When we got the captured people some food from the storage room, faint smiles returned to their dust covered faces. They most likely weren’t fed anything good.
“Well then, I guess we should get going to call some soldiers from the nearby town…”
As I was about to place Rēko on my back and leave the cave, I suddenly realised something.
“By the way Rēko, where’s the nearest town?”
“With an average horse it’s about a day from here, but with the Evil Dragon Lord’s flight it shouldn’t take longer than a blink of an eye.”
“Sorry. To tell you the truth, last night I must’ve slept in an awkward position. Today I can’t really use my wings.”
“Then, despite my incompetence allow me to aid you.”
What should I do? I don’t want to fly ever again. It’s scary as hell, and above all the very thought of Rēko being in control of where we’re going is dreadful.
“—― You wouldn’t be able to know it, Rēko. Ominous winds are blowing on today’s sky.”
“Evil Dragon Lord…?”
“The me able to subjugate the winds is fine. However, you don’t yet comprehend the skies. If you were to flutter now about the sky carelessly, I’d lose a precious kin.”
As I was saying it, I remembered the clear weather when we entered the cave. But, as if she forfeited the very notion of “distrust”, Rēko deeply nodded her head in agreement.
“I see. So those vast heavens are still a precipitous territory for a novice like me. Such consideration is more than I deserve. If that’s the case, let us move on land.”
That was troublesome in its own right. Since there were many exhausted people here, we couldn’t make them wait by drawing it out. Having said that, it wasn’t like I could send Rēko to town on her own. If I wasn’t there to keep an eye on this child and let her do as she pleased, there was no telling what destruction she was capable of.
In the worst case scenario, that town might just vanish from the map.
After I’ve ordered Rēko to stand by, I started aimlessly wandering inside the cave while puzzling over what I should do. In the hall, what incidentally entered my vision was the bandits’ head, who was still sitting motionlessly on the ground.
“I-is it really okay for someone like me…? For me to take the role of Lady Rēko’s attendant?!”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. There won’t be any problem if you just earnestly explain it to the town’s soldiers and get a carriage here for the hostages. I’ll tell Rēko to not lay a single finger on you, as long as you carry out your task properly.”
Not to mention laying hands, just a reminder was enough to completely keep his mouth shut.
“Then, what does Evil Dragon Lord intend to do?”
“I’ve to keep an eye on the remaining bandits, don’t I?”
“Not at all! We already swore to never again commit any evil deeds! If you are so inclined, it’s fine to bind us all with chains, so please, I beg you, anything but being Lady Rēko’s attendant!”
Rēko seized the neck of the practically crying pleading bandit.
“Stop your wailing, foolish human. You just have to turn yourself in and call the soldiers. Or do you intend to waste the Evil Dragon Lord’s kindness in giving you, a criminal, an opportunity to atone for your sins? If you’ve got any complaints, I’ll just cut all of you down right here and now.”
“Hii! No, no, it’s not like I don’t want to or find the very idea frightening, it’s just that I think we can’t make the Evil Dragon Lord do such a vulgar job like keeping watch—―”
“Vulgar? So you dare spout blasphemy towards the Evil Dragon Lord, who volunteered to keep watch.”
“No! That’s not it! So please, don’t glow your blue eyes at me!”
I apologized in my mind to the bandits’ head.
I feel really guilty, but I want you to think of it as part of your punishment for the numerous sins you committed. Surely it’s going to be a hellish day till you reach the town, but a man with common sense like you will be able to explain it well.
The only remaining worry was that the subordinates might try to rebel, but it was fine to exclude that possibility. Even when I checked through my power of insight, there was no one with any fighting spirit left. Everyone’s current state could be described as half-insane. Even I was more than enough to guard them.
“Well then, off you go. Be careful, okay?”
“Understood. I will return tomorrow.”
The bandits’ head began a full out horse gallop, while Rēko calmly followed closely with her superhuman like running speed. Even from the distance, the spectacle of a fast horse being urged forward by a running human was quite bizarre.
After seeing them off, I was in high spirits for the first time in a while. That was because, disregarding the bandits, the captured people thought of me as a “timid dragon caught by Rēko”. Thanks to the medicine Ariante gave me, my appearance was completely one of a miniature dragon and I also lost the ominousness, the both factors that were causing me to get mistaken for an evil dragon.
So if it was now, asking about useful information — for example, location of the low-level monsters habitat — ought to be a piece of cake. Also, I could whine unceremoniously to my heart’s content.
Humans were already moving provisions. Given that I thought that if we’d eat together a lively conversation was bound to spring up, I went to the inner parts of the cave in search for food. In moist depths of the caves like this one, there was often moss or mushrooms growing. Since I’ve stuffed myself full of green grass lately, it’d be nice to enjoy some delicacies.
Deeper. And even deeper.
The candles placed by bandits have already disappeared, but since I’ve already caught the scent of moss it wasn’t much of a problem.
That was a mistake.
Since the bandits haven’t gone that route, it must’ve been due to the lurking danger.
By the time I’ve heard a click sound coming from below me, it was already too late. The ground under my feet has vanished.
—— A pitfall.
Without any time to scream, the cave’s surface opened its pitch black mouth and swallowed me into the depths of the earth.