Chapter 24 – Arrogance

So it seemed they were keeping a demon general–an arachne to be exact–named Ariel with them for a while. Because of course.

After some minor debate, the group decided that Leicester should be kept in one of their two rented rooms, with Syl and Sue keeping guard on her until she woke up. Of course, this also meant the other seven members of the party, eight if they counted Issei, were in the other room, all around the round dinner table, where they were currently talking about how best to approach the newest ridiculous situation they found themselves in.

“Pleasure to meet you, I’m Kaida Issei, trainee extraordinaire!” The kid was smiling at Maria and Sophia, clearly trying his best to be charming. 

The keyword there was ‘trying’.

“Oh…Hi?” Sophia just greeted him back, obviously confused by how he was just talking to the two of them and not everyone else in the group. At least it was better than Maria’s response. She just looked like she was holding back her laughter.

“So, I was wondering if either of you two would want to share some stories. I’m sure both of you have plenty to tell!” He really was trying… 

“Kid, sorry to disappoint, but you’re a bit too young for me. You’re like, what, fourteen?” Maria asked, grinning.

“…Fifteen.” Oh gods he was a toddler. No, wait, do not start thinking like Douglas, that’s a terrible path to go down.

“Yeah, try again in like, four years.” 

“Oh…oh!” Eyes widening in realization, Sophia turned back to look at Issei. “…No, sorry, but no.” 

Issei frowned, then shrugged. “Alright, I can wait.”

“Pfff-”

“Okay everyone, let’s get this back on track,” Julius spoke up with a frown. “We need to figure out what to do with Leicester.”

“Well, can’t we turn her over to the Rosiavans?” Adrien asked, “They are the authorities around here.”

“If we want her to get executed, sure,” Sergio replied, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest. “The Rosians hate darklanders, and one of the enemy’s generals popping up in their custody is a great opportunity for them to act like they’re winning their war.”

“It’s not really a war yet,” Douglas said, casually taking notes in a notebook, “More like skirmishes and some small invasions between the Dark Lands and Naloriva.”

“I think that counts as a war,” Maria pointed out.

“Hm…maybe? A question for later.”

“Okay, so we’re not doing that…what’d you old guys do when you captured one of Irask’s generals?”

“Irascagan’s,” Douglas idly corrected, “And we didn’t capture any of them, we just killed them.”

That got all their present students to blink. “…Wait, seriously?”

Douglas paused, looking up at Maria. “Yes? What?”

“Uh, just…That was kinda blunt…and, I mean…we haven’t killed any of Valondrac’s generals, so I thought that was, uh, typical.”

“Oh, no, not at all. A vast majority of lightlander heroes cut bloody swathes through their enemies, and we were no different.”

Julius sighed at the eyes turning his way and nodded. “Yeah. Irascagan only had four generals, and we wound up killing all of them over the course of everything.”

“Granted, we didn’t kill Khor. He let himself get eaten by his own animals.”

“Woah, what?” Sergio asked, sounding nervously amused, like he was trying to hide his surprise, “That’s…pretty insane.”

“Oh, he was certainly insane. He actually had a tendency of eating a piece of every kill he made before feeding it to his tamed beasts as a bizarre ‘alpha’ ritual, so when we defeated him for the final time, he ripped off his own thumb with his tee-”

“Okay, too much info, Douglas,” Julius interrupted. Issei was looking a little green. “Point is, we wound up killing them during our fights because they kept escalating and refused to back down. All of them were vicious, callous monsters who didn’t give a damn who they hurt so long as they could hold power over people, and none of them would back down even after we fought them multiple times.”

“Well, Rinaud tried to run again after his last fight but Ellen wasn’t about to put up with that after he tried poisoning all those people and the constant death and destruction-”

“Yeah, okay, details aren’t needed.”

“I kind of want to hear the details,” Mask spoke up, sitting cross-legged on one of the beds instead of at the table.

“I-I’d rather not,” Sophia said.

“We’ll talk about it later then.”

“So, wait, were all of them assholes?” Adrien asked.

