Really, this place is too gaudy. I mean, I can understand wanting to splurge when you're in a position like a demon lord's, but what's the point in having so much gold in a bathroom for a being that doesn't ever need to take baths? The bed is another thing, though. It looks so soft and fluffy and I want to drop into it... hah, wait, I'm here for a reason. Well, it's usually sleep time now, but here I am, traveling around the world.
But before I can open the door leading to the corridor, I stop myself. Wait, Mithra is in on this conspiracy, so this means he most likely knows everything that happened in the Demon Mages Association. In fact, it's even possible that he sent me to the kingdom so that I can make contact with his son. I don't know based on what he thought I would ever betray maou-mama, but since I declined the offer, I can't randomly walk into him here. It would seem too suspicious.
The thing is, I'm actually afraid to face him in battle. Judging from his position in the demon castle, he's a high-ranked mage who is also proficient in space magic. The fact that he has better control over it than maou-mama also shows that his magic capabilities are most likely on par, if not better than hers. In other words, I would be facing someone who's as strong as my mother, if not stronger. And according to what I heard about her from Senka, she most likely jumped into a huge army of humans and single-handedly wiped them out. When I think about it... she most likely single-handedly wiped out the one million strong expedition army that came knocking at her gates just before I came here.
There's one way around this: A disguise. At this point I have so much control over my physical form that I can surely pull this off. I change my appearance to have a very unremarkable face, then stretch my body and change its color to look like a maid uniform. Now, just add some common demon traits... gray skin, horns, inverted eyes... and I'm done. The perfect disguise, a maid working in the castle. I open the door and walk out, keeping my back straight and putting on a neutral expression.
I very nearly walk into a person right away and we both separate in shock. I look up and it's someone in thick robes. Mithra???
"I am so sorry, Master Mithra!" I apologize and bow deeply so that he can't see my face - not like that matters. Damn, the person I least wanted to meet is the first one I bump into. This is such rotten luck! I quickly walk away in the opposite direction of where he was facing, so that we don't start walking alongside each other.
"Wait." His voice stops me dead in my tracks. Please-don't-suspect-anything-please-don't-suspect-anything-please-don't-suspect-anything. "What were you doing in that room?"
"..." I turn around and only now realize that it's dark outside. So, yet another time zone then. Judging by the lack of lights in the city it's either deep in the night or they don't have access to lamps, whether that be lamp crystals or fires. Since I doubt the latter is the case, it's safe to assume that it's in the middle of the night. Why would Mithra be walking in front of my room in the middle of the night? Because he noticed my transportation magic! "I heard a sound from this room and came to take a look." I report with a neutral expression. I can't show anxiety or fear. Luckily I stopped reproducing sweat glands after learning that I can regulate my body temperature as I wish.
"And did you find anything?" I can't see his face so I can't tell what he's thinking. I pay close attention to the large diamond in his staff, to know when he's going to use magic. I noticed in the academy that there's always a glow in them before magic gets activated, so I can use it as an indicator to either duck and cover, or summon up a defensive shield.
"Unfortunately, I did not. Maybe it was just my imagination." This tension is killing me. "If you would excuse me then, Master Mithra..." I bow again and move to leave. He doesn't say anything and I round the corner. This would be bad for my heart, if I had one...
I make sure to scout every corner of the castle before rounding them from then on, using my spy eye tentacle. I don't want to run into someone else who'll hold me up - or into Mithra again. The biggest problem I have now is that I don't know where maou-mama is. It really looks to be the middle of the night, since there aren't any maids walking around. Maybe I need to start looking into rooms at random?
But considering how many rooms are in this castle, I think that's going to take a really long time. Is there any way for me to find out where maou-mama is without having to walk all over the place? The first thing that comes to mind is to cause a commotion, to attract everyone within the castle into one place. I'm sure that will include maou-mama. But that's quite risky, since it will include Mithra. I need to talk to her in private first.
There's another option, although it's something I'd rather not do. That would be to wait in the hall where we had a meal until morning, where she'll very likely turn up eventually. It's a very passive choice though, and it's still possible for Mithra to spot me there before maou-mama comes around.
I walk around some more in hopes of being lucky and find a kitchen. It's a large space with several fireplaces and metal stoves, as well as huge pots. The lights are off, so the morning must be still a ways off - else there'd be cooks already preparing for breakfast. It could be considered lucky... If I wasn't in this situation, I'd be sneaking some food, but I don't have the time for it.
