~ Chapter 144: Solstark's demise (Part 1) ~
[Nanya's point of view]
The Plains of Fire were said to have been created thousands of years ago when my mother, Akardia Demonarkiar, fought for the throne of the Demon Continent. She and the previous ruler fought for several months without stopping, and in this time, the lush plains and the rich mountains home of the most beautiful hot springs were completely reshaped by their powerful attacks. The fiercer they fought, the more the ground underneath their feet bled lava.
In the past, there was a thriving port city here with a well guarded road connected to the former capital, which now laid at the bottom of a lava lake. The nearby villages and towns were all dependent on the prosperity of the demons living in the capital.
The history books never mentioned if the era from back then was better or worse than the one I was born in, and not too many demons dared to make open declarations about this matter. My mother never bothered to mention how the former ruler of the Demon Continent behaved with his people, but apparently she was a bit of a battle junkie back then. She used to fight everyone left and right without bothering if it was fair for her or not. Because of this, she ended up losing quite a few times as well, but that only made her more eager to return to the arena to rip apart her opponents with her bare fists and claws.
After she become a mother, this sudden change in her life somewhat mellowed down her desire for battle, but she would rarely back away from a challenge, mostly so that she could enjoy pummeling her opponent into the ground.
I could still remember how one day when I was just young demoness, a demon from the South came to challenge mother to a duel. His body was big and covered in thick muscles. He had flawless hair and a thick manly beard. Even after so many years, I could still perfectly remember how his chiseled body and that confident handsome face of his looked like because this poor demon managed to annoy father with his flamboyance and impress mother.
His name was Gustavianos. The demon arrived at the Demonarkiar Palace early in the morning, thinking that he would be done with this fight by noon. He flexed his muscles and wooed the maids while he waited for the reply from mother. Father wanted to go out and kill him several times just for existing, muttering that it was impossible for a demon like that to exist. Mother, on the other hand, while she was impressed with his manliness, she remained calm and decided to use this moment to teach me and my siblings the difference in strength between her and most of the other demons out there.
The duel started an hour after she ate her breakfast. Despite how strong the demon appeared to be, in the end, he couldn't stop mother's assault. Her thundering fists pushed him back and spared him no moment to catch his breath. Mother kept punching him and punching him until they reached the Proving Grounds. To get there, they had to cross the Spikeback Ridge Mountains. Even now you could still see the marks of their battle, or rather where that poor demon was smashed into the ground by mother's fists.
It would be worth mentioning that the manly demon Gustavianos died halfway through the journey to the Proving Grounds.
Mother's power was terrifying, but as I walked through the Plains of Fire, I took a look at my life and wondered how many years would I still have left if not for my fateful meeting with Illsy. The demoness I had become was far more powerful than any of the beasts lurking within the lava lakes, they all kept their distance as they felt their instincts screaming at them not to dare to attack me. The elders, at the very least, listened to them, but the youngsters found themselves smashed by my fists even when they attacked in packs. To me, these monsters with levels way over 1000 were nothing but weak cannon fodder.
Demons and demonesses of all ages feared mother for her power which led to the creation of the Plains of Fire. They showed respect to her for her ability to turn mountains into valleys, and her strength to hold the throne for thousands of years.
I once feared her as well, for the same reasons, but now, I felt as though that fear was pathetic. Here I was, walking through this desolate landscape of fire and molten rock she left behind as proof of her strength, with the intention to let her know that she became a grandmother, to let her know that I was no longer afraid of her.
Unfortunately, right now, I wasn't going through the Plains of Fire just to witness the expanse of her might but also to reach the city of the captor of my brother's wife, Solstark.
From a distance, the city looked like an intimidating monster, with tall enchanted stone walls and black metal spikes all over it protruding outwards like the armored carapace of a monster. The guards patrolling them wore thick full plate armors painted black and red. There were countless claw marks on the walls and a dense field of bones leading up to it.
The gates from this side were closed shut, and two guards were left standing outside. They were strong, but still only around level 1000. They readied their weapons the moment they saw my shadow in the horizon.
I wore Illsyore's armor underneath a thick, full-body black coat with a hood hiding my face. My sword was ready within my Inner Mind, and I could feel the flow of Magic Energy as it moved around the imposing city. There were a lot of powerful demons and demonesses inside, all equal to the Supremes back on the Sealed Continents.
“HALT!” shouted one of the guards.
“State your name and business in Solstark!” the other demanded.
“Nanya. A Brave on a quest who decided to go through the Plains of Fire for some sightseeing.” I replied in a calm tone of voice, but I was ready to strike them down if they made a move against me.
The guards exchanged a couple of words between each other and then the first one shouted at me.
“Go around! This gate won't open for you!”
“Understood.” I nodded and then turned left.
At that time a lava centipede jumped up from the ground and tried to take a bite out of me. This monster was at least 15 meters long and had a thick exoskeleton made out of a black metal. Its jaw strength was powerful enough to shatter the stones of this wall. Any normal demon would have been sliced and diced by its mandibles at the first bite, yet when those razor-sharp jaws closed in on my body, they stopped at my Magic Armor.
