After finishing another big battle, Zich and his companions went to rest in their lodging. Other soldiers stayed behind the castle walls to clean up the area, but no one dared to request Zich’s party to do the same. After a hard day of work, rest felt especially precious. With a good sleep, Zich woke up early the next morning to have breakfast and spent the afternoon drinking tea elegantly in the garden.
He was alone in the garden. The lodging that had previously been vacant was completely empty now because of the continuous monster invasions. Everyone else had escaped to other cities, and it felt as if Zich’s party had rented out the whole place.
“You seem to be overflowing with ease,” Lyla said while holding her own tea supplies and taking the seat in front of him.
“In desperate times, the one who enjoys their brief moments of peace is the true winner.”
“What are you going on about?” Like she always did, Lyla smoothly dismissed Zich’s blabbering. Then, she scanned the garden and raised her teacup to her mouth. Then, she said, “Yesterday’s battle feels like a dream.” Like she said, the garden looked as splendid as ever and didn’t seem to belong to the same city where a battle that reeked of blood had taken place.
“It’s a beautiful scenery that we are working hard to protect.”
“I didn’t think you were capable of saying such poetic lines.”
“Of course. No matter what you say, I’m still an aspiring he…” Zich said boastfully with his chin raised when he suddenly scowled.
Lyla looked at Zich like she couldn’t believe him. “Shouldn’t you fix your loathing for heroes a bit so that you can act more like one?” Seeing that Zich grimaced by just referring to himself as a hero, Lyla wondered if it was really possible for him to act as one. It was truly baffling that Zich’s greatest obstacle to being a hero was not because of his lack of skills, but his perception of a hero.
“It’s okay. I always do what I say I will do.” Zich’s reply didn’t seem very convincing. He murmured ‘I am a hero’ repeatedly like he was trying to brainwash himself and shuddered. Then, while drinking her tea, Lyla commented again, “You must really be at ease.”
Everyone else was worried sick about when the next monster attack would come, and if they saw Zich’s current attitude, they might have yelled curses at him in anger.
“It’s true that I’m at ease.”
“Is it because you are such a great winner like you just said?”
“No, it’s because there won’t be monster attacks for a while from now on.”
This was surprising news. Lyla placed her teacup down and placed both arms on top of the table and stared at him hard, shooting him with an intangible pressure to hurry up with the explanation already.
“Glen Zenard went up to the Denest Mountain Range to find out the cause of the monsters’ attacks.”
“Now that you mention it, I did see Glen Zenard leaving just now,” Lyla said, remembering how she had watched Glen leave through her window. She thought to herself, ‘He seems to be going far away seeing that all his companions are out to greet him off.’
“Did Glen Zenard cause this situation to happen?”
“He causes incidents to happen and goes to solve them. Gee, how easy it must be for him to play hero,” Lyla grumbled while thinking of Glen’s sickeningly heroic face.
“Yeah. That’s why monster attacks won’t happen when our sir hero is gone. After all, if someone accomplishes heroic acts and spreads their name in his absence, he won’t like it one bit. For instance, this ‘someone’ could be a handsome, skilled, ex-demon lord.”
“I see that you still show no hesitancy when boasting.”
“There’s no need for me to act embarrassed when speaking the truth,” Zich said brazenly. “Anyways, there’s a high possibility that Glen Zenard won’t send any monsters for the time being. He’s someone that I bothered enough to make me into a Demon Lord. He won’t let me accumulate any more fame and glory. Furthermore, he has his companions here in this city.”
“You think he’ll be worried that his companions would die without him? I suppose even he might value his companions.”
“It might be more that he doesn’t want to lose the tools that prop him up.” Considering what that guy was doing to Lara Browning, Zich thought his statement was more persuasive.
“If that’s really the case, then he’s unsalvageable trash.”
“Is that even a surprise anymore?”
“Besides that, are you going to quietly stay here? I thought you would at least tail him secretly.” Knowing Zich, Lyla knew that there was no way he was going to let things flow in Glen’s favor; she was so certain about this that she’d bet her own magic on it
“It’s clear that his skills are way lower than mine, but it’s not to the point that I can keep tailing him. He will have his guard up much more than usual, and it’s not like I’m an expert in tailing people.”
“…You snuck around everywhere until now even though you aren’t even an expert in tailing?” If Lyla recalled everything Zich had done so far, it seemed more believable that he was an assassin or a spy, but Zich simply shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m just saying that there’s no need for me to follow that guy while shouldering potential dangers. I just have to follow another figure that is moving within his plans.”
“And who is this person?”
Zich pointed toward their lodging with his chin. “Oh, he just came out.”
Lyla turned her head and saw several people in the lobby. Although her eyes weren’t abnormally sharp like Zich’s, she could make out who they were. Between the rough-looking faces that clearly belonged to the mercenaries, there were two children: Walter and Ellie. Then, there were their fathers, Til and Nick, and their subordinates surrounding them.
* * *
“Hello, sirs.” Zich placed himself between the group of mercenaries. Not yet having quelled the fever of battle from yesterday, the mercenaries exuded light bloodlust at the suddenly approaching figure. However, when they realized that the intruder was Zich, they quickly withdrew their hostility.
