Once upon a time, the human race, cornered to the southernmost tip of the continent, reclaimed the continent from the demon race through a series of triumphant victories and went on to revive the human nations.
Heroes and leaders who had distinguished themselves in battle gradually carved out territory from the demon race, establishing their own nations.
Among the five major powers known as the Great Powers, the Khenis Empire was the youngest nation. This was because the Khenis Empire’s territory was located in the northeastern part of the continent, bordering the demon realm to the north, and it had relatively recently become part of the human race’s domain.
The Khenis Empire had originally emerged as a military alliance of emerging states that had carved out territory from the Demon King’s forces. Among these allied states, the former Khenis Empire had the greatest strength, and it had used the alliance itself—meaning, the security of the anti-demon pact—as leverage to unite neighboring nations, establishing the current Kenis Empire as a nominal equal annexation.
The Khenis Empire continued to battle the Demon King’s forces at the front lines, gradually expanding its territory. At the same time, it used coercive or threatening tactics to annex smaller neighboring countries along the border.
Some criticized their methods. The Temple forces and those strongly influenced by them, like Diletta, had frequently expressed concerns for humanitarian reasons and, above all, due to the belief that if the human race quarreled among themselves, it would play into the hands of the demon race, as per the scriptures.
However, the Khenis Empire’s assertion that “we should unite for a more efficient fight” aligned with the doctrine of the Temple. In fact, they had not been as forceful and blatant as it appeared; Diletta had frequently conducted annexations of smaller nations as well.
Furthermore, the Khenis Empire remained the cornerstone holding back the demon race. Despite their arrogance, they were seen as sincere gatekeepers of the human race’s society and were not considered “enemies” by anyone outside of the parties involved.
Above all, the Khenis Empire was nothing more than a medium-sized nation with the added weight of being a threat to the demon race. Diletta and Noacurio did not consider them a significant threat and viewed them as nothing more than a well-behaved watchdog.
However, as the Demon King’s forces were contained, and their offensive became increasingly rare…
The Khenis Empire bared its fangs at humans.
The unity that the human race had boasted of, even on the brink of extinction, with the righteous cause against the demon race, was now a thing of the past. In the midst of increasing conflicts among human race nations across the continent, the Khenis Empire, as if seizing the opportunity, began to expand its territory using extremely violent methods.
Before anyone realized it, the watchdog had become an uncontrollable beast.
By the time Diletta and Noacurio recognized the threat, it was too late. The Khenis Empire had acquired enough power and territory to be counted as one of the Great Powers.
In the midst of this situation, the emperor who had been promoting a war of expansion was unexpectedly killed in battle (rumored to have been an assassination).
The young new emperor, Min Hao, who had been given the throne by his mother, was considered an average ruler by everyone.
However, as soon as he gained power, he revealed a cunning nature like that of a dragon, forcing his mother, who had attempted to make him a puppet, into exile and taking control of the court. He further restructured the Empire’s expansion policy into a more ruthless and rational one, advancing invasion like wildfire.
With the demon threat almost eradicated, the direction in which the human race would move was uncertain.
The Khenis Empire held the key.
Currently, the Khenis Empire divided its mighty army into five main forces:
The Yellow Army, stationed in the imperial capital, served as the Emperor’s shield, the most elite force.
The Black Army, positioned to the north, served as a bulwark against the Demon King’s forces and was arguably the strongest human army in battles against monsters and the demon race.
The White Army, stationed to the west, had been annexing small and medium-sized western countries, but the Kingdom of Noacurio, wary of the approaching threat from the Empire, took the lead in forming a coalition of nations against the Khenis Empire. In addition, the nomadic tribes in the regions conquered by the White Army had become guerrilla fighters, causing disruptions and impeding further advances.
The Red Army, positioned to the south, had advanced steadily without significant obstacles and had finally reached the “Spine of the Earth”, the Ku-Lukal Mountains, which lay to the south of the Empire. The rugged and still monster-infested Ku-Lukal Mountains remained unconquered, and the Red Army was currently focused on stabilizing the conquered territories.
The Blue Army, stationed to the east, controlled the easternmost part of the continent, right up to the coastline, and was planning a southward advance bypassing the Ku-Lukal Mountains while keeping an eye on the Far East.
“…That’s the current situation of the Khenis Empire.”
Professor Everis said amidst the tropical atmosphere, with the sound of birds echoing in the jungle, leaning towards the tropical side.
This place was a vast jungle at the foot of the Ku-Lukal Mountains, the frontier of monsters where even the mighty Kenis Empire Red Army had yet to make a move. It seemed that the monsters from the time when the human race lost the continent were still surviving in this demonic realm.
The surroundings were densely overgrown with vegetation, and just a few steps would leave one covered in grass juice and mud. Even René, who usually dressed in combat attire, was in an exploration-style outfit with a shirt filled with numerous pockets and pants.
