A young girl reclined on her throne in the center of the dark room, brooding over what were sure to be heavy, troublesome thoughts. Her gaze seemed to reach into the infinite distance, seeking the truth behind the world.
Perhaps she was despairing for the future of mankind, or trying to find a single solution for all the world’s sorrows. From a certain angle, it was easy to delude yourself into thinking such a thing.
Countless suitors had aimed for her hand, but she had rejected them all as unworthy. Her face was somewhat childlike, but anybody could see the hints of maturity beginning to shape her features.
At the same time, she also appeared to be far older than her face would suggest. Her chin inclined slightly as she rubbed her chin as if in thought; falling to her shoulders, tresses of white hair were lit up by the solitary flame floating at the apex of the ceiling far above. The green light sank smoothly down towards her body, casting her eyes into darkness.
Numerous shadows shifted across her face as the light played around hundreds of weathered stone statues, standing motionless on numerous ledges around the room. The statues were arrayed in concentric circles with higher elevations, appearing to be a silent audience for a silent queen.
Presence. Grandeur. Beauty.
Her elegant poise and dangerous presence betrayed the strength which she carried within. The aura that she exuded was both regal and imposing, and hers seemed to be an unapproachable, almost sacrosanct existence.
Such majesty! Ahh, such grace! One could easily imagine the faint voices of a choir echoing throughout the room, and the hushed whispering of thousands of subjects around her. However, a description of only this magnitude could only be described as lacking.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall. There was no question that I was the fairest of them all.
I smirked while admiring my own reflection. Mine was truly an appearance from which countless legends and sculpting masterworks could be born. Narcissism? Of course not! It was only natural that the heavens themselves should bow down before my exalted self.
Ah, I’d gotten distracted again. I cast my eyes downwards at a book resting on my lap. Demonic howls resounded outside my room, but that had nothing to do with me. Education! One of my daily endeavours was reading sophisticated literature authored by the finest of the human race.
“Huhu… love decagons are the best…” I snickered, flipping through the book with interest. The complex human relationships were intertwined to produce a delectable mix of drama and despair, tremendously sating my intellectual curiosity.
Just as I reached the turning point where the main character finally confessed to all the primary love interests, his best friend, little sister, and even the mailman, I was rudely interrupted by a minor explosion.
THOOM. The walls of the castle quivered as if kicked by a giant! Dozens of screams rose towards the sky as some unlucky demons died painful deaths, but more importantly, my book tumbled from my lap to the floor. Which page had I been on, again…?
With a regretful sigh, I sank into my throne and kicked the masterpiece of literature aside into a pile of half-completed novels. Perhaps I’d made the gates a little too sturdy – pumped up with fifty-thousand durability.
Well, if those guys knew, then they’d probably be attacking the walls instead.
Outside my humble abode, numerous people had been repeatedly attacking my castle – their attempts to enter in an idiotic fashion. If they had actually paid attention, they might’ve realized that it was easier to infiltrate from underground.
Perhaps they weren’t educated enough to understand. After all, just look how violent and barbaric they were being.
Since I’d been interrupted, I lost any further motivation to read. Shouldn’t I be doing something more meaningful with my life? Minutes ticked by as I wondered whether I should get back to work, but a prickly sensation on my skin alerted me to the nearby formation of a portal. I had a visitor!
A mass of roiling, turbulent magical energy was growing in the corner of my room, completely invisible to the eye. Even I wasn’t capable of producing a portal like this due to the vast amounts of mana which they consumed.
Furthermore, portals were incredibly difficult to maintain and manage. If just a single calculation went wrong, you could materialize into a wall, end up in space, or even land in an awkward social situation. As if that wasn’t enough, unstable portals could even explode catastrophically.
I hurriedly hid the pile of novels under my table and ducked behind my throne. The air around the portal shimmered as if it were caught in a heatwave, and it seemed dangerously close to failing…!
