The party left Kapha city, and their journey so far was a little better than expected, though they didn’t manage to get far on the first day. All they did during the day was following the main road and exchanging greetings with the occasionally passing travelers.
Since they couldn’t go farther than planned, they decided to set up a camp on the plain along the main road and called it a day.
“Is it just me, or we’re going a little slow?”
“No, everyone feels the same, except for one person.”
“The reason is… surely that.”
Lapis said, as she was looking at two exhausted donkeys. Everyone could see that they were a bit overloaded and, Gula, the reason of this increased baggage load, showed a weak, apologetic smile:
“Sorry. I eat a lot.”
“It’s alright for us, but the donkeys are pitiful. Apologize to them.”
“Sorry guys. I just eat a lot.”
Gula said and repeatedly bowed to the donkeys. Tizona just smiled wryly but Lapis, who knew Gula’s true identity, watched the unbelievable scene with a perplexed expression. Lapis didn’t know who called them Evil Gods for the first time, but she wondered how that person would feel seeing such a being bowing to a pair of donkeys.
Lapis’ expression became even more perplexed when Loren stacked up the huge amount of branches he had cut and picked from their surroundings into a pile.
“Tizona, light these up.”
Loren thought that as someone nicknamed ‘Hellfire Sword’, Tizona would