Treyni's ethereal hand slowly descended, delicately picking up one of the many chips available on the table in front of her. Quickly turning her hand, she faced the chip towards her as she slowly brought it towards her mouth.

*Chomp* *Crunch* *Munch*

A satisfied smile on her face, she then reached for another one. The process then repeated itself. Over and over again.

Rimuru, ignoring Treyni's obvious addiction to potato chips, prompted the conversation forward.

"So, what do you all believe the goals of the orcs are? Granted, it's to gather strength and eat the named ones of the forest, but what else? Why are they so hyper-focused on consuming things?"

"If I may interrupt, Lord of Monsters." announced Treyni, her face contorted into a look of disgust. "Every Orc Lord has a Unique Skill called {Starved}, with it's influence reaching all those that serve under him. Those affected by the skill devour all in sight, absorbing the strength and ability of those consumed."

She then opened her eyes and gazed at those around the table, before continuing.

"In other words, whatever they eat will cause them to evolve, making the entire army stronger, faster, depending on their diet. In return for this skill, the orcs develop an insatiable hunger, and continue to march in an endless search to satisfy it."

Rimuru kept his expression level and neutral, judging to see how his subordinates would react. Many wore the same neutral and level expression, with a few grimacing in disgust. It was to be expected, as Treyni had just confirmed their suspicions, albeit with more information about the cause of the issue.

"So…if the orcs ate a lizardman, would all members of the orc race gain the ability to swim as fast as them?" asked Shuna, participating in the conversation for the first time.

Treyni nodded, sipping at her tea with a face full of contemplation.

"Great…so if we are to fight against them, then we have to ensure that the orcs do not eat any of our allies, or we risk making the fight much more difficult…" mumbled Benimaru.

"Huh." thought Rimuru, making a quick observation during the short lull in conversation. "Benimaru didn't say that we could not have any casualties, just that the orcs could not eat any allies…looks like his tactical mind is showing itself once more."

"We have also recently confirmed that a majin by the name of Gelmud is involved with the appearance of the Orc Lord." said Treyni, putting down her cup of tea. "Lord of Monsters, please do not overlook him, as he is a subordinate of a demon lord."

"Then, I believe we may have to get involved." announced Rimuru, quickly using his political and charismatic persona. "An Orc Lord will no doubt target us, seeing as how we have Tempest Wolves, Kijin, and a majin with the Storm Crest. If a demon lord is eying the Jura Forest…well that's honestly fine. However, trying to control the Jura Forest through the Orc Lord makes me want to puke."

Rimuru then eyed all those around him.

"Are you all with me?" he asked.

He was greeted with several nods of agreement, and a few jumps of excitement from the more battle-crazy individuals.

"Very well! Then, Miss Treyni, I hereby accep-"

A sudden knock at the door interrupted the final verbal agreement between the two parties. It was followed the the slow creaking of the hinge. As all eyes went to the door, a raven-black hair woman with scars below her left eye slowly peeked through the now open door.

"Umm…did I miss anything, Rimuru-san?" asked Shizue, before looking at all those in front of her. Her eyes widened comically when she spotted Treyni.

"WAIT?! Is that a dryad?!"

Rimuru chuckled.

"Perfect timing Shizue…"


A majin with a smiling clown mask was walking through the moonlit forest, planning to meet up with another masked majin with a plague doctor's mask. He seemed to be walking leisurely and with no care in the world.

Underneath the mask, however, the majin's face was contorted into a frown.

"The plan is going well, but why do I have this sense of apprehension? I have manipulated the lizardmen to make the fall of their tribe quicker, and the other pawns are all in position. All we need is the Orc Lord to eat the races, evolve into the Orc Disaster, and voilà!"

The majin paused, as the hair on his neck tingled. He felt like he was being watched by someone, or something…

He quickly turned around.

Nothing.

He looked to his right and left.

Nothing.

He looked up.

Still nothing.

"Clayman…I hope you know what we are getting into. I just can't shake the feeling that this is going to go horribly wrong…if not now then later down the road…damn it."

The majin continued walking through the forest, unaware of a invisible figure with calculating red eyes observing his every move…


["There are no abnormalities with the current timeline, Master. Besides minor differences such as different footsteps here and varying degrees of apprehension there, all is set to remain the same."]

"Thank you for the report, Ciel. If anything abnormal occurs, can I leave it to you to resolve?"

["As you wish, Master."]

Rimuru, wearing a casual white shirt and black pants, was currently listening to Ciel's reports on the situation at large. She had split herself into multiple {Parallel Existence} bodies and spread across the continent, analyzing the flow of which things are going. Her analysis indicated that the flow of events was nearly the exact same as before.

["It seems that Souei is done meeting with the Chieftan."]

