Having run away from the kitchen, Merea moved through the huge courtyard of the Star Tree Castle and entered the castle through a different entrance.
「Now then, should I go back to my room and continue deciphering?」
With the thought that he should spend the remaining time before he goes to sleep on deciphering techniques, Merea started walking towards his own room.
Merea’s room was in the upper floors of the star tree castle. It was on the fifth floor to be precise. It was different from the room he used as the head of the〈Demon Lord's Alliance (Mea Nessiah)〉.
Merea himself didn’t particularly mind sleeping off in the office room as long as he didn’t have one of Marisa’s bundles of papers to keep him company but everytime he would think of how the group would become bigger as time would go by, he couldn’t help but prefer this option.
In other words, it’s for the sake of the health of the organization as a whole. Marisa and Shaw had taken the initiative and used that as the reason.
「Climbing all the way to the fifth floor, in itself, is quite a pain though… I don’t think I need to assert my position as the leader to this point though…」
Apparently the main reason is that they felt a major debt towards Merea thanks to the various events that had unfolded so far.
Although it wasn’t bad that they felt a debt towards him but, in the first place, for a person like Merea who sorely lacked in common sense, his response would be more on the lines of, 「It’s fine to go with the flow」.
However, the others were born in this world and having been brought up with these customs and conventions, they couldn’t help but do what they did.
「Well, there are definitely going to be demon lords with various kinds of births joining us from now on so I suppose I can’t exactly just throw the matter to the side just because it’s troublesome」
In fact, having been able to confirm this matter once more, he would have a good way to figure out how subtle the group called〈Demon Lord's Alliance (Mea Nessiah)〉that the first 22 demon lords have made actually is.
「It would be nigh impossible suddenly though…」
It’s impossible to get everything right from the very beginning. It would be best to slowly think about it while making sure not to forget anything.
Just as he was solidifying such a thought, Merea reached the end of the second floor corridor.
A vertically opening window was in front of his eyes. At the moment, it was open and a window panel with light colored stained glass could be seen just up ahead.
He gazed outside the window and he could see the branch of the tree right outside. The branch of the great star tree was extremely thick and fairly long.
「...There’s no one around」
Merea checked the scaffold once before looking around restlessly.
「It’s annoying to use the stairs all the way till the fifth floor after all」
He deftly ran up to the fifth floor, using the branches of the great star tree which looked like it was wrapping around the castle.
In particular at night, the glittering particles of the Great Star tree was pretty, and you can see the streets of Lemuse, which are more lively lately.
It was a slight detour, but it is more pleasant to be in touch with the air outside than to go up the stairs to the fifth floor.
He couldn’t help feeling that, by chance, his own nature may have been affected by the experience of Mt. Lindholm, where he had lived most of his life.
――Do I have an attachment to the outdoors?
At the same time, he thought, that another attachment to the outside, might have been engraved in his soul from his previous life.
Even if that were the case, for Merea they seemed like lovely qualities;
「In other words, it’s absolutely justified for me to climb up to the fifth floor without stairs――」
He would sometimes get scolded by Marisa if he were ever caught doing this but the essence of the point was that, it would be fine as long as he did not get caught.
As long as he did not get caught――
But just as he had stepped out of the window he suddenly heard a voice from behind, causing Merea to almost trip and fall out of the castle, painfully banging his shin on the window sill.
While rubbing his shin, Merea fearfully looked behind him.
From the way his name was called, he was almost sure that the voice was not Marisa, but he was alert because he thought that she might be pretending to be 『her』 to intentionally get him to lower his guard.
「Oh, ah, I’m sorry?」
Merea heaved a sigh of relief as soon as he saw the owner of that voice.
The one standing behind him, bending her head while apologizing with a touch of embarrassment, was the〈Heavenly Demon〉Aiz.
Her eyes were colored with bewilderment and they seemed to be troubled, thinking that she should not have tried to stop him. With the loveliness of a small animal, she induced everyone’s desire to protect.
