Once I was done teasing Enna, I stepped outside of her tent to give her some privacy so that she could get dressed without feeling flustered around me… and immediately realized that we probably made a mistake. Or rather, not a mistake. It was anything but a mistake. I should have, however, tried to keep her mouth busy some more. Or I should have just been more quiet in general. Because—well, it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones who knew what happened the night before.
Several of the men walking around gave me a knowing smile and thumbs-up when they saw me. Some of the women did, too, but the ones who didn’t blushed and looked away.
On one hand, I felt great. That sort of thing on its own was a large confidence booster. Made me feel like a man. At the same time, I was worried for Enna since I knew she was going to be extremely embarrassed if anybody even so much as subtly hinted at knowing about what I did to her.
But that meant I would get to see her look really cute from embarrassment.
And that would be nice.
Now, there was something I wanted to have a meeting with the others about since we were nearing having our forces ready for an all-out attack against the Viking Elves. Only one day was left before the last of the Volcanic Predators I queued up for our assault would be finished. Once they were finished, it was time for war. Well, it was time to continue our war since we were technically already at war with them ever since we took their third settlement from them. Now, though, it was about to be time for war to grab their second and potentially first settlement.
And that was what the meeting was going to be about.
"A-alright," Enna said, coming out from the tent, fully dressed now. Even though she was dressed, it was hard for me to see anything but her bare body when I looked at her.
Also, the reactions to her were utterly swapped from the ones I had. Practically every woman around looked at her with a knowing smile, some even giving her a quick thumbs-up, while the men were the ones who either blushed or looked away.
Noticing their reactions, Enna froze still as she slowly turned red and probably prepared to mentally break.
I wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against my side before she could break. "Come on. I want to have a meeting." As cute as it would have been to see her break and turn into a flustered, stuttering mess over everybody knowing what happened, I wanted her to stay with me. Not to mention that it would have felt a bit too mean to let her break after what we did.
Breaking her in the bedroom? No problem.
Not helping her to—well, not break around others? That would have made me feel pretty shitty after what we did. It was cute before, but after that night and morning, I felt a bit more… protective of her.
I also wanted to show her off by walking around with my hand around her waist.
"Well, about time," Zira’s voice suddenly said from behind us. Rather than jump from surprise, Enna hugged herself against me and turned her head to tuck her face into me.
It was getting increasingly harder to not just take her back into her tent and go a few more rounds with her. But, because I had to be responsible, I instead turned to look at Zira and said, "Good timing. I was just about to gather everybody up for a meeting."
"Oh? While walking around like this?" Zira looked down at my hand on Enna’s waist and smirked. "Lucky girl. The two of you are sure to make everybody around jealous like this."
"If they don’t want to be jealous, they should hook up with their own partners. We have a pretty good ratio of men to women around here. Besides, love is never anything but a positive thing. The more love we all feel, the stronger and more determined we’ll all be."
"Is that so?"
"Of course it is. What’s the point of living without any love? Love is what gives everything purpose."
"Then what is one’s purpose supposed to be when they have no one to love?"
"You don’t have to have a partner or crush to have love. You can love your country. Your people. Your property. Your hobby. It doesn’t matter what you love as long as you have genuine love for something in life. Even the love of sleeping or the love of passing time until an inevitable death are good enough. Though, I will say that the love for another, whether they be a lover, a child, or even just a friend, are ultimately the strongest forms. If one has love, they have conviction. They have something, or somebody, to fight for. When their love is for a person rather than an ideal, item, or an act, then it is somebody who can feel genuine pain. Somebody with their own beliefs, emotions, and life. Failing to protect somebody you love is graver than failing to protect anything else."
"Could it not be said that you only encourage such love for the sake of holding it hostage to drive everybody then? After all, you are only saying it is useful because of how it can drive somebody."
"There is more to love than that, but I won’t lie it’s like that as well. Especially in the case of everybody here. But that’s true of everything. Our entire lives, anything and everything we care about is a hostage. Love is held hostage by the threat of losing it. Joy is held hostage by everything that wishes to take it away. Free time is held hostage by the companies who coerce you to work for them else it’s never possible to enjoy said free time. Money is held hostage by the government and forced away from us via taxation."
Zira tilted her head and rolled her eyes. I could tell that she saw straight through me. "You’re just trying to make yourself sound smart at this point, aren’t you?"
"Absolutely. I saw my chance to make a joke implying taxation is bad and couldn’t resist building up to it. But, you do have a point on a serious level. Love uses what we care about as hostage to motivate us. Alternatively, you could argue that love uses what we care about as a reward to motivate us. Two different approaches, but ultimately the same result. Either you succeed and hold onto your love, or you fail and lose your love."
For the first time, Zira scoffed at me and flipped her hair back. "How pathetic. I never expected such weak words to come from a man like you."
Now I was the one taken aback. "Then what’s your view?"
"If you truly love something, you would not lose it simply because you fail. True love is something you hold onto no matter how many times you are beaten down. No matter how much the universe punishes you for it, no matter how loudly everybody screams at you to give it up, and no matter how much it hurts to feel the yearning for it with every day, it is something you never surrender. It is not something to be used as hostage nor as a source of inspiration. Love is a feeling far more powerful than that. It is a reason to live—a reason to embrace rather than something to push you from behind. Love should not be something you fight for because you are afraid of losing it, nor should it be something to fight for because you wish to win it. It is something you fight for because it is what you believe in, and what you know to be true regardless of the outcome."