I immediately duck behind a shelf and look through the darkness. I didn't spot anything before even with night vision, but there's someone or something here. If it's a mouse, I'll eat it for scaring me like this... But it's clearly a person. He's pretty far away so I can't really see what he looks like, especially since he wears a hood. But he's sneaking in the darkness with a clear destination in mind. I stay in my hiding spot and keep observing.
He opens a large metal door and the smell of dried meat and smoked ham wafts out from it. Wait, is he here to sneak some food? I move silently and approach the intruder from behind. My appearance is that of a maid, so I can put on a little play and scare him. Also, then I'll go and get some of that meat for myself. It's not because I want to eat, alright?
"What are you doing here?" I speak up in a flat and professional maid-sounding tone.
"Hyah!" My, what a cute voice. The person flinches hard, dropping a pile of food, and spins around. I finally see who it is.
I transform into my pre-death form to rub the bridge of my nose and sigh. I wouldn't have expected maou-mama to be the one to try and sneak food in the middle of the night.
"You're the maou, why do you have to sneak around your own castle at night?" I'm looking down on her, who's kneeling in seiza before me, with irritation. So this is how our long-awaited reunion goes? Me literally finding her with her hand in the cookie jar.
"B-but the maid leader will get angry..." She's actually acting like I caught her doing something really naughty. All poise is gone from her and I have to wonder whether she's even the real maou-mama or not. But that ditzy attitude really is her, there's no two ways around it.
"Why would you be afraid of the maid leader in your employment? In the first place, you're the maou, everybody should be afraid of you!" My irritation grows and she shrinks under my gaze.
"See, I told you, every child that returns hates me!" Maou-mama is actually pouting. Wow, so childish!
"Alright, alright. I was feeling so tense earlier, but this just blew it all away." I sigh and hold out my hand to her. She takes it and I pull her up.
"... but now that I think about it, why are you here already? I did not expect you for at least a year." She puts a finger to her chin and tilts her head. That's seriously cute, but because of such a behavior I have to consciously remind myself of the fact that this is my mother. Where did her dignity from our first meeting go? Well, it did die a slow death after all that happened and all that I heard about her. "And how did you get into the castle?"
"Yes, I almost forgot! I'm here to warn you of a conspiracy to kill you!" My mind immediately returns to serious mode. "I learned space magic and teleported into the castle directly, but that's not important right now."
"A conspiracy to kill me...?" Maou-mama looks at me in surprise, before a radiant smile lights up her face. "Oh, there are many like that at all times. I strike them down whenever they crop up." She's saying this with so much joy, all my tension escapes me. In face of her reaction, I just can't keep serious...
"I... don't know what to say to that..." I thought it would be a much more dire situation, but she doesn't seem to have a care in the world. Still, maybe this time is different, since Mithra, who seems like her right-hand man, is involved. "But your court magician, Mithra is involved."
"... Mithra?" Her expression immediately changes. "How do you know?" She has entered serious mode now, even though I've kinda lost it.
"I met Mithra's son-"
"Mithra has no son." Maou-mama interjects.
"-at the... wait, what?"
"At least when I came to this castle, Mithra did not have a son. He has been here ever since, and with no spouse, no children were born to him." So, what about Flann? I know that maou-mama came here around twenty years ago, and he looked to be around the age of Hestia, so...? Unless Flann is quite a bit older than he looks. Well, with demons you never know. Incidentally, when I think about it, maou-mama isn't even much older than I am, and surely not old enough to be my mother...
"Then he must have left the castle before you came. In either case, his son, Flann told me that-"
"Oh, you mean Flann-chan~" Her face lights up in recognition. "She is Mithra's daughter." What, daughter???
"Wait, Flann is a girl?" I was sure that she was a he... the legendary reverse trap? "No, wait, that's not important... Flann told me that Mithra is involved in this conspiracy, along with the gods!"
"That is a grave accusation, Chaos-chan." She somehow doesn't look like she trusts me. Damn, I have no evidence other than the note I wrote to myself and the conjecture I drew from it. "Mithra has been serving me faithfully for twenty years."
"But they went so far as to erase my memories, so it has to be true." Wait, that was a contradictory statement. Maou-mama is looking at me with her head tilted slightly. I knew it, she thinks I must have hit my head or something. "They wanted me to sign a Vala or have my memories erased so that I can't tell you. I wrote down the important parts of what they told me inside my body and then chose to have my memories erased, so that I won't be affected by the Vala and can still tell you." Ugh, I'm beginning to get frantic. Her expression is still serious, but I can feel the mistrust growing inside her.
