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Archdevil Among Heroes

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The Overlord gazed out upon the band of "Heroes" before him, and found them lacking.

A glorious band of Heroes, they were. Gallant, righteous, and morally just -except for the other one. That one looked like she would stab someone as a warning with her getup.

But either way, morally right and the pursuers of justice. Or so they thought of themselves.

These people burned his villages and plundered his cities for loot and disturbed peace and even jaywalked when he had laid out pedestrian crossing AND bridges for his people who couldn't fly or teleport and had to use their legs to go around – just like these Heroes. But no, they had to cross the road as they liked without batting an eye to the raging Minotaurs.

There were three of them, this time.

He was familiar with these faces too. How could he not be when he kept receiving reports about these troublemakers undoing his hard-labors, throwing a wrench into the gears of his faultlessly working machine which was the revolutionary government – all because his name was Lucifer.

"Let this day become remembered as the day where your reign of tyranny meets its end." Shouted the Pendragon in a cold, calculated, heroic manner from her horseback. A knight dressed in a splendid silver armor with a helmet with the mane resembling a lion. She was the king of… somewhere or the other. Lucifer paid more attention to his developing empire to care about these silly games of heroes.

Lucifer didn't understand what her people were smoking to send their King to embark a journey to Hell, but Lucifer never truly understood the way humans think to start with. That was why he volunteered to rule Hell instead – Demons and Devils were surprisingly obedient when you change your angelic name and then add the label 'Overlord' in front of it. Overlord or Devil King or Demon Lord or Archdevil. Either works.

Unfortunately, that also gave the humans an incentive to rid him off from the face of… Hell?

"You'll pay for your deeds with a great price today~ Mr. Lucifer~!" the Caster added with a playful tone, who was also a noble. Or was a noble, until the humans established their kingdom over hers and apparently sent her away on a quest for glory. Unlike the Lancer – or so according to the humans' classifications for these 'Heroes' – the mage's clothing was… rather open.

She had a pair of animal ears too. Dark furred and fluffy. Long and triangular-shaped like a jackal. Lucifer began to scratch the armrest of his throne to contain his desire to fluff them from surfacing.

The heroes mistook it as a sign of his lessening patience, and adopted their battle stances. It would be very menacing if Lucifer had any intent to fight and ruin his throne room. It might not be much, but it was built with honest labor.

"It's time to pay for your evil sins. May you find peace in the afterlife — I believe there is one."

"Evil?" Lucifer said, more confused than angry. He only had just raised an empty palm, not yet moving from his seat. "It's because of the name, isn't it. 'Lucifer'? Should've picked Bob or something else but… It's God-given, I'm afraid." The Archdevil took a deep breath, "But evil? Me? Goodness. I don't think you know what that word means."

The Lancer pointed her mighty lance towards the Overlord, threatening to fire some beam or something. "You can't talk your way out of this."

"Okay, then explain to me what kind of 'evil' I've committed." He replied, air-quoting, rising from his modest throne. He had pawned the old golden throne off to the people of the city. Who needed that much gold in their throne anyway? And it was too shiny that it hurt to stare at and was a downright waste of material.

"You killed your own son! Burned him alive in unholy fire!" The Archer shouted, aiming her arrows towards him. Like the Caster, she had animal ears too. More a feline's to a canine's as hers were shorter, but nonetheless, he wanted to pet them still. God why does he find animal ears on cursed humans so damned irresistible?

"Welly that son of mine was a monstrous twat." Lucifer said innocently, without a shred of grief, "Doing evil just because it rhymes with 'Devil'? Do I really need to explain to you lot how mindbogglingly idiotic that was?"

"You raped his wife." Accused the Lancer – Arturia Pendragon.