She, who was particularly delicate among the demon lords, stood in the passage with her thin arms wrapped around her body, and one elbow held in the other hand. 「No, I’m fine. Don’t worry」
When he noticed that the sign of the room that Aiz had just walked out of read 『Library』, he finally understood the current situation.
It seemed that Aiz was still fishing around the library for information.
――I forgot to confirm much more than that.
It was bad not to pay attention properly so he decided to switch right away. He now felt rather curious about what AIz was doing.
「Were you still working Aiz?」
「No, no, I was, studying」
「You’re rather earnest aren’t you?」, said Merea, raising his brows when he noticed that a book was still in Aiz's hands.
He pulled back, turned around and walked towards Aiz. His red eyes burning with curiosity.
「Let me see――」
Walking up to her, he looked at the cover of her book.
Aiz, on the other hand, had a slightly 『apologetic』 expression.
Immediately after, when she saw that Merlea was at a loss for words, she lowered her brows, as if to say, 『as I thought』.
A few moments later, Merea noticed the change in her expression.
At the same moment he realized that the change was a steady representation of her inner thoughts.
The word 'tactical' was frequently used on the cover of her book.
Why did she have such a book? It was easy for Melea to arrive at an answer to that.
He looked up at her from his crouching position.
She turned her face and looked away from Merea.
There was an apologetic look on her face.
「――I get it」
Merlea's words were spun on the anticipation of many conversations that might have happened between them.
Why were you reading such a book?
Why do you look apologetic?
Why, still, can't you make excuses?
He felt like he understood everything.
She looked back into Merea’s red eyes as if she were startled by what he said.
Seeing that gaze, Merea felt like his expectations weren’t that far off the mark.
「I don’t really plan on binding Aiz’s free will so you really don’t have to make that face」
「It’s because Aiz is both gentle and responsible. It might be a little iffy for me to say this but―― 『I know how you feel』」
It was neither a lie, nor a consolation.
Merea knew this very well.
Melea knew 『the pain of a man who can't move if he wants to move』 quite well.
Though he was able to say all this right now, some time back, he wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.
That’s why, seeing the strength she showed in trying to do what she could accomplish, made his heart warm.
「It’s, because, I’m a…〈Heavenly Demon〉. My ancestors, had already ensured that...we would be weaker than, even a normal person」
Aiz tightened her grip on her elbow. He could see a small red line forming on her arm.
「It’s to, let people know that, we’re harmless」
In the moment she said that, Merea felt like he saw the deep hatred carried by the〈Heavenly Demon〉clan.
Time stopped with his mouth open.
The first thing that leaked out when he came back from my frozen thoughts were,
「...so they went that far?」
The reason Aiz was more delicate than a normal person was also partly because of her bloodline. To let them know that they are weak.
Perhaps the members of Aiz’s clan, who feared being ostracized due to their special eyes, decided to show their surroundings that, other than their eyes they were absolutely no threat to anyone else.
「To prove, they could keep a secret, in the beginning, they stopped talking completely」
Even so, they were still ostracized. Just because you don’t talk about what you saw, doesn’t mean you didn’t see it in the first place. They probably had a constant doubt about whether they knew or not.
「But, that wasn’t enough. Next, they made their bodies weak, to show that, even if they knew, thy can’t do anything, about it」
They never told anyone what they had seen, and even if they knew something, they didn’t do anything. They couldn’t.
For this reason, they imposed these restrictions on their own body.
That price is now being paid by Aiz, their descendent.
A hazy emotion arose in Merea’s heart.
"I think that in the end, unless these eyes are destroyed, it would be no good. I thought I'd do it when my father and mother died."
Aiz did not shed tears.
Her eyes were moist, but she did not cry.
On the other hand, she looked at Merea with a frail yet untouchably beautiful smile as she continued to speak.
"But then I went up that sacred mountain, met Melea and the others...so I stopped thinking that. I know this kind of eye, would be useful to someone. Besides, these eyes are my only connection the family of the〈Heavenly Demon〉. I’m finally able to think, of that connection, as important so, I’m fine now"
「――Is that so?」
Merea gently smiled at Aiz and softly put his hand on her head.
