“Phew… That was something!” says Prince Arowana.
I, Hakkai the orc, will continue to report on the prince’s pilgrimage.
The mermaid students who came for a field trip have just left after achieving their goal.
Sandwiched between Lord Ardheg and Songokufon, Prince Arowana has returned in one piece from a near-death experience.
“I really thought I was going to die back there…”
Anyone would die just from a graze of Lord Ardheg’s breath or Songokufon’s mana cannon.
I’m surprised he managed to dodge them all while they were rampaging about like a storm.
Lady Puffer, who had sent the girls back to the farm, has also returned.
“All right, off we go.”
“Where are we going today?”
“To tell you the truth, Demon King Zedan told me about a place that we should definitely visit if we pass by it.”
“He said it should be somewhere around here.”
It’s not like we can ignore the Demon King’s request, can we?
I guess our destination today has been set.
“Let’s get ‘em!”
And here we are.
“Hey, hun, is this really the place?”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure this is the place Lord Zedan told me about…”
But the place we arrived at is… how should I say it, desolated.
No towns, villages, not even a single plant or tree.
Just barren land without a hint of biological life.
Why did the Demon King make us come here?
“Was it to lure us out so he could ambush us?”
“There’s no such thing as that, Lord Ardheg! Lord Zedan would never use such underhanded tactics!”
“Oops, sorry…” says Lord Ardheg dejectedly.
For a dragon, he’s pretty delicate.
“Oh, what a surprise. Are you perhaps travelers?”
From the seemingly deserted wilderness, a human appears.
“You must be lost. I’ll show you the way to the nearest village, so you should set out right away. You should get there by dusk at best if so.”
“No, mister, we’re…”
Prince Arowana explains how we came to be here, glad that there is at least someone.
We wouldn’t want things to turn into a long story, so he kept my identity and our connection with the Demon King a secret.
some explanation going on!
“Oh! You must be the prince from the Mermaid Kingdom the Demon King told us about!”
There goes the prince’s effort to explain things as ambiguously as possible.
Apparently, the other party knows everything.
“J-Just who are you, mister?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve been told by the Demon King to show the mermaid prince and his group around when they show up. You’re free to observe as much as you like.”
With that, the human starts walking as if to say, “follow me.”
Looking closely, he’s a shabby but dignified middle-aged man in his late forties.
“I can’t really guarantee if there’s anything worth observing in this wasteland,” he says.
And it indeed is a wasteland.
It seems impossible for people to live here with no vegetation, animals, or even a flowing river.
“Why do you choose to live in such a harsh place, mister?”
“Destiny, I suppose?”
“I’m lucky to have survived this long here. Besides, there’s something that I need to do.”
“‘Cultivation,’ I believe?”
That sounds familiar.
“Look over there.”
Several people are hoeing in the direction the man is pointing.
It seems he’s not the only person living here.
“No, we haven’t even reached that point yet.”
“We’re mixing rice husks into the soil. But that’s not all. We also use crushed fish bones and ashes from burning wood. Even rotten vegetable scraps…”
Oh, organic fertilizer.
Back at Lord Saint’s farm, in addition to hyper-fish fertilizer, we also mix food scraps into the fields to nourish the soil.
“As you can see, this area is a wasteland. The soil is dead, so even if we plant crops, they will not flourish. That’s why we’re starting from bringing the soil back to life.”
“We are also drawing waterways while we’re at it. Only after these are completed can we produce food for ourselves.”
But it will probably take them many years to complete those.
The hyper-fertilizer at Lord Saint’s farm promotes the growth of crops and produces an abundant harvest in a shorter time.
We strong orcs built the waterways there, but as ordinary human beings, they will probably progress like ants.
Is such a challenging and unpredictable process what they call true cultivation work?
“Wonderful!” exclaims Prince Arowana. “What respectable work! This is the very first step in the formation of a nation. I now understand why Lord Zedan wanted me to see this!”
“If you don’t mind, I’d say you’re even more respectable for realizing it at such a young age,” says the man, smiling radiantly. “I couldn’t have realized it until I was this old. Upon coming here, I was reminded that I’m not capable of placing myself above others.”
Prince Arowana seems to notice the regretful tone in the man’s voice and humbles himself, asking, “…With all due respect, you’re a human, yes?”
“Indeed. You can tell by my complexion.”
There is indeed a big difference in the skin tone between the human and demon races.
Still, it’s impossible to believe that humans are in the Demon Kingdom.
What could be the meaning of this?
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you the former king of the Human Kingdom?”
Prince Arowana’s question baffles all the party members, including yours truly.
The Human Kingdom was already destroyed by the Demon King’s Army, and its king was believed to have been executed.
Our eyes focus on the man.
The man in question only lets out a dry chuckle.
“How sharp of you. Why, yes, you are indeed correct.”
He really is the king of the Human Kingdom who was supposed to be executed.
“I was supposed to be killed. But thanks to the Demon King’s mercy, I remain alive and am now spending the rest of my life like this.”
So, he was only made out to be dead on the surface.
It’s probably more convenient to rule the former Human Kingdom that way.
“Such a compassionate ruler the Demon King is. He gave me a chance to live and a meaningful job.”
That is, cultivating this land.
“I feel like I’ve learned what a true king is in this land, though it was all too late. I hope I can at least serve as a role model so that a future king like you knows what not to do.”
“No, not at all.”
Prince Arowana takes the former king’s hand.
“I can learn what it is to be a king from the way you live and have lived your life. I understand why Lord Zedan guided me here.”
“And your daughter…” interrupts Puffer. “Is doing awfully well living in another place. Is there anything you want us to tell her?”
The former king’s eyes gleam even more.
“I see… So, the Demon King kept his promise not to oppress my daughter…”
“So, is there anything you want to say?”
The former king interrupts in a reserved manner, despite Lady Puffer’s offer.
“In her mind, I’m supposed to be dead. I don’t want to confuse her unnecessarily. You should also keep the fact that you met me here a secret.”
We all nod in agreement as the former king places his index finger in front of his lips, gesturing, “Shh.”
“Well, I’ll have you know living here isn’t as hard as it looks! Most especially thanks to the Demon King’s support. He provides us with food until we’re able to grow our own crops. That’s why I’ll stay here and continue to do the things I couldn’t do when I was on the throne.”
And so, we bid our goodbye to the former Human King and went on our way.
I guess he plans to spend the rest of his life in the shadows, never to appear on the center stage of history again.
He decided that it was for the best of the nation he once ruled and the world as a whole.
“That was one of the many forms of a king, huh. It was an enlightening experience.”
Prince Arowana and Lady Puffer talk side by side.
This experience would come in handy once they’re in a position to govern their own people.
And when that time is near, this journey, too, will come to a close.