And so ends a tale that would become a legend...

a story of a girl who came to rule over all demons as the Demon Overlord Prier.

Not quite.

"Culotte!"

I wish it had been the end.

Prier's voice was sharp as a blade, and at that moment it stabbed in every bit as painfully. Culotte responded with a much duller groan and rolled over, unwilling to start the day on such a sour note.

The term "day" was relative in the Dark World. No sun, no moon, and demons didn't seem to appreciate the order brought by clocks of any kind. Yet somehow, this had disciplined his sister to become reliable as a rooster.

"CULOTTE!"

She was already loud as one.

For the unmeasured time they'd lived in this place, she ocassionally managed to relive the role of the smothering, mothering brat as though she never left it. Now, that act was encoring for what seemed forever. She'd been in in a truly demonic mood since she'd been defeated for the first time, by an unlikely child-prince named Laharl; but being declared his vassal as a result sent her into a frenzied tyranny against what she had left to lord over.

"CU-LOTTE!"

Neither of them were purely human anymore, or young, though in some ways their appearance maintained the illusion they were. Great horns curved about Culotte's sleep-tousled head, and he tried to clench his pillow over them with only minimal success as he buried his face in the mattress. Twin sets of wings mantled the rest of him in place of the blankets he'd kicked to the floor in fitful sleep, futilely trying to muffle out the inevitable.

"It's going to get cold!"

"Not the way you burn it!" he retorted, unable to match her volume, but unable to resist the jibe while he was this far from striking range. He rose at last, stretching toe to top, grinding clarity into his crimson eyes with his fists. If whatever charcoal she fried up really did get cold, she'd still warm his backside, even if he was somewhat bigger than her now. His wingspan was, anyway.

A hooded figure peeked politely as possible into the bedroom. Palmer, the Red Skull; one of their own vassals, one of their first from this part of the Dark World. "She's coming up the stairs, Master Culotte." the demon husked, low enough Culotte could hear the rapid thud, feel it beneath his own feet.

"I'm up!" he nearly squealed as his sister's baleful face glowered from the doorway for a moment, only to withdraw just as quickly. He still felt the lingering heat of her eyes as he followed the sound of her stomps, maneuvering down the unfamiliar halls of Laharl's castle.

Croix went off to find the answers for his life...and he never did come back to stay, in the end. Prier had eventually come to realize she wasn't one of them. I know it was hard for her, but she just shrugged it off as always. She said it was harder trying to be a substitute for someone she never wanted to match.

Then one day, she said she had a lot of questions of her own. And the only place she was going to find answers for them was the Dark World.

She wouldn't tell me why. She hugged me so tight she almost strangled me, told me to be good, to keep being so strong. She wouldn't even tell Father Salade.

She made it sound like she was never coming back.

Heh, and for all the arguments we ever had about her letting me go...I couldn't let her go.


Yattanya and the Chocolats flew her to the ruins where we'd found the Dark Portal those years ago, when we travelled to Fatima. I stowed away. Then I followed after her when she went through.

She caught me a couple days later when I sort of ran into a really nasty Higher Demon. I think I preferred its bite to hers.

"If that brat catches you slacking, I won't stop him from squishing you like a bug." Prier muttered as her brother followed her into the kitchen with a yawn.

"He sleeps for ten days at a time, Prier." Culotte countered as he sat down to the tiny table. His broad wings flexed awkwardly against the tall back of the chair, then crumpled into the most comfortable position they were going to manage.

The servants' quarters were predictably much different than the grand banquet hall they'd managed for themselves as Overlords in their own right, but the rather browned plate of breakfast plopped before him was the same as ever. Even with vassals, Prier insisted on doing the cooking herself. She always did fight against things even she couldn't beat.

"You MADE me burn it, this time!"

This time. He picked at it reluctantly. At least whatever it was, it was definitely done.

I still don't know exactly why she's down here, and we've been down here a while. But that's all right. We're still demon hunters, even if we're kind of demons ourselves, now. We stop trouble from even getting to Paprica. Or, we did...

It's not so bad being Laharl's vassal so far. He seems to let us do almost anything we want, until he needs us. That's been pretty often, though. He's a prince because his father was Overlord here, but demons don't choose leaders by just bloodlines. They choose leaders by whoever manages to keep the most blood after a fight.

Bloodlines...I heard a couple of his vassals gossiping with a couple of ours. They said Laharl's mother was a human, a witch who came here to gain more power.

It reminded me of Noir a little. I was sorry I mentioned it to Prier. She looked even angrier than she had.

"He wants us to go collect up more zombies." Prier continued, her moodiness thankfully zeroed onto the prince.

"There were more...?" Palmer's quiet voice held an unmistakable note of dismay as he decided it was safe to enter.

Sister Alouette...I still remember when you forbid Prier to call them wimps.

The mixed Prinny Squads of both Prince and vanquished Overlords shuffled in moments later, their odd peglegs tapping a restless tattoo on the stone floor.

"Dood, tell me that's not all there is." one whined, spotting Prier trying vainly to scrape the skillet clean.

