. Not only did he not enslave his enemies, but he worked hard to make life as easy for them as possible, even to his own detriment.
"Eve, I want everyone to be happy, and people can't be happy when they live as slaves." Master had told me. I just couldn't understand it. On the battlefield, he was ruthless, cold and calculating, the perfect picture of a Demon Lord. However, off the battlefield, he was kind and caring, someone who wouldn't hurt a fly. His smile was so gentle and genuine, it left the monsters and humans alike baffled.
I truly admire the kindness of my Master. I just wish he would think more about his military strength a little more. The way things are going, how are we going to protect ourselves if we get attacked again?
Of all of the resources and money he gained from his attack on Sabnac, almost none of it went to the reinforcement of his military. He instead summoned demons to help nurse the weak and injured back to health, and giant silkworms to provide a source of income for the community. The kobolds who swore to join him had to first build temporary housing for the people and assist in gathering food before they were permitted to join his army, receive proper training and work gathering materials from the surrounding forest.
All of our food, money and resources were going towards rebuilding those people's lives. What would we do if another army was to attack?
At times, I wished my Master would simply act more like a Demon Lord.
"So, do we have a deal?" Shirou asked the human diplomat. The man looked from Shirou, to the list in his hand and then to the small chest of silk on the table.
"What is your angle, Demon Lord Ashtaroth?" The man asked. "Offering us the former castle of Sabnac for a fraction of what it is worth when you lack the manpower to keep it is something I can understand, but for what purpose would a Demon Lord as capable as yourself be willing to bend the knee to a human king?"
"Because it is the fastest way to assure my own safety, and the safety of my people. It would also give me valuable trade agreements with which I can help my city prosper." Shirou said bluntly. "With the Kingdom of Edmar holding a fortress as strong as Sabnac's castle, I will no longer need to fear attacks from the east, so long as I remain useful to your people. And with the resources I can offer you through the summoning and taming of monsters, I can most definitely remain useful to you. This silk is just what my monsters could produce in five days. Having preferential trade with my city would bring your kingdom a good deal of wealth… and you personally of course." Shirou smiled. "Correct me if I am wrong, but your position as a diplomat gives you five percent of the profits made off of this negotiation. This deal could set you and your family up for several generations."
"And if you end up betraying the kingdom, it would be my entire house who dies for it." The man said. He was dealing with a Demon Lord. It would take a little more than just money to convince him.
"I see." Shirou said, getting up from his desk. "Please, let me show you something." He led the human diplomat further into his admittedly lackluster castle and to the only wing of the place that Shirou had instructed to keep sanitary at all times. "Right through here." Shirou said, opening the door and letting the diplomat inside.
"This is…" The man said with a gasp as he saw twenty bed set up in the room, each one containing what might as well be a skeleton, with several maids seeing to them. As they entered, many of the maids turned and bowed to their Demon Lord, but he quickly told them to return to their duties. Though more surprisingly, those in the beds also gave the Demon Lord their praise and tired smiles.
"They are some of the victims from Sabnac's castle. There are over three hundred more, but these are the ones in the most critical conditions. Even with proper care, it will be a good two or three months before they will be able to recover fully from this level of starvation." Shirou explained. "Right now, because of the supplies I gathered from Sabnac's castle, we have enough food to keep everyone fed for two more weeks. Please, even if you do not trust me, allow me to buy your surplus food, if not for the money, if not for the power that I have to offer, then for humanitarian reasons."
"A Demon Lord, trying to appeal to my humanity? What has this world come to?" The diplomat mumbled. "I will advise the king to accept your offer and make my best attempt to assure him of your sincerity."
"Thank you. I'll send those I can with you for the first purchases." Shirou said with a relieved smile.
"Alright, that will cover our defenses and food for now." Shirou said after all the paperwork was finalized and the human diplomat left his city.
His city… It still felt so odd.
He had been half convinced that Eve had done something to the civilians of the castle village when he had first introduced himself to them and found that they were surprisingly alright with suddenly finding themselves being ruled over by a Demon Lord, and that had been before he had started to help the people out. They seemed to honestly not care who or what ruled over them.
Sure, your average Demon Lord wasn't out to destroy all humans, but that seemed to be more because of the lack of ability than lack of desire. They couldn't go attacking large human kingdoms because if they weakened themselves in a fight against the humans and stopped receiving trade, then they could easily find themselves falling victim to other Demon Lords, more than happy to take advantage of their weakened state.
In this manner, Shirou had one protection against the other Demon Lords. He simply wasn't worth the trouble. His lands were small and undeveloped, he had no materials nor gold that they could steal, because he was spending it all as fast as he got it. With his victory defending against Sabnac and his little resources, attacking him didn't seem worth the effort. Now, with him allied with a human nation, it would be even less worth it for them to attack him.