Lucifer rolled his eyes. "That was a blatant lie. That's just defamation of my name, Jesus Christ… And why would I do that? I have a perfectly reasonable collection of consorts who lovingly attend to my personal needs. Why would I add my daughter into that list?! Good GOD, humans, you people and incest, I swear… One of these days, you'll find a man born through generations of inbreeding that he became so inbred you'll mistake him as a sandwich."

"It's hard to believe you when there's no one around to prove your words, Lucifer." Atalanta snapped, maintaining her aim and the beastly glint in her eyes.

"Because today is a National Holiday!" Lucifer grumbled, putting his hands on his hips like a lady, "All my subordinates are off enjoying their quality time with their own family, minding their own business. My workers are on a national holiday! As if I would rip them away from their families to fend their realm from a bunch of preposterous nitwits."

The Heroes glanced at each other, perplexed for a moment, but returned to gaze upon this Tyrant Overlord. One of them was about to speak something before he continued his defense.

"I sent his wife off to a nice summer highland, where she can spend her days planning balls, drinking fancy pricey wine and putting on nice dresses, rather than live in this fortress of misery."

"You exiled her away!" The Caster shouted back, losing her playful tone.

"She was in love with a fine young man – much better suited to him than my dimwitted son – good riddance." Lucifer said, waving away their concerns, "Furthermore, with the abolition of the monarchy, there's no need for a princess anymore. Why would we have a need for princesses when families tend to marry them off to secure some political alliances. Aren't you aware of how badly treated some princesses are? Princes too, if a Kingdom has an Absolute Cognatic succession laws – but my point still stands."

Lucifer noted the hesitance in Archer's eyes as she started to loosen her greatbow's string.

"You can't abolish the monarchy!" Arturia said, vehement.

"Yeah? And why is that?" Lucifer replied, descending the marble steps from his throne – the only thing he liked that was added by Rizevim. Arturia jumped down her horse and levelled her Holy Lance at him, but Lucifer just ignored the Lancer's grandstanding, standing some inches away from the pointy end of said lance.

"A Kingdom needs a King." The Lancer stated.

"Well, the thing is, this isn't a Kingdom anymore. The Revolutionary Government rules the Republic of Hell; a government where everyone is an elected official. Where everyone earns their spot. Where the people choose who runs them. But instead of a President, we have an Overlord, and instead of Ministers, we have Satans and the 72 Pillars — which isn't exactly 72. About 30, I recall. Those old Devils are rather… impressive in destroying the foundations we've built."

"Chosen by your people." Arturia protested.

Lucifer shrugged. "Well, these were the people who fought alongside me to eliminate the Khaos Brigade and Qlippoth. Makes sense I'd put people I trust in power, before passing it off to others."

"You can't take over an entire kingdom and then deem yourself as its Tyrant. You've placed the people in peril!"

"I can, and I have. And it's just a title. Under my rule, Hell has prospered!" Lucifer grinned, fixing the cobalt blue tie underneath his suit. He liked to dress sharp, after all – even when he had to attend these jesters.

"People are leaving their farms in droves, fleeing your armies of terror!" the Lancer raised her tone. She needed to stop raising her tone.

"No, they're leaving the villages to come to the cities to work in the industries, in the factories. Hell has been through reforms. It's reforged. A new era dawns under my watch. Its residents are being put to good use. They are bettering everyone's lives." Lucifer said, flippant. The secret to ruling a nation was keeping the people happy. That's where other Overlords fell apart. You don't need to oppress people. Make them love you, and they'll fight to keep you there. You'll have to rule them even if you don't want to. What a perfect system. Lucifer couldn't understand why his son couldn't realize that.

"How will everyone be fed? People will starve! There will be a famine!" The Caster, Queen of Sheba, cried out.

"A change in taxes, implementation of well-studied foreign farming practices from agricultural countries such as the Netherlands, a boost in research and development provided by the Grigori Research Institute which is funded by the people –had to give them a small loan of magical resources, but the investment paid off quickly-, increased trade for high yield crops and foodstuffs with the Yokai faction, and a mutually beneficial export and import relation with the Realm of the Dead, and this nation has never faced a famine. Have I mentioned a sharp drop of lawbreakers who resorted to thievery because their family were starving?"