She looked up at Merea again and narrowed her eyes happily.
「That’s why, Merea-kun, might find it a little...annoying...but I want to try doing what I can」
Aiz looked for a way to handle the demon eyes for everyone’s sake.
And the first thing she came up with was something in the book.
There were, indeed, many poor conditions in that fight which would have been impossible without Aiz's eyes.
"Well, if Ais thinks so, I won't force her to stop. Besides, if a great battle arose, and Aiz with her tactics were to go to the front, then I and the other demon lords would definitely defend you. Not to mention, 『I have nothing to worry about.』"
As long as they don’t touch her.
――I will definitely not let a blade touch her.
Merea displayed a strong will.
「I’ll also, not try to do the, impossible. I’ll make sure, to see if I’ll be helpful, or just baggage」
There was a strong will in Aiz as well, one that promised to lead to calm objectivity. Aiz herself had not realised that the path of the 『strategist』 that she was trying to tread was, in a way, an 『ancestral undertaking』.
It is an extremely old story.
From a time when their powers weren’t even called the〈Magic eyes of the Heavenly Demon〉, her ancestor stood on the battlefield as a genius strategist.
「Well, it’s late now so make sure you don’t work too hard. If you collapse, it’d unnecessarily increase work after all. I’m speaking from experience here」
「Fufu, you seem to have collapsed a lot, Merea-kun」
「To be exact, I was made to collapse though…」
Merea smiled bitterly while remembering the days he spent on the sacred mountain.
He finished off the conversation there and spoke up.
「Well then, I’ll get back to my room」
He turned his bright red eyes towards Aiz once more.
「Ah, make sure you keep quiet about me using the great star tree to climb up to the fifth floor okay!? I’ve already been scolded once...a second time would be bad…」
「Even if you would, get scolded a second time, you’re still going to climb, right?」
Hearing her light tone, Merea felt a little surprised. There was a bright expression on her face.
Having a girl, who herself claimed that she was a poor talker from birth, speak in a frivolous manner much akin to the casual speech of the other demon lords left Merea with an unspeakably happy feeling.
「That’s right, I’ll climb! This course has the best view, you know?」
「Got it. I’ll keep quiet then」
Seeing her bright smile, Merea was unconsciously charmed by it. However, he quickly glossed over it by putting one leg on the windowsill, ready to jump out of the window.
In the end, to confirm if Aiz was still behind him, he quickly turned to look back.
Along with Aiz who was still standing where she was――
――What the hell is that…?
On the other side of the corridor, he noticed a 『mysterious object』 with only it’s neck hanging out.
Aiz looked over at Merea, who was suddenly frozen in place with a question mark floating over her head.
However, Merea had no time to care about that.
He couldn’t help but feel curious about the mysterious object behind Aiz.
From the hall with the stairs, it was in a position where only it’s head was visible.
Although that suspicious posture was problematic as well but the most prominent one was――
The whole head was covered with a silver armet.
――This spectacle is quite horrific…
Though he called them a suspicious person, but Merea felt like he remembered him. Though it was hard to tell if it was really a 『he』 or not but from the height, he decided to assume that for the time being.
He was, after all, a 『comrade』 from the demon lord alliance.
Whether it was during the battle with the practitioner corps of Mūzeg on the sacred mountain or the battle together with the Lemuse army, he was the one who would stand in front of everyone else risking life and limb.
Even when creating the tombstones on top of the mountain, Merea recalled thinking, 「What the hell is that?」 when he saw a figure in full armour skilfully creating tombstones.
In any case, it’s definitely not a stretch to consider that person a comrade. He also seems to be adept at having conversations with his body language alone.
However, he had not yet seen that man’s real face.
「H, hey, you doing okay?」
Merea agitatedly raised a hand towards that man at the end of the corridor.
Then that man showed his hand, wrapped in thick armor, from the shadow of the passage, and sent back his greeting, shaking his hand and that helmet.
A frozen Merea along with a confused Aiz and the seemingly embarrassed man, with just his neck sticking out.
The mysterious mood spread in an instant.