This would only last so long as he didn't have the forces to march on them, which was why he purposely kept his army's size down. He was already setting up traps and teaching the kobolds he secured from Sabnac about how to implement ambush tactics.
So long as a serious invading force didn't come, they would be able to repel most attackers before they penetrated the forest. And if a serious one did come, even if they summoned another five hundred soldiers, it would do them no good. They couldn't afford to withdraw into Shirou's rundown castle and the castle would take a long time to repair.
Well, a hundred and fifty soldiers defending the castle wouldn't do them much good at the moment. Shirou was already creating molds in order to make basic mounted heavy machine guns and shells. Once that was finished, defending against an army of a ten thousand with a hundred would be a simple task.
Eve still felt like the castle should be the top priority, and she was right. But even if she was right, Shirou didn't do it. He couldn't simply leave people sleeping in those tents.
Furthering the construction of the city would create jobs and give the people permanent homes took priority. After that, Shirou could find other uses for the laber.
"With trade routes established, we now have access to enough food to keep the town's population stable. However, we are still having problems finding enough architects to help guide the construction of new buildings." Eve informed Shirou as she poured him a cup of tea. "It would seem that Sabnac performed all his building designs personally, so few of his workforce was trained in it."
"So we need to find architects willing to work for a Demon Lord." Shirou said. They had around three hundred people sitting around waiting for jobs who could act as laborers, but without people instructing them on how to build a proper building, they couldn't exactly do anything. "I don't suppose summoning one is an option."
"The intelligence required for the job would me it would have to be an extremely high quality summons, and we wouldn't know where to start with the material requirements." Eve informed him. "Most of the best architects are already working for other Demon Lords or countries."
"Perhaps we can request borrowing one from the Kingdom of Edmar." Shirou said with a sigh. "Getting them to agree to trade food with us and form a basic military alliance was already like pulling teeth. I doubt they will be over the moon at the chance to give me people who could strengthen my castle walls, even if that isn't what I am asking them to do. Can you think of any other options?"
"Well there's…" Eve started, but was interrupted when the door to the office was thrown open.
"Build me a brothel!" Toshizou shouted into the room. The man seemed to have recovered well, considering he was on the brink of death just a week ago. Perhaps the stupid pot had been onto something when he had asked it to summon him 'individuals who were good at helping a man recover' and it had given him a pair of succumbi.
"...Excuse me?" Shirou replied to the sudden demand.
"I heard that you are planning additions to the town. We need a place for earthly pleasures where people can go to recharge their spirits." Toshizou insisted.
"..." Shirou sighed and started to rubble his eyes as Toshizou went into detail about exactly what should be at a good brothel.
"When planning for such a place starts, I'll point the people in charge to you, but I want to make one thing clear. If there is going to be a brothel in my city I will hold you personally responsible for making sure that everything is on the up and up. If I hear mention of human trafficking, or people beating women, I will shut it down."
"Oh, I'm being assigned to make routine inspections then? I can live with that." Toshizou said with a devilish grin. Then he changed gears and started to talk about the requirements for a military academy and how the kobolds and demon cats were coming along in their training. The catgirls did fine in normal combat training, as they found it fun, Winter had not taken well to officer training, as she found memorizing the formations and tactics boring. Only one of the werewolves seemed to have somewhat of a knack for it. He'd be Toshizou's replacement if the suicidal moron got himself killed.
With those matters discussed, Toshizou returned to his business.
"Master did not seem enthused with the idea of a redlight district." Eve observed.
"While Toshizou and I came from the same country of origin, we are culturally separated by over a hundred years. In my time, prostitution's negative stigma grew larger and larger, as it was connected to all kind of violent crimes against women, as well as human trafficking. While I can't say that such practices are gone, since some people find loopholes in the law, the act of prostitution was made illegil a few decedes ago in Japan, at least by my reckoning." Shirou said. "Though I understand the benefits of having such places, I can't say that I like it. I suppose I will just have to trust Toshizou to make sure that no one ends up hurt."
"There you go again. You know, most humans aren't this humane. I can't think of a single other nation that has outlawed slavery, or cares about what happens to prostitutes, they only look at the profit that such establishments make. You really are too kind for your own good." Eve said with a smile, though her face then turned hard. "But even if I agree that you should build a redlight district, you are forbidden to go there."
"Excuse me?" Shirou asked, not used to Eve putting her foot down on anything. Of course she was right, a ruler or noble of any kind going to a brothel was just asking for trouble. Beyond the dangers of assassination attempt, having bastards could cause serious problems to the right of succession, especially if they are the first born.
Shirou wasn't sure if that counted for Demon Lords, as after he died, the foundation of his power would be gone, but it still won't do for people to see him running around to fulfill his urges.