"You signed a pact with the Realm of the Dead! Hades is distrustful- he's banished from Olympus!" Arturia said with heated passion.

"Look. Just because the guy decides to look like a skull and wear silly garments to make himself look like a skeleton pope and has a throne made of bones and skulls of his dead enemies, doesn't necessarily warrant that he's a bad guy." Lucifer reasoned, "Bit of an issue with his family, yes -and his taste of fashion-, but don't we all have a little bit of issues with our familiy? I mean, all my brothers and sisters in Heaven probably hate me more than you do. Except from Gabriel - but she doesn't count."

"Besides," Lucifer continued smoothly, "the Grim Reapers are perfectly reasonable people. Spooky, yes, but pleasant nonetheless. Have you met Bennia? She's a little rascal, that one." A grin etched itself on his face, "But I digress. And forming a non-aggression and a trade pact is better than going to war every ten to twenty years. Less dead people, more prosperous trade, more trust gained, and fewer mothers grieving their lost child because of war."

The Heroes, just like the previous band of Heroes that sauntered into his 'Evil Castle', started to exchange confused looks with the others.

Lucifer smiled. This was it. This was them finally coming to reason. At last! Possible freedom from this wild charade!

He only needed a little bit more persuasion now. "Come on now, Heroes." He said, "Are your kingdoms ever without their own flaws? If I remember correctly that your people once burned a Saint because… because the people thought she was a witch."

"Do you need to bring me into this stupid debate?"

The Heroes flinched and raised their guards as they swiveled on their heels, aiming their weapons and magic towards the new figure entering the modest throne room. It used to be a giant throne room, but Lucifer didn't like the grandiose. The chandelier was way too big and expensive and he didn't want it falling on his unassuming guests.

"Ah! Janey! So good to see you." Lucifer beamed brightly. A friendly face at last! Well, not exactly a friendly face since 'Janey' liked to have a permanent scowl on her face.

The former Saint paused her steps as she crossed her arms under the breastplate of her dark violet armor, looking the least welcoming towards the Heroes.

"When are you going to be done here? That sly fox of yours keeps whining for you. Keeps spouting nonsense like it's her brushing day — whatever that means."

"Jeanne… Jeanne d'Arc…? Maid of Orleans?" Arturia said in rising horror as she turned around, and once again raised her Rhongomyniad at The Devil, "You've bewitched her! She was a Saint with a devoted heart for The Creator!"

"Well, yes, until you burned her on a stake." Lucifer said casually, "She's been through quite a lot, mind you… lucky neither of you lot is a Frenchman. She'd skewer you with a baguette for the irony."

"What's this… another mob of ostentatious 'protagonists'?" Jeanne said with a smirk, her long silver blonde hair waving as she drew her dark-bladed sword out of its sheath, "Want me to deal with them right now, Master? The Knight seems annoying but I can deal with the other two."

"Ah, yes. Violence. The brutish final solution for every mindless creature." Lucifer quipped, softening the increased tension. "You see, Jane, this is why I don't have you by my side when these Heroes come for a visit; you always let your sword do the talking."

"It speaks louder than I ever will." Jeanne grinned, coating herself in an unholy aura. The Heroes, understandably, coated themselves in their own battle aura.

Now Lucifer was starting to get annoyed. "Alright. Calm thine tits, ladies." He paused once he received a threatening glare from all sides – including Jeanne, "Perhaps I should've used a better term – but nonetheless, please don't fight in this room. You're not the ones cleaning the blood or burnt remains off the floor or the pillars. Do have some compassion for my caretakers. You as well, Jeanne. Kindly sod off, will you? I have this handled."

Jeanne clicked her tongue, but sheathed her sword as the Heroes then slowly lowered theirs as she walked away from the way she came, disappearing into the hall.

