The Dark Forest, also known as the ‘Black Forest,’ was an immense woodland covering over 10000 square kilometers in total.
A majority of it was packed tight with trees, more than eighty percent of them high-reaching conifers. A step in, and the light of day was cut off; even if it was noon on a sunny day, the forest’s interior was always dark, with things lingering in the darkness.
Each and every tree was a vibrant pea green, but once they were so closely packed together, the pigment seemed deeper, and with how crowded it was, it looked as if they were all died a shade of black, so the people living in the area had taken to calling it the Black Forest.
However, once it reached into lowlands, high-quality broadleaf trees grew en masse, so in search of materials for furniture and instruments, hunters and lumberjacks would occasionally make their way in.
The Dark Forest’s specialty wasn’t just its high quality wood products. There were high-quality foodstuffs that could only be harvested on these lands, an edible mushroom called rhizopogon roseolus that could be sold for a high price.
There was also a strain of blueberry that would only grow in the Dark Forest, used as an ingredient to make famous high class wines…
“It’s famous as the world’s best wine, huh.”
After putting in an application to the dispatchable soldiers corporation, I stopped by the library. I had pretty much finished looking over what could be found online, so I decided to hit up the library’s resources next.
Looking out of the window, I saw the drizzle had turned to a downpour. Because of that, there were many people in the library, and if you didn’t occupy a seat of your own, it seemed it would be snatched by another in no time.
Occasionally, some elderly or children would come in, and seeing them borrow towels from the librarian, I got the feeling there would be an increase in library patrons for a while to come.
Searching out books in the library, I found a surprising abundance of books pertaining to the Dark Forest.
History, geography, culture, there were tens of books on each genre, so I wasn’t hard-pressed to find them, but I didn’t have enough free time to read through all of them.
What I wanted to know about it was whether people lived in it or not. That alone.
So I tried probing a bit through its history, but no matter where I looked, all it said was while the first held some phantasmic delicacies, it hadn’t the warmth for human inhabitation.
Surely enough, lured by the scent of money, many hunters would make their way there every year, but a majority of them were able to find their targets in the forest’s shallow regions, acquiring their quota as soon as they entered, and going home. That was the orthodox pattern.
Seeing as how there wasn’t any other information, either there weren’t any hunters to adventure to the forest’s depths, or everyone who went too far in ended up dead.
By the documents, the variety of monsters in the Dark Forest was plentiful, each and every one of them exceedingly ferocious, of belligerent temperament.
… The type I was worst at dealing with.
Monsters were separated into two large categories.
Larger than life monsters with nothing but brute strength going for them, Fiends.
Not only power, monsters that held special abilities to boot, Mythics.
There really were more scientific designations, but putting those aside, the problem lay in that the Dark Forest was thriving with both varieties.
Especially the Mythics: on top of already possessing monstrous strength, they were even able to use magic, making them exceedingly troublesome existences.
I’ve never seen them with these eyes, but it seems there are Mythics that can breathe fire from their mouths, and shoot lightning from their horns. Meanwhile, there were Fiends who could kick up tornados through sheer brute force.
A normal human would never be able to match up. To step into such a place, I needed a pro of that field.
… The monsters were afraid of her. That’s what Claudia said.
I’m no expert. But even if monsters were often feared by humans, I’ve never heard anything of them being afraid of humans.
However, according to some occult books, it seems the demon lord spent his childhood in this forest, and after he slaughtered every sort of monster from A to Z, they monsters had begun to fear him.
When it comes to that, he really is a demon lord… no, he really is a demon lord.
When you’re in Grimbeld, it never feels too real, but when you fish up documents of other lands, there were many papers written on the demon lord.
The scars he left on the world were large, and the influence he left on the generations to come was unfathomable.
… That’s why all these outlandish speculation comes up.
I wonder what sort of books were at Claudia’s house. In an environment isolated from the physical world, those books were her only lead towards knowing the world outside.
If the information happened to be a lie, I’m sure her world would fall apart.
If everything she believed to be right was evil, and evil turned out to be justice, then what?
Usually, you wouldn’t believe it. You’d deny it. The world must be the wrong one.
— What’s that, how childish.
… But she’s a child, come to think of it.
I spent a while reading through documents on the Dark Forest, but there wasn’t any important information.
… Right, the hero Roland was supposed to have been born somewhere nearby…
I checked with the Dark Forest’s map, as I began to question.
The demon lord’s name first resounded through the world from the military state of Jahziehl.
The demon lord formed a terrorist organization of demi-humans there, and plotted to take down the government.