“Yep,” Douglas replied as he went back to his notes, “The majority of Demon Lords are just power-hungry warlords with delusions of grandeur, in the end. Most don’t have any grand vision for the world aside from putting themselves on top and only really gain support by appealing to the millenia long grudges darklanders have against lightlanders, though those with loftier ambitions or simply more effective ways of warlording tend to gain historical recognition, such as Lusiarch the Lust Lord, or Disara the Heretic, or Torva the Lunatic, or Xelok the Earth Lord, or Parzeli the Emboldened, or Vissia-”

“Point is, this is a different circumstance, so we need to figure out what we’re going to do with Leicester,” Julius interrupted again, positive that Douglas would’ve just kept going on and on if he let him. The kids’ eyes were already starting to glaze over. “It’s a bad idea to leave her in the custody of the Roses, but it’d also be dangerous to keep her with us if she breaks free.” 

“Uh…not to be rude, but is it okay to discuss this stuff with your…trainee here? Since he’s not part of the team and all,” Adrien asked as he glanced at Issei, the younger teenager still looking like he was recovering from Douglas earlier words. 

“H-Hey! I’ll be fine!” Issei protested.

“Honestly, at this point, it doesn’t even matter,” Sergio pointed out, “He’s heard plenty, and besides, all we’re talking about is what to do with the spider-psycho.” 

“Well, as long as Syl and I make sure to keep the proper seals on her at all times, all we’ll need to worry about is her web spit,” Douglas added, “Which can be easily fixed with a gag.” 

“Okay, but will Joral be okay with this?” Adrien continued, still frowning. “It’s his ship, and even if we don’t tell him and his crew about the general bit, I don’t think he’ll okay with keeping some tied up and gagged lady on his ship.”

“Yeah well, from what I see, we’re fucked whatever we do,” Sergio cut in again, “So what we should choose is whatever will be the easiest on us.” 

“Serge sorta has a point there,” Maria spoke up, “We don’t really have any good options here, and letting her go at this point seems like it’d backfire really badly on us.”

“…” Frowning, Julius mentally weighed his options. Of the three available–killing her, handing her to the Rosians, and keeping her in their custody–two ended in her death. And, even if he didn’t want to admit it, Valondrac’s request to keep fatalities low had some effect on him, so he didn’t want to just kill her, or even send her to her death…

“Should we even tell the Rosians what happened?” Sophia suddenly asked, “They would demand we turn her over if they know, right?”

“Uh…well, we can’t exactly hide it, right?” Maria shrugged helplessly. “A bunch of people saw us with some demon lady, so it’s going to get around.”

“So should we just hand her over?” Sergio asked.

“Woah, no, that’d get her killed. We’re not doing that.”

“Hey, Soph pointed it out. If they know she’s with us, and someone probably does, they’re going to want her.”

“We don’t know that for sure,” Adrien cut in, “So…I don’t think we should tell them.”

“Yeah, same!”

“Okay, so we have Adrien and Maria’s votes,” Sergio noted, then glanced around the table. “Anybody else feel like going with them?”

“W-Well…if she would die from us turning her over, isn’t that the same as us killing her in the first place?”

“Eh. You saying we shouldn’t then, Soph?”

“…” She shifted slightly in her seat, frowning nervously. “…Y-Yeah. I don’t think we should do something like that.”

“Well I’m gonna vote the other way.” All of them paused and glanced over at Mask, who shrugged. “She’s a threat to everyone in our group. Protecting us comes before protecting her, so finding somewhere to put her instead would be good. We don’t know for sure that the Rosians will kill her anyway. They might want her as a hostage.”

“But we don’t know for sure that they wouldn’t kill her,” Maria shot back.

“We don’t know either way, so speculating won’t help, will it?”

“Okay, let’s put the voting on pause for now,” Julius spoke up, “I think, for now, we should see how she reacts when she wakes up. Before then, we shouldn’t tell anyone outside this room about Leicester. Once they know, we lose a lot of our options, so, for now, let’s keep this qui-”

And then the door was kicked in by a heavy boot. “DOUGLAS YEW, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

All eyes turned to Douglas, who blinked in some surprise which quickly morphed into irritation as a tall city elf in a deep purple longcoat strode into the room, flanked by two similarly dressed companions, another city elf on their right and a human on the left. 