After a few seconds, a handsome man in a suit leapt out, and the portal quickly evaporated to my relief. He was a truly devilish fellow! Tall and suave, with a black cane in hand and two small black horns on his forehead. His chin sported a roguish goatee, and on his face he possessed thin, angular eyebrows, slanted eyes and delicate pointed ears.
All in all, it was the kind of appearance that could only be described as ‘cool’. However, in my dictionary, that meant he was defined as the type of person who would make women cry.
This refined fellow stood for a moment, straight-backed and proud, as if getting his bearings. Then he slammed his cane into the stone floor with impressive force and began to walk towards me.
SPLAT. His body exploded into a ball of fire, keeled over, and burned in silence. Miscellaneous body parts flew past my throne and struck the opposite sides of the room. Well, he didn’t need them anyway.
“Explosions are so fun~” I said as he began to reform before my eyes, like some kind of disgusting, eldritch slug. At least I’d succeeded in ruining his appearance; his hair was slightly singed and his clothes had interesting tears in them.
“You…” he growled, gnashing his teeth in frustration. It wasn’t my fault – he’d been careless enough to trip my anti-intruder defenses. How else was I supposed to defend against things that went bump during the night?
After shouting for a while, he calmed down and dragged something out of his portal. Why did he always feel the need to use portals? He wasn’t even good at them, and they really were too wasteful.
It was like conceiving an idea for a grand and extensive stairwell, arguing with the design team, securing the materials and – finally – building it after a year of hard work. All when there was a perfectly fine elevator directly beside it.
In any case, what brought this kind of useless and prideful show-off to my home?
“In any case, what brings you here, esteemed boss -” I began happily before seeing the limp body lying on the floor. Before my eyes, it wrapped two arms around the man’s waist and stared up at me blankly with my own face.
“…I didn’t realize that you were this perverted,” I muttered, backing away slightly.
“You shut up. It’s not used for that.”
He regained his composure and promptly pried the arms off his body. After a slightly delay, the ragdoll – completely identical to me – rose from the ground and began to stroll around my room as if it owned the place.
I eyed it shakily and waved my hand; two glass cups and a glittering flask of wine appeared from thin air. Of course, I was just bantering with him. The two of us shared a bond which transcended space and time!
After all, he like a father to me. His punches had that much weight.
“So, what can I do for you today, hmm? I just finished my daily, er… meditation,” I said, carefully pouring wine into each cup. Of course, I’d laced them with laxatives. Incidentally, I wasn’t feeling thirsty, so both cups were for him.
“Well… you’re fired.”
I dropped the cups for dramatic effect.
Given that they were high-level artifacts, they simply ended up rolling around on the floor instead of shattering.
As my boss stared down at his dripping wet shoes, the harsh words reverberated in my head as if from far away. I could only sit there in disbelief –
–How had it come to this?
Was it something I said?
“Wait! That was just a joke, you know?” I cried out, confused. “I’m a model employee. I’m the best! As for the castle – productivity, cleanliness, worker mortality rate and taxes are all the highest they’ve ever been!!”
Work had been a form of monotonous torture, but I’d nobly put up with everything for the sake of my paycheck. Hundreds of worker complaints, the trade union’s weekly protests, welfare, embezzlement, corruption, wages and budget constraints…
…The everyday affairs had been enough to literally turn my hair white from stress.
Then there were those lousy heroes. Every day those tenacious roaches barged into my castle without knocking or mugged my underlings, completely unprovoked.
In fact, there were even those who attempted to steal my belongings like petty thieves. I mean really, one of my used tissues had been advertised as a ‘god-tier divine artifact’ in the hero black market. I seriously didn’t know what to do with all my stalkers.
Furthermore, no matter how many times they were defeated, they’d just return like third-rate recurring villains. My troubles only increased with the passing of time.
That’s right – I was the Dark Lord. Several years ago, as an orphaned village girl, I’d come across this job on a billboard. ‘Wanted: one Dark Lord Candidate! Grasp true strength, know no hunger, attain immortality and eternal youth!’