"Very well. Tell him to keep a close eye on both the Chieftan and his daughter. We already know what Gabiru intends to do, thanks to Laplace's manipulation. But also tell him to watch over them, and make sure they don't die.

["...Master…"]

"Yea, Ciel?"

["Shouldn't you be the one to tell him? They do not know of my existence as of yet."]

A pause.

"Dammit! It's a habit at this point!"

["Don't worry about it, Master."]

Rimuru grimaced, slapping himself on the forehead while mentally berating himself again for such a slip up, as Ciel tried to comfort him.

"Lord Rimuru?"

Rimuru turned around, coming face to face with Benimaru.

"Ah, Benimaru! Do you have any issues? Or any requests for the war?"

The young kijin shook his head.

"No, Lord Rimuru. I just received a message from Souei telling me that negotiations went well with the Lizardmen, and that we would meet them in seven days time. I wanted to discuss our plan of action."

"Very well, we will do just that tomorrow. I just want to give everyone some time to process everything."

"Understood, my Lord."

They stood in silence, Rimuru contemplating how he should act and planning for future events. Should he try to limit the casualties of the Orc army? But that could decrease his reputation with the lizardmen and kijin. Not to mention that the butterfly effect may end up screwing things up through that one little action.

Benimaru, on the other hand, felt conflicted. The visions he had seen…the names of people he had yet to meet…it was too much for him. He wanted to know more.

Especially Hinata Sakaguchi. Her face was blurry, but just the mere glimpse of that… 'memory' sent shivers down his spine. He stood no chance against her, not even with the power granted by his lord. And that worried him.

"Lord Rimuru…if I may-" started the kijin, wanting to confide with his new Lord.

Alas, fate had other ideas.

"Rimuru-san! There you are!" interrupted a voice.

The two looked to their left to see Shizue Izawa running towards them, waving her hand. It seemed like she wanted to talk to Rimuru about something.

Shizue came to a stop before them, suddenly realizing that Benimaru was standing there as well.

"Ah, Sir Benimaru! I didn't realize you were there! Did I interrupt something?" asked Shizue, her voice full of concern and worry.

"Please, just call me Benimaru. I am Lord Rimuru's subordinate. And seeing that my Lord treats you as his equal, there is no need to add titles before my name." Benimaru responded professionally. "As for our conversation, it was merely banter, nothing extremely important."

Rimuru, catching on to what Benimaru was hinting at, wondered if he should have another private conversation with him later.

"So, Benimaru. Do you want to continue this conversation later?" he asked.

Benimaru shook his head, before smiling wryly, shaking off the feeling of discomfort.

"It may simply be a bit of paranoia before the coming battle with the orcs, but it is a topic that can be delay for quite some time. I shall leave you and Lady Shizue alone, as I can see that she wishes to speak with you. See you tomorrow, my Lord."

Finishing his sentences, Benimaru turned and left, leaving Shizue and Rimuru alone in the moonlit forest.

Rimuru, somewhat reluctant to leave Benimaru by himself, wanted to go after him.

["It is not necessary, Master. I shall take care of it."]

Rimuru immediately felt Ciel leave his psyche. He wasn't sure what she would do, as Ciel was always more of a pragmatist over a psychiatrist, but he would trust her. She was his eternal partner, after all.

"Umm, Rimuru-san? I'm sorry for interrupting the conversation."

Rimuru turned to the apologizing Shizue, who had clearly seen his facial expression.

"It's fine, don't worry about it!" He immediately replied, attempting to comfort her. It seemed to work. He continued soon after. "So, what do you want to talk about?"

Shizue, feeling more confident after Rimuru gave her the 'go ahead', started to ask for some more details about the meeting.

"So…is there anything important that I missed? Asides from the Orc Lord, that is…"

"Nothing else, Shizue. Just Orc Lord, and Treyni's request to help deal with it. Simple politics."

At these words, Shizue face contorted a bit, and her smile turned into a frown.

"I hate that word. Politics."

Rimuru raised an eyebrow. He had an idea as to why, but didn't know her full story when it came to politics. Even if she is a hero.

"Why?" Rimuru prompted.

"Every time I hear the word 'politics', I think of those old geezers who just want to manipulate you to get their chores done, while they sit and watch with those creepy stares…"

Shizue shivered, before continuing.

"The Western Nations are full of those people…corrupted people. Nobles and politicians that just bicker all the time, unless the Demon Lords do something to actually get them to agree on action over inaction."

"Indeed." thought Rimuru. "That's the whole point of Guy's system of Demon Lord Oppression. Rule through fear. But I rather rule through manipulation and relationships. That being said…"

"Do you have any names?" Rimuru asked Shizue, rather innocently, whilst planning to brutally murder anyone involved. Shizue was someone that he wanted to protect, after all. Seems like he has become much more sadistic too. Perhaps he really had been influenced by his friends, after all.

