Premonition of an Encounter
Once the conclusion of the Alliance of the Four Kings had been concluded, the four rulers went on to discuss about the tactics and strategies they could use against Mūzeg.
One point that all four rulers had a common view on was that it would be better to 『take the first shot』.
Hasim was the only one who had a different basis for that view, the other kings all shared the same view as well as the basis for it.
「If we don’t do something about Mūzeg quickly, we probably won’t be able to do anything about them in the future」
At the moment that the topic of a counter-offensive came up, the three kings made up their minds.
The reason that such a topic came up was because they were currently at a divide.
Whether to fight or to surrender, they had to make a decision and once that was made, there was no turning back.
On the contrary, Hasim had a different outlook.
In order to 『save the demon lords』, Hasim had to act as quickly as possible.
For Hasim, the option to surrender was not something that existed.
Moving forward was the only way.
He decided to carry out a coup d’etat as well as make the Alliance of Four Kings a reality.
If he screwed up even one of them, they would all be destroyed.
Even if he were to save the demon lords, he had to show the three kings that everything was on schedule and working well.
He should never let them know that the words he spoke to Crisca were lies.
While carrying out thoughts of such strategies, Hasim carried on with the conference of the four kings.
As the sun was sinking into the horizon, the conference finally came to an end.
Hasim himself couldn’t possibly stay over in Zuria.
So he had the person who he had left in town as the point of contact, to stay over in the Castle of Zuria with Crisca’s permission and went back to Lemuse.
Although he did disguise himself as he returned but, Hasim turned over to Aisha who was right next to him as they walked out of the castle’s gate.
「It’s really great that we don’t need to crawl back through that excessively dusty passage on our way back huh?」
Saying so, she slumped her shoulders with a fed up look.
At that point, as if they were waiting for the two to come out, someone ran towards them from within the crowd of people.
He was a man who looked like one of the commoners of Zuria and he melted well into the crowd.
However, only his beard alone was extremely well maintained and Hasim and Aisha who saw that beard immediately recognized who that man was.
「I’ve kept you waiting huh, Reynald」
It was that Earl Reynald.
Reynald alone waited for Hasim and Aisha who invaded into Zuria’s castle through a rather unusual route and couldn’t help feeling extremely nervous the whole time.
Although while waiting he had been told by one of Aisha’s spies that Hasim was doing fine and had made it through causing his waves of anxiety to settle down into ripples but until he actually saw them with his own eyes, that anxiety did not settle down at all.
So, he had found a tea shop with a terrace and sat down facing the castle gates with a town newspaper in hand, he paid full attention to the gates and finally noticed two people who looked like them coming out of the gates.
He quickly went and apologized to the shop owners for sitting too long and after leaving a large tip, he quickly walked towards those two.
「Sorry, it went on longer than I thought」
「No no, I already got a report from one of Aisha’s 『friends』 that you managed to sneak in successfully, so I was able to calm down considerably. Though, I’ve kind of forgotten how many cups of tea I ended up drinking while waiting though」
「Haha, I’ll reimburse it later as a state expense」
While taking a peak at Aisha while thinking, 「As always, she leaves no gaps」, Hasim joked around with Reynald.
「Well then Hasim-sama, there is something I need to tell you immediately」
Reynald curbed his happy expression and fixed his posture.
Hasim did not miss the fact that Reynald’s expression turned rather grim.
Since he saw that expression, Hasim also fixed his posture and cleared his mind even though he was rather tired from the conference.
「Did something happen?」
「It’s about the demon lords」
Reynald looked around to make sure that there were no people around before he spoke up.
「『We found them』. We found them but…」
「At last huh」, though he was about to think that, Hasim noticed that Reynald hadn’t quite finished yet so he readied himself for the rest.
「They are moving much faster than we had predicted. They have already left〈The Duchy of Neuce Gauss〉and are going towards the south and taking a slightly roundabout route and heading straight to Lemuse」
「That’s a better route than I could have hoped for. Although there was a slight ambiguity in the past about whether they were heading to the three kingdoms or to Lemuse but if they are heading to the south from Neuse Gauss then they’re definitely heading towards Lemuse. ――It’s definitely the ideal route」
Hasim wanted to add, 「Our luck was good」. However, after seeing Reynald’s expression, he realised that, that wasn’t the only thing he wanted to report.
That was why, he chose to decide later on whether their luck was actually good or not.
「――So? Did something happen that’s causing you anxiety?」
At Hasim’s prompt, Reynald nodded with a meek expression.
「…At the same time, there was a report that a battalion had set off from Mūzeg’s mainland. This information arrived by courier from the mainland so thinking about the time difference, it would be apt to think that Mūzeg would also have covered a considerable amount of distance already」
Hasim had slightly raised his brows but his expression really did not look like he was surprised.
「…I see, if that’s the case then the fact that the demon lords are fast would just end up in a neck-to-neck finish huh. I see, I see」
Hasim stroked his chin with his thumb while he was in deep thought and groaned several times.