“Dario Vioka,” Douglas muttered as he stood and locked eyes with the elf, a dark-blue-haired man with dark gray, nearly black, skin, and a short beard and mustache. The human to his right looked like some kind of bodyguard, wearing some black leather armor and a purple cloth over the lower half of his face. 

The city elf to Vioka’s left also looked like he was also some kind of nobility. He was also wearing a deep purple coat, though he seemed to have something hidden on the left side of his body, judging by the odd grooves in his clothes. He also seemed to be related to Vioka, based on how similar their features and hair were, though he didn’t have facial hair and his skin was a slightly lighter color. Actually…

Julius frowned slightly. The younger elf looked a little familiar. Something about his face reminded him of someone…

“Who would have thought you’d be idiotic enough to come back here?” Vioka snarled, his voice mixed with arrogance and rage while he stood as strong as he could and glared daggers at Douglas. “One would imagine you’d have some sense to never enter our borders again!” 

“I’m still legally allowed in Hulthemia, so it would have happened eventually,” Douglas pointed out, his own voice surprisingly even and polite considering the circumstances. 

“Regardless of the legality, the moment you stepped onto our grounds, your life was forfeit!” Julius stepped in front of Vioka, cutting off his enraged approach. Vioka’s eye twitched, his hands curling into fists. He was about as tall as Julius, so their staredown was on an even level. “…Goldforge, if you know what’s best for you, you would get out of my way.” 

“Way I see it, you’ll have to deal with me too. I did have a hand in his dumbass plans back in the day.” 

“Heeey…” Douglas, not the time. 

“Oh trust me, I would love to rip out your intestines and watch you bleed out, scrambling desperately to pull them back in. But Yew is a far larger prey.” And Issei was looking green again. Great.

“You say that like you’d get your own hands dirty and not have your guard here do all your work.” 

“Why you-!” Before he could finish, the other city elf placed his hand on Vioka’s shoulder, gently stopping him.

“Grandfather, please. Let me.” Vioka scowled and yanked himself out of the younger elf’s grasp, but actually, weirdly, did step to the side, letting the kid step forward. “Greetings Goldforge, Yew. My name is Tarin Vioka.” 

“…Wait. you’re his grandkid?” Ah shit. There went that pit in his stomach again.

“Yes, I did say that. I am also the child Sova Vioka. I am certain you know who my father is with those obvious clues.” Despite his almost taunting words, the kid’s tone stayed completely even and dry. 

“…Hey Maria, meet your half-brother.” 

“…Huh??” Well, that was a decent reaction.

“Hm?” Letting out a mildly interested noise, Tarin looked over at Maria. 

“My dad is your dad?! Uh, Cyrus, right?”

“…Yes, he is my biological father.” 

“Holy shit!” Maria laughed, beaming wide as she stood up. “I know I have a lotta siblings, but I didn’t think I’d meet any like this! Holy shit!”

“You said that already.”

“Yeah, well, yeah! This is kinda a ‘holy shit’ moment for me! I’ve never had a brother before! Brother, right?”

“Yes.”

“Awesome!” She laughed again, then blinked and looked at Dario. “Wait, does that make you my grandad?”

Dario blinked, very obviously caught off guard by everything. Which was fair, since it looked like most of the younger group were just as bewildered. “…I…suppose?”

“Double awesome! I’ve never had a grandad either!”

“You haven’t?” Wait, what? Julius stared at Dario, who was frowning in…worry?? What??

“Nope! Mom lost her parents a long time ago, and I’ve never even meet dad.”

“Oh you poor dear!” What. 

Dario suddenly strode over to Maria and placed his hands firmly on her shoulders. “I assure, on my honor as the Head of the Vioka Family, I shall do my utmost to provide the support you have been lacking in your life!”

“Grandfather, no.” Tarin still sounded dry, but there was a hint of exasperation in his voice. 

“What?” Dario turned and stared at him, looping an arm over Maria’s shoulders. Julius frowned, but it did seem like a more paternal gesture… “Tarin, you need to support your family!”

“We only just met her.”

“That doesn’t matter! Family is family!”