"I'll commit those names to memory. Even if they were useful in the past…I'll punish them before making use of them…if they have any use, that is…."

Shizue looked upwards, digging through her memory.

"There's a Duke of Ingrassia that was…less than pleasant. A nobleman of Blumund. And someone with fire magic that I suspect is a member of the Seven Celestial Sages…but-"

Her words were interrupted when she felt severe killing intent to her right, shocking her so greatly that she immediately whipped around to face that direction. However, all she found was Rimuru smiling like an angel.

"Umm…Rimuru-san?"

Rimuru blinked. And continued to smile, as sparkles blinked in and out of existence all around him.

"Yes?"

"...Did you just-"

"Whatever do you mean~?"

Shizue eyed Rimuru suspiciously, but Rimuru maintained the angelic smile he had. She eventually relented and sighed, before deciding to be truthful about her worries.

"Honestly, I really wanted to talk about our next steps. Especially what my role would be in the upcoming war."

As she said these words, she discreetly watched as Rimuru's smile faded, eventually being replaced by a grimace.

"Shizu. I don't think you should get involved in the war with the Orc Lord."

The two made eye contact. What followed surprised Rimuru.

Shizue smiled, before then turning to look towards the ground.

"I…figured as much. As of this moment, I am quite weak. You could even argue that I am crippled. Slowly starting to learn the basics again." She looked down at the many calluses in her hands. "Even despite all the effort I put in, complete recovery seems so far off…"

Shizue hadn't just been standing around while time passed and events occurred. She had been busy getting herself back into shape, strengthening her weakened muscles and honing her instincts and reaction-time, all of which were damaged thanks to Ifrit's takeover.

"Shizu, don't self-depreciate yourself! You are strong, in more ways than one. And you will eventually get back the strength you once had. It just takes a while to recover from losing and gaining spirits." Rimuru countered Shizue's words.

"Her recovery could be even faster if I didn't decide to keep her out of future events…" Rimuru thought, wincing.

And it was true. Rimuru could easily help Shizue recovered at breakneck speed. However, he decided not to, for two reasons. The first being that he wanted to have an excuse to keep Shizue out of future large events, to ensure that events occurred as he predicted. The other, less important reason, was because he wanted Shizue to pride herself in her skills and technique. Just as he had learnt to hold pride in his own strength, he wanted Shizue to have pride as well. Not an unhealthy amount, but enough to have a large amount of self-esteem.

Because Shizue seemed to not have any self-esteem at the moment. Not that he could tell her any of this.

"Seems like Guy rubbed off on me too…" he thought.

"Thank you, Rimuru-san. I really appreciate it." said Shizue in a soft voice. She then turned to gaze at the stars. Her raven-black hair reflected the gentle rays of moonlight, as her expression turned pensive. Yet to Rimuru, it looked regretful. Not full of pain, nor full of agony. Simple regret. As if she was lamenting the fact that she could not stand strong and face the brutal world in which she now lived in.

Rimuru, already feeling slightly guilty for manipulating her once more, felt saddened just by looking at her. Watching as the amazing and wonderful woman, the first human he had truly met in this world, slowly descend into sadness and despair, felt horrible. He had brought her peace in the last timeline, but was only now realizing how unsatisfied he was with that outcome.

"Despite everything that was thrown at you Shizu, you always tried to move forwards. Eventually, you died with smile on your face, happy that your students had happy endings. But…you didn't have one. Not a true happy ending. Dying before you could ever see the beautiful side of this world. The wonderful side of this world. Which is why…"

"Shizu." Rimuru's voice range out, calm and firm.

Shizue turned to look at him again, eyes slightly widening at both the expression he was wearing, and his change of tone.

Her eyes met his.

Firm golden irises met shocked black ones.

Rimuru continued. "When everything is dealt with…when it's all sorted out…I promise you that I will show you how this cruel and ruthless world can truly be beautiful."

He watched as her eyes widened. As her breath hitched. Perhaps she was shocked that he had hit the nail on the head. Perhaps she was surprised that he had managed to read her so well. Because Shizue had believed that the world was cruel, ruthless, and bloody. That the world she now lived in was horrible, even if some people she met were kind.

She knew that, perhaps, she had fallen in love with Rimuru. She felt that she never wanted to leave his side. Out of duty? Out of attraction? Even she didn't know the answer.

But what she knew for sure, was that Rimuru was not joking. That there was a beautiful side to the world that did nothing but hurt her. And, just because he had said so, she believed it.

Her mouth curved into a smile. A grateful and beautiful one. Full of both hope and sadness. And faith. Faith that Rimuru, possibly the most important person in her life at that moment, was right.

"I look forward to it, Rimuru."