"If you feel the need to go there… call on me instead." Eve mumbled, her cheeks flushing as she did.
Shirou looked at her in surprise before giving her a small smile. While she might normally act like the perfect maid, or his loyal officer, Eve was still a young woman and had her own sets of needs. The term 'friends with benefits' had often been used around Shirou in his previous life as an acknowledgement that people have physical and emotional needs.
"I might just take you up on that someday, but for now we have work to do." Shirou told her.
"Ye...Yes!" Eve responded, turning as red as a tomato. Shirou could have sworn he saw steam coming out of her ears.
It was late into the night and preparations for the following day's activities had already been complete. However, Eve was still awake, writing notes into her journal about the day's events.
After some debate, Shirou had agreed to speak to the dwarves about hiring their services in building up his city. However, rumors of the dwarves suddenly cutting themselves off from the outside world, and messengers to their town disappearing, had drawn enough of his attention that he started to insist on going himself to make sure that everything was alright.
Eve already knew that talking him out of it was going to be impossible, so instead she only insisted on coming along herself, and that he at least bring along SOME back up. Which ended up being the four demon cats, as they could disguise themselves as humans for while they were traveling to the town. Toshizou wanted to come along, but Shirou forced him to hold down the fort. Eve didn't really feel comfortable about this, but didn't press the issue as she was afraid her Master would make her stay behind if she did.
Letting people know that Shirou was out of the office was dangerous, so Yin and Yang were ordered to shapeshift into Shirou and Eve and make small appearances from time to time while the Demon Lord and his maid were gone.
No one really knew what Shirou looked like, so disguising himself was kind of pointless, as he already looked pretty damn human and only needed to wear something other than his body armor. Eve herself had her own problems. She could cover her horns with a hood and her tail was small enough that it would always be covered by her clothes, but she flatly refused to remove her maid's uniform, even for an undercover mission.
When she had said as much, Shirou had just given her that smile. The amused smile a father gives to his child when they start saying unreasonable things. Eve equally loved and hated that smile.
She wasn't a child! She was a proud maid! His proud and loyal maid!
He was often like that, treating the more intelligent monsters like his children rather than his subordinates.
Still... he hadn't dismissed her offer to service him, when they found the time.
She wondered when they would ever be able to find the time. Despite his position not requiring it, her Master was quite the workaholic. He stuck his nose into just about every aspect of the city's life and worked alongside his soldiers in field exercise. Even when he had free time, he spent it training his own body and magic. He pushed himself so hard that even in just one week, his body was already showing some muscle growth.
Seeing the way his body moved as he swung his swords, like art in motion, sweat glistening on his brow just like his ruby eyes…
Eve stopped writing and buried her face in the little book, squealing a little in panic as she realized she had been writing her innermost thoughts.
Though her embarrassment came to an end when the alarms she had placed around her Master's bedchambers were tripped. Growling to herself, she reached out for her broom before rushing out towards her Master's chambers.
She was sure that it was those succubi again. Ever since they had been summoned, the pair had been trying to sneak into her Master's room while he was asleep. They just never seemed to learn.
However, when she rounded the corner of the hallway, she spotted Shirou, who had left his room, instead of anyone trying to get in. For one wonderful moment, Eve wondered if he had been on the way to her bedroom for the night… but he wasn't heading in that direction. Instead, he seemed to be heading towards where they kept the Klein bottle.
Part of Eve knew that a good maid did not delve into their master's business, but she was also a woman, and as a woman, she couldn't help but wonder. So she trailed behind him, making sure to keep her magic low, so that he wouldn't spot her.
Once he reached the Klein bottle, Shirou stopped and after a short incantation, he called forth a beautiful golden sword.
Eve nearly gasped when she saw it. She had seen her Master create many weapons using his magic, but nothing like this sword. It was a work of art and simply by holding it, her already regal master seemed to inflate into a near divine figure. Then, he tossed the sword into the bottle and began to channel magic into it.
Just like with Toshizou, mist came from the pot and started to solidify itself, only when it started to clear, the figure who stood there was nearly transparent. Though that ethereal state only made her look all the more beautiful.
It was a young woman, one with golden hair and green eyes, wearing a pure white dress that seemed to glow in her ghost-like state. As she saw Shirou, the woman smiled the most lovely smile.
"Saber." Shirou said, and Eve was surprised by the level of longing in his voice. He and the woman reached out to each other, but before they could touch one another, the woman's body disappeared, scattering like smoke in the wind. "Ah!" Shirou gasped, his voice carrying the pain in his heart, which stung Eve as she realized what she had just witnessed.
Her Master had attempted to summon the woman he truly loved with all his heart. Only, he had failed.
"I won't stop searching, even if it takes me all of eternity. So please, wait for me."