“She and I merely share the same father. She does not have any Vioka blood.”

“And?? She’s your sister, you’re my grandson, and that makes her my granddaughter! And you heard her! She has no elders in her life!”

“It’s true, I don’t!” Maria chirped, beaming. Somebody was enjoying this way too much.

“You see?! We can’t just abandon her! Especially to these idiots!”

“Great, back to insults.” “Rude.” “Dick.” Julius and Douglas frowned in unison and glanced at Sergio, who shrugged back, unrepentant.

Then Douglas turned back and kept talking. “Though, really, I’m surprised to see this side of you, Dario, since I thought you were more the type to murder thousands than adopt people you’ve never met before, or do you just support those types of plans?”

And Vioka promptly soured, scowling. “Oh you would bring that up now, wouldn’t you?!”

“Well, you are getting pretty cozy with my student-” Julius immediately frowned and glared at Douglas. “-our student, so I thought she should know about how your father tried to, what was that again? Oh yes, murder thousands, now how in the world could I forget that?”

“It was for the greater good!” Vioka snapped, taking his arm off Maria and stepping towards Douglas again, which meant Julius had to step in his way. Again. “If we just blocked off the paths through the Ebkais, then the Dark Lands could never invade us! It’s simplicity itself!”

“Uh, excuse me?” Adrien was raising his hand. “Could we get an explanation for the generation who didn’t have all of this crazy stuff happen?”

“A-Also for the people who aren’t from this world, please,” Sophia added.

“To make a very long story quite short, the former head of the Viokas attempted to seal the various gaps within the Ebkai Mountains, ostensibly to slow down any attempted invasions from the demon armies,” Douglas explained, still staring at Vioka with a small, fake smile.

“And it would have worked-“

“At the cost of all the people living in the mountains and the valleys in between.”

“Yes, fine, that would have been regrettable, but my father had only the best of intentions!” Maria very slowly stepped back from Vioka, a little frown on her face.

“I never actually got why he wanted to seal the mountains in the first place. The main threat back then was that asshole Kigalori, who could fly.”

Vioka blinked, then stared at Julius. “…Hm.”

“…You didn’t think of that.”

“I did not think of that, no. I…assume Father did. Probably.”

“Uh, question.” They both glanced at Adrien, who had his hand raised again. “Yeah, how were you planning to seal the mountains? Or the mountain valleys, I guess? Either way, they’re huge.”

“…Well, I suppose I might as well tell you, since that whole plot fell through and those idiot Furies lost the ruby-”

“Wait, what?” Julius frowned. “What was that about the Furies?”

“Hm? The Vermillion Furies, the mercenary group. I thought you’d be familiar with them-”

“I am. What the fuck did you mean there?”

Vioka shrugged. “Again, I might as well tell you. Starting with the first one-”

“The Viokas wanted to use the ruby to summon a Fracture, now what was that?”

“Wait, what’s a fracture?” Dammit Mask, not now!

“Well you see-” DAMMIT DOUGLAS! “-when the Ancients were sealed away, their powers fragmented in some interesting ways, and while we mortals don’t entirely understand the mechanics of it all, at least not yet, those fragments became the ‘Ancient Gems’, which contain a number of powers relating to their particular Ancient-”

“And the Ancient Rubies,” Vioka cut in, smirking as Douglas pouted at being interrupted, “Contain within them the power of summoning entities directly relating to that vile entity known as the Eternal Eruption!”

“Just one ruby is capable of summoning one of these beings under the right circumstances-”

“And said beings are known as Fractures, remarkably powerful beasts composed of pure, molten earth-!”

“Which the Viokas intended to use-”

Safely through a proper automatonic device to channel its power-”

“Which would be used to slaughter thousands-”

“OKAY! THEY GET IT!” Julius snapped, glaring at both of them before growling at Vioka. “WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT THE FURIES!?”

“…Ye gads, you have a terrible temper. Patience-”

“If you say anything that isn’t a explanation of what the fuck you’re talking about, I will throw you through the nearest wall.”

“Could you not? Please?” Tarin asked, more bored than worried.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Aunty would get pissed if you smashed up Grunkle Dario.” Oh, so that’s what the bodyguard sounded like-Why was he sitting on the same bed as Mask?

