When the sun started to set and children scattered to their homes, I noticed my grave mistake. I didn’t know where the inn was.
Now the guards, who were attentively keeping their eyes on me when I rode the carriage, were also gone. It was likely that Rēko made everyone stay behind, saying something like “Despite the Evil Dragon Lord saying he’d like to take a stroll alone, you intend to obstruct him?”.
For crying out loud, I wanted you to have a bit more pride as guards. Then you could’ve guided me.
To begin with, this was an agricultural town lacking entertainment venues. When it started to darken, the walking around humans would pretty much disappear and finally I was going to be at my wit’s end. I’ve had no psychological resistance against yelling out that I was lost and seeking help, but if I, an Evil Dragon, revealed that much of a pitiful appearance, the fact that I was weak might get exposed by Rēko.
“No helping it. Let’s sleep outside.”
It was good enough to say I just got too much into walking and have forgotten about returning to the inn. When the sun has risen, I was going to call Rēko out by having a random guard deliver her a message. Then, making something up, I would have her guide me to the most suitable inn.
Besides, as far as I was concerned, sleeping outside was an everyday thing for me. Instead of sleeping in a tiny house, feeling cramped—— tiny?
“Not good. If I wait till morning, the medicine’s effect is going to wear off. Once I take a nap defenceless, considering the bounty on my head, a reckless adventurer might just go for it.”
I take back what I said. It was after all better to sleep in a safe inn.
Staying up till dawn wasn’t an option. Last night, I’ve received Hunt’s gruelling training throughout the whole night, so I didn’t get any sleep. At my age, not sleeping two nights in a row was too hard. After a few more hours I wouldn’t be able to fight off the drowsiness and would fall asleep on the street. At this rate I might lose my neck, not being able to wake up ever again.
And were that to happen, a real evil dragon would be born inside the inn.
Now the world’s fate was hanging on my proper sleep.
“Having said that, I can’t find it…”
Despite it not being a tourist town there were many inns stretching out, maybe to welcome the intending to buy crops merchants. It was impossible to pinpoint from them the one Rēko was staying at.
—— In that case, there was only one thing I could rely on.
The place I came to by dragging my aching feet was the Saintess’ shrine, which was empty in the night. Even though it was veiled in darkness, just with the stars light the welling up water was glistening adequately.
‘Please Lady Saintess; I implore you to guide me to the inn. Once I peacefully sleep one night, I promise to leave this town.’
I tried praying sincerely. Other than the ever present stillness, I couldn’t see any significant response from the spring.
And yet when I continued to wait for a while, I suddenly noticed something.
Not inside the spring, but behind it. There was only half of a person’s figure sticking out from the shrine pillar’s shadow while peeking over here. The figure’s size was small. It had to be a young child.
“Who is it?”
In response to being questioned, the figure jolted with surprise and showed her face from behind the pillar. It was a young girl with beautiful eyes and swaying long hair like the crystal clear water.
“E, erm, Doradora, right? Look, it’s me. We just played, didn’t we? Remember? I fed you fish, you remember right?”
I’ve had absolutely no recollection of a girl with such characteristic hair colour, besides I haven’t eaten a fish in several hundred years. After all, I was basically a herbivore.
“L-Look, well, because Doradora seemed to be troubled I secretly followed you… I’m sorry, please don’t get angry! Ah, it’s fine, right—— he’s gentle with children. If it’s this form, it’s okay, right? No, it’s nothing. Anyway Doradora, please tell me if there’s anything troubling you, because I’m a gentle, pure and kind child——”
Since the explanation was too desperate, I understood everything. And I decided to definitely not reveal anything I perceived.
“That’s right. I don’t know the location of the inn my companion is staying at. If it’s fine, could you guide me?”
“Sure! My intuition is rea~lly good, so I’ll probably find it immediately! You can rest easy, Doradora!”
Well you’re a Saintess, you probably can see through the whole town. But I kept such thoughts to myself.
“Much appreciated. Then, let’s go.”
“Yes! So after you properly arrive at the inn, leave first thing tomorrow morn―― No, it’s nothing!”
The disguised as a little girl Lady Saintess briskly showed me the way. We went through the town’s shortcuts as if under a spell, and despite my snail-like speed, we arrived at the inn in mere minutes.
“We’re here! Your companion is staying in the room at the end of this inn’s hallway―― I think. It’s my intuition.”
“Un, thanks. It’s likely right, so it’s fine up to here. As promised, we’re going to leave this town tomorrow morning, so you don’t have to worry.”
When I bowed to Lady Saintess before the inn’s entrance, tears copiously welled up in the corners of her eyes.
“Hooray―! I won―! I protected it―! Everyone in the town―!”
Once more I lowered my head to her, who was basking in the afterglow of victory, and entered the inn. The guard seemed to have passed the message and the innkeeper quietly led me to the room.
What greeted me when I opened the door, was the sitting in seiza and waiting Rēko.
“Welcome back, Evil Dragon Lord. How was the preliminary inspection of the town?”
“Not an inspection but a walk. I don’t think it’s good to have an expectant expression, as if we’re about to do something.”
‘More importantly’, I changed the topic.
“Have you been properly keeping to yourself? You didn’t cause any trouble for the guards or the innkeeper?”
“It’s fine. According to the Evil Dragon Lord’s command, I kept still with all my energy.”
“Did it really take up that much effort?”
My anxieties were usually proving to be right, in a bad way.
“I’m terribly sorry. Because of my incompetence, getting the hang of it took me a bit of time. However, just as Lord wished,『stillness』―― that is, I finally succeeded in casting away the idle thoughts and reached the untrodden limits of my consciousness.”
“Did I really say something grand like that? Untrodden limits?”
“Yes. The future.”
It seemed like Rēko was doing something big by herself. I deliberately didn’t want to ask too deep and intended to let it go, but the following remark was no doubt the very bomb itself.
“Although belatedly, I also managed to comprehend it. The Evil Dragon Lord has already seen through it, right? That the true form of the Saintess is a water demon―― a member of the Demon King’s army.”