pika318: For once, I wrote this fic and moko-chan edited it instead of the other way around. This can be thought of as related to 'Holding Back'.
One shot: All is Fair in War
Emerada Etuva, Court Sorceress of Saint Aire and Director of the Sorcery Management Institute, knew that she would not get much rest after returning to the Western Continent, but as her assistant approached her the moment she sat inside her office in the Institute, she could tell by the serious expressions on her face that something troublesome was going to happen.
"Director Emerada, there is an urgent matter which requires your attention."
"What is it~~" Emerada asked, adopting her usual lazy drawl.
"This is with regards to the investigation on Olba Meyers."
Emerada's eyes narrowed briefly and asked,
"Did you find anything new?"
"Well, the investigation team were looking through Olba's possessions and records and found a deed for a building located in a remote mountainous area."
"A building in the mountains?" Emerada tilted her head in confusion. She could not fathom why the archbishop who had fallen from grace would need such a thing.
"Yes. It's strange isn't it? Also, this building was not registered in the list of properties owned by the Church, so we made a trip to this building. When we reached the area, we-" The assistant started to explain, but halfway through, she paused, showing an expression of discomfort.
"Is there something wrong~~?" Emerada asked in concern.
"...It is nothing much, Director Emerada. It is just that I would rather not have seen what I saw that day. What we saw in the mountain were…...the remains of demons. Piles of them." The assistant answered with some hesitation.
"Hmm~?" Emerada put her hand to chin, looking troubled. Surely her assistant would know the most straightforward reason for those demon corpses. With that thought, she inquired further.
"Isn't it possible that...what you saw was merely a result of us killing the demons to free the continent?"
"That's what we thought so at first…" The assistant frowned and then she continued speaking.
"But as we collected the demon bodies to cremate them, we noticed that most of them had sustained injuries in the exact same areas and all of the injuries had been stab wounds. If they had died in a battle, there would not be such consistent and calculated injuries. That's why I thought to consult you."
Emerada frowned slightly at the strange phenomenon pointed out by her assistant and asked,
"What help do you need~~?"
"The answer to this should be inside the building, but it was protected by strong spells. We are unable to even break down the doors and windows." The assistant crossed her arms and sighed in frustration as she recalled the futile attempts of a whole team of sorcerers.
"We have taken down as many of the wards as we could, but the last few wards are proving to be tricky. We are hoping that with your expertise, Director Emerada, we would be able to remove the rest of the wards and continue with our investigation." The assistant elaborated.
"I understand. If the building is protected so strongly~~, it's highly likely to be hiding something of importance~~ So, when are we leaving?" Emerada asked with a slight smile on her face.
"I'm arranging for us to set off in two days. Would that be sufficient time for you to prepare, Director Emerada?"
"It's more than enough~~" Emerada replied. Two days would be enough for her to catch a break and settle any other matters in the Institute. Then as if she had just thought of something, Emerada added on,
"Oh yes~~ Crestia Bell is the Inquisitor assisting us in the investigation of Olba Meyers, it would be good to include her if she is available~~ I will contact her and let you know if she is joining us~~"
"Understood, Director Emerada. Then, I shall take my leave." With that, the assistant bowed and left Emerada's office to prepare for the trip which would take place two days later.
"Well~~guess I should get this done quickly~~" Emerada said and activated the Idea Link spell, concentrating on sending it to Crestia Bell, also known as Kamazuki Suzuno when she was in Japan.
Hi~~is this Crestia~~?
Emerada-dono? Greetings. it is a surprise to hear from you directly, is there something you would like to request of me?
Hearing a polite reply from the soft spoken Inquisitor, Emerada started to explain,
Somewhat~~this is regarding the investigation of Olba Meyers~~my team of sorcerers have found a suspicious building and a large number of demons which seemed to have died from strangely consistent wounds. What makes it more mysterious is that the building is protected by a number of powerful wards~~ I am travelling there in two days to help them remove the wards, so since you are involved in the investigation too, I was wondering if you like to come along~~
Fortunately, I am currently in the Western Continent to settle some Church related affairs. In two days, you said? I will arrange my duties so that I can accompany you.
Alright~~please come to the Institute two days later. I will provide you with more details when my assistant has arranged everything~~
Understood, I will see you then.
Having achieved her objective, Emerada ended the Idea Link.
"I wonder what we would find~~" Emerada said to no one in particular. Based on what she heard so far, she had a feeling it would not be a pleasant experience.
Two days later, Emerada, Suzuno and Emerada's small team of sorcerers stood in front of the building in question. The demon corpses which had been found in the mountain had already been removed and burned, but the stench in the air still felt heavy and constricting, bearing evidence to the large number of deaths which had occurred here.
"That seems to be the last of the wards, Director Emerada. I am unable to detect any more of them." One of the sorcerers announced.
"That's good~~" Emerada commented as she wiped the sweat of her brows with a beautifully embroidered handkerchief. The wards had been tougher than she had expected, and it had taken her and her team, with some help from Suzuno, two hour to break through all the remaining wards.
"Is it safe to go in now?" Suzuno asked.