Lucifer's smile returned on his lips as he clapped his hands. "Now… where were we… ah yes! What other baseless accusation shall you lunge at me this time, Ms. Knight?"

"You've sentenced tens of thousands to their death." Arturia said, not missing a beat. "Thousands lost their homes. If you're so willing to purge your own people, I can hardly imagine what you're capable of doing to us."

"Well it's not a revolution if some people don't die." Lucifer replied, sitting down on the stairs. Standing was tiring, he noticed. "They die so the nation can have a better future. Why don't you look around you, for once, and stop seeing a Demon's house as a place for you to spelunk and snatch any goods they have simply because they're Demons and/or Devils."

"We did no such thing." Arturia blazed, but her statement was rendered false when Queen of Sheba started to fidget with her hands, her jackal ears wilting from shame. "Sh…Sheba?"

"…Th-they were shiny…"

"Those magic mirrors you took were their family heirlooms." Lucifer sighed, his piercing eyes remaining lax, "You were lucky the merchant knew from whom you took it and gave it back to those unfortunate souls."

"You kidnapped children." Atalanta glared, narrowing her eyes, "Innocent children."

"If you mean by providing unwanted children, children without home or parents or in a badly-funded orphanage- with shelter, free education, and three meals a day, so they can grow and retain the amount of labor necessary to ensure the long-lasting of the industry in the future to combat the Devils and the Demons low birth rate as kidnapping, then yes. I suppose we do kidnap your children."

"Future soldiers to your legion, no doubt." Arturia glared, having said that, she noticed Atalanta was starting to lose faith in their just cause.

"Why should I prevent those who are passionate in combat and battles in studying what they aspire to become? More to the point; I will need soldiers to patrol the borders, to watch over all roads, guard all cities and towns and villages where its Demons population have been horribly stagnated due to your attack, and man all posts to maintain law and order. "

Both Atalanta and Sheba started to shuffle uneasily, ears twitching and the tip of their tails flicking.

"Evil and tyranny, more like it." Arturia muttered, "Your freedom is an illusion."

"Freedom is an illusion." Lucifer corrected, pushing his dusky dark hair to the left, raising his bangs into a quiff, "Walk on the pavement, don't litter, don't kill, don't plunder, don't kick your friend in the face, work from 8 to 5, raise a family, – all of these restrictions and yet we call ourselves free. We have free will, but are we ever really free?"

"Spare me your mind-altering lesson."

"Among those things, one of my soldiers' duties is to alert me of random buffoons sent by the humans harassing my people. But will I put them at risk? No. Why else did you think you stopped meeting resistance the moment you destroyed the Eastern Gate? Because they don't wish to fight for me? No, Lady Knight. It's because they fear people like you. People who strut into our land and label us monsters. And did you know some Demons are terrified of visiting the Overworld -or Earth as you say- because humans have hunted them for their horns?"

Sheba didn't say anything. She couldn't say anything, rather, no matter how badly she wanted to say it. In fact, she wished she could sink into the ground.

Lucifer huffed. "Crime has dropped under my rule. Prisons hold only prisoners of war. Criminals are put to work on great public works, trained in the arts of civil engineering. Rehabilitation centers are accessible at every major city – and have I mentioned I had to build one specifically for slimes and goblins because you humans keep blasting them to train your kids?"

Arturia remained stoically silent, while Sheba had called off her magic and Atalanta had her greatbow loosely hanging by her hand. Maybe they were trying to see how this was evil.

"You see, I care about my people. Even Hitler cared about Germany or something." Lucifer muttered, unbuttoning his grey suit because he forgot to do it when he sat down. It revealed the plain white dress shirt he wore underneath. "You are not the first band of Heroes to come here to my territory and try to mess things up or kill me in order to prevent some Demonic Crusade or Incursion or something to your world."

