The Demon Lords rode on the horses prepared by Zaido and rode off towards Lemuse from the east gate of the Duchy of Neuce Gauss.
Each of them had properly managed to prepare the items that they had been assigned to, because of which their luggage had increased quite a bit.
Since the number of horses increased, the carriage was no longer needed, so naturally their speed increased exponentially.
If they considered that they were in such a situation, it wouldn’t be wrong to think that they were sailing rather smoothly.
Such a smooth sailing situation, if looked at from the point of view of people like Shaw who had a 『certain fear』, could instead be seen as a strange situation instead.
「Everyone is rather excellent huh」
Though he said that out loud but he felt a strong sense of astonishment inside.
That wasn’t astonishment that stemmed from the other Demon Lords being excellent but rather stemmed from the fact that 『not a single person was left behind』.
In reality, he had expected at least one of them to suddenly up and vanish without saying a word to any of them.
However, they returned.
The moment everyone gathered once more, he felt like the bonds that were barely there between all of them had become slightly stronger.
He was rather surprised at himself for actually feeling rather happy at that fact.
「――Let’s first just say that everything was handled perfectly. As a merchant, I feel extremely happy that we have managed to reach the result that we wanted to reach in the first place. ...well, there were a few worrisome points with a few individuals though」
Saying so, Shaw faced forward with a merchant-like smile.
The one riding at the forefront of the group was the〈Sword Emperor〉Elma.
Everyone had already noticed this but she seemed to have quite the excellent skill in riding horses.
Also, her instincts like that of a wild animal spread a rather wide and effective web of caution that was extremely helpful to the other Demon Lords. Due to which, after leaving the Duchy of Neuce Gauss, the formation was naturally created with Elma at the forefront.
However, Shaw also had an inkling that her obstinate desire to ride at the forefront might have a completely different reason to it.
――Could it be enthusiasm?
It felt like there was a rather dark and heavy air around Elma.
There was of course no way that he could actually see it but everytime they moved to the sides and he saw her expression, he couldn’t help but think that.
Elma’s expression, even when compared to the other Demon Lords was rather stiff.
In this situation, it was rather difficult to tell her to loosen up but even then, her stiff expression really stood out.
――Could it be that she is feeling guilty for having brought Mūzeg after everyone here?
Shaw had such vague thoughts. It was all based on his own guesswork so, there was no way for him to actually call her out on it.
However, if he were to believe that guess, then to connect that thought,
――It could be that, Ms. Elma is standing at the forefront so that she could use herself as a shield in case something does happen.
More vague thoughts drifted into his mind. Neither of those thoughts could establish a proper rational foundation though.
Shaw thought to himself that those thoughts really weren’t like a merchant.
「...Is Elma, flustered?」
Suddenly, from next to Shaw, the gentle and kind voice of a lovable girl was heard.
「It’s fine, with just Aiz」
When Shaw looked to the side, he could see Aiz hugging Marisa from the back. Aiz was riding on the same horse with Marisa.
It seemed that Shaw wasn’t the only one who had seen through Elma’s enthusiasm. The words coming out of her small mouth was proof of that.
「I would definitely like to call you that but that crazy maid probably wouldn’t allow it. So I’ll call you that when her guard is down」
「Fufu, that in itself would be rather thrilling, huh」
Shaw was surprised when he saw Aiz laughing, rather cutely.
――Oddly, she goes along with such talks as well huh, this little lady.
He thought that she would say something on the lines of, 「It’s not okay to bully Shaw」 or, concisely say, 「Don’t!」 but he really did not expect her to say, 「That, sounds like fun」 with a happy expression and a lovely laugh.
――Rather, this little lady may be much tougher mentally than Ms Elma.
Based on how she was on the golden ship as well, Shaw had those thoughts.
「In that case, I’ll also, call you Shaw-san, till then」
「Money-grubber is more than enough for this man and I definitely will not allow him to call your name without any honorifics」
「Wait, please don’t look at me with such a glare full of caution. I really don’t want to participate in something where I am in such a disadvantage!」
Marisa spoke up with a look filled with despise pointed at Shaw. Shaw on the other hand, just shrugged and while letting it slide, moved onto the earlier topic. He seemed to be quite used to this now.
「...Well then, as far as Ms. Elma is concerned…, I wonder. If I were to guess then, she definitely had something on her mind, is what I would answer I suppose」
「What might that, be?」
「Hmmm…, maybe, the fact that she had brought along Mūzeg which had come chasing after her but she ended up getting the other Demon Lords mixed into the situation as well and probably regretting it? Something like, 『Because of me, the other Demon Lords are being chased by a powerful nation like Mūzeg』...like that?」
「Isn’t that, Elma’s, wrong impression?」
「...yes, that maybe so」
Shaw felt astonished once more. He was astonished to the point that, for a moment, no words came out. Actually, rather than astonishment, he felt something similar to awe for the girl with silver colored eyes.
