The moment that the golden ship reached the base of Lindholm Sacred Mountain, it’s entire body looked worn out before it finally crumbled. The way it crumbled made you feel that it was made out of something like earth.
「it really held up well huh」
The man who created the golden ship, the〈Alchemy King〉Shaw, seeing the crumbling ship, looked at the gold color as if with regret before he turned around towards the other Demon Lords. He looked over all of them, then with a smile on his face, placed a hand on his chest and did an elegant bow.
「How was it? The power of money is pretty amazing isn’t it?」
His bow had the elegance that would usually only be seen amongst nobles.
「Is it money or is it gold, I can’t really decide which one it is」
「Haha, either one is fine. Gold is after all, the basis for money」
While Shaw laughed, Merea couldn’t help but give a wry smile.
「...But, it really is pretty amazing. At least, that’s how I felt」
He spoke up truthfully. While protecting them, it brought them all the way down to the base of Lidholm Sacred Mountain. That golden ship was, without a doubt, a savior for them.
Shaw then shortly praised money but, he quickly straightened himself and brought the conversation back to the main topic.
「So what should we do? Even if we are to head towards Lemuse, we’re on flat plains right now. We don’t even have any mounts」
「Let’s first head towards the peddler’s highway. If I remember right, if we go slightly towards the east from here, there should be a highway」
Lilium answered Shaw without a moment’s hesitation.
「As expected of you, you’re even well informed about geography huh, Miss Lilium. It’s not just for show that you managed to enroll into that famous academic nation huh」
「Enough with the flattery. We really don’t have the time to have such pointless chats. Mūzeg’s black clothes and black armours will be right on our tails soon. We can’t get to Lemuse in one go, so we have to stop at some town on the way and gather supplies before going further. And so, in order to get to that town, we would need to get to a highway as quickly as possible」
「It’s something like trying our luck now huh. It’d be nice if we could find some mounts」
「This situation itself was something of a gamble from the beginning. In any case, we have to go to a place with people first. If we just stand around here, nothing would change」
Lilium finished speaking and, taking the lead, she took one step towards the east. If anyone of the 22 Demon Lords had a way to travel long distances with everyone, they would have spoken up about it.
However, no one spoke up.
It could also be that, they could do something like that as long as it was just them alone but they didn’t choose to do 『that』.
『Escape together』 was something that was firmly rooted in all of their heads and acted as their moral compass.
That was why, everyone chose to run quietly. They all ran through the sparse vegetation, near the base of the sacred mountain, as a group. Running in between the leaves of trees, feeling the pale sunlight on their skin and letting themselves be bathed in the cold air blowing in between the trees, they all continued running.
They had only just gotten down from the mountain. Although they had somehow managed to get away from Mūzeg’s army, that army could be at their tails in no time.
If it were possible, they would be happy if the other countries chasing after them would clash and they would all destroy each other. However, thinking about the power that Mūzeg had, that wish seemed like it would never be fulfilled.
――Lemuse is still quite far.
The road that was called the peddler’s highway, was something that was frequently used by peddlers and traders and Merea saw that the other Demon Lords were, in face, extremely skillful.
The one who left the deepest impression was, the〈Alchemy King〉Shaw. Having stopped some peddlers who had just passed by, he skillfully negotiated with them and somehow managed to get carriages, along with the goods inside it, that they were riding on.
In total, three of them.
They seemed to be a merchant group.
Shaw then went to the leader-like person of the merchant group and from his pocket, took out and handed them several pieces of gold. The previous owners of the carriages also seemed to have extremely happy smiles on their faces.
They all soon parted with the merchant group. Shaw then went over to the carriages, checked their contents and heaved a light sigh.
「Fuu, we managed to drive a good bargain. ...These goods, if they sold it off in the east, it would have brought them quite the profit. However, those merchants seemed to be the types who would be more interested in any immediate profit. ...They still have a long way to go」
That kind of logic was unknown territory for Merea. The words that he spoke aside, he was not well versed with the ways of a merchant. So, he wanted to ask Shaw in further detail but his eyes had glint as if the eyes of a wild animal and somehow, he felt that if he did ask anything, he would be stuck in some profound talk. So he decided to keep quiet. Curiosity killed the cat. That was the phrase that kept going around Merea’s head.
Afterwards, the Demon Lords somehow managed to fit into the cramped carriages with cases like the twins riding on the shoulders of the〈Fist Emperor〉Salman. Somehow or the other, they managed to fit into those three carriages.
However, the biggest problem they faced now was, the carriages that the 22 Demon Lords had now somehow gotten into, what would pull them.
The original owners of the carriages had six horses pulling their carriages but in the current case, with the carriages having the original goods along with the 22 Demon Lords, it did not seem like the horses would be able to pull it.
