Vol. 1 – Chapter 4
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***(Graeval's POV)***

3 years. It's been 3 years since that stormy day and all sorts of things have happened, both good and bad.

Let's start from the beginning. Sarity left a few days after our discussion and returned to Cuding, the capital of the kingdom. There were no greetings or anything like that, she probably still didn't understand why I talked to her that way and she probably still had it on me, however, her harem mates and the Hero greeted me and thanked me for the meals I had served, and for the short time spent with Jack. He's very good at chess, but he hasn't beaten me yet. Within a month of their departure, I learned that Jack had married the members of the harem and for some reason, the first princess of the kingdom had also joined them. Well, since there is an heir to the throne there will be no problems like Hero Jack's ascent to the throne... I hope. Well, not that I'm interested or concerned. As long as they don't do bullshit that makes me act, they can do whatever they want.

For my part, I continued to take care of Lilith and work in the inn's kitchen. Sarity's parents knew what I did, but instead of feeling a bit of a grudge against me, her father in particular since he is too affectionate with his daughter, they instead praised me for the maturity I have shown with that act. They too had noticed the semblances of infantility their daughter had retained.

However, as I took care of Lilith, her trust in me grew to confess to me that she was the Demon Lord that Jack technically killed. I didn't worry about it, on the contrary, I was happy for her trust in me, and to reciprocate, I told her about me by answering some questions she had asked herself the first time we spoke. With trust, love also came and after 2 years from our meeting, we got married and now we are a happy couple. The whole village attended the wedding. By the way, no one knows that Lilith is a demon also because thanks to my powers, I always made sure that her distinctive traits were hidden from the eyes of others.

Shortly after the wedding, we opened our restaurant with me in the kitchen and her at the reception. Needless to say, her beauty attracted quite a few men, but no one ever dared to annoy her. Although enchanted, many have experienced the pain that comes from angering the lady of the Moonlight... all these have never dared to repeat the feat, also because they know well that her husband can be much scarier than her. Anyway, everyone accepted Lilith and she too made her circle of friends in the village. In both of my lives, I've never been happier.

Of course, as someone said when something good happens the universe is always looking for a way to balance things out, with someone doing some shit.

With the demon war over, there were still sporadic skirmishes but nothing major, which has brought the anti-demon alliance members at loggerheads with each other... all too quickly. The Thirus Kingdom, which is the one in which I live, has acquired enormous political and military power with the marriage between the Hero and the first princess, it could be said that we are the only ones to possess the atomic bomb. Of course, other countries did not like it and it degenerated within a few months. The anti-demon alliance had turned into the anti-Thirus alliance despite maintaining a semblance of good relations.

As far as domestic politics is concerned, here too things have gotten very tense. The King is old, and as long as he holds power things continue to work, but after that? Although the heir to the throne has been appointed, the division between the nobles has become more pronounced where one faction supports the heir to the throne, another wants the Hero to inherit the throne and another interventionist want to use the power of the Hero to expand territorially once the heir has ascended the throne. In other words, the kingdom is a time bomb. In all likelihood, the anti-Thirus alliance will try to shake things up as much as possible at the right moment to lead this kingdom to civil war.

As if that were not enough, cases of banditry have increased in the peripheral areas of the kingdom. Public safety in the outlying areas has deteriorated since the three factions were formed and it is very likely that either the nobles or an outside influence are behind many of the assaults launched by bandits. However, in the village where I live it is not a problem as I eliminate them even before they have a chance to be seen by my fellow villagers.

How disgusting. I was hoping to live quietly, enjoy Lilith's love, and maybe have children. But due to the higher-ups, I have a constant hassle and can't enjoy life as I want. Lilith is fully aware that I do it for her and my village and sometimes accompanies me on these extermination expeditions. I can't ask for a better wife.

*****

Even before we started with a party in preparation, wasn't it? Well, this story also starts one week before the town's Harvest Festival. It is both a traditional holiday and a religious ceremony, where offerings are made to the goddess Aphy as thanks for the bountiful harvest, and afterward, there is food, alcohol, and dancing in front of the bonfire. Guess who gets to cook for all those people? Well... the pay is good so I have no reason to complain.

"Lilith. It's almost time. Are you done?

"I'm getting dressed. I'm coming dear~!"

I gave up counting how many times, but every time I see her after leaving the 'bathroom' I am fascinated. She wears simple dresses consisting of a red skirt and a gray low-shoulder top, her white hair was instead gathered in a complex chignon with a braid that covers the lace, and based on the light they take on a silver color. Making a hair conditioner for her was the best thing I've ever done!

"So... do we want to go?" she said taking my hand gently "Something wrong?" she asked noticing my bewitched gaze

"No..." I answered taking her cheek softly "You are beautiful. Every day always feels like the first time."