I lodged my application, failed the examination spectacularly, and managed to get hired as a maid. My work had continued at this castle up until last year, during which time I’d been an exemplary servant! Unfortunately, every Dark Lord that I’d worked for had mysteriously passed away.
For example, take the sudden demise of the previous Dark Lord. That handsome specimen was apparently some kind of demigod – tall and suave, with a head full of jagged golden hair. His very breath birthed cyclones, raised mountains and scorched the seas.
During an attempt to become the ultimate being, he stabbed himself with a ritual dagger which was supposed to confer the powers of Heaven and Earth. In reality, it simply killed him.
I definitely hadn’t switched it out or anything.
Eventually, due to the serial killings – er, accidental deaths of all the other applicants, I was continuously promoted from a lowly maid to where I was now. A grandmaster of spellcasting, a rising darkness that this world had never before seen.
I was a penultimate, boss-type character.
And this devilish fellow who lived upstairs was my boss. Some kind of demon king or whatever.
My wallet rubbed his forehead in exasperation, and an emotion which I favourably interpreted as overwhelming and soul-crushing guilt. “Look, I’m sorry about not giving you any notice, but I need you to move out by the 20th this month…”
“No way! You know how many years I’ve given to this company?!”
“As if I care! Go freeload off someone else,” he rebutted. So what if I was leeching off the funds that he was giving me to buy novels and games? Those were educational expenses! Wait, maybe he didn’t know about that yet.
My eyes began to water as I began to use my ultimate attack: ‘Young maiden’s tears!’ This was how I’d conned dozens of my opponents into lowering their defenses. In response, his expression softened and his pupils became visibly heart-shaped.
I’d never witnessed this kind of disease before. He should really get his eyes checked by a qualified professional.
He sighed and beckoned for me to come closer with furtive movements. It seemed like he had some sort of huge secret to divulge… so I made my expression as serious as possible and leaned in until I was ready to headbutt him at any moment.
“The truth is… well, most job positions are being phased out in favour of a new generation of workers. These dolls have no emotions or desires – when talked to, they only repeat the same lines. However, their working efficiency is through the roof.”
I was stunned. How could upper management possibly replace us with these kinds of soulless machines? Where had their humanity gone?! I turned and glared at my replacement with hostility while it walked into the wall repeatedly. Hmph, as if it could fool me with that kind of endearing act.
Killing intent, billow forth…!
The boss noticed my persistent stare and explained embarrassedly, “That’s just part of its programming – it doesn’t have any unnecessary personality or intelligence. I believe upper management calls it an ‘NPC’? Anyway, its true potential can only be seen when it’s given orders.”
There was no way that this fake could compare to the original! A flash of insight struck me when I remembered a scenario in a book that I’d once read. When faced with an evil doppelganger which was trying to steal your identity, there was always a single, correct solution.
“Let me fight this thing in single combat. That’ll prove which of us deserves to be the Dark Lord!” However, in response the boss simply shook his head deprecatingly. Raising his finger with imperious authority, he pointed at a rack of weapons pinned above my bed like a swimsuit poster.
Transcendent blades of holy might, cursed tools which emanated killing intent, shields which were as enduring as the earth itself…! Each artifact emanated a potent glow, positively brimming with destructive energy.
Well, such a description was unnecessary, of course. Anybody could easily tell how powerful they were by the intensity of the light.
“Because you’re so weak, you rely too much on those things. You think you have what it takes to beat the newest model of Dark Lord in a fight? You’re the weakest Dark Lord in history!” he said sternly, treating my collecting tendencies as if they were some sort of drug addiction.
“What’s more, when was the last time you went outside? It smells like old people in here. I’m not paying you to be some kind of NEET – do your job properly.”
“Eh~ but I haven’t lost once, you know?” I proudly recalled the numerous battles throughout my five-year tenure. In my free time, all I did was install traps everywhere in sight – not a single hero could actually reach me.