There were approximately 7 people in each carriage. If the horses were distributed amongst the three carriages, it would come out to two horses per carriage. The load would be too much for them.
「...Well then, should we make use of my flame horse?」
At that point, the〈Flame Emperor〉Lilium called out.
It seemed more like Lilium had already spoken to Shaw about this earlier. Even Shaw was extremely worried about, whether, if 22 Demon Lords climbed into the carriages, would it even be able to move faster than running.
Of course, if they had horses pull it, they would be able to save their energy and at worst, they would just move at the speed of a normal running person.
In order to get at least the minimum usage out of the carriages, he figured that they required at least 6 horses and so, he eloquently negotiated and somehow got the 6 horses from the merchants as well. However, even then he felt some anxiety.
As such, Lilium informed Shaw that she had some ways to have the carriages pulled.
Which was why, when it was time to depart, Lilium raised a lively voice.
「It’s slightly flashy so don’t get too surprised!」
After prompting the other Demon Lords to be careful, she started muttering something in a low voice.
The fact that it was the invocation chants of her technique, was something that Merea noticed immediately. While she muttered the invocation chants of the technique, suddenly there were large amounts of crimson flames that spewed out of her hand and as if it were alive it flew towards the ground. When it hit the ground, it bounced a little, before it started molding itself into a certain shape.
It was a horse. A horse molded out of crimson flames.
Over and above that, the horse really seemed to be alive. A neigh, as if from a real horse, along with crimson flames escaped from its nose.
「Fuu~...Well now, from here till the nearby town huh… I’ll end up pretty tired but there’s no other way. I decided to do this after all」
It seemed that to maintain the horse, it required quite a lot of effort on her part so Lilium, for a moment, had a fed-up expression. However, that instantly turned into one to determination.
「I’ll show you the strength of the〈Crimson Flames of Life〉」
She swept back her flashy crimson hair with a serious expression and,
「Pull them, flame horse!」
Ordered the horse.
At Lilium’s order, the flame horse fastened the rope that ties the carriage to the horse onto its own body. It was quite the skillful movement.
As soon as it fixed its posture, it started pulling the carriages with a power that was unlike any horse. Also, even though the rope was tied to the flaming body of the horse, the rope still did not burn. Merea guessed that it had the abilities to choose it’s target of combustion.
The remaining 6 horses seemed to be extremely frightened of the flame horse and could not even pull the carriages properly so, seeing that, Elma, Salman and a couple of other Demon Lords decided to ride those horses and reduce the weight of the carriages. Of course, the twins insisted on remaining on Salman’s shoulders.
「Oi! This isn’t some stunt! Don’t just climb onto my shoulders!!」
「Work hard Saru~」 「Saru~」
「Seriously, stop with that name!」
「I’ll keep a lookout on the surroundings」
Looking at Salman and the twins who seemed to be getting along quite well, Elma took the initiative to scout out the surroundings. Elma looked enchantingly beautiful riding on that horse but,
「She’s not going to get sick riding on that is she…?」
That was the odd thought that was going through the heads of the other Demon Lords.
「I might not be okay with that either…」
Merea alone was in his own little world.
While being careful of their surroundings, the group continued forward. So far, there had been no irregularities.
Since they were able to get a vehicle as soon as they reached the peddler's highway as well as the fact that Lilium’s flame horse was pulling the carriages with amazing force, they would be able to get considerably farther away than they thought. However, Mūzeg would also, similarly, be using horses so, in time, they would be able to catch up to them.
No matter how amazing the flame horse was, they doubted it could give much of a competition to the war horses of the Mūzeg army, while pulling so many Demon Lords and goods.
In any case, they had to get to some town and get a faster mode of transport. That was what most of the Demon Lords were thinking at that time but, suddenly, someone said something unexpected.
「...Let’s not go to the first town we find and move on to the one after」
Shaw said, with a serious look on his face.
All the others, in one go, tilted their heads in surprise at his words.
Merea immediately asked him.
「It’s a small town. We would definitely get the supplies we need but after we leave, when the Mūzeg army comes by, they would definitely know our destination.」
「While taking a detour, we’ll head to the town after next. That town is pretty huge after all, so we’ll get everything we need in one go and not to mention, we can just mix in with the crowds. The supplies we need to reach the town after next is enough with everything that we purchased along with the carriages」
The carriages that the Demon Lords are riding on are full of vegetables and fruits. They were the trade goods that Shaw mentioned that they would be able to sell well if they sold them off in the east.
「Well, I’d honestly prefer to avoid all the towns on the way but, starvation would be horrible after all」
He had a slightly regretful face but his belief of, 『If you die, you can’t earn more money』, was also there so he decided to divide it all amongst everyone and eat it.