That ended in failure, but the marks he left behind remain to this day. The clash between the government and demon lord’s army was fierce, putting out hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Towns were wiped off of the map. Even when it was a military state, it was as terrible as if the government’s troops were inept, and if the alliance hadn’t intervened, it wouldn’t have been strange if the country itself fell.
… It was the demon lord’s debut, I muttered in my heart.
On the other hand, when it comes to hero Roland, he was making a livelihood in the Republic of Arlegio as a mercenary, apparently.
It’s still a mystery how a mere swordsman such as he was able to become the holy sword’s wielder, and later a hero, but based on records, he was a considerably skilled swordsman no doubt.
I think his strength was just speculative. There were no specific documents about it, anyways. And his strength was surely on a level that could defeat the demon lord.
That’s amazing in itself, but what I wanted to pay more attention to was the place he was said to reside.
Arlegio was a country situated directly to Jahziehl’s west.
With the Dark Forest as a center point, there was Jahziehl to the southeast, and Arlegio to the south west.
The Republic of Arlegio’s official name was the Nation State of Arlegio, and it was originally an ethnically homogenous nation, apparently.
Because of that, around ninety percent of their population were native Arlegians, but perhaps the hero was something else.
If the hero was native, it wouldn’t be strange if there was more specific personal information on him.
Was he an illegal immigrant?
Austen Village where he was supposedly born was within the Republic of Arlegio.
… But there were few documents about him. Why would that be?
I never thought about it much to now, but whether they grow up to be hero or demon lord, their birth should leave some form of record.
They didn’t have DNA testing fifty years ago, but they’d at least be able to find out his blood type, and even if they couldn’t store it through digital medium, they could’ve at least filed it away in some government office.
Alregio was still a developing country, but it was a country with a firm government body.
They had health insurance, and a pension scheme. Shouldn’t they have a family register?
It’s because they were tied to strange titles like hero or demon lord that I ended up vaguely nodding my head. If they weren’t anything special, just a normal person you’d find anywhere, shouldn’t there be some other way of looking at it?
… What’s this, is my head the outdated one?
Looks like I can’t make fun of people of the past. As I remained unaware, the demon lord and hero had become entities of daydreams, perhaps I had begun handling them as something of fiends and spectres.
… Let’s try looking at them as humans. If I do, I should be capable of digging deeper.
After the rebellion in Jahziehl, the demon lord took flight, chased by allied troops. For some reason, it wasn’t Alregio, but the Commonwealth of Sadom that he made way for.
Among the signatories of the allied nations, Sadom was a considerably special region, a country that had put zeal into developing its defenses around magic weaponry.
On one side, the Republic of Alregio was a nation with a flourishing entertainment industry. While it did have an army, to be honest, their very characteristic was being weak.
With their 2000 border guards, I doubt they could win a war, and as I read a book on the commonwealth’s history, I thought so as well.
Between Sadom and Alregio, if you were going to choose somewhere to run to, wouldn’t it be Alregio?
Or so I thought as a military amateur, but perhaps the demon lord had some demon lord thoughts of his own, and I can’t throw away the possibility the Commonwealth of Sadom was secretly conspiring with him.
This was within the region of speculation. But as I read the line in the history book that clearly stated Sadom was probably not in cahoots with the demon lord, I thought.
When he fled to the commonwealth, the demon lord apparently plundered three of its national treasures.
The Godragon’s sword, the Goddess’s raiment, and Death’s Orbs.
They were magic tools that were handed down through the country for over five thousand years, and while they obviously held artistic value, their historic value was off the charts.
Of all else, they were magic relics left by the ones sung of as the strongest magic civilization, the Ararats, and it wasn’t an exaggeration to call them the symbols of the country.
… Internally telling him not to steal such a thing, I looked at the Goddess’ raiment’s photo, and broke into a cold sweat.
Doesn’t that look like what Claudia was wearing?
“Haha, no way.”
The picture of a girl wrapped in a cloth of white, silk-like material was blown up to fill a whole page of the book.
She was practically naked, but the cloth covered the important parts. If you took a pair of scissors to that cloth, and made a sensible blouse and skirt of it, it would be exactly what Claudia was wearing.
“… You can find white cloth anywhere.”
As I thought that, the cell phune in my jacket pocket let out a shrill ring.
I hurriedly left the library, and answered the phone in the entranceway.
‘Um, is this a Mr. Daniel the Lawyer?’
The voice I heard from the speaker was a woman’s.
‘I saw your ad on the DSC bulletin board, but are you still taking applications for mercenary work?’
… If possible, I’d like to be hired at once, but is that alright? That overly slow voice resounded well through the heavy raindrops outside.