――She said some rather perceptive things huh.
Over and above everything else, she did not mince her words at all.
It is extremely hard to go to an enthusiastic person and say, 「That is wrong. You’re mistake」.
In this delicate distance that all the Demon Lords have with each other, even if not directly, to be able to say it would be a kind of courage...or maybe recklessness.
Even then, she said it completely unfazed.
That lack of hesitation, could it be she said it after having understood everything or was it the innocence of her age?
It was the former.
He did not have any reason for believing that.
He knew that he would be a failure as a merchant with that.
However, when he saw the look in her eyes, he instinctively knew the answer.
As if she had already guessed what was going on through Shaw’s mind, Aiz spoke up once again.
「After all, everyone, decided to run this way, right?」
「Yeah, that is exactly true. ...Or more like, the one who first suggested that we run to the east was me after all」
When Shaw said that, Marisa who was in front of Aiz, spoke up.
「In that case, take responsibility and let the horse ride you from now on. ――Come now! Let the horse climb onto your back! Neigh!」
「That’s so tyrannical! At such a place! ――Ah! You just smirked didn’t you?!」
「I did not. What are you saying? You rotten…」
「Marisa-san, it’s not okay to say, too much, okay?」
「Okay, Aiz-sama. I took it a little too far」
As soon as Aiz spoke up, Marisa immediately bowed her head.
Since she was controlling the horse, she couldn’t turn around but, while looking forward, she lowered her head and even her voice had a hint of gloom mixed in it.
The speed at which she changed her tone was terrifying.
Shaw, seeing Marisa apologise so obediently, spoke up,
「Mixed! I seriously have mixed feelings about this! I feel like I’ve won yet I’ve lost! No, I’ve definitely lost here!」
In the face of the huge difference in treatment, he didn’t feel like he could think much further.
「Haa…, well. If we don’t say something to Ms. Elma soon, it feels like she’d burst. ――Also」
Shaw’s words indicated that he had another topic that he wanted to switch over to, which cause Aiz to tilt her head.
「Before that, the man riding behind Elma, the one we call our 『Master』 ―― Merea Mea also seems to have some serious thoughts going on through his head」
Shaw had noticed that there was another man who had a mistaken tension gush out from inside.
In fact, even his bloodthirstiness was oozing out and was even harder to speak to than Elma.
「...As Merea-sama’s maid, I really do wish to whatever it is I can for him but, if I were to approach him with no preparations then my body may be the one that would end up broken huh. ――Ahh! A maid which is broken by her master is also…」
Marisa as well noticed that the air around Merea had changed. In fact, in the current situation where they were extremely sensitive to bloodthirst, the other Demon Lords had also noticed the changes in Merea.
「Can that crazy maid please shut up? Also, have some consistency in your craziness」
「Is Merea, alright…?」
Elma who was running at the forefront and Merea who was slightly behind her were looked at by the other Demon Lords with a rather strange mood.
Merea, who had finally gotten used to riding a horse, unexpectedly, did not get motion sick while riding it. He now turned his thoughts towards another direction. That direction was pointed at himself.
Merea was internally talking to himself.
――I understand. ...No, I thought that I understood.
That he did not have any 『fangs』.
Merea also knew the feeling of hitting and stabbing someone.
It wasn’t the first time that he had punched or hit someone.
He had done it many times with the heroic spirits as his opponents.
――...I feel disgusted.
That feeling was still left over in his hand.
It was an 『unknown feeling』.
As he got used to it, he stopped being deeply emotional about it――The feeling of beating people up.
The feeling of hitting flesh, of having bones shatter.
In order to actually understand what that was, he had to end up with a situation where he had to physically harm people.
The moment I had wrapped my hands in the intent to kill, the feeling that came through――
It was an 『unknown feeling』.
For Merea, that was an unbelievably disgusting feeling.
――I feel uneasy.
The feeling of something he already knew changing into something else was considerably worse than coming in contact with something for the first time.
That inhuman feeling of striking something was mixed in with a creepy feeling and came back.
It was the feeling of touching someone’s life, for just a moment.
――...this is not good.
He understood. He had always known.
However, even though he understood, that aversion he felt to that feeling was not something he could easily go against.
They do say that seeing is believing but, although it was touching and not seeing, the shock was still considerable.
When he knew that he would be mixed in with wars, he thought that he had prepared himself.
After all this time, he kept remembering his past self who had nothing to do with fighting.
His character on the other side was half-hearted.
They were the roots of his soul.