"I have scanned the building and did not detect any traps." Another sorcerer announced.
"Alright." Suzuno replied. She approached the door and carefully placed her hand on the door. Seeing that there was no spell repelling her, she pushed the door open.
And instantly backed up due to the foul smell assaulting their noses.
"Cough! Cough! Perhaps we should take preventive measures." Suzuno commented as she coughed a few times to clear her airways.
"I agree. That definitely smells like rotting bodies." Emerada's assistant commented as she cast a spell that surrounded the caster with a pocket fresh air. The rest of them quickly followed suit.
Now equipped with suitable protection, the team of sorcerers entered the building first, with Emerada and Suzuno following behind them. However, they did not get very far into the building, because the group of sorcerers in front of them seemed to be frozen on the spot as they took in the scene in front of them.
Sensing no immediate danger, Emerada and Suzuno moved to the front of the group. It was then did they realise why the sorcerers have stopped walking.
It was a nightmarish scene.
In the large room, there were cages along both sides of the walls. Inside those cages, there were demons of various species. All of them had been chained to the cramped looking cages in some way, preventing any kind of movement. It was obvious that none of them were alive.
With that much blood on the floor of the cages, it was impossible for any of them to still be alive.
"What happened here?" Hearing Suzuno ask this next to her, Emerada snapped back to her senses.
"Everyone, search the building, we need to find out what was being done here." Emerada said in a serious tone. Since she rarely spoke this way, all her subordinates instantly recovered from the shock and started moving to various areas of the building, casting nervous glances at the demon bodies as they did so.
"Shall we go too?" Suzuno asked.
"Yes, lets." Emerada replied.
As the other sorcerers spread around the large room and adjoining rooms near the main door, Emerada and Suzuno headed towards the back, trying not to focus on the cages as they passed by. They would examine the bodies later. Right now, they had to find if any clues of what transpired here could be found.
"Look, there's another door here." Suzuno said as they reached the back of the room. They were faced with a steel door with a small barred window. Suzuno pushed the door open and it opened with a creak. Thankfully, it was not locked. Like the other rooms, there were a few box-like cages in the room. Inside were the rotting bodies of human-sized demons. The two petite sized women frowned in disgust but entered the room anyway. As Suzuno entered the room, Emerada moved to follow her, but stopped as she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.
Turning back, she was faced with a cage which, unlike the others, did not have any demon bodies inside. Instead, there was a lump of what looked like cloth in the middle of the floor. It was also relatively cleaner than the others, not that it was not difficult to achieve that when the floor of the others were completely covered in blood. There were patches of dried blood on the ground and the chains and shackles connected to the bars of the cage. When Emerada took a few steps closer to the cage, she noticed several large black feathers scattered on the floor.
Before Emerada consciously realised what she was doing, she had approached the cage and pulled the partially opened door. It swung completely open, creaking ominously due to the long period of neglect. Getting on her hands and knees and crawling through the small entrance of the cage, Emerada approached the lump of cloth cautiously and touched it. Despite the fact that it was covered in dust and blood, there was something about the colour of the cloth which seemed to bug Emerada.
Where have I seen this before?
Picking up the cloth, Emerada spread it open, her eyes moving over the belts in the front.
Almost immediately, she remembered her first encounter with demons in the royal castle at Saint Aire.
"Director Emerada! We found something!"
Emerada jumped in surprise at the loud voice, almost hitting her head on the top of the small cage. She backed out of the entrance, holding the fabric in one hand and turned around, only to see her assistant walking quickly towards her.
"What is it?" Emerada asked. From the corner of her eye, she also noticed Suzuno approaching her assistant.
"Seems to be a document of importance. Seeing that we found nothing else, the people here must have gotten rid of the evidence. Fortunately, they missed this out. It was found behind a desk. As for its contents, it would be better if you read it for yourself." The assistant answered, holding out a piece of fibrous parchment to Emerada.
Emerada took the parchment from her assistant's hand gingerly and looked at it. It looked to be a list of observations with various dates written next to them. She started reading,
"Subject did not show any additional symptoms. It can be concluded that the prototype weapon was a failure…...After some modifications, the second subject given an injury in the same area appeared to weaken faster than the first subject, will confirm with a larger sample size…...Results are consistent after testing, work will be done to increase weapon's durability…"
The more Emerada read, the drier her mouth felt.
"They have been developing weapons and testing them on these demons?!" Suzuno asked. Emerada turned towards Suzuno and saw that the inquisitor's expression was a mixture of sadness and anger. Suzuno approached Emerada and said quietly,
"Allow me to read that, Emerada-dono." Without waiting for a reply, she gently pulled the piece of paper out of Emerada's hands and began scanning the page.
"It is certainly consistent with what we have observed so far. The demon bodies with the exact same wounds, and all this…" The assistant answered, waving her hand towards all the cages.
"Has anything else been found?" Emerada asked in a hoarse voice.
"Unfortunately, we found nothing else of importance."
Emerada looked towards Suzuno and the Inquisitor shook her head.
"There was nothing in the back room."
"If there's nothing else, all that's left to do here is to get rid of the bodies." Emerada said in response.