“Now, speaking of which, Princess, do you know why creatures as different in species and ecology as monsters unify and attack the humans when they do?”
“Monsters instinctively follow stronger monsters.”
“That’s right. Especially lower-intelligence creatures like beasts tend to do so. Just like this.”
At René’s feet, a massive tiger with sabre-toothed fangs purred and rubbed its cheek against her. This terrifying tiger had impressive wings on its back. Its fluffy white mane around its neck, akin to a scarf, was adorned with purple lightning.
This creature was none other than a Winged Tiger. Due to its heavy body and relatively low biological mana, its wings were used for gliding and mid-air maneuvering rather than true flight. It was a creature that engaged in three-dimensional hunting in densely wooded areas. Naturally, its prey included humans.
Additionally, as a bonus, it had the ability to control lightning magic. It would immobilize its prey with lightning, then finish them off with its sturdy claws and fangs.
Upon entering the forest, René immediately encountered this Winged Tiger and was instantly affectionately embraced by it. The Winged Tiger could sense the power difference at a glance and had chosen René as its rightful master. Since then, it had been continuously nuzzling René and attempting to lick her with its rough tongue.
“Damn newcomer, I wish I could also be rubbed and caressed by the Princess…!”
“…What are you two competing about, Mialanze?”
Mialanze, in order to prevent the Winged Tiger from soaking René, pressed down on its head and kept its tongue away.
“I suppose we should give this little one a name. How about ‘Tama’? ‘Geregere’? Or maybe ‘Crochette’…”
“We won’t have time to name them. There are probably a hundred Wing Tigers alone.”
“I know. I know. I just need to get them all to join us.”
“Scout from a wide range around here. Well, it’s fine to leave the riffraff, but I want to capture all magical beings of at least 4th class rank or higher.”
Everis grinned slyly.
What was an inaccessible demonic realm for ordinary people was a walk in the park for René. It was more like an armory or even a field of soldiers’ harvest.
“During that time, we’re going to do a little mountain climbing. Sorry, but I’m borrowing Mialanze and Tracy. Having them along would be convenient for the work in the mountains, and without Mialanze, we might be attacked by monsters.”
“Don’t wild monsters obey you, Everis?”
“Well, you see, even though I’m thoroughly evil now, my base is human.”
A mosquito or something landed on Everis’s exposed chest. After it appeared to have sucked blood, it fell to the ground and died. Strangely, there was not a single scratch on her flawless skin.
René was strongly skeptical of whether Evelis could be classified as human, but she probably was since she claimed to be. Most likely.
“Furthermore, undead are almost completely useless as well. Ghouls and Liches, no matter how powerful, seem to view themselves as entities that are similar to golems or something, rather than a master worth following. Vampires, on the other hand, are no problem at all.”
“So, currently, it’s just Mialanze and me who can have magical beings as allies.”
“That seems to be the case.”
As soon as the plan was decided, René sensed a sharp surge of “dissatisfaction” rising like a violent updraft and looked to her side.
Mialanze was there with a calm face.
Mialanse understood that the current arrangement was reasonable. She wouldn’t express her attitude, but it seemed she wanted to stay by René’s side.
Mialanze’s wish was to entrust her revenge to René. Considering that René had rescued her from the pe*verted aristocrat, her loyalty and affection weighed heavily. If this were a game, her loyalty rating would have surpassed the upper limit and entered the realm of bugs.
However, that made things simple.
“I’ll leave it to you over there, Mialanze.”
When René spoke up, Mialanze’s tail stood straight under her protective coat.
“Leave it to me. For the Princess, I’ll increase the number of useful pieces as much as possible.”
Although Mialanze still had her usual composed expression, René could read that her mood was improving exponentially, following a graph like y = x^2 (for x ≥ 0).
In essence, Mialanse wanted to be useful to René, and even though they had different tasks, it was all for René’s sake. She hadn’t forgotten her existence.
—Using people, there’s surprisingly… a lot to consider.
René contemplated deeply.
In her previous life, she had memories of working as a salaryman, but her boss at the time was an utterly useless piece of garbage who neither praised nor helped his subordinates. He even tried to drag his subordinates out on holidays to set up a Wi-Fi access point at his home, and when they refused, he lowered their evaluations. However, if she wanted to use subordinates efficiently, it couldn’t be like that.
From now on, they planned to increase not only undead but also living subordinates. Low-intelligence creatures would likely obey once their power was shown, but it wouldn’t be that easy with intelligent beings.
Individuals versus individuals. Against groups. How does she control them and move them?
Since René couldn’t handle the human nations alone, she needed to lead a faction. Managing subordinates was an unavoidable problem.
“Count me in for help too. Now, let’s start our action immediately. We need to finish everything before the Red Army notices us on the other side of the mountains. Let’s go!”
At the southern end of the Khenis Empire’s Red Army jurisdiction, at the foot of the Ku-Lukal Mountains, the Dead Land of Ciel-Terra began its covert operation.
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