"Why do we not ask Mithra directly, then?" Maou-mama says and touches my shoulder with a reassuring expression. I think I lost her with this. There's no point in asking him, since he'll just deny the accusations and that'd be the end of it. When it comes down to my word against his, if not of equal weight, his would most certainly weigh heavier than mine. After all, I'm like a newborn, while he has been with maou-mama for two decades.
"Chaos is accusing you of scheming and conspiring with the gods to facilitate my downfall. What say you in your defense, Mithra?" Maou-mama announces while sitting on her throne, with me standing beside her. On her other side stands a maid with a very straight-laced face and posture, wearing a serious but neutral expression. This must be the maid leader. She does look scary.
The hall is filled with maids, some of them trying to hide their yawns and sleepiness by lowering their heads or looking away. This is still the middle of the night and even demons need to sleep. Still, there are so many cute ones among them... ah, this isn't the time for that.
Mithra is standing in the middle of the hall. He's still holding onto his staff and remains hidden underneath the heavy robes. I can't tell what his reaction is, but he doesn't seem too shaken.
"What are you saying, Great Demon Queen. I would never dare to oppose you." His voice is clear and straight, no hint of unease to be detected in it. But of course, it's not like he'll crack under such accusations. "In fact, I have to report to you that the plan to topple the gods is progressing smoothly." W-... what is he saying? Don't tell me this was a plan she knew about all along?
"Well done, Mithra." Maou-mama turns around to me with a smile. "See, there is no reason to worry." Now I feel really dumb. Are you telling me that Mithra is a double agent, acting as if he's working with the gods to kill the demon lord, but in reality working for maou-mama to bring them down instead?
"I must say, I never expected Lady Chaos to return so quickly. So the disturbance caused by the transportation spell I felt earlier was because of you?" Mithra's voice is quite neutral, but he sounds like he's praising me. Ugh, that's adding insult to injury. "You are indeed the Great Demon Queen's child, having a mastery over space magic after such a short time."
"But tell me, Mithra." Speaking up with a much less serious voice, maou-mama looks at him with an innocently questioning expression. "Why did you send Chaos-chan to the Kingdom of Lares?" Her lips break into a smile that causes a shiver to run down my spine. "I am sure I told you to send her to the Empire of Terminus."
"Wha-" Mithra's facade cracks and his body language clearly shows that he's shaken. Wait, maou-mama clearly seems to know the geography of this world, even if her retaliation strikes against humanity seemed to have been completely random. I thought they were because she really didn't know better, and apparently so did Mithra. Don't tell me...
"Mithra, do you take me for a fool who does not even have the ability to read a map of the world?" Um, to be fair, I thought you were... sorry. "Now, I will give you a chance to explain yourself." The maids in the room ready themselves to attack on maou-mama's command. So they're combat maids? That's so cool!
"I-I assure you-"
"Actually, there is no need to speak any more." Maou-mama stands up and in the next instant her body expands explosively, ripping apart her clothes. A massive appendage rushes forward to swallow Mithra. He completely disappears within it.
She pulls herself together - literally - and reforms her body in its usual appearance, but remains naked. Yep, that's a huge cup size indeed... I stare at her unbelieving for a different reason, though. She acted so quickly that even this mage that I thought was terrifyingly strong had no chance to react.
"He escaped..." She mutters with a displeased expression as she casually waves to a maid to bring her a change of clothes. He escaped? Don't tell me, he was able to teleport out in the last moment even in such a situation? "Gatekeeper demons are really slippery after all. But now we know for a fact that he was really a triple agent."
"So... you believed me?" I ask maou-mama hesitatingly.
"Yes, when you mentioned Flann, I understood that something was wrong. She was sent to the Royal Academy of the Kingdom of Lares as a spy under Mithra's suggestion. I was not told that she relocated to the empire, so you should not have been able to meet her." That was unexpected perceptive of her, I have to admit. I would never have thought that she was capable of such a deduction. "Muh, you just thought something very rude about your mother, did you not?" She pouts and blows away her previously reliable image with this. But really, she can be so cute sometimes.
"Thank you for believing me, mama!" I jump into her arms and hug her, and she looks at me surprised.
"My, what a good child. You really are the first among all your siblings so far to really treat me like your mother~" She sounds quite happy as she returns the hug. Ah, that reminds me. I would have expected some of my siblings to be gathered in this hall in such an important situation, but there were only maids. Were they disguised as maids and hid among them to ambush Mithra, should maou-mama's attack miss and he attempt to fight back?
"Actually, where are my siblings, mama?" I separate from her and ask while looking over the faces of the gathered maids.
"They were rebellious so I ate them." Maou-mama responds in a matter of fact tone while putting on her new set of clothes.