The other side was the beginning.
Even Merea felt like he should do something about it.
Alos, for good or for bad, the 『let’s do something about it』 that he immediately felt was deeply related to the fact that Merea was raised by the heroic spirits.
It could be possible that, since he was raised by the 『heroes』 before they died, Merea may have aimed to become a fantasy hero with the ideal image of a 『non-killing hero』.
Even if that was ridiculed as being reckless, the character that Merea had brought along, might have been the reason that he had let go of their necks.
Merea was raised by 『heroic spirits』.
Heroic spirits were heroes but, at the time of their deaths, most of them had learnt of the depravity of humans. Due to that, the ones who had regrets and remorse were the majority.
Those heroic spirits weren’t, in the strictest sense, the actual heroes of the past.
They were transient beings who could only exist because of their lingering attachments and regrets.
In other words, they were a 『fragment』.
The reason they held onto that much of their reason even after becoming spirits was because of their mental strength and also had its roots in the fact that, like the other spirits on Lindholm sacred mountain, they were a 『torn off existence』.
With the depravity of humans as the reason, with their lingering attachments and regrets, what kind of direction would the fragments of the heroes take?
Even that Flander Crow had thought of the current era as permissible.
Thinking of himself as 『naive』, at the very least he had adopted a depravity which rivaled his good nature.
In the end, they had all, whether intentionally or unintentionally, when it came to aiming for the ideal hero――
Had given up.
That was why〈Merea Mea〉was there.
They themselves couldn’t do it so they wanted to leave their wishes to someone else.
The body was made with the genes of all of them but the soul was a completely different being.
It was a being who had yet to give up.
At the end, it was a being that held up hope for them.
Although they themselves couldn’t see it, however they thought that he could probably find a new path.
If things go well, they wanted him to take those genes to the places where they had once wanted to go. That was what they thought.
They were all aware that it was a selfish thing.
In that way, Merea was born.
In the end, they did not stop.
However, even those people, ended up noticing a certain 『peculiarity』.
The fact that Merea was starting to allow the depravity of the age or of people simply because he was being raised by them.
After coming to that world for the first time, and hearing the same kind of stories over and over again, he would of course end up thinking, 『Ahh, it’s that kind of world』.
Although Merea’s mind was grown up to a certain extent but when it came to that world, he was just like a newborn baby, completely blank.
Also, the fact that Merea did not go down from the mountain was another reason that this tendency was fostered.
When they noticed, they all could not help but sigh.
As if they were getting rid of everything that had piled up so far, their sigh naturally escaped from them.
Grief, relief, sadness, satisfaction, it was a sigh filled with a lot of different feelings.
In that way, it was a rather obvious course of action and they could be satisfied with that thought, which went further to show that they were, at the end of the day, nothing more than 『heroic spirits』.
That was why, in the end they decided to stop pushing the 『ideal image of a hero』 onto Merea.
「Live as you like」 is what they said.
That was also their real intention.
At that moment, their regrets and attachments disappeared from them.
Whether that stemmed from the fact that they had given up on everything or whether they had found a different hope was something that only the individuals themselves would know.
However, the ones who created that ability of Merea’s which tried to quickly adapt to 『that kind of an era』 were undoubtedly the heroic spirits, his 『parents』.
Merea had adapted to the era a lot more than he himself had thought.
Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing was something that no one in that era could have made a judgement on.
While being shaken on top of the horse, Merea unified his spirit.
―― I have to sharpen my 『fangs』.
He felt that he definitely needed fangs which could kill.
If he faced against enemies who he couldn’t go easy on, what would he do?
――The next time, I’ll definitely overcome this.
―― Warn me that it would be too late if I do it after everything is over.
Prediction, realisation, reflection.
The most troublesome out of them, realisation, was something he gained at the mountaintop of that sacred mountain.
――You were rather lucky.
That reflection was something that could be done without 『losing anyone』.
If the enemy had been stronger then there was a chance of losing someone because of this.
―― Realise that there is no second time.
Who was it that decided to be the hero for those Demon Lords?
Riding on that horse, Merea alone was sharpening his 『fangs』.
Although he hadn’t grown them yet but when he actually would need it in the future, it would be pointless if they were dull because of being grown in a hurry.
That was why, Merea alone continued to sharpen his fangs internally.
The present was all he had.
In order to cross over the most difficult 『first line』, Merea steadily sharpened his fangs.
The evaluation of Serius of Merea being a 『monster without fangs』 was, at that moment, correct.
In the next battlefield, there was no guarantee that the monster would continue to stay like that.
Would Serius’ prediction end up being true or would Merea manage to step over Serius’ predictions. The battle for that had already begun.
――― ―― ―