"So how are you getting along with making a grandson for me, Son-in-law?"
Nazin bit back his cough and quickly set his tea cup on the table. Wiping his mouth, he stared at Aultry and scowled. This guy...!
"Could you not rush me? It's only been a month. Not only that, but there's a lot more pressing matters at hand, don't you think?"
"As pressing as whether or not I'll be seeing a grandson within the year? I think not."
Nazin sighed and took a sip from his tea.
After the conversation with the girls, he thought it would be a good idea to bring up the topic with Aultry, his unofficial father-in-law.
To that end, they were once again seated at Aultry's private balcony overlooking the Ancient Forest and sharing a cup of tea.
"You know I'm not getting any younger, Son-in-law. And neither is my precious honeybun." The silver-haired king of Alvheim took a sip from his tea and then paused, giving Nazin a strange look. "Or could it be that the mighty 'Demon Lord' can only fire broken arrows?"
"Taunting me won't make it happen sooner, Aultry. And even if it did, wouldn't that be bad to have a child with either of your daughters out of wedlock?"
Aultry sighed. "You humans and your social constructs... Is it not enough that you care for each other enough to join as one?" He paused and narrowed his eyes. "Or could it be that you see my daughters as mere toys?"
Nazin pinched the bridge of his nose, staving off the growing headache.
It was always like this when he talked with Aultry. Why did he expect today to be any different?
"...I jest, Nazin." Aultry smiled and then took a sip from his tea. "I already know how you feel about my daughters."
"Considering that you insist on having lunch with either Aria or Tani every day, I'd be surprised if you didn't."
Aultry nodded. "It's a father's duty to keep up with his children's lives after all." He stared at Nazin and said, "As an aside, I'm quite surprised about you."
"Well." Aultry leaned back in his chair and said, "In the beginning you avoided the topic of children like the plague. But now you seem quite a bit more open about it." He paused and then said, "Did the wonders of parenthood become more appealing to you now that you've settled in as Yggdrasil's champion? Or could it be that the act itself is too good to pass up so you've accepted the consequences? Aria and Titania's mother was always wonderful at night, so-"
Nazin coughed. "A-Anyway. How are things with the elves over all?"
Aultry raised an eyebrow at the sudden change in topic, clearly amused at the frantic diversion. Still, it seemed that he had enough of toying with Nazin as he nodded and put on a straight and professional face. "So far, it seems that everyone has returned to a semblance of peace. While it is undeniable that there would still be caution regarding a second attack, your presence as both a mighty Demon Lord and Yggdrasil's champion have done a great deal to raise everyone's morale." He smiled. "In fact, some of the more eager saplings have even begun training to be ready to join hands with you should the need arise."
Nazin frowned. "That's a lot of pressure..."
"It's to be expected of both a Demon Lord and Yggdrasil's champion... though I suppose that a solitary powerful being like yourself must be unused to such expectations."
Nazin nodded. "Even so, I have to deal with it."
"Indeed. More tea?"
"Ah." Nazin slid his cup over. "Yes please."
Aultry grabbed the tea kettle nearby and refilled both cups. He slid Nazin's back and then picked up his tea cup for himself. After that, he leaned back and stared at Nazin. "Now, while I enjoy our father-son chats... You aren't one to waste time on trivial matters." He frowned and said, "What's going on?"
Seeing Aultry get serious, Nazin did as well. He took a sip of his tea to wet his throat and then said, "The Ancient Forest will turn into a battlefield again."
"I see." Aultry nodded and said, "I take it that means the Empire has begun to mobilize its troops.
"That's right. From what I could see they're still a month out, but..."
"A month is too soon." Aultry frowned and said, "While everyone has been either healed or revived by Yggdrasil, the damage that the Chaos magic has left behind has yet to fade. The spirits are still restless and weakened. If the Empire returns with more forces than last time..." He sighed and said, "Even with yourself and Lady Saphira to aid us, there will be inevitable casualties."
Nazin frowned. "It's that bad?"
"Yes." Aultry glanced at Nazin and said, "While we elves are skilled in magic, we rely a great deal on the spirits to aid us in combat."
