The black land dragon was playing around with the living fire.
As the living fire ran around its feet, the dragon happily jumped around trying to catch it. It looked more like a dog than a dragon.
「If we watch it doing things like this, it’s rather cute huh」
The demon lords who were watching it from the shadow of the tall grass, floated warm and happy expressions on their faces.
When Salman expressed his simple impression, all the demon lords could not help but nod and agree.
While the demon lords were watching the cuteness of the land dragon, in the next instant a tragedy happened to the living fire playing around with the land dragon.
The land dragon who raised a happy cry, shook its right limb as if to poke it lightly and ended up as a direct hit to the living flame.
That blow was accompanied by a violent wind and the human head sized living flame was quickly turned to dust.
As if to say that it had done it unintentionally, the land dragon just stood stiff with its mouth agape.
It turned its head around and tried looking at its surroundings, rather restlessly but as anyone would expect, the living flame was no longer there.
Then, as if it had finally accepted that it had blown away the living flame,
It heaved a large sigh.
The demon lords who had seen that from the shadow of the tall grass,
「Oi, hold up. ――Oi. ...Oi! If it plays around that much wouldn’t we die?!」
「Wait! I’m pretty confident that if I was played around with like that, I would die in an instant! I want to buy peace of mind with the power of money but does the dragon tribe even take bribes?!」
「I’m pretty certain it would have no effect at all…」
「Ahh! This is exactly why I don’t like species other than humans! The power of money is absolutely useless with them!」
With fear clear in their voices, their bodies were clearly trembling.
「Alright, I’m off. ――This is probably my fault anyway」
At that time, Merea took the initiative and set out.
He pushed the tall grass aside with his hands and took a few steps ahead.
The land dragon as well, which had had its attention solely on the living flame seemed to have finally gotten aware of the presences of the demon lords in the surroundings.
Although it did not move, it turned an inquisitive gaze towards the tall grass.
Before any of the other demon lords could stop him, Merea advanced steadily out of the tall grass.
「You followed after us huh. ――Is your body fine already?」
He walked into the line of sight of the land dragon and when it had noticed his figure,
It raised a high pitched cry and happily stood up.
With its body trembling with joy, like a dog which had its leash removed, it rushed towards Merea.
If it had been a dog then he could just warmly smile and wait for it but the one right now wasn’t at a size where you could call it a dog.
When looked at from a third person’s point of view, it looked like Merea’s tiny human body was about to be run over by that huge land dragon.
A few of the demon lords became flustered and raised their bodies from the tall grass but most of them could do nothing but watch that terrifying spectacle with their mouths agape.
「O, oi, calm down!」
「Gya! Gyau! Gya gya!!」
However, Merea was not run over. The rush of the land dragon which could have easily toppled over a huge tree was stopped by Merea with a single hand.
He took that rush head-on and stepped back a few steps and very nonchalantly received the rush.
Once again, the jaws of the demon lords hung low.
Merea himself, did not notice the thoughts of the other demon lords and was scratching his head with a troubled expression, looking at the land dragon which was running around him refusing to calm down at all.
「――Wh, what should I do…?」
In the end, Merea looked to the others for a way to resolve that situation.
Though, the demon lords who could not even properly understand the current situation, could of course not come up with a resolution.
Of course, the answer to that was,
「As if I would know!!」 so they retorted.
They wanted an explanation to the current situation before anything else.
◆◆◆ After a while, when the land dragon finally calmed down a little, Merea started his explanation.
With his body swaying back and forth from the land dragon pushing its nose into his back and stomach, he began his explanation from what had happened at Shaw’s firm.
Although he had spoken about it to a few demon lords during the journey but it’s not like every one of them knew.
「At any rate, this is troubling…」
After he finished explaining, Merea floated a troubled expression as he scratched his face.
Merea himself did not think that it would chase after him.
He had no plans to demand gratitude nor did he have any plans to demand any compensation when he had used the blood of the Medicine King (Carla Nazar).
It was a simple whim of his.
Although he did sympathise with it a little but it’s not like he had any exaggerated feelings like good will towards it.
Even then, if he were to specify a reason, it was mainly because he wanted to return some of the favor he had gotten from Shaw over their entire journey together since he had relied on Shaw quite a bit. Even though those were the intentions, the situation seems to have taken a rather strange turn.
As the person who was solely responsible for having caused this situation, Merea felt a strong sense of guilt and felt like reprimanding himself.
「Without a need to guess, he most probably stood out quite a bit huh」
Merea sighed softly as he stroked the land dragon’s forehead.
At that point, from among the demon lords who cautiously gathered around the land dragon, one of them answered Merea.
「It would depend on the path it took. However, there are still no signs of anyone chasing after the land dragon so, there is probably no problem at all. ――Not to mention, if someone sees this large a land dragon running around, then they would not try to get close to it out of fear」
It was Shaw.
His gaze was still nailed onto the land dragon but he seems to have finally regained some of his composure was able to speak up.