「By the way, you’ll have to pay later. Since I’m the one who bought it all!」
No oversight at all huh.
『He’s definitely a money-grubber…!』, so all the other Demon Lords thought.
In this way, one way or the other, most problems that came up were resolved but, there was still one big problem left over.
「Lilium, you okay?」
Lilium who had been handling the flame horse with her technique had a considerably tired look on her face.
「Keeping a technique of the biological type up and running for a long period ends up extremely exhausting after all… If we say the town after next then it’d be…〈Duchy of Neuce Gauss〉or the〈Tot Republic〉right? Since I thought we’d be going to the first town, I was careless」
「Miss Lilium’s flame horse is moving at a speed I didn’t even expect, which is why such an option even came up. Of course, if Miss Lilium is having a hard time, we’d move back to the original plan and move towards the first town from here. Though if we move past it, then we’d have to go to either the duchy or the republic without another choice」
Lilium spoke in a way that seemed like she already knew the distance to the next town. A heavy sigh leaked from her lips.
Suddenly, Lilium looked at Merea and asked him a question.
「At that time, you copied the technique of the practitioner corps of Mūzeg, so can’t you do the same thing right now?」
For Merea that was an unexpected question. After all, Lilium herself should understand that 『it would be impossible to do』 as well. Maybe because she knew that it was impossible, she might have asked that out of the hope that it may be possible.
「...That’s impossible. Even if I can copy techniques, I don’t have the〈Flames of Life〉which is the nucleus of the technique」
「Hee, you really understood it quite well, huh. That my technique’s nucleus is inherent to me」
「I gave it a shot recently after all. Trying to see if I could help Lilium out or not」
「Ahh...is that so. ...You, in your own way, have been looking out for me huh」
Merea was good enough at techniques that he could proudly say that it was his 『speciality』. Since he had been trained to that extent by the heroic spirits, there was no way he could say that it wasn’t his speciality, not to mention, they themselves had praised him as 『strong』. So he had quite some confidence in that area.
That was why, when he thought of helping Lilium out, he used〈Technique God’s (Flander Crow) Magic Eye〉to decipher her technique and tried to replicate it.
However, the technique did not function properly. The mana itself would get kneaded but the let alone flames, it wouldn’t even cause anything to happen.
As he was deciphering the technique, he did have a nagging feeling that, it may not be possible and it ended up exactly as he had feared.
He realised that her technique was such that, if it wasn’t passed through a 『special nucleus』 it wouldn’t work at all.
「It’s called an Inherent Nucleus. You’ll find such people every now and then」
「Yeah, I’ve heard about it」
However, he doesn’t have it. Lilium’s nucleus is probably something that the family of the〈Flame Emperor〉has.
No one from the family of the〈Flame Emperor〉were Merea’s parents. In case they had been, he might have been able to receive that inherent nucleus but there was no point thinking about that now.
Merea, from that point forward, realised that he couldn’t do much other than fighting.
He had a feeling like he was worthless, boiling up from the bottom of his heart. As if having realised his thoughts from his expressions,
「You’re fine the way you are. ...Forget what I said earlier! I was just being rash. There are no people who can do anything and everything. In fact, I felt quite relieved knowing that even you couldn’t pull it off」
Merea realised that Lilium was trying to cheer him up and unconsciously, a smile of self-mockery floated onto his face.
「Moreover, even if you did manage to do it right now, there would be a problem with mana as well right?」
The internal type of mana, was something that when used would decrease. It would also recover but not at the speed where it could be used again immediately. Even Merea wasn’t exempt from this rule. Due to that, at this time, if he were to use such a technique, there was a high chance that he would completely run out of mana.
「In all honesty, I’m not very good at combat. That’s why, I’ll be relying on you when the time comes for that. In exchange for that, I’ll work hard in such a situation. The right person for the right job~!」
Lilium puffed out her chest and laughed. It was an innocent and bright smile like sunshine. Seeing that bright smile on her face which just looking at it was enough to become cheerful, Merea felt a warm feeling spread throughout his heart.
Thereupon, as if badgering him with question, Lilium placed her fist near Merea’s heart and,
「Is that fine? Just knowing that someone would protect you when you need it, is enough to calm down completely. The situation is completely horrendous but, I can stay calm...that’s why」
She looked directly into Merea’s red pupils.
「If such a situation arises...protect me」
While slightly sweating from her forehead, Lilium said that with a slightly mischievous smile.
Merea, while looking at that smile,
「...Got it. Without fail, I’ll protect you」
Saying that with conviction was somewhat terrifying but without hesitation, he said it.
In time, Merea would think back on the his words many times.
Merea himself, had a slight premonition that, his words this time would wake up a certain determination in himself.