"Unless you want the frying pan instead." Prier growled, the reply sizzling exactly like what she was scraping.

Culotte stared hard at the mess on his own plate, appetite vanishing completely. Of all the Dark World's creatures, the Prinnies disturbed him the most, even after dealing with them for so long. They were human souls, trapped in almost comical skins sewn from the sins of their mortal lives.

Prier seems to have so many questions. I only have one. ...why did you have to die...?

Sister Alouette...I know I'll never find that answer, not even when we meet again.

"Good morning ♥ "

The purring singsong made Culotte tense and Prier grimace. Etna smiled smugly in the doorway, then leaned back in a spine-loosening stretch, as though to emphasize the fact she could still be in her Prinny-print pajamas at this hour. "My, everyone's up so early! Don't you ever get any sleep?"

Etna seems to be Overlord Laharl's unofficial right-hand man...or girl. Sometimes she makes it hard to tell. When she and Prier are in the same room, you want to be in the next one.

One of the Prinnies squawked in shock as it was violently chosen to be the demoness's seating of the morning. Etna bounced experimentally on the prone creature before looking back to Prier with an ingratiating razor smile. To her, Laharl's surprising victory against this monster in a bouncy disguise was a double bonus. Much of the fighting was left to Prier and her vassals instead, and Prier herself had the amusing temperament of a D-cup Flonne with chest hair.

"So, is there anything left to eat?" the demoness's eyes trailed along Prier's far more lush curves impishly. "Or crumbs?"

Culotte coughed; it was only because he'd happened to choke on his own crumbs as Etna made the first move in this chess game of dress sizes, but it could have been mistaken for concealed laughter. Either way, it was certain abuse. His wings automatically flashed up and about him, scattering tableware and the remains of his breakfast to the floor. He cringed in his leathery cocoon and waited for the salvos.

None came, this time. Prier only closed her eyes and bit into blackened toast. She had heard every possible one already, usually several a day. She couldn't even think to be the "bigger person" any more, because the first time she said it aloud that in itself received tittering agreement. But she wouldn't rise to the juicy bait the little hellion was dangling, no more than she rose for all the snacks the jabs implied she did.

Instead, she turned her attention to the Prinny Etna was sitting on. The creature had lapsed into helpless silence and a steady stream of sweat.

"You're never going to get them to Red Moon doing that."

Boing. "Oh, really?" the other girl answered dryly, bored expression belying her predatory stare. "It's called getting the most for your Hell. Like groceries, except it lasts more than five minutes."

"Dood, Red Moon looks shiny black where I am."

BOING.

"I mean, pay's the same, dood."

"PRIER!"

Culotte peeked out, hearing the imperious bellow of salvation. Prince Laharl did his best to fill the doorway with his slight frame, thin arms folded before him in what would have been a most impressive boss villain pose, if he'd only had any muscle and height.

Prince Laharl doesn't seem so bad personally, as long as you call him Overlord and don't talk to his angel friend Flonne about love. That works for Prier, except the Overlord part. Me, I'm just glad to have someone other than Etna and my sister around.

Prier ground her teeth into the last of the smoldered bread, eyes squeezing shut as though she were chewing a lemon instead. "Yes?"

"That's 'Yes, OVERLORD', vassal." Laharl grinned. Pride had brought them clashing together, and pride is what kept the woman his vassal. It was a neverending battle of wills and egos, and he loved every minute of it. "Remember your place."

Prier returned the unpleasant smile. "Yes, Overlord Vassal! It was twice as big as THIS place."

Etna sputtered on her drink. Laharl's mouth withered to the most unholy of pouts. "Tch. I already called you once this morning. Those damn zombies are clear up the cliffsides, now. Where were you?"

"I was making breakfast!" Prier clenched her fists and jumped to her feet, wishing she could raise knots on the little brat's head like she used to raise on Culotte's. "What, are we supposed to go without food next?"

"Not you." chimed the instant, predictable reply from Etna.

"Shut up, Etna." Laharl snapped, not taking his eyes off his newest vassal. His face flushed as he looked her over as though she were diseased. "Get out there and get those zombies, right now! You have enough stored on you to last for weeks, anyway."

"I'll...just be taking the dishes back to the wash." Palmer said quickly.

It took a while to convince Laharl that Prier didn't mean to try suffocating him to death when she tackled him. On the plus side, he sent his Prinny Squad with us to the cliffs to get the zombies. On the bad side, he told us to stay there.

-+----+ NEXT EPISODE +----+-

Oh, the divine judgement of never missing a meal! The damnation of all those between-meal snacks! This is a sin only Dance-Dance Evolutionary Girl Etna can hope to purify!

MY BUTT'S NOT BIG!

A step to the right! A stomp to the left! Come on, Demon Hunter, you'll be flat as the pancakes you devour by the dozen in no time! Burn those calories the way you burn everything you touch in the kitchen!

I DON'T NEED A DIET!

Next, on Aerobic Dance-Dance Evolutionary Girl Etna, Chapter Three: Baby Got Back Comeback! Demon Hunter Prier, time to repent for all those Mooboo boo-boos!

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