「Why not just ask it?」, said Shaw aas he pointed his finger at the land dragon and urged Merea.
「That’s true too huh」
Merea nodded to Shaw’s suggestion and then,
He spoke in dragon tongue.
The other demon lords could not recognize those sounds as words but when they saw that the land dragon reacted to the words the Merea spoke, it was clear that he was actually speaking in dragon tongue.
Although they wondered what kind of language it was, they patiently waited for Merea to translate what the dragon was saying.
Merea once again spoke in dragon tongue.
The land dragon tilted its head while it answered Merea’s question.
Unlike the land dragon’s cry, Merea’s dragon tongue was slightly heavier and the transition between words seemed to be smoother.
The land dragon on the other hand, had a very easy to understand cry which was hard to tell whether it was just a cry or whether it was an actual language.
「Ah, it got mixed up」 said someone.
As if he were tired, Merea switched his language from dragon tongue to that of humans and slumped his shoulders.
「You really suck at dragon tongue huh…, Why is an actual dragon worse than me…?!」
With his white hair swaying, Merea sighed loudly and spoke.
Even though Merea said that, the land dragon replied cheerfully.
「I wonder if there are slight differences between land dragons (Reirnote) and sky dragons (Teishia)...」
He raised his face and looked at the sky while he spoke.
The place he was looking at the sky, he was wondering whether he might be able to see the figure of a sky dragon but the only thing that entered his line of sight were clouds.
「So, what did he say? ――Is it fine with he? Should it be she?」
「Ahh, it’s he. ――And, he says, 『I don’t quite know』」
Merea lowered his gaze from the sky and while looking over at Shaw who had asked the question, he spoke up.
As Shaw shrugged his shoulders, the other demon lords shrugged as well.
However, Merea’s speech had not ended there.
「Just, as Shaw had expected, there didn’t seem to be anyone chasing after him. He is a dragon after all, if you consider their perception ability, there is no mistake on that part. It seems like, until he contracted the fatal draconic disease he seems to have been living in the wild」
At those words, he heaved another sigh. However this time, it was not a sigh of discouragement but of relief instead.
「Well then, for starters let’s just say that it’s fine. ――Yeah, for starters」
Shaw placed a hand on his chin and thoughtfully nodded.
Around that time, the land dragon, whose excitement had calmed down quite a bit, turned its attention to its surroundings.
It looked around at the demon lords with a lot of interest and seemed to be memorising their faces.
「Well it’s fine so far but the problem is what to do from now on. This land dragon――」
Shaw suddenly stopped talking and tilted his head.
「――Now that I think about it, does it have a name? If we keep calling it land dragon all the time then if we ever, and I want to believe that it will never happen, but if we ever run into another land dragon then it would just be inconvenient to refer to them」
It was a simple doubt. Merea immediately answered Shaw’s question.
Starting with Shaw, the other demon lords couldn’t understand that either.
「That’s his name」
Shaw clapped his hands with a sudden understanding of the situation.
「It’s a dragon after all, the name would of course, also be in dragon tongue. ――In that case, please go ahead and translate it well into human tongue」
「Human tongue? Hnmm, uhhhh…」
At Shaw’s sudden demand, Merea had a surprised look before he started groaning while looking troubled.
After a while,
「No...E-u…■■...No that’s a little off...uhmm…」
Merea’s expression, while he was trying to translate dragon tongue to human tongue showed how hard he was thinking but when seen by the demon lords who didn’t know the difficulty of the matter, it looked rather humorous.
However, when compared to the Merea who had been bloodthirst seeping out of him when he was on his horse, this Merea who was worried about such normal things seemed like quite the nice change.
While the demon lords were busy looking at Merea, he himself floated an expression like he had finally understood something.
「...〈Noel〉. ――Yeah, this is probably the closest!」
It was a truly happy expression.
An expression that a child might have after solving a difficult problem.
「Hou, Noel. In that case, that is what we will call him from now on」
Shaw said, while looking around at the other demon lords for confirmation and he took a glance at the land dragon, at Noel.
Noel watched that exchange between Shaw and Merea and would occasionally raise a 「Gya?」 while tilting its head in an inquisitive manner.
At that time, the demon lords who still seemed to be rather cautious of Noel, seemed to have finally let their guards down.
The main reason was probably that they couldn’t feel any hostility from Noel.
In the end, they got close enough to pat Noel all over and finally they all got together to discuss their departure from that place.
「――At this time, it might be good if we went towards the end in one go」
Shaw was the one who started the meeting with those words.
The demon lords concentrated all their attention towards him.
Shaw continued to speak with a kind of tone that really left an impression and made sure to use a lot of hand and body gestures.
「It would probably be really hard to travel while not standing out when we’re with a land dragon. Even if we tell him not to follow use, he would――Noel would definitely follow along. ――He seems to feel a strong sense of debt towards Merea」
Shaw guided everyone’s gaze to Noel who was lying down quietly next to Merea.
