As soon as the sun went up, a great number of adventurers went outside the walls and departed on their journeys. It appeared to be an everyday sight in this town, but today their number was especially large. That was because most of the town got damaged in last night’s fire. The moment adventurers without any roots here understood that the environment for their long stay was gone, they quickly gave up and left in a hurry.
“Such is life. Only people living here for a long time are interested in restoring it. Fortunately, thanks to you the last night’s damage was somewhat reduced. It won’t take that long to restore it. Rēvendia, let me thank you once more. And you, kin girl.”
While gazing at the formed line of pack horses becoming distant on the grasslands, I lightly touched the hand Ariante held out with the tip of my claw. I planned to shake hands in reconciliation, but from the side Rēko was glaring with dissatisfaction. While stuffing her cheeks with the brought for breakfast bread, she was staring fixedly at Ariante with narrow eyes.
“What’s up Rēko? Are you still mulling over that dream?”
After loudly munching and swallowing with a gulp,
“I feel like that knight committed a severe blasphemy towards the Evil Dragon Lord. I have the memory of her pointing a sword at you.”
“If it was like that we wouldn’t be shaking hands this way. You probably were just tired and saw a bad dream.”
“Since Evil Dragon Lord says so, I will treat it as truth, but for some reason I’m not pleased with it.”
“Don’t fret over this so much Rēko. Here, you can also have my bread, cheer up.”
I didn’t really like bread either way. When I pushed the lying on the ground tray to Rēko, she started eating it with vigour as if she was starving. It looked like she wouldn’t refrain herself.
“Munch, also Evil Dragon Lord, why did you assume this form? Of course, even if the Evil Dragon Lord became small there’s no difference to your greatness but… there isn’t but…”
“There are still bits of food on your face. Wipe it and drink some water first.”
After wiping her face with her arms, she drained a whole jug of water in one go.
“Then, for what kind of reason?”
I was troubled, since I couldn’t tell her truthfully that it was easier to hide and run away.
“First of, as I told you yesterday my power has declined. If we fight with the Demon King like that our odds are slim. That’s why I intended to join hands with humans, but it seems my ill reputation as an evil dragon won’t permit the alliance. That being the case, I thought of reverting to my youthful body and once again developing my strength from scratch.”
“In that case, before attacking the Demon King you first intend to hunt suitable enemies, is that right?”
“Yeah, it helps that you understood it quickly. That’s right, first we start with appropriate enemies. For example, the living close——”
“Which Demon King’s executive are we crushing first? Or do we start with erasing a demon’s dungeon from the map?”
Since our definitions of “suitable” seemed to be fundamentally different, I couldn’t hide my unrest. It looked like everything besides the Demon King fell into an appropriate category.
“You know that if we suddenly make such a flashy move it’ll leak out to the Demon King? The basics lay in steadiness. I think that starting like the ordinary adventurers from the low grade dungeons and slowly regaining my fighting sense is the best policy. Besides, this way you’ll also be able to learn many different things, like pacing yourself in a fight.”
“Oh… I see. In other words the reason that Evil Dragon Lord is choosing this safe approach, is because of my lack of ability, is that right——“
Rēko clenched her teeth with a sorrowful face. It seemed she had various misunderstandings, but for the time being it looked like she agreed. Moreover, Ariante lent a helping hand.
“In human practices there’s also something like heavy-load training. It’s to purposely increase the difficulty of combat by wielding a sword heavier than normal, or a staff with awful magic power consumption. In addition to the wonderful rejuvenation medicine effect, Evil Dragon Rēvendia himself sealed his own vast magic power. Originally, his ability was such that even if he’d defeat the Demon King’s executive he wouldn’t accumulate any experience, but in the state where he drastically lowered his strength, even if it’s going to be a weak monster it’ll still become experience in its own way. It can be said it’s a clever idea.”
However, it was a barefaced lie. She was probably aware it was a poor excuse. Nevertheless, Rēko answered with “I see, as one would expect from the Evil Dragon Lord’s keen insight”, without showing a sign of distrust.