Nazin shook his head. "Don't worry about that. I'm working on countermeasures already."
If it was chaos magic causing the problem, he just had to make a way to reestablish order. And if that didn't work, well he supposed that he could always just make the battlefield even more chaotic by making sure no magic worked and pass out some Anti-magic weapons to the elves.
"Even so..." Aultry shook his head and said, "You are but one person. Even with Lady Saphira, that is only two." He looked at Nazin and said, "Are you confident to say that you will be able to prevent every casualty when we will be facing against an army of the Emperor's best soldiers as well as the summoned Braves?"
If it was just the soldiers, he was confident. But then he remembered Serena's warning. Not only that, but he also remembered those Braves that he failed to kill last time.
Conceptual word magic, the Goddess's blessings... Like Aultry said, he and Saphira would probably be fine. But everyone else wouldn't.
Nazin frowned, wracking his mind for a solution.
Did he have to just grant everyone his skills? Even if he trained [Grant Skill] more though, he wasn't sure how much he could stretch it.
Maybe he could find a way to utilize Yggdrasil's powers to do a forest-wide buff?
Aultry hummed and then looked at Nazin. "You know... Why don't you team up with Cross?"
Nazin looked up. "Cross?"
"Do you not know- Ah, but of course you would not. After all, you dared to proclaim yourself as yet another Demon Lord." He paused. "Speaking of that, you never did answer me if you were an ancient being of catastrophe that went into exile in the Lost Woods."
Nazin sighed. "Does that really matter?"
"I suppose it does not." Aultry sipped his tea and then placed the cup on the table. "Cross... Rather, Demon Lord Krozma is the current ruler of the Demon Realm. The 'True' Demon Lord, if we had to split hairs over the matter." He looked at Nazin and said, "Since the Empire has accused us of being traitorous heretics that are working with the demons, why not turn that lie into a reality?"
Nazin paused. "...That would indeed solve the problem of numbers."
He didn't know much about demons other than the little Tani had told him, but from what he gathered they were unlike the elves that were cooped up in the Ancient Forest to protect Yggdrasil. Instead, the demons had created an entire kingdom for themselves down south, proclaiming it the Demon Realm.
In short, they were a comparable force to the Empire. But...
"Would that Krozma guy even want to help us out?"
There was the saying that the enemy of your enemy was your friend. But Nazin was someone who had similar powers and was undoubtedly stronger than the true Demon Lord.
If it was him in Krozma's shoes, Nazin would definitely perceive it as a threat and remain on his guard.
"Of course." Aultry nodded and said, "While Cross likes to put on a harsh demeanor towards his subjects, he has quite the noble and loyal heart. And from the last time we talked, he seemed to be an idealistic young man quite fond of peace." He frowned and said, "Which makes this situation even stranger."
Nazin frowned. "What do you mean?"
Aultry shook his head. "That guy would never start a fight without reason and the humans should have nothing to gain from doing so. Yet... I heard recently that the Ruby Archfiend and the Cobalt Archfiend attempted to attack Ars Nova. It failed, of course. That terrifying Emperor would never allow such an insurrection in his carefully crafted domain. Even so... It is odd."
"Terrifying Emperor, huh?" Nazin thought back to when he met the guy and then said, "He didn't seem that strong when I saw him."
"Then he was concealing his strength." Aultry took a long sip from his cup of tea and then said, "When I met with him a few years ago to officially recognize the Northern Empire, I saw his strength... No, his talent firsthand." He frowned and then looked at Nazin. "To describe it... If you are the boundless night sky, he is a brilliant star that shines even amidst the looming threat of destruction. An exception even to the absolute."
Nazin went quiet and recalled Serena's warning.
He and Saphira would win in sheer stats, but even so they should be cautious?
"Come to think of it," Aultry said. "That Emperor was also the type that would not start a fight without cause. And if he did, he would set out personally to finish it at once rather than play at war like this." He swirled his tea around in his cup, lost in thought.
Hearing that, Nazin frowned. "You mean this isn't his usual course of action?"