"I’m impressed. Or, I would be. Everything you just said makes me realize that I was looking at it wrong, and it reminds me of what it means for an American to truly love. But, I come from modern day Earth. Everything you said also reminds me of those boys on the internet who stalk girls and refuse to ever give up being nice to them because they believe they’re in love. Then they end up posting online about how much they hate women before going to shoot up a school."
Zira let out a dramatic sigh and glared into my eyes. "That is not true love, then. Even if one’s love should be denied, it is not something that would ever fuel malice."
"I get what you’re saying, but it still made you sound like one of those guys. Tilt your head back real quick."
"My head?" Zira asked before raising her eyebrows and tilting her head back, allowing me to see the rest of her neck. "Is there a purpose to this?"
"Just making sure you’re not starting to grow a beard on your neck. It’s one of the first signs, you see."
Zira, clearly unamused, tilted her head back down and resumed looking into my eyes. "Do I even want to know?"
"Don’t you demons have anybody in Hell who get so frustrated from not getting any sex that they go post about it on the internet or go on a rampage?"
"Why would anybody suffer from that when they could easily go to a brothel and have their fill of any woman or man working there?"
"Huh. So, Hell has legal brothels?"
"Of course. They are an excellent source of income and are very heavily taxed as a result."
"You ruined everything about them with that last part."
"Is there even a reason for your hatred of taxes, or is that something you simply like to joke about?"
Even Enna looked up at me at that point, curious for an answer.
So, I gave them one. "It’s not that I hate the idea of taxes, it’s that I hate the usage of taxes. At least on Earth, there is not a single country in the world that does not waste at least some of their tax dollars. Some countries spend them better than others, actually providing for their people, but others, like the country masquerading around as America, does not. If the government took my money to improve roads, build bridges and trains, give our people healthcare and food, provide housing, improve our public education—all of that would be great. You know what? I would even let them tax me even more. Instead, what do our taxes go to? Bombing little kids in the Middle East. Why would I want to fund that? Who would ever support being taxed when they know that is how their taxes are being spent?"
"Ah," Zira replied, her expression softening. "I can see the issue in that case."
"You don’t have issues like that in Hell?"
"Well, most of the taxes go to line my father’s pockets despite having no reason for wealth aside from to amass it for the sake of amassing it, but it is not spent like that, no. If anything, we do everything that you said you wish was done with taxes. Our officials realized that the healthier, more educated, and safer our people are, the more productive they are, and the more money they can make… which means the more money we make. The people are treated great, even if only so they may be exploited even further."
I looked at Enna. "Is that true?"
Enna nodded without any hesitation. "Life can still be… rough, at times, especially for those working in the lowest circles, but it is impossible to deny that we are taken care of. The problem is just… we are also expected to work for the entirety of our lives."
"How many hours a day?"
"Twelve is the minimum. Eighteen is the legal maximum. Anybody who does not work at least twelve hours a day will not receive any assistance from the government, but so long as you do work at least twelve hours a day in any job… you never have to worry about anything other than a life full of labor and never having any free time."
"Then those benefits are kept hostage behind excessive labor."
Enna nodded again.
Zira, however, decided to tease me by saying, "At least we have those benefits. Is your country truly that great when it is just as greedy without any of the benefits?"
"Do I need to explain this again?" I asked. "I’ve said before, modern day America is not my country. It is nothing but a pile of rotting waste using the United States of America’s name. I will make no attempt to defend it as even literal Hell, no offense, is apparently more functional than it is. All I care about are the American ideals that the country was founded off of, not the depraved waste of space and tax dollars that it has become. There are even countries on Earth far more representative of American ideals than the country that calls itself America."
"Hmph. No fun. I already understand your point of view on that matter, but I still thought it would be amusing to mock where you are from given how frequently you poke fun at other nations."
"I might make fun of Canadians and Europeans, but I respect them more than I respect modern America and most modern Americans."
"Then why not make fun of them?"
"Because I have full confidence in the Canadians and Europeans to do it enough for me. As for them, I can’t let their egos get too inflated, so I have to tease them every now and then. But all you have to know is that no matter how much I make have some fun with at other countries’ expenses, anything I accuse them of is nothing compared to what I would accuse ‘my own’ country of. I doubt anybody wants to listen to me rant for several days about every single flaw of modern America, though."
"Truth be told, I am already tired of this conversation, so that is a good choice."
Enna then spoke up to say, "Politics… has never been a fun topic. Unless drunk! Watching drunken people debate politics is fun."
"That’s how you end up with a fight."
"That’s what makes it fun! Politics on their own are boring, but when you throw a fight in, that makes it better!"
"You like watching fights?"
Enna nodded. "I—I even tried to sign up for classes once, but… all the men there… wouldn’t stop staring at my… well, and I never went again. Nothing I tried was able to stop the staring…"
Zira looked at Enna’s chest and said, "That makes sense. I’ll repeat, lucky girl. Now, what about that meeting?"
"Right," I said. "War council. Let’s figure out exactly how we want to approach tomorrow."
With that, Zira and Enna nodded, and it was time for us to actually have the meeting that I planned on having.
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