"Mou... flatterer." she said blushing and kissing me "Now let's go, otherwise we'll be late." she stated tying a blue bandana over her head to better hide her horns.

Hand in hand, we headed for the Moonlight as it was time to open. Passing through the town, people greeted us warmly, while a queue had already formed in front of the restaurant entrance. It was lunchtime after all and many of them are workers on break.

Opened, the place filled up. My wife and the waitresses welcomed the guests while I used my cooking skills from the kitchen to create the quick and light dishes of the lunch menu. By the way, the kitchen is open with a counter. A bit like a diner. After all, I love hearing people appreciate my food, praise it, or criticize it. Yes, criticism is important for a cook, especially if it is constructive.

The front door opened and my wife, noticing this, went to meet the newly arrived customer

“Welcome to the Moonlight... Oh! Good morning sir Bearnárd! It's been a while."

"It's been a while indeed Lilith."

"A table for one?"

"If there is room at the counter, I'm very happy."

"Sure."

Bearnárd Mac Cinnéide is the owner of a relatively large merchant company. He is the head of the Cinnéide Company, a chubby, lovable man with red hair and blue eyes, traits typical of those born in the northern regions. He inherited the business from his father and many nobles are his clients. Now you ask, what is such an important merchant doing in a humble restaurant like this? I'm a client of his too. He is the only one who can get me particular spices that are also impossible to find in Thirus. Although at first, it was a simple merchant-customer relationship, he soon fell in love with my dishes, and whenever he gets the chance he comes to me to be offered a meal. Of course, the bill is deducted from the money he will receive for the goods he procures me. He comes here to eat once every one or two weeks. He is a customer and a person I appreciate given his honesty, even too much for a merchant, and his being a talker. I would never entrust him with a secret, but if you want information about what is happening, there is no person more informed than him and in front of a good plate and a mug of beer, his tongue melts like nothing.

“Welcome back Bearnárd. I didn't think a week had already passed."

"Two weeks please."

"Have you already decided what to take?"

"If it doesn't bother you, a carbonara and a mug of beer."

"Here it comes!"

Without wasting time, I finished the dishes I had on my hands and started preparing the dish for my supplier.

The beaten eggs, the bacon that is browned in the pot while the pasta is cooked to perfection. Sautéed everything in the still-hot pan where I browned the bacon with a sprinkling of pepper. In the end, the pasta dishes are very quick to make. Pasta dishes are very popular in these hours and since it is fresh, the dish is even more delicious.

When the plate arrived, he took his fork and gave the first bite. After chewing and swallowing, his expression was ecstatic.

"Then? Do you like it?"

"There hasn't been a time that you've let me down."

"I see. Then enjoy it."

"Sure... after this what about a chat?"

"Of course. After all, talking about problems or favors in front of a plate...."

“Ahahahah! It spoils the taste. It is now the hundredth time that you have repeated it to me."

At first, Bearnárd talked about problems and business at the table, but ever since he started going to Moonlight, I... educated him so to speak. The moment of the meal is the only one in which you think of nothing but the food on your plate. It is a moment of relaxation. I managed to shove it right into that red pumpkin.

When he finished his plate, he drank what little beer was left in the mug and exhaled satisfied. After taking the dirty dishes and giving them a quick clean, Bearnárd leaned back on the counter with both arms.

"So, what's up?" I asked him as I cut some vegetables in front of him

“Good or bad, the same things: business is so-so, there are too many tensions, and so on. But the bandits are the biggest problem at the moment."

“For what reason? There have been no sightings of bandits here."

“On this, I agree with you as much as I am surprised. Even my caravans have problems with them and the mercenary guild does nothing but takes requests to escort or hunt the bandits."

"What do you think is the cause of this boom in criminals?"

"I think there are many, but the main one is the end of the war against the demons."

In fact... it's not strange. Being the nation bordering on the territory of the demons, Thirus has always concentrated most of his funds on the expansion and strengthening of the army. With the end of the war, the maintenance of the soldiers would soon consume the state coffers and therefore there were a lot of furloughs. Some of these will have become mercenaries, others will have returned home, and still, others will have surely become bandits since they could not adapt to daily life or did not find work. While not a nice thing to say, war was a necessary condition for keeping humanity together and maintaining a certain political balance. With the war disappeared, this situation has arisen.

"And the kingdom does nothing?"

“Sending the army may not be wise given the tensions at the borders. At most, they can only put bounties on the heads of the bandits, but the Mercenary Guild is starting to have problems with them too."

"They too?! Then the situation is worse than expected."

"Quite." Bearnárd said putting his hands in his hair. “During these suppressions, many mercenaries lost their lives. Indeed, there are more survivors among those who guard caravans and convoys than among the expeditionary groups. The career as a bounty hunter is not very popular at the moment."