After having asked his name, they had roughly asked him about his circumstances and it seemed that he felt a strong sense of debt towards Merea who had saved him from the fatal draconic disease.
If it had it’s life saved, it would do at least enough to repay that. The demon lords held the conviction that the land dragon had a strong sense of duty. It was also the moment that they realised the stubbornness of the land dragon./
「Even if his savior, Merea, were to tell him to go back home, it really does not seem like he would nod. ――Well, he’s completely separated from his group so he doesn’t have any place to return back to」
When he said that, the demon lords felt a certain affinity with it.
Since they held that sense of affinity with it, even if they wanted to abandon it, they wouldn’t be able to.
Although Noel wasn’t a demon lord but his circumstances were somewhat similar to them.
So in the end, the demon lords decided to take Noel along with them.
「And so, there is a change of policies」
As he said that, Shaw switched over to the main topic.
「It should take roughly three days to reach Lemuse’s territory from here. When you think about it, it’s a short time, though it does feel far when you think about the fact that we need to go through night three more times. However, I feel that it is quite close when you look at the current situation」
They did quite well to be able to reach where they were after running away from Lindholm Sacred Mountain. Everyone had that common thought.
「From the fact that Mūzeg’s shadow still hasn’t reached this point could be because their search may not have reached all the way here yet. It could be that they were spreading their search towards the Three Kingdoms to impede our escape to those countries」
「Which means that the idea to go all the way around was a success huh?」
Salman asked with a meek expression.
「I can’t say that with conviction yet. Though, if we think about it that way, it is, in a way, a chance. We don’t know when Mūzeg would spread their search wider so one way to handle it would be to travel as fast as possible. Even though a coincidence, we managed to get a land dragon to help out」
The demon lords looked over at Noel.
While the humans were having their talk, Noel seemed to be rather bored and started yawning but the moment he noticed that everyone’s gaze was on him, he tilted his neck with a 「Gya?」.
「If it’s Noel then he should be able to carry the leftover baggages quite easily. If he does that then the other horses would lighten up quite a bit」
Noel’s power was something that a horse could never compete with.
Although it wasn’t at the level of a full grown dragon, as is usually seen in books but, it still had a body that could easily carry multiple people and many pieces of luggage.
Though it would be impossible to have 22 people on its back but, as far as luggage is concerned, they could easily place it on its back or maybe hang it from its chest. There were many ways they could handle it.
「Which is why, from here on, it will be an emphasis on speed. Let’s make the horse’s load lighter and get through quickly」
Until Shaw voiced this opinion, he had experienced a lot of hesitation.
There was no guarantee that this wasn’t a trap from Mūzeg’s side. In order to drive the demon lords into the open, they might have purposefully lightened the search. It could be the preparation to hunt the game that was numb from running and shows itself.
However, if they were too careful and let the chance go then the days would just pile up. They finally managed to get past the first town and they concentrated on speed while in Neuce Gauss so, it would be pointless if they were careful more than necessary.
In the end, it is one of the two. It’ll either be hit or a miss.
The possibilities are two uncertain choices.
The more they thought about it, the deeper they would find themselves in trouble, even then Shaw thought about it.
Then what he came up with. ――His conclusion.
「Three more days. ――Let’s pray that we get through it」
Shaw proposed that plan.
The demon lords took that suggestion and for a short while, thought about it by themselves.
It would be rather rude to Shaw, who mulled over this for a while, if they just replied without thinking twice about it.
They were all equal.
Which was why, they were clear that they couldn’t rely too much on just one person.
The fact that they had already relied a lot on Merea was weighing down on them.
「――Alright then, I agree with your opinion」
After a short while, Salman spoke up. He was the first supporter.
「Ah, I’m fine with that plan as well. In fact, I think that it’s a good idea」
Elma spoke up next, with a serious expression.
「I don’t really have a god to pray to but, I’ll agree with your opinion this time. We do need to have some amount of resolution. ――It’s the kind of situation where I really don’t want to end up regretting not having that resolution after all」
Lilium smiled with her eyebrows drooping and she shrugged. After that, the approvals came in steadily and in the end Merea was the only one left over.
The gazes of all the demon lords concentrated on Merea.
「Uhh, is it fine if they weren’t words as a 『King』?」
Merea bitterly smiled as he faced all those gazes.
Merea had, of course, thought about this matter as an individual and come up with an opinion but if he thought about the situation up until that point then, he would have to come up with an 『opinion as a leader』 as well.
Although he couldn’t deny the fact that he had ended up in that position just because of the flow of the situation but it is also true that he, himself, had taken it up.
Which was why, he couldn’t very well go with a non-interference policy.
At Merea’s question, the other demon lords strongly nodded.
「――Got it. Then let me say it frankly」
With that as the precursor, Merea stood up and spoke.
「――Let’s go. Just three more days. Let’s go with one last spurt of effort shall we?」
On his face, he had a smile that seemed to want to cheer everyone up.