“What do you think you're doing?” I asked the monster as I looked at him with a gaze filled with my killing intent.
The monster looked at me for a second and then began to shiver as it slowly released its jaws of death.
“Scram.” I told the monster after he pulled back from me.
Shivering from the tip of its mandibles to the end of its tail, the giant centipede skittered away on the ground, rushing back to the Plains of Fire.
Ignoring the monster, I continued my walk towards the Western town gates. As for the guards from before, they didn't say a single word to me. They were too confused about what happened to even try to ask me anything.
To enter the city, I had to wait in line. There were plenty merchants who wanted to get inside, but the wares they brought in were mostly of the luxurious kind. Not even one carriage carried staple food, meat, or basic tools.
I found this to be rather strange.
The guards here asked me the same question as the other two did, they didn't bother to check anything else and let me through. Although I was a bit confused about the lack of security here, I was glad I didn't encounter the same problems I did back in Eventel. If Solstark passed the same 'Hate Nanya' laws, I would have been forced to sneak inside.
The buildings here were far taller than those back in Eventel or any of the human cities I've been to. Some of them were four to five stories high, while others even reached eight or nine. There were a lot of demons living here, surviving in this cramped environment. They honestly reminded me of the Merions who overran Fellyore Academy's sewage system. Illsy ended up blowing them all up to smithereens and thus causing triple the amount of work he had to do. Unclogging toilets filled with monster guts wasn't exactly pleasant for anyone.
As I remembered that moment, I began to ponder about what sort of silly prank I could pull with a bit of explosives and an unsuspecting victim in the school's toilets.
While walking through the city, I stopped by some vendors and asked about where I could get a bite to eat. Rather than being hungry, I was more interested in the price. You can't maintain a proper army on an empty stomach, and hungry citizens tend to easily turn against you. The merchants told me that the food in Solstark was quite expensive. With the price of a decent weapon in Akardia, you could buy just a loaf of bread here. The same went for basic tools.
The items needed by the vast majority were sold at ridiculously high prices, while everything else was only slightly higher than the rest. The weapons and good from Eventel's traders, however, were the cheapest ones out there. Basically, the people of Solstark had more than enough weapons with which they could defend themselves against violent foes, but not enough food to fill their bellies with.
Initially, I thought that they ended up in this situation because the journey here was dangerous and they didn't have easy access to it, but the merchants shattered this theory to bits when he told me that most of the prices in this city were set by none other than the Duke of Chaos Solstark himself.
Now why would any city lord be so foolish enough as to starve his own population and create animosity against them. I couldn't understand, but if Ayuseya was here, she would have been able to figure out his ploy.
From the rumors that reached my ears as I walked towards the castle, I learned that a lot of the commoners found themselves forced to leave the city in order to hunt for food in the nearby wilderness. There was a tax on that too, 40% of all the meat brought inside had to be handed over.
In other words, even if they did manage to hunt something good, they would be left with barely enough food to sell and even less to put on the table for their families. But a small piece of meat was better than nothing.
Surprisingly though, there weren't that many demons who wanted to leave Solstark. The reason for this was the dangerous area to the South of here, the Plains of Fire. If anyone wanted to leave this place, they were forced to use the South gate and keep on walking. Of course, this didn't mean that there weren't demons who pretended to go to hunt only to end up fleeing as fast as their legs could carry them. The ones who couldn't take this risk were the ones with families inside.
The demons of Solstark were forced to either obey the Duke of Chaos or risk death on the Plains of Fire. It was a cruel and merciless dictatorship.
Yet, how was the public order maintained here?
The answer to this question laid in the soldiers that marched on the streets. Those who worked directly for Solstark were well fed and payed handsomely. In other words, they were the only ones who had no reason to rebel and actually enjoyed things as they were. Thus, the city guards were more inclined on enforcing the law than aiding the poor and weak into escaping.
The castle Solstark was living in was the biggest building in this city. Its imposing walls made it look as though it was ready to stand its ground against a siege of a million monsters, with metal spikes poking out towards the outside and curved towards the sky. It was as if they were expecting the beasts to climb on top of them only to fall back down and impale themselves on their tips. The enchantments were far more powerful than those on the outer wall, every brick was sturdy enough to resist most attacks from level 1000 monsters.
This Duke of Chaos was prioritizing his own safety rather than that of his people. Then again, not many thought about the demons living under them.
As I looked up at the walls and analyzed its structure, one of the guards approached me.
“You, demoness, what are you standing there for?” he asked.
Lowering my gaze to meet his eyes, I replied “I demand to see Solstark. He's inside, isn't he?”
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
I know some of you are troubled by my typos and at times grammar mistakes. I do edit it to the best of my abilities before posting it, but some things just slip through for various reason (mostly because before editing it, the whole chapter is a mess). However, if you have fun looking for them, go ahead and let me know where they are. On my discord server, there's a special channel just for that: help_author_edit
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