As they got closer to the dragonoid’s capital, the surrounding scenery gradually changed.
It was a sight that made even the courageous Lepard and the calm Grün look gloomy.
All dragonoid soldiers became pale. It was to the extent that the really severe cases repeatedly jumped off the chariots carrying them, and vomited violently on the spot.
It was likely the deed of the demon king’s army that investigated the vicinity or something like that after the capital had been attacked, but there were still traces left proving that the thoroughly burned, small settlements had remained the ones better off.
Corpses that looked as if they were kneaded by some powerful force.
Something human-shaped that had its entire skin peeled off and was impaled on a stake, which had been thrust into the ground, while upside down.
A road where heads, which had the despair at the time of their death carved into their faces, were endlessly lining up on the ground.
Women whose bellies had been ripped open, and children that were crammed into those tears as if it weren’t already enough.
Such scenes could be seen only at times, but the entire area was dotted with them.
“What a nasty taste.” (Emil)
These scenes were so tragic that even Emil, who was usually not perturbed by most things, let her feelings show. Only Renya turned his eyes towards those scenes with a mystified expression lacking any indication that he felt bad about what happened to these people as if he were simply examining them while patting Shion’s back, who felt uncomfortable while putting up with her nausea.
“You’re…alright, Renya?” (Shion)
Shion asked while feeling saved a bit by the warm sensation of his hand slowly and gently stroking her back.
There was no sign of agitation in Renya’s reply.
“Well, there’s certainly a difference in the level of cruelty, but they are still mere corpses.” (Renya)
Shion thought that he might be pretending to be tough with his calm voice, but after turning around, she couldn’t find any trace of him acting.
“How tough. I guess I can sum it up with as expected of you.” (Shion)
“Since I feel the evil intention, it’s a bad sensation. But, there’s something that seems somewhat odd.” (Renya)
The dragonoid army was currently moving through the middle of a plain not far away from the capital.
In proportion to the lack of obstacles, objects of bad taste were visible – even if one didn’t wish to see them – spreading across the whole area.
“Something odd? What is it?” (Shion)
“It’s so many corpses that they had scattered them over this vast area. A considerable number of people has already been killed, I think. In the worst case, isn’t it possible that there are no surviving residents in the capital?” (Renya)
Now that he mentions it, he’s certainly right, Shion assessed.
To scatter this many corpses all over the plains would require many more people than just a couple hundreds or even thousands.
It’s not that Shion knew the population of the dragonoid’s capital, but if they had been slaughtered by the tens of thousands, it was possible that there were no survivors left in the capital anymore.
“Besides, don’t monsters such as goblins, orcs or ogres eat people?” (Renya)
“That’s…you’re correct there.” (Shion)
Especially ogres, they are nicknamed Man-Eaters as they actively try to eat human-shaped creatures.
In front of their appetite racial differences only hold trivial nuances.
“Why did they create this scenery then? Aren’t these just fodder in their eyes?” (Renya)
Even if she set aside Renya’s way of thinking, seeing as he declared the corpses of people to be fodder without any hesitation, the points he brought up were on Shion’s mind as well.
At the very least Shion had never heard that goblins, who usually eat anything edible to the extent that they would even devour the corpses of their own kind, mutilated people in such a nasty manner.
What was more worrying was the fact that a great number of female dragonoids was included among those mutilated corpses.
Monsters such as goblins and orcs normally use the women they captured to increase their numbers without eating or killing them, or any distinction whether the captured women are humans, beastmen, or dragonoids.
However, for some reason only elves aren’t reserved for breeding purposes. They mostly get eaten or messed around with until the monsters get tired of them, but you could call this an exception.
“Incidentally, no matter how low their intelligence might be, they will at least station lookouts, right? The fact that our numbers are no more than a fragment of theirs should have been exposed one way or another, don’t you think?” (Renya)
Renya believed that to be a rather annoying fact.
As these feelings were apparently visible on his face and could be perceived from his aura, Albert, who noticed this while being slightly further away, began to get all squirrelly again.
“In that case…”
Renya concentrated his eyes ahead of the dragonoid forces’ march.
Over there a city with high walls started to come in view.
“Why can’t I see any signs of the enemy army around that city?” (Renya)
As Renya said, the dragonoid capital, which started to show up, calmly towered without any movements contrasting the terrible scenery in the vicinity.
There were no monsters around, or signs of anything flying in the air.
Furthermore no smoke was rising from the city, and no presence of living beings or sounds associated with life could be detected.
In front of that city, which seemed like an abandoned ruin, unrest started to spread between the soldiers.
“Weren’t there supposed to be tens of thousands of monsters stationed here?” (Renya)
“That should be the case, but…maybe they retreated or something like that?” (Shion)
Shion tried to voice out a possibility that came to her mind, but she immediately denied her own words.
After all there was no reason for the demon king’s army to retreat.
Certainly, they suffered a crushing defeat on one battleground thanks to Renya and lost quite a few troops, but in the end that was just one of many battlegrounds. It’s not like it’s going to influence the general progress of the war.
Speaking of the state of affairs, the demon king’s army was still occupying large sections of the dragonoid’s continent. Their remaining forces should drastically exceed those of the dragonoids, too.
“The army pulled back after hearing about the four heroes gathering here?” (Shion)
“Are the heroes so terrifying?” (Renya)
“Look at the heroes we have,” Renya pointed at Lepard and the others, who were advancing in a line next to each other, with his eyes.
