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The first answer that would come to Renya’s mind when asked to describe what he thought the demon territory would look like would be hell. A sky carpeted by low-hanging, thick clouds all year around. A desolate land with miasma continuously gushing out. A landscape where objects difficult to identify as animals or plants would thickly infest the whole area while creatures difficult to identify as birds or reptiles would soar through the sky, croaking strange cries. All of this describes what Renya would expect or anticipate from the demon territory.
However, as Renya gazed at the scenery spreading out beneath him while his hair fluttered in the wind on Dra-kun’s back, he noticed that reality was significantly different from what he had imagined. All he could see was an extremely normal setting that could be described as the epitome of commonplaceness. Soil, plains, thickets, and forests were all present, and even mountains roamed the horizon.
He couldn’t see any mountains similar to Mt. Tsurugi, nor any swamps blowing up poisonous gases day and night.
Even if he were told that this was the demon king’s territory, he would just shrug it off as some kind of local joke.
“Demon territory?” Renya asked with a somewhat dumbfounded expression, as he pointed at the scenery below them.
Both, Shion and Rona, simultaneously nodded with seriousness written all over their faces.
“Although it doesn’t look demonic in the least?”
“I don’t know what you’d describe as demonic, but…” Shion muttered while peering at the landscape beneath with keen curiosity. “It’s definitely quite a letdown. I was pretty sure that the demon king would be waiting for us at the head of his army once we broke through the wall.”
“It should have caused quite an uproar when we broke through the wall, for sure.” Rona said with a somewhat evil smile.
Renya was about to tell her that the wall wasn’t intended to function as a punching bag that they could relieve their stress on, but barely managed to stop himself from blurting it out. On top of it already being done and over with, he believed that Rona and the others wouldn’t really understand the term punching bag either way. Instead, Renya asked Rona something completely different.
“Rona, how’s Emil’s response?”
“Please give me a moment.”
Rona pressed both her hands on top of each other against her chest as if holding onto something. In that state, she slightly lowered her face and slowly began to chant something in a whisper with her eyes closed.
Compared to just a little while ago when she had slammed a powerful divine art against the barrier, this skill was quite plain. However, if anyone were to hear that the effect of Rona’s art was capable of covering almost the entirety of the demons’ lands, they’d be clearly astonished by the tremendousness of its effect.
The figure of Rona seeking the whereabouts of the person in her mind by praying for god’s benevolence looked holy in some way. Renya thought that she should always act like this, now that she had been designated as the saint. At the very least, Renya felt like he could do without a saint who looked down at everything with scornful laughter while recklessly and randomly shooting powerful divine arts in the name of god.
“As expected…of the demon country.” Rona grumbled quietly with a slightly pained voice after some time had passed. Her expression was strained, and a faint sheen of sweat covered her forehead. “The use and effect of my divine arts is being obstructed.”
“So you’re saying that you can’t locate Emil?”
Rona guessed that the power of all divine arts, which by nature borrowed the power of the gods, might be significantly inhibited because the demon king was pretty much a being that opposed the gods.
Assuming she’s right about that, the gods, who lose out to a being of the lower world like the demon king, sure are pathetic, Renya judged. But, considering that the gods expressly summon heroes from other worlds since even they can’t do much about the demon king, this might actually be a valid assessment. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel they should put some more energy into their work.
“No, it’s just vaguely, but I somehow have an inkling as to where to find her. I might be able to narrow it down a bit more, once we get closer.” With those words, Rona pointed in a certain direction.
Seeing that, Liaris started to adjust their flight path by instructing Dra-kun.
“Hey, I’d like you to correct me if I’m misunderstanding something, but…,” While Dra-kun begun to alter his direction in accordance to Liaris’ instructions, Renya, who had been admiring the sky and scenery around them, called out to Az who seemed to be free, “…if we fly in this direction, we’re going to deviate from the demon country’s center at least somewhat, aren’t we?”
“Really? I wouldn’t know…”
After having endlessly flown above the Miasma Forest which lacked anything one could call a landmark, they were now flying above the mostly uninhabited demon territory. Even if Az roughly knew the direction they were flying in, there was no way for him to know whether they were heading towards the center of the demon country or to a place far from it, no matter how extensive his knowledge might be.
“Somehow I feel like the central area is over there.” Renya was certainly pointing in a direction that was slightly different from Dra-kun’s current direction.
“Do you have some kind of basis for that claim, Renya? You’re certainly not going to say that you’ve already visited the demon country in the past, are you?” Croire laughed, adding, “Though I wouldn’t be too surprised even if you had actually come here before.”
Given that Croire had asked while following Renya’s finger with her eyes, Renya lowered his hand, and said in a tone that lacked confidence, “It’s just that I feel something really bad coming from that direction. The guy with the worst presence in this country should be the demon king, right?”
Croire nodded once Renya added that the demon king ought to be in the direction of the central area.
“That makes sense.”
“Isn’t it great that we’re heading into a slightly different direction then?” Az said after being lured to look in the same direction as Croire. “Our objective is to secure Emil and then go back. If you had said that she’s actually in the demon king’s stronghold, I’d be horrified, considering that the heroes aren’t with us right now.”
“You’re absolutely right ~no. If possible, it’d be best to wrap up this entire expedition without fighting at all ~no.” Frau agreed with Az, making a very unhappy face as she apparently remembered something.