"Then where are the other Heroes?" Sheba asked awkwardly, somewhat accusingly, "Did you…"

"Kill them? No." Lucifer scoffed, "Gods no. I have them reflect on their actions and then send them away to wherever they want to go."

"Where are they?" Arturia demanded.

"They were eaten by a Dragon, last I heard." Sheba added.

"No, I don't think so." Lucifer rubbed his clean-shaven jaw, "Unless Tiamat went awry and mistook them as livestock, then… perhaps, but no. Those 'Heroes' of yours are comfortably living their life in their houses, working with society. They seem to be rather traumatized from their 'heroic upbringing' and have since decided to stay around. Not my fault they like it here."

The Heroes had the gall to be surprised at that. Misguided souls, the lot of them.

"Oh… you have no idea, do you…? I bet your people killed them off so that it's easier for them to goad you into dealing with me, the 'Big Bad Tyrant Overlord', for I am big and bad and is an overlord." Lucifer jeered, enjoying their growing unease and the failing of their will to fight.

"Humans are exceptionally deceptive and scarily adept in finding ways to kill other beings, including their own, did you know that? Cannons, handguns, tanks, nuclear bombs… coins among other things. Now don't get me wrong, I admire their inventions too. Aqueducts and advanced irrigation systems. Superbly magnificent and efficient once combined with a little bit of magic. And their clothing designs too! Suits, by gods, are simply mesmerizing. A bit damp at times, especially during the summer - but that's why we developed one ourselves. Try my suit out, it's very breezy and light as a feather – courtesy of the Gremory and Phenex Corporation. A shame you torched down one of their factories but… eh well. Can't call yourselves heroes unless you burn down a tavern or a factory, I suppose. Lucky you we have emergency funds for these kinds of events. Thousands of workers lost their jobs, mind you."

The Heroes shifted around awkwardly, not knowing where to look.

"But that aside…" Lucifer trailed off, humming, "Sometimes, I just can't help wondering which one of us is the monster. At least none of you are splashing me with Holy Water or throwing Bibles on my face this time."

There was a heavy silence revolving among the Heroes as they lowered their weapons, whereas Lucifer simply sat on the stair, smiling a simple tightlipped, lopsided smile.

After a while, Sheba expressed her concern. "…I think… I think we may have misjudged him slightly, Arturia."

"I'm… aware of that." The Lancer muttered dejectedly, "How many times have you faced the Heroes sent after you?"

"Hmm? Oh you lot are… what… the thirtieth this decade? I don't know. I lost count after the tenth."

Sheba nervously rubbed her elbow, playing with her lustrous dark purple hair as her ears twitched agitatedly. "This… has been… embarrassing."

"Everyone makes mistakes. Some humans just like to repeat it and hope for a different result." Lucifer shrugged as he stood up, "But tell you what? I think I've had enough of this whole 'Heroes taking down Evil Overlords' travesty. I daresay it's about time I get out from this hellhole, and handle this matter directly with my own hands. Enough is enough. I can't keep having to delay my well-earned vacations because I'm always required to be present here! I have an adorable foxling needing to be fluffed daily! An angsty mistress whose edge requires to be blunted! An Earth I've yet to fully explore because I've been trapped here with devily duties! I can't keep staying here because you humans require a scapegoat to retain your wobbly peace or because you're paranoid I'm going to invade and put my own people at risk. There are billions of you! Us Devils and Demons combined are scarcely above a million!"

Despite his grumbling-slash-whining, Lucifer showed no hostility towards the Heroes. However, his words alone so far were enough to kill the Heroes' spirits and now fill them with dread, wondering what calamities he would bring unto their world. They certainly didn't expect this one.

"Take me to your leader! Take me to Chaldea as your prisoner!" The Archdevil-Overlord said gallantly, "We shall head forth after I pack my clothes, a spare suit, and inform my assistant regarding this potentially horrible idea, and have him deal with this empire in my absence!"