Lepard, who noticed Renya’s gaze being turned their way as he apparently overheard the conversation between Renya and Shion, revealed an openly displeased expression. Grün smiled bitterly, and Kurz smiled innocently.
Only Albert didn’t understand what was going on. He nervously moved his eyes back and forth between Renya and the heroes.
“Come to think of it, where did those two priestesses attached to Kurz go…?” (Renya)
Although he confirmed that Kaede was next to Lepard, Renya realized that the two childish priestesses weren’t around.
Given that they were still very young, Renya didn’t feel like bringing them along to a battlefield at all, but Renya also knew that little-by-little they had somehow gotten close to Kurz .
“It looks like Kurz stowed them away inside the mist all of a sudden, saying that the battlefield was nearby.” (Shion)
“Is that actually fine? No, I think he wouldn’t have done so unless it’s fine, but is it really alright?” (Renya)
Renya didn’t really understand the true identity of Kurz’s black mist.
He somehow guessed what it might be, but if his thoughts were to be correct, the mist shouldn’t be anything decent, no matter the viewpoint. He worried whether the priestesses, who had been stored away while enveloped by that mist, were okay.
Seemingly sensing Renya’s concern, Kurz waved his hand atop his mount.
In Renya’s opinion, it should be almost impossible for Kurz to be any better at horse riding than himself, but Kurz safely handled his horse with one hand.
Having absorbed the skill and knowledge of everyone he had captured with his black mist, Kurz displayed a fairly proficient level of horsemanship.
Renya felt a little bit depressed over the fact that he couldn’t do something even a little child could, but Shion had the impression that the eyes of the horse, which Kurz was riding, were somehow empty, or rather, lifeless.
She thought that he must have done something bad to it, but since she would lose the opportunity to ride together with Renya if he became able to ride a horse with some kind of secret method just because she mentioned her concern, she remained silent.
Once Kurz swung his arm, a pitch black line was drawn in empty space along its path.
Renya furrowed his eyebrows after seeing the two beastman priestesses peacefully sleeping within the black mist that oozed out of the pitch black line.
“I wonder just what kind of theory is at work here?” (Renya)
“Sorry, Renya. I have absolutely no clue…” (Shion)
“That Kurz, he’s going to eat the enemies with that black mist, isn’t he?” (Renya)
“Are you worried that they will be mixed up with the enemies captured during battle, Renya? I think even Kurz is well aware of that issue…” (Shion)
Shion said, but Renya couldn’t deny the possibility that Kurz might have completely forgotten to take that into account.
He only prayed that those two priestesses wouldn’t run into a situation that would injure their minds.
If it came to a situation where those two priestesses appeared from within the mist with blood stains all over while having lost all light in their eyes once the battle finished, such a case would be impossible to handle in various meanings.
“I guess it can’t be helped even if I worry about it… Anyway, it’s not like the demon king’s army drew back just because the four heroes assembled, right? He’s still the demon king. The demon king, I tell you.” (Renya)
Renya’s impression after seeing all the heroes together was that the demon king wasn’t that much of a threat if he could be defeated by those four.
Assuming he considered Kurz as a special case since Frau tampered with him somewhat, he couldn’t believe that the demon king would become such a dreadful threat, even if he added Yuuki, whom he fought before, to the other three heroes besides Kurz.
But, currently Renya was reassessing those thoughts.
After all, the demon king did not only attack Klinge with his offshoot instead of his main body, but also achieved a draw against Frau.
It wasn’t just any draw either.
They fought under extremely advantageous conditions for Frau as they did so next to Klinge, Frau’s base and source of power, on top of the fact that the demon king’s main body and the offshoot were separated by a very large distance. And yet it resulted mostly in a draw that was achieved by Frau making her copy blow itself up by using Renya’s mana, after being outmatched in both mana and strength.
“An opponent that somehow or other achieved a draw against Frau who can pressure a hero quite a bit if they were to go one-on-one? There’s no way they would pull their army just because they heard that the four heroes have gathered.” (Renya)
“Yeah…the more I hear about Klinge, the more nonsensical that city becomes in my mind…” (Shion)
It was common sense in this world that even if all the forces of a nation were to be mobilized, they wouldn’t be enough to kill the demon king.
A single city repelling him, even though it was his offshoot, by itself went far beyond the term outlandish.
Shion feebly murmured that while looking as if she had utterly given up, but Renya continued without minding her.
“Even though it’s an army dispatched by such a demon king…and albeit it would seem fine even if they came out to annihilate us in high spirits after learning about our few numbers… There not being signs of a single living being in the city; just what does that mean?” (Renya)
“No, even if you ask me, I don’t know. I don’t know, but…” (Shion)
While pondering how to answer his question, Shion manages to come up with an answer.
“…how about asking the opinion of the other members if it bothers you so much?” (Shion)
“I can’t provide an answer that will be of much help to you, but if it’s Rona and Emil, they might at least come up with some kind of educated guess.” (Shion)
“I see, that makes sense. Alright, everyone gather for a moment!” (Renya)
The four heroes, Rona, Croire, Emil, and Kaede approached Renya while wondering what was going on.
While the dragonoid soldiers watched them, pondering what they intended to do at this point in time right in front of the enemy, Renya and the others formed a circle with their horses while ignoring the looks focusing on them, and began a meeting then and there.