“You can’t lose a battle that you’ve never fought. You’ve just been running away this entire time!” My boss rebuked me harshly, evidently ignorant of the art of war. It appeared that it was down to my benevolent self to educate him.
I sat back in my throne and crossed my arms, holding my chin high. “A certain military general once said, ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’ He also said, ‘If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him.’ Everything that I’m doing is by the book!”
It was a fusion of these two ideals. A battle of attrition whereby, with each step forward, they’d be forced to take five steps back… due to stepping on landmines. The accumulated irritation caused the heroes to make numerous mistakes in battle, and ultimately they’d quit pursuing me of their own accord!
They could attack my castle in any way that they liked, but whatever means they attempted to use, it was impossible to get to me. Like a parched man – desperate for water and reaching for a mirage, eventually they’d just drop dead.
“No, a Dark Lord is meant to give a satisfying experience to heroes… enough. Yura,” he said, scowling while shaking his head, “I’m willing to give you a chance. If you intend to remain as a Dark Lord, then I have a test for you.”
I had the brief impression that he was being considerate in his own way, giving me an opportunity to show my mettle. Whatever task it was, I’d put in 300% effort! My soul shook with enthusiasm and my fighting spirit rose to the ceiling…!
I lost my enthusiasm as I realized that it would involve using up energy. The boss stared at me incredulously as I slouched in my seat and began examining my nails… well, this was my personality, after all. Today’s work to tomorrow, and tomorrow’s work to somebody else.
“You realize that your job is on the line? Damn it, show me some enthusiasm!”
“No, I don’t really think that it’s good to fight… we should look towards a new age of peace, and cease perpetuating the meaningless cycle of hatred. Think of the children… money is running low, and our reputation has been pretty poor -”
Midway through my grand speech, he wordlessly handed me a scroll while wearing an expression of distaste. Well, maybe he was too young to appreciate my words. I lazily unfolded the scroll and began reading the written information in lackadaisical fashion.
The plot was simply too dull in comparison to the story I’d been reading earlier.
“Political intrigue… star-crossed lovers… a tragic story about an orphan’s redemption and battle against fate… final battle with a party of heroes…?” I said questioningly, raising my head.
Half of it was just the standard fare, but the last part stood out. So all I needed to do was fight a bunch of those worthless gnats again? Ahh – he was probably giving me a chance to prove that I was a more suitable ‘Dark Lord’ than my doppelganger…!
How intoxicating! How empowering! His steadfast belief in my abilities meant that I had no choice but to fight at 100%.
No, maybe 1% would be more efficient?
“Anyway, do your best and give them a proper battle.” The boss moved past while patting my shoulder in a consoling fashion, and his presence abruptly vanished after a few steps.
Erm… what did he mean by ‘a proper battle’? One with blood, sweat, tears, and ultimate attacks flying around everywhere? I hesitated to call him back before realizing that a refined fellow like him would never suggest something so uncouth.
How mysterious… had my test begun already?
I ran the written information through my head. These side characters were going to try and beat me up like a bunch of schoolyard bullies… no, in reality, that was just an afterthought. Their main objective was to rescue some ‘abused, abducted’ village children…?
What a ridiculous notion! Last I’d heard, the village children had been perfectly safe. In fact, my demonic underlings had been particularly happy about their arrival, even christening them with nicknames such as ‘Over Salted’, and ‘Needs M. Flavour’.
I racked my brains and thought about the inexplicable feast that my demonic underlings had been having a few weeks ago, but apart from that I couldn’t really remember anything out of the ordinary…
Fufu, how misinformed. The scroll read that the children were suffering from unimaginable cruelties, but naturally, it was just wartime propaganda. I had to release the outside world from their subtle brainwashing. I would write history by becoming the victor.
“Hmph, it doesn’t matter what they’re here for. I only need to win,” I muttered. Countless wicked strategies streamed into my head, then left just as rapidly.
Today’s work to tomorrow, tomorrow’s work to somebody else! I had a story to finish~