Chapter 32:

Cooperation

Mad God


The cell itself was dark and basic. It only had a mattress, but Niji sat there calmly, crossing his legs with closed eyes, listening to the coming and going of footsteps outside his cell. The air was dry, and nobody came to torture him or got information out of him when he refused to talk, which was a surprise. He expected to be roughed up a little before everything even started.


“You came pretty soon.” The demon said, still closed eyes as he heard new steps arriving, recognizing it as Ren.


“I heard you wanted to speak to me, so I came! If it's inconvenient, I can come back later; I can see you are busy with work.” Ren chuckled, bringing a stool over and sitting down, before his cell.


“Funny.” He said as he opened his eyes, looking into hers. “I guess you all want to send me back as a puppet leader.”


“Something like that. But don’t paint it that radically! We are willing to let you go back and take over your tribe. We just want some benefits for doing so.”


“In exchange, we pay resources as some kind of fee. I know how humans work.”


“That’s what makes it easier for both of us! Look, we see the writing on the walls. We know those who stand in the way of evolution get trampled to death. I am especially aware of that fact.”


“Mm?” He looked at her questioningly alongside Feynor.


“We don’t want to enslave or control you like a vassal state. It won’t work for a long time.” Ren continued, not explaining, “Either other demon tribes sniff it out and intervene by killing you or just cutting us off. Or you just fuck off to who knows where the moment you get a chance.”


“What keeps me from doing that after you release me back?” Niji laughed with a provoking smile.


“The profit you can have.”


“Oh?”


“Easy. We want an ally more than a puppet. You can govern your people the way you want! We don’t care. It’s a transaction. You get us resources only found in this forest. We give you what you can only get from us. Human weapons, tools that you may lack, and knowledge. Even if you are now evolved, smart as us, we still have a longer period of history figuring out how the world works.”


“I can’t deny that. Most of my brethren still look like and live like mindless barbarians or animals compared to you. That’s the sad truth. I’m not blind. What’s the catch? This sounds too good to be true.”


“Nothing big. You just need to support us! Suppose you can conquer some land and establish a new power that plays a bigger role in the fight for power; you must be supportive of establishing a cooperating stand with our Empire, convincing or pressuring other tribes to the same view. The method is yours to decide. We only care about the results.”


“Heh, Lil’ Sis really should be a Queen… or the first Empress~,” Feynor thought, sitting next to her, listening quietly, and smiling.


“Still, this seems too good to be true….” Niji murmured, mulling over her words over and over again.


“Don’t worry; you will have your hands full! Also, I bet there will be a lot of resistance, not just within your kind but with other demon folks. Many Forest Fairies are already near our border, and I feel more will come. They are weak. We are protecting them. We plan to contact more and more similar tribes and gather them to our side where we can play the role of a protector.”


“And…?”


“Your kind is strong. You can play the same role as us! It would grant support from other tribes, collecting them under your banner.”


“Isn’t it… our banner?”


“Ahaha, you catch on quick!” Ren giggled while Feynor blinked as the discussion rolled forward way too fast. “What do you say… partner?” She stood up, stretching her small hand inside the cell, as Feynor stood ready to jump in if anything went wrong.


“Your honeyed words are the same as the slaver’s trainers I met as a child.”


“Eyy, don’t call me that. I ain’t looking for enslaved people but allies. You will see.” Ren sighed, still stretching her hand, waiting for his reply.


“Okay. We will see!” He nodded, finally grabbing her hand that disappeared into his giant ape palm.


“Ahahaha, good! Wait a few days, and we can go to your tribe!”


“What?” Leinor and Niji asked at the same time.


“What?” Ren blinked her eyes innocently. “I need to oversee this, at least for the first time! I make some preparations, then we leave.”


“Absolute nonsense!” Feynor protested, with a vein popping on his neck.


“Are you stupid or brave? What if we take you as a hostage?” Niji looked at her, bewildered.


“Oh, come on… both of you.” She rolled her eyes. “We want cooperation, no? Especially you, Feynor. Isn’t this one of your dreams?”


“But-”


“Then this is perfect! We want to show how sincere we are. Then we do it this way! And if you betray us, we will know your tribe can’t be trusted. Also, I’m confident in myself! I could escape if it came to that! But you look smart, Niji. I think you won’t pass up an opportunity like this and jump-start your revolution instead… and just as I said, we want allies. Not puppets or enemies. Trust me.” She smiled sincerely at him. “This world is full of wonders. Your ancestors were changed and evolved to a new level of existence. I want to see what else is hidden in this forest, what wonders are there! Ahaha, this is so exciting!” Ren laughed happily, with her lips reaching from ear to ear.


“What a strange little human you are.”


“Yeah, I got that a lot. Anyway, I need to push this down on the throat of those overprotective parents of mine. Then we can move on! Sit patiently until then. Give me a few days, and I’ll be back~” She winked at him as she left, followed by Feynor.


“You play it too dangerously… but… I can see why. It’s just… it’s still a big risk!” Feynor sighed as they left the prison area.


“So what? You need to take risks if you plan to move forward. If you wait for others to scout out the unknown, you will miss out on most of the fun things in life.”


“There is no arguing against you, Lil’ Sis? Now I see how you caught my Lil’ Bro in your honeytrap.”


“I wish he would already be in my honeypot, yet still… I heard about many of your Father’s and the Third Prince’s exploits, yet Leinor… not even close.”