Frau was the only one among those present on Dra-kun’s back who had actually experienced fighting against the demon king, albeit only against one of his terminals. Frau was always feared or instead loved because of her merciless personality and her outlandish abilities, but in that battle one of her own dolls was completely destroyed, apparently triggering her to harbor a strong feeling of hate towards the term demon king. But then again, although the demon king had certainly been the reason for its destruction, it would also be possible to retort that Frau had been the one to push her doll’s self-destruction button, but none of those present was capable of saying that to her face.
Even for Renya it’d be next to impossible to rebuke her like that. In case she got offended by it, her revenge would be disastrous, and on the other hand if she started to cry, he’d feel completely guilty about it. The broken doll was apparently a product into which Frau had poured her heart and soul, and its destruction obviously had a fairly lasting effect on her.
However, Renya couldn’t help but to feel that it being destroyed might have been for the best.
“We’ll follow the basic principle of avoiding battles that can be avoided. We’re in enemy territory after all.”
“I don’t have a shred of hope that we’ll be able to avoid battle, though.”
“Renya saying things that are very atypical of Renya…isn’t that an omen for bad things to happen?”
Leaving Rona alone, who sighed anxiously, for the time being, Renya grabbed Shion, who tried to get away from him, and put her in a rear naked choke. As soon as he put some strength into his choke hold while paying attention to not choke her for real, Shion fainted rather quickly.
While returning the limp Shion to Rona, Renya addressed Croire while keeping a wary eye on their surroundings, “How is it? Can you see anything?”
“There’s one thing that bothers me.”
While letting his eyes cautiously wander around, Renya frowned at Croire’s reply. It’s because Renya himself hadn’t been able to spot anything that would make him worry. It seemed as if no one else had noticed anything unusual either. Only Croire was surveying their vicinity with a serious expression.
“Did something happen?”
“I do understand that the demon population is rather low, but…”
If the demon population was as large as the elves’, the world would likely fall into their hands with ease. Even if there were as many demons as humans or beastmen, the world would heavily tilt towards being dominated by the demons. And even if the demon population were around as large as that of the dragonoids, the world’s power balance would be far worse than it actually was. It was a common opinion in this world that things hadn’t developed in that direction simply because there were so few demons around. This also proved how much of a difference in ability existed between the demons and the other races.
“Okay, so what about it?”
“I think we’re making quite some progress with Dra-kun’s speed, and yet I haven’t spotted a single demon ever since we entered the country.”
Now that he was told so, Renya took another look at the area beneath them. Things that looked like roads were cutting through the very ordinary landscape. If this had been the human continent, it’d be possible to find some sparse travelers or peddlers using the roads, but Renya and the others certainly hadn’t seen a single figure walking on the ground ever since they had trespassed into the demon country.
The situation would definitely change for them, depending on whether this was due to some kind of abnormal phenomenon or simply because they hadn’t run into one of the few demons by chance.
“Well, it’s already odd that no one has come to intercept us, despite a dragon invading their territory.”
“As expected, you think so as well, huh?”
The possibility that they hadn’t been noticed yet was very low, but not zero. Even if they had caused such a big stir outside the wall, it didn’t necessarily mean that this racket had been passed on to the inside. Although the probability of that being true was pretty much zero.
And even if this abysmally low possibility proved to be correct, they were still flying on a dragon across demon lands right now. If the demon king hadn’t noticed yet, Renya felt that killing him wouldn’t be that big of a deal. If this was the case it would result in lowering the gods’ reputation even further, seeing as they were unable to deal with such a weakling, but such an outcome would be natural.
“We broke the wall while being so noisy and flashy about it, right? If this was the elven country, the whole country would start to deal with it by dispatching armies to intercept the intruder right away. Right after they had entered, we’d annihilate them with all the firepower we’ve got. Then again, the elven country doesn’t have enough power to surround its territory with such a large barrier,” said Croire with a laugh, clearly sounding like self-mockery.
Having already woken up, probably because she was nursed by Rona, Shion said with a pensive expresion, “The humans would…I guess it’s questionable how we’d react. Since we aren’t as unified as the elves are, just making a decision could take several days.”
“Even just the Trident Principality might need a day or two to act in some way.” Rona supplemented, but Renya suspected that the humans would still be stuck in meetings to coordinate a common front, long after everything was over. Read this story, without ads, on the translator’s site at infinitenoveltranslation to keep it going!
By the way, since the humans wouldn’t be able to pull off something which even the elves couldn’t do, it was virtually impossible for the humans to erect such a massive barrier around their territory.
“Maybe they’re watching to see how things pan out? What do you think, Az?”
“I don’t know any advantages that they would get from taking such an approach, but it might have some logic since their side might not be able to grasp our objective.”
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that demons would find it difficult to imagine that a human like you would go out of his way to invade the demon territory just to search for a demon.” Az said with a broad grin, and everyone except for Renya nodded, their faces dyed with comprehension.
Being the only one left out, Renya glared at Az with disappointment written in his face.
“It’s not like I’m trying to insult you here. I’m just saying that your actions are far outside the norm for the people of this world. …I’m actually praising you, so stop it with that hand.” Az started to thrash around, grabbing Renya’s wrist as Renya’s hand had crept upon behind him trying to grab his neck.
Renya should have the clear advantage when it comes to muscle strength, but he couldn’t quite get his hands around Az’s necks, maybe because Az was surprisingly persistent, or because Renya went easy on him. Still, with the option of stopping apparently non-existent, Renya somehow managed to slip his wrist out of Az’s hold, and tried to place his hand on Az’s neck again.
One could think that this was the wrong place for them to dick around, but the other members didn’t even try to stop them, and merely watched the two men grapple with amused looks. Dra-kun, who experienced such an uproar on his back, secretly spat out a fire breath that could be counted as a sigh while still being wary of their surroundings.
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