「Well, we already expected there to be other armies coming out from Mūzeg’s mainland after all. Since Serius found the demon lords at the Sacred Mountain of Lindholm so it would be normal for him to send back an order to set up a search grid. This is probably the result of that.
――So, will the demon lords reach Lemuse before the army of Mūzeg reaches them?」
「I do not know, that alone is something I do not know」
「I expected as much. ――Sorry Reynald, that was rather mean」
There is a time lag in information.
If they could see everything from high up in the sky then it would be a different situation but if they have to use birds or horses to relay that information then there would be a time lag no matter what.
Anticipating all of that, Hasim calculated everything but at the end of the day, they were just predictions.
Although he calculated various patterns by secluding himself in his room without food or sleep but even then there was no way to guarantee that his thoughts would be right on the mark.
Hasim understood the negative implications in Reynald’s 「much faster than expected」.
The demon lords were faster than what he had calculated their speed to be.
「A detour from the south huh」
Hasim murmured once more trying to get the information in order.
「――If they go too far to the south then that in itself has the possibility of being a problem huh」
The detour to the south was most probably because they expected pursuit from Mūzeg.
They were going around so that they could get away from Mūzeg.
At the same time, it was also a path that would also get them away from the three kingdoms.
「If they do manage to properly get away from the malicious grasp of Mūzeg then I wouldn’t have any problems but…」
If the detour to the south actually manages to make them get away from Mūzeg’s grasp and they manage to follow through on their plan and make it to the end then it would be the best possible outcome.
Since he was able to get confirmation that they were headed towards Lemuse, he ended up hoping for that even more.
On the contrary, if Mūzeg managed to slip in between the demon lords and Lemuse, then there would definitely be a battle.
Hasim had of course, expected that situation as one of the possibilities.
Which was why he entered an alliance with the three kingdoms to combat that very situation.
However, in that situation, the fact that the demon lords are fast will end up being an issue.
「Seriously, being too excellent is in it’s own way quite problematic huh」
If they’re too fast then, the time between finding out where the battle is and the reinforcements from the three kingdoms arriving may not be enough.
If Mūzeg’s speed is also correspondingly fast then by the time they slip in between Lemuse and the demon lords then in that situation, Hasim wouldn’t have the time to be discussing strategies.
As soon as they meet, it would end up in a battle.
「If that happens then――the 『place of war』 becomes increasingly important…」
At the moment battle starts, the position of the army of the three kingdoms.
The distance from that position to the battleground.
The presence of the possibility of encountering another battalion from Mūzeg while en route to the battleground.
When that is taken into consideration, the route they are taking with the detour to the south, ended up causing him some anxiety.
Even though it was Hasim’s personal issue, he would prefer to avoid a battle in a place that is too close to Lemuse.
He didn’t want any damage being spread towards the citizens.
「…By the way, can you get in touch with the demon lords from now? Well, it depends on how fast they are though――」
From Reynald’s speech, he guessed that he had yet to make any contact with the demon lords.
It could be that he was looking towards the judgement of the commander before took any actions but it’s not particularly bad to make contact with them.
Of course they had to be rather careful and 『polite』 but in the situation where the demon lords were being chased by another country, offering to cooperate could never end up being a negative mark for them.
While thinking that, he noticed that Reynald had a shadow fall over his face once more.
Reynald floated an expression that was partly troubled and partly like he had given up.
Hasim tilted his head in confusion and waited for Reynald’s words.
「Uhm…, there was a〈Land Dragon(Reirnote)〉as well…」
Hasim and Aisha heard Reynald’s words and simultaneously frowned.
Aisha managed to get back her calm countenance immediately but she still had a certain amount of restlessness about her.
On the contrary, Hasim did not try to ease his frown and instead heaved a large sigh.
「…Haa. No wonder my calculations were so off. Who would have thought that they’d use a Reirnote as transport…」
「As if we could expect something like that from common folk!」, said Hasim and heaved another sigh.
「In that case, I suppose that he got far away quickly as soon as he confirmed them right?」
「Yes, that’s right.
There seemed to be someone with a extremely good eyesight and the information we gained from Sacred Mountain Lidholm was spread to our subordinates so based on all of that, they managed to judge that they were the group of demon lords. However, as I mentioned, contact in itself was…」
At Reynald’s answer, Hasim had this feeling of acceptance mixed in with regret.
「…Damn it, I seriously want to go over to the demon lords and call them idiots just once. At the worst possible time they ended up going past our expectations」
He spoke with a sigh, with a feeling of sadness and wryness mixed in.
Reynald wiped his sweat while he nodded at Hasim’s words.
「――Fuu. …Well, let’s let it be for now. At the very least we’ve managed to get confirmation that they’re heading to Lemuse. We’ve also managed to get the vague information that they’re fast, so we can somehow calculate their position from the point where they were sighted.