“It’s Mr. Zich!”
Walter and Ellie welcomed Zich. Whatever the others thought of him, to the children, Zich was simply a nice uncle who played fun games with them. Zich smiled at the children and then looked at Til and Nick. “It’s the first time I’ve seen you two look for me at the same time. May I ask what happened?”
The children were the ones who answered first. “We’re going to another place!”
“Yep! Yep! We’re going somewhere more fun than here!”
“Is that so?” As Max told him before, it seemed as if Nick’s suggestion to send their kids to a different city had been approved. This was also an opportunity that Zich had been waiting for. The children chatted next to Zich and then ran to Lyla and began chatting with her.
Zich stared at this sight and asked, “Are you planning to evacuate them?”
“Yes. This city is way too dangerous for them to stay here,” Til replied, and Nick nodded in agreement. Even though Zich hadn’t met them together many times, it was his first time seeing them in agreement.
“Have you made preparations for their bodyguards? Even if we do take a short break since the monster ambush ended yesterday, there’s no guarantee that there are no random monsters wandering around the city.”
“I’m planning to send my underlings with them.” Til looked at the mercenaries around him and replied, “There are guys who’ve been in the Wolf’s Canine for a long time. I trust their loyalty and skills.”
There was deep trust in Til’s voice. Judging by his words, the mercenaries that Til pointed out were probably mercenaries that were with the Wolf’s Canine from its early days.
‘Since they’re going to be protecting their children, they must have complete trust in them.’ Til called out to his children who were with Lyla. Walter and Ellie came running back to him.
“Well, let’s go now. I’ll drop you off in the front of the city’s walls.”
Walter looked up at Til and asked, “Dad, are you really not coming with us?” Ellie seemed to also not want to separate from her father as she grabbed Nick’s hand.
“We are going with you, but later. Your dad and the other uncles here have some work to finish.”
“That’s right. Go with these uncles first and just wait for us a bit. We’ll finish our work fast and also return.”
The kids made a small nod; rather than understanding why they needed to go, they seemed to accept their fathers’ words because it couldn’t be helped. However, as expected of children who grew up in a mercenary group, they didn’t seem to be afraid of separating from their parents. Walter and Ellie rode on the carriage that was in front of their lodging. Til and Nick also got into the carriage to send them off.
The mercenaries bid farewell to Lyla and Zich and went out of the lodging. The children leaned out with their bodies and waved goodbye. Zich and Lyla also waved them goodbye. Their figures completely disappeared from view, and now they were left alone by themselves.
“The lodging is going to be quieter now.” Lyla seemed to have gotten close to the kids as she looked sad to see them go. “What are you going to do now?”
“Of course, we’re going to follow them.”
“Yeah. Even though it’s difficult to keep following Glen Zenard because of his skill and experience, it won’t be difficult to follow them.” Zich stared in the direction where the mercenaries disappeared. “If I keep my distance and slowly follow them, they won’t notice.”
“Do you really think something will happen?” If something bad happened, there was a high possibility that the kids would also be swept up, so Lyla was very concerned.
“There’s a high possibility that something will happen to them. If Glen Zenard wants to use Til, there’s no better bait than those children.”
“But there’s no certainty that it’ll happen this time. The period when they corrupt Til might be later on.”
“Yeah, but that’s later on. We’ll have to come up with a different plan then.”
However, judging by Zich’s confidence, it seemed as if he believed there was a high possibility that the situation would turn out as he thought.
“I hope you’re right.”
“Haha, I also hope so.” Zich laughed and continued, “Then I’ll be able to smoothly fuck over Glen Zenard.”
“…Don’t you think there’s something strange about your choice of words?”
“So you think I have a sophisticated way of talking?”
“That’s really not it.”
* * *
The carriage that Walter and Ellie were on began heading towards the nearest city from Pialu. Til and Nil dropped them off from the castle wall and returned to the city. The number of mercenaries protecting the children was seven in total. Ordinary children would shiver in fear that they were stuck between scary-looking adults without their parents, but Walter and Ellie weren’t afraid at all. It was because they had grown up in a much rougher environment than other children, and the mercenaries protecting them were people they were all very familiar with.
“Mister, how long will it take for us to arrive?”
“Hmm. Won’t it take about three days?”
The kids were so outgoing that they leaned out of the carriage window and asked the mercenary moving next to them.
“Most importantly, don’t lean outside the window. The carriage is going to be moving faster from here on out. If you’re not careful, you might fall over.” No matter how well the roads were built, the carriage would shake roughly if it began moving fast, and this would cause the passengers to grow tired. Thus, the mercenary could clearly predict that the children would suffer throughout the long journey. However, the children were currently escaping Pialu for their own protection. Even if the children were going to suffer while traveling, it was better to move for their own good.
“Yessir!” Fortunately, the kids listened to him well. As soon as the kids sat back down into their seats, the carriage began gaining speed. The mercenaries riding on their horses also ran with the carriage. And Zich, who had been quietly following them since they left Pialu, also increased his speed.