“Wait, Grunkle?” Julius resisted the urge to snap at Issei. Wouldn’t be fair to the kid, he was just curious, but all the interruptions were really starting to get irritating.

“Yeah, great-uncle.”

“Fredo–that is Fredo–is my cousin,” Tarin very helpfully explained the completely unnecessary piece of family fucking trivia.

“VIOKA. EXPLANATION. NOW.”

Vioka–Fuck it, Dario, there were too many Viokas in this damn room–blinked and refocused on him. “Ah, yes. Well, we did wind up scrapping this plan anyway since Brascul–Oh, right, she’s your sister. Ahhh, that would explain your anger-”

Julius placed a hand on Dario’s shoulder and very slowly started squeezing.

“A-Ah, r-right, right, explaining now! Ah, we were going to buy the ancient ruby back from the Furies and, well, maybe try that plan again but we really didn’t think of doing it beyond just general theorizing! R-Really, it was more about getting back a family heirloom at that point, not really planning at all, just wanting it back, you understand?” He laughed nervously, his bravado rapidly crumbling as Julius glared at him.

“That was the same ancient ruby? How the hell did the Furies get ahold of it? I thought it was confiscated from you pricks.”

“Well of course it was. The other factions couldn’t very well let us keep it after their showy trial to sentence my father to Larcali Island–an island prison,” he helpfully explained to the still very confused looking kids in the room, “And we wouldn’t have to buy it back if we had it.”

“So how did the Furies get ahold of it?” Douglas asked, stepping up by Julius.

“Ah, the Dahsins sold it to them.” What. “Though I suppose it was less a sale and more a payment. Ah, wait, I know what your next question is, and yes, I do know what they were paying them to do.” He grinned like he was being helpful. “They were paying the Furies to help them with a coup in Orindaco. They want to oust Brascul and officially absorb city-state into-Ow ow ow, s-squeezing hard-”

Douglas pried Julius’s hand off of Dario’s shoulder and the noble let out a sigh of relief, wincing and rubbing his shoulder. “Well, that was…unfortunate. Mmh…might need to get this checked out. Fredo, stop chatting with your new friend and heal uncle, please.”

Fredo nodded, got up off the bed and walked to Dario. A second later, the older noble let out a sigh of relief as a soft green glow emanated from his grand-nephew’s hands. Great-nephew’s hands? Noble families were weird. “A-Ah, that is better…now then, I hope that’s all? Because we really should get around to killing Yew now.”

“…Seriously? You still want to do that?”

“He had my father incarcerated, sunk our family’s manor into an underground lake, and had his slutty friend knock up my daughter. Yes, I do still want him dead. Why do you think I brought Fredo?”

“…Honestly, I assumed he was your bodyguard, but then you said he was related to you, so…” Julius shrugged.

“Oh, he’s still my bodyguard, and I do intend for him to kill Yew. He’s just a member of the family. You see, my sister’s son married his mother-”

“I really don’t care.”

“Um, I kind of do.” Julius blinked and glanced at Sophia, who shrunk back at the sudden attention. “A-Ah, well…it’s kind of reminding me of some soap operas I used to watch, so, uh…y-yeah.”

“Oh, well I’m sure we can regale you with the tales of our family once Yew is finally dead.”

Douglas actually outright snorted. “Suuure, you’ll kill me. Are you forgetting who the former hero and master of the arcane here is? Is here? Hm, odd phrasing there…”

“Hmph, an arrogant whelp as always, I see.” Dario chuckled darkly. “Unfortunately for you, my family is more than capable of ending the life of one arrogant arcanist. Barring any further interruptions, of course.”

Which was when an albino arachne suddenly smashed straight through the wall and into their table.

Everyone stared at the mess, then turned as one to look at the massive hole in the wall. Sue, standing in said hole, blinked, then grinned and waved awkwardly as dust rained down around her. “Uh…hi? Um…turns out her fingers are way sharper than we thought they were.”

“…Hm.” Douglas pushed his glasses up his nose. “I suppose we needed to worry about more than just her webs then.”

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