"It is not." Aultry looked at Nazin and said, "You would not know this as you recently reemerged from your solitary ventures but the humans... At least those in the north, had a history of endless conflict. Ever since the Brave Kimura settled there and lived so irresponsibly with his harem, countless wars had been fought to determine the proper ruler." He took a sip from his tea and said, "There have been periods of peace in the past, and there have also been countless envoys who sought me out to formally recognize their reign. However, none have lasted more than a year. Until now, that is."
"Until the Emperor?"
"Correct." Aultry nodded and said, "A young child with golden hair emerged from the flames of war and forcibly quelled it on his own. Although his past was unknown, there was no denying his talent and strength. Not only that, but he was a fair and charismatic leader, enough to unify the shattered north. Which makes this current situation even odder." The King of Alvheim frowned and said, "...If I did not know better, I would almost say that he was being pressured to act while being forcibly restrained."
Nazin's frown deepened.
That was a flag if he ever heard one. Did Serena mean that when she warned him about the Emperor?
Aultry said that the Demon Lord wasn't a bad guy and that the Emperor wasn't a xenophobic warmonger. Then... what was with the developments that had occurred since Nazin arrived?
"Well," Aultry said. "There's no use in drawing hypotheticals. In any case, it would be a good idea for you to meet with Cross, Nazin." He paused. "There might be some trouble in crossing over the border as you are, but it should be fine if we send you as my emissary."
"...I have a feeling that still wouldn't go over well."
Aultry paused and then placed a hand on his chin. "That is true. Without context, anyone meeting you would believe that you were either a secret weapon developed by the Empire or a reemerged beast of catastrophe." He tapped his chin and then said, "I suppose that you just have to take my honeybun with you. She is quite infamous in the Demon Realm so there would be no doubt of your identity if she was there to confirm it."
Nazin nodded. "That sound like a plan- Wait." He blinked, suddenly catching the last part of Aultry's words. "Tani is infamous in the Demon Realm?"
Aultry laughed. "She would never admit it, but my honeybun was quite different from her professional self in her youth. On my trip to witness Cross's inauguration, I decided to take my cute honeybun with me." A wide smile filled Aultry's face and he said, "I can still remember the mess she caused. Some uppity demons had the impudence to flirt with my cute honeybun." His smile turned sharp and he said, "I had planned to eliminate them as we departed... but my cute honeybun decided to solve the issue herself."
"...I'm a bit reluctant to ask, but how so?"
"Well, she had recently perfected her sword style and was eager to test it out. Since that was the perfect excuse, she went on a rampage and trounced all of the demon generals and archfiends. It was such a memorable event that I believe Cross even granted her an honorary title... I believe it was the 'Frosty Witch'?"
Nazin blinked, trying to reconcile the cute and shy Titania with the person that Aultry was describing.
It seemed like time really did a lot to calm a person down, huh?
Aultry frowned. "I am a bit concerned that she might cause some trouble again... but I suppose you managed to melt her icy heart, so it should be fine. In any case." He finished his tea and said, "You should probably head off to prepare for the trip. While it would be a simple matter for you to reach the Demon Realm, we should factor in their travel time as well. Having a drawn out siege waiting for reinforcements, while possible, would not be the best result."
Nazin nodded. "I'll get going right now then."
Aultry smiled. "I will leave the fate of Alvheim in your hands then... both in terms of its protection and ensuring a successor to my throne."
"W-Wait a minute-"
Before Nazin could tell Aultry off, a hole opened up beneath Nazin and sent him sliding down to Alvheim's main hall.
Nazin managed to gather his bearings and prevent an awkward landing with his dark magic, but it didn't excuse that guy's actions. Turning to look up at the hole in the ceiling... Or rather where the hole was, Nazin muttered, "Cheap bastard."
Well, there was no point getting mad at such a childish prank. More importantly...
"Demon Lord Krozma, huh?"
Nazin blinked and turned around to see who spoke to him. “Aria?”
The innocent looking blonde waved her hand. “That’s me! How did the talk with my dad go?”