Most likely, bandits know their hiding place better than others and know where to set traps and ambushes. Of course, as soon as they enter my range of perception, I eradicate them even before they have a chance to set up camp. I don't like the bad guys coming to do what they want in my house.

By the way, the Guild of Mercenaries is a very old organization to protect people who have decided to find other ways to earn their loaf, be it by gathering herbs or hunting bandits, demons, or monsters. A kind of Adventurers Guild of fantasy tales, but with differences: as the name implies, it is made up of mercenaries or mercenary groups that can be hired by various nations regardless of nationality, they are completely alien to the politics of the kingdoms as they are like small independent nations, however, require compliance with national laws and there have been cases in which many mercenaries have foolishly tried to hide behind that "independence" only to be brought to justice. They are also divided into ranks but from what I have heard they can only climb them after having a certain period of service and done a certain number of missions.

"Speaking of which, rumors claim that you are protected here by the hand of our lady Aphy."

"No... it's my hand to protect us." oh yes, of cooouurse I tell him this.

“After all, this is the homeland of the Saint and the bandits have never shown up. Yeah. It must be that probably."

The only place Aphy shouldn't be is when I'm in meditation. Since I got married to Lilith she has become even more persistent... damn, I got a headache.

"Speaking of women..." I began trying to change the subject "how is Mrs. Mac Cinnéide?"

“Ah, she'll join me soon. Speaking of which..." he approached "is not that you could reserve the whole place for me tomorrow evening? You know, it will be our wedding anniversary."

“Oh oh… even though I wish I couldn't do it. But..." I began looking at him with an accomplice smile "on the upper floor there are some private places created especially for these romantic events. I reserve the best I have for you." I concluded by shaking his hand

"You are the best!" Bearnárd said, squeezing it

"Do not mention it."

"This is offered by the house." Lilith said while serving another mug of beer to Bearnárd "Besides, what news is there about the Hero and his wives."

“Oh my! Better be careful Graeval. I think your wife wants to leave you for the Hero."

"Ok, I'll take this." I said taking the mug from him

"Joke! It was a joke!" Bearnárd said panicked "When it comes to Lilith, you just can't play the game, can you?"

"I just don't like these jokes in bad taste." I said giving him back the mug "So what's the news?"

"More or less the same." Bearnárd began by swallowing the first sip "The Hero has been appointed Duke so that he can allow her highness Cordelia to marry him and is currently administering the Collwell Duchy which was left without a guide after the death of the last head of the family."

"If I'm not mistaken, the last of the House of Collwell had no heir."

"Yeah. He never wanted to remarry. His wife had died during childbirth along with the baby. Poor woman."

"Rest in peace." Lilith stated

“However, the administration carried out by the Hero and her highness Cordelia, in particular, has brought prosperity to the Duchy. The third wife, Lady Carrel, trains her husband's troops and often accepts requests for the suppression of bandits to give recruits experience in the field. While the fourth wife, Lady Leame, is often locked up in her magical research laboratory."

"And the second wife Lady... Lingxin?" I asked with a note of nostalgia and sadness

“She continues to carry out her duties as a Saint in the capital during the most important celebrations and it is not uncommon for her to travel throughout the kingdom to visit the various towns. Sometimes she uses these trips to force her husband and other wives to take a break. The fact is that when she travels alone, she is always accompanied by a company of Templars. For the rest, she seems to enjoy life"

"I see."

"Come to think of it, didn't she come here to her homeland anymore?"

“The last time was 3 years ago just before she got married. Then she didn't come anymore."

"I understand."

Bearnárd is aware that I am Sarity's childhood friend. What he doesn't know, however, is that after giving him that well-served, neither I nor she spoke again. Maybe it's better this way. After all, she has her life and I have mine with Lilith. But... that bitter taste is still in my mouth?

From there, the chat was about plus and minus. Slowly the restaurant also emptied and finally Bearnárd also greeted us after choosing which dishes to serve the next evening. It was still a little while until closing, but the thing I found odd is that Sarity's parents didn't come here to eat. Even though they have an inn with a kitchen, they can't do without my dishes and during lunch, they are always among the first as they leave the inn to Tarkart's sister who was also hired as a cook when I left. Of course, I always ask Jessica, Tarkart's sister, to make me some of her specialties. Between us, there is a bond of rivalry and friendship at the same time. We have a culinary challenge every week and we are currently at 29 wins, 27 losses, and 10 draws. Of course, sometimes I lose on purpose since I'm afraid Jessica might lose confidence in herself if I always win.

After cleaning the dining room and kitchen, I permitted the waitresses and my assistant cook to go home when the service was over.

Dlin dlin

“Welcome...! Ah, Mr. Tarkart, Mrs. Tilly! What a pleasure to see you again. By now I thought you would never come again!"

“Forgive the delay, Lilith. But we had things to do."

"The usual table for two?"

"No. This time there are four of us dear."

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