“That’s right. To sum it up I’m now intentionally restricting my power for the sake of practice. Even if I’ll be having a hard time with weak monsters, it’s simply all part of the training, you understand? Don’t get disillusioned, okay?”
“Something like getting disillusioned with the Evil Dragon Lord, even if the heavens and earth flip upside down, it would never happen.”
Rēko’s mood dropped a bit and she became sulky. I wondered what would happen if she learned I wasn’t an evil dragon in the first place, though no matter what I would never say it.
“It seems you’ve decided. Well then, come to my dojo. It was hastily rebuilt in one night, but we still have some quite excellent tools gathered.”
“… Been a while since I was last tired.”
After they gathered their equipment, Ariante saw them off from the wall and wiped off her sweat. That was a startling bunch. It wasn’t a simple matter of strength. The problem in the uncertain future was the involved grave bomb without a visible fuse. If it was possible, I’d have wanted to raise her for the sake of humanity. However, to be able to control that much power with ordinary means, a few decades of training was necessary. In that time, it was much more likely that the girl would become aware of Rēvendia’s true form, resulting in her breakdown.
If that was the case.
“A misunderstanding is fine. At least, please become strong enough to not hold her back, being of assistance to humanity.”
I prayed, which was unlike me. While praying, I started thinking in self-mockery, that it’d have been safer to cut them down last night. If I really was thinking about the well-being of humanity, for the sake of eliminating unnecessary risks I should have killed them both. If I got Rēvendia’s head, I could also indulge myself in the bounty prize.
It appeared that the gambling habit from my young days, which I thought I’ve cut off, has relapsed here. To look for hope in people I didn’t even know.
“Please do your best, Evil Dragon Lord.”
While she was smiling, the dojo’s door carried a loud clanging sound. When she fixed her expression sealing her lips, she took off the latch, opening the door. Standing in front was a young lad with short blonde hair.
“What’s your business, lad? I haven’t seen your face here before.”
“You, you’re the owner of the most remarkable dojo in this city, right? Please teach me.”
“I don’t know what reasons you’ve, but I’m not that free to teach a kid like you. Just looking at you, whether it’s your magical or physical capabilities, they’re just of an average child. You don’t have any battle experience either.”
“But, I’ve to stop him. I’ve heard from the gatekeeper, he was here last night, right? The one from our village, that shitty and annoying evil dragon bastard —— taking Rēko away.”
“You, could you really be a person from Rēvendia’s village?”
Behaving like he was acquainted with Rēko, and an extraordinary anger towards the evil dragon. It couldn’t be.
“Give me your hand.”
“Ha? Never mind that, quickly train—”
“That’s enough, your hand.”
Ariante grasped the lad’s hand. She didn’t tell it to Rēvendia and Rēko till the end, but essentially, Ariante wasn’t a swordsman; she was a sorceress who polished her art. This specific magic allowed her to discern truth from shaking someone’s hand.
“That girl’s — the dagger Rēko carried was yours?”
“You met Rēko?! Is she fine?”
“As of now, at least.”
While responding curtly, Ariante felt her frown deepening. This boy was probably the only person whom that girl formerly had a normal interaction with. I had no idea what amount of emotional attachment she still had for him now, but by careless contact, it was possible that he’d awaken her from her wrong assumptions.
“Hey! Please, I have to defeat him. If I’ve no talent, I’ll work two or even three times as hard. If I need money I’ll do all the chores in the dojo. I beg you, teach me!”
“… I’m in a bind.”
If I sent him away, he’d probably in one way or another try to catch up with them. And if he hurried, in a few hours he would have. After all, the current Rēvendia was far slower than a walking horse, and they’ve also just left the town.
Ariante cleared her throat.
“It’ll be a long and harsh training. Lad, what’s your name?”
“… Ah! It’s Raiotto. I’ll be in your care, teacher.”
For the time being, I’ll hold this brat down for about half a year.