"Understood." The assistant acknowledged before she instructed the team of sorcerers on what to do.
Suzuno and Emerada stepped back to allow the sorcerers to do their job.
"When the demons attacked Ente Isla, we thought that humans were the only victims. Who knew that humans could be capable of this?" Suzuno said with a dark expression.
"At least the demons left the humans who didn't resist alone, mostly that is. Would that make the humans the more cruel beings?" Emerada asked in response.
"Perhaps. I am in no position to judge…" Suzuno replied harshly then with a glance at Emerada's hand, she changed the topic.
"Emerada-dono, what's that fabric that you are holding on to?"
Emerada looked down at the cloth, no the coat, in her arms, and remembered what she had been thinking about before she was interrupted. Looking uncomfortable, she replied hesitantly,
"I found it in that cage at the back. This belongs...to Lucifer."
"What?" Suzuno's eyes widened in surprise, turning to look towards the last cage behind her. Seeing the chains, the dried blood, and the large black feathers which could not be easily missed, she turned towards Emerada, her face ashen "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I saw it up close when he invaded the royal castle...this definitely belongs to him." Emerada replied as she held up the coat in front of her.
As the coat unfurled, it was clear that the coat's size and length matched Lucifer's small stature.
Suzuno and Emerada looked at the coat and the cage. Then they surveyed the the bloody room around them, with similarly uncomfortable expressions on their faces.
"I can't imagine what he must have…" Emerada started to say, but she was interrupted by Suzuno.
"No. Let's not talk about this…" Suzuno said, her voice shaking.
"...Crestia? Are you alright?" Emerada placed a hand on Suzuno's shoulder and asked, concerned.
"I'm fine….I'm alright." Suzuno mumbled. Then with she suddenly took a few deep breaths before declared in a steady tone:
"I will be alright, Emerada-dono. Do not worry about me. Also…"
Suzuno pointed at the coat.
"About that coat...um…what are you going to do with it?"
"Oh um...Fix it and return it, I guess…" Emerada replied absently.
"...I see. Alright then."
After that, the two of them said nothing more and moved to help transport and burn the bodies. The faster they could get out of this place, the better.
One week after discovering the building, Emerada stood in one of the many hallways in the Demon Fortress. Standing in front of her was the fallen angel who had become one of the Demon Generals of the Demon King Army, Lucifer, also known as Urushihara Hanzo, the self proclaimed NEET.
"What is it, Emerada Etuva? You're the one who called me out and now you have no idea what to say? I don't have all day." Urushihara asked in annoyance.
Unbeknownst to Lucifer, Emerada was currently fighting an inner battle,her thoughts racing.
I knew this was a stupid idea! I should have asked Crestia to pass it to him! What if he asks how I managed to get it? What if he gets upset? What if...Argh, too many "what-ifs" Ugh…
Knowing that she would never be able to settle down until she actually took action, Emerada held out a small package and held it out of Lucifer.
"Here. Take it."
Urushihara raised an eyebrow in surprise, then that surprised expression changed to that of suspicion. Backing up a step, Urushihara asked, his eyes narrowing.
"...And what is that supposed to be? If this is some kind of weird trap or game you're playing…"
"...If I wanted to kill you, I can think of more direct methods than giving you a package and hoping that you'll take it~~" Emerada said matter of factly.
"True." Urushihara replied as he moved to take the package.
"OK, I'll be going now…" Emerada was about to turn and walk away when Urushihara stopped her.
"No. You're waiting here."
"Why~? I'm not pranking you or anything..." However, Emerada decided not to comment any further when Urushihara glared at her.
The fallen angel still opened the package cautiously, and as the paper peeled away, Urushihara's eyes widened in surprise when he saw the familiar dark purple cloth and belts. He then stared at Emerada, completely confused.
Without waiting for Urushihara to ask, Emerada spoke, "We found a building and it was inside."
"Oh." Urushihara said flatly.
"We burned the bodies which were found there."
"...Um...For what happened, I am deeply so…."
"Have you ever seen me apologise for invading the Western Continent?"
Emerada started to speak, but she was interrupted by Urushihara's question. Perhaps in her mind, she was thinking that an apology might have been the most appropriate course of action but Urushihara was not having it. She stared at Urushihara, stunned.
"It was a war." Urushihara continued.
"But it doesn't give humans an excuse to do what they did!" Emerada protested quietly.
"All is fair in war, I'm sure you know that." Urushihara said nonchalantly.
Emerada was about to protest further but Urushihara just held his hand up, stopping her.
"If you really want to apologise to someone….apologise to Maou. They're his army after all."
"Anyway, thanks for returning this." and without waiting for Emerada to reply, Urushihara walked away quickly, leaving Emerada in the hallway.
Emerada stared at Urushihara's back in guilt, but as he disappeared down the hallway, she turned and walked away.
pika318: Hope all of you enjoyed it! This is just an exploration of an idea of what it would be like if humans did anything they could so they could win the war. It was enjoyable to write because I like dark stuff and the actual series does not have a lot of it. But that's what fanfics are for, right?