“Ahahahaha! You little devil!” He laughed out loud as he walked beside her. “Not every one of us picked up Father’s habits. I only have one wife at home, not a harem.”


“You are married?” She asked surprisedly.


“Yup. For 23 years by now! She is still only at level 7, she is not that talented, but she is kind and caring. I miss her! Take good care of Leinor. He is a sweet kid.”


“Worry not. I will. I love him!” Ren smiled at him with honest, clear eyes. “Speaking of LeiLei, can you call him? I’ll need him to help examine the monkeys’ corpses.”


“Sure. I’ll come too. I’m interested in it!”


“Nice, if there are more experienced hands, the better! I’ll talk with my parents first, then meet you at the morgue.”


“Good for me. See you soon!” Feynor nodded as they split up, and while he went to fetch Leinor, Ren climbed the stairs to her parent’s room.


….

….


“Interesting…” Dermitos murmured, reclining in his chair, flipping through the report of Ren’s thoughts about the physiology of demon folk after going through almost all of the dead apes they brought back.


“We discovered that they cultivate some kind of… crystal inside their bodies.” Feynor explained, sitting opposite of him, sipping a cup of tea, and on the table between them laid a small, pea-sized hexagonal, colorless gem. “Ren called it a Demon Core. We guess they are probably born with some kind of precursor. They cultivate it within their bodies, maybe even unconsciously, and those who can solidify it to an actual core evolve. We found the same inside every one of the monkeys, inside their brains. They are the same in size, color, and shape. To be sure, we would need to study different species from different age groups. Of course, that is not possible.”


“Is it really?” Dermitos whispered but just smirked in the end. “Sure, sure. We won’t. Relax, I’m not about to mess up our progress.”


“Ren is pretty excited. She wants us to collect beasts if we can, study how the lower ranking demon species work and grow, and already have some ideas on how to utilize Demon Cores, but it is still in the theory phase, nothing concrete yet.”


“Like the last part in the report? What was it?” He closed his eyes, mulling over the words “God Core?”


“It’s only a theory, but she said probably the highest form of a Demon Core would be one that would elevate any demon into the power level of a God.” Feynor chuckled. “But what can you do? She is still young. Kids have a great imagination.”


“That girl is great to have as a daughter-in-law!” Dermitos laughed, opening his eyes again. “How did the discussion with our friend?”


After Feynor recounted everything, his father stood p and walked to the small window, thinking.


“Knowing Xendar, they won’t agree easily.” Dermitos said.


“They did.”


“Oh? How did she do that?”


“Lady Anya will accompany us.” Feynor explained.


“Us?”


“I’m going too. Same for Ren’s group.”


“Be careful. You are now the Crown Prince. You can’t put yourself in too much danger, as I plan to pass down the throne to you soon.”


“I still think Leinor would be a better option.” Feynor said, speaking his honest thoughts.


“That is why you will make a great Emperor. You are broad-minded and kind. We had some harsh and iron-fisted rulers, there needs to be some new way of thinking, or we will just become a tyranny, and those won’t last long. When your great-grandfather was killed, it was a difficult time. The Empire almost fell apart! Dictatorships fall when the leader passes. There must be a balance between the stick and the carrot. Anyway, how’s training?”


“Tomorrow, I’ll practice with the help of Lil’ Sister and see how I can adapt to the new waves. If it goes well, I can consider reaching the next realm. We’ll see.”


“Good. When you advance, I’ll step down and hand over everything to you.”


“Any words from Lacuss or Reignar?”


“Reignar doesn’t care. He is having fun touring the Empire, tasting every brothel he comes across. He found his way, he will catch up to you if you are careless! That boy has one thing in his head, and that is to fuck every hole he can and build his cultivation around it. He is degenerate if I ever saw one, yet he is my son!” He shook his head. “So… fuck it. In his case, literally. Let him do what he wants, but I told him, any bastard that pops up later, he has to deal with it!” Dermitos chuckled while Feynor shook his head, hearing about his younger brother.


“And…?”


“Lacuss… why you and Leinor the only sane son I have?” He sighed, holding his temple. “He just sent back one letter.” He said as he pulled it out and threw it to Feynor, who laughed out loud when he opened it. Only one word was written on the big sheet of paper: Noted.


“Where is he now?”


“In the border kingdoms between us and the Kingdoms. He is touring our vassal states, checking on them. We need to be careful, especially now. His cold presence is the best weapon to terrify any scheming bastards.”


“I agree.” Feynor smiled, putting down the letter, and emptying his cup.


“Anyway, be careful on the way, and when you come back, you need to return to the capital. You need to get ready.”


“Yes, Father.” He stood up, bowing to him.


“No more bows!” Dermitos smiled, turning towards him and patting his shoulders. “You are ready to be an Emperor. You bow to nobody, remember that!”


“Still, bowing to one's parents and peers is not something I have a problem with.” He smiled while Dermitos hugged him.


“Then do this instead, boy. I’m your father first, not your Emperor. Now go, have a good night's rest!”


When Feynor left, Dermitos took another look at the report lying on the table, revealing a small smile.


“Forefather, you will be surprised when you get back. If we are not careful, that little girl will overturn everything. I need to nudge Leinor more to gain control over his little wife… mmm… maybe I should place some aphrodisiac in their food or drinks? Or just in Leinor’s? Maybe then he could show some dominance over her….'' Dermitos murmured under his breath, thinking up things that would easily flip out Xendar and Anya if they knew about it… Ren… Ren may even find it funny… She may have also considered it before… who knows.