In the worst case scenario, I don’t mind being the one who goes out to get in contact with them as well」
Hasim said that while waving his hand like it couldn’t be helped.
「I’ll ask just in case but it’s not like all the demon lords are riding on the land dragon right?」
「Ah, no, if that were the case then even I would be much more flustered」
While wiping his sweat, it seemed like Reynald had enough leeway to talk frivolously.
Then, with his beard shaking a little, he told Hasim the rest of the information with a serious expression.
「――There are other horses as well. They seem to be considerably swift horses as well.
They seem to have put all of their luggage onto the land dragon so the horses seem to be able to move at a considerable speed.
…Though, there seems to be quite the distance between the horses and the land dragon though」
「Of course that’d be so. The horses would be terrified of the land dragon. ――They’re not using the land dragon to spur the horses on from behind are they?」
That sounded like some sort of a joke.
After he lightly said that, Hasim quickly returned back on topic.
「Well, whatever. Let’s just keep in mind that they’re fast」
Saying that, Hasim immediately started walking.
Since they had already finished talking about the main topic, he figured it would be fine even if they spoke while walking.
Reynald and Aisha matched Hasim’s pace and they all started walking down Zuria’s roads.
「At any rate, the preparations of the demon lords are oddly quick. Do they have some sort of an intermediary in the Duchy of Neuce Gauss?
…If we think about the money involved as well, then the Alchemy King sounds the most suspicious. That entire family has been famous for having become rich after all. Though a few generations ago due to the mistake of the Alchemy King of that time, they lost their fame just once but――」
Hasim made a vague guess.
「If the current Alchemy King has inherited that blood then it’s possibly that he’s become rich again under a false name. ――A money grubber tends to be a rather deep-rooted existence.
A half-assed money grubber would end up ruining themselves but if they properly toe the line then they would end up being very tenacious」
「It could be exactly as you say」
While Hasim spoke up a little sarcastically but he kept thinking properly about it in his mind
Hasim suddenly stopped walking, not even having walked a few steps he quickly spoke up.
「――No, wait. I have a bad feeling about this. …I just remembered something about that 『land dragon』」
The topic suddenly changed and returned to the present.
However, neither Reynald nor Aisha interrupted him.
On the contrary, since Hasim had an expression like he had just realised something, they felt their bodies stiffen up a little.
「Quite a while back, I heard a rumor about a land dragon while drinking in a bar in Lemuse’s capital」
At that time it would have been easy to reject that rumour as nonsense that someone came up with after having had too much to drink.
In the first place, it could be considered quite amazing that he even remembered such a rumour from a place as random as a bar.
However, Hasim himself had remembered that piece of information and hadn’t discarded it.
「It was a rumour that there was a sparse group of land dragons to the west of the three kingdoms」
「That’s right. Land dragons are societal creatures, so their groups are rather large as well.
Which is why the fact that it was sparse ended up making me feel rather uneasy about it」
He, of course, could not know why that group was sparse.
However, that had vaguely been a source of anxiety for Hasim.
Hasim immediately turned on his heel and quickly started walking towards Zuria’s castle once more.
「I’ll quickly go back and tell Muran and the rest to hasten their pace.
Reynald, you inform the spies in Mūzeg that a few of them should stay back. I’m worried about the army that has begun moving as well but there’s no guarantee that something strange won’t start moving after a while.
『Don’t just pay attention to the battalion』, make sure you inform the spies that.
It’s quite possible that, that sort of a flashy movement is part of a diversion after all.
After realising that, though I don’t know if the information will make it in time but I feel that we should definitely try」
While giving these orders to Reynald, Hasim looked down at the ground.
Without blinking even once, he kept staring at the ground.
Actually, at that point it seemed like he wasn’t even using his sight anymore.
It seemed like he was using every nerve in his body to think of strategies instead.
「As you command」
「Yeah, I’ll leave it to you」
After getting his orders Hasim, Reynald quickly left that place.
From Hasim’s words, he got the meaning of 『move immediately』 and so he promptly sprung into action.
Aisha, who was still standing there, just looked over at Hasim who was still in deep thought with a worried look on her face and waited for him to speak.
So that she didn’t get in his way, she made sure he was not disturbed even with her worried gaze and just quietly stood at his side.
After a while, as if he had finally got his thoughts in order, Hasim seemed to come back to himself.
He looked up from the ground that he had been staring at and turned his gaze to the sky and watched the clouds that were floating around relaxedly before he finally turned his gaze towards Aisha.
His face had a gentle smile on it.
「――Well then, I’m bothered by the demon lords movements as well but in the meantime, I’ll just pray that they don’t meet with the enemy in the worst possible place with the worst possible encounter」
No matter how much he predicted situations but as long as the predictions were about other people, there was always the possibility that they would go above and beyond his predictions.
「Seriously, not being able to get your way seems to be usual now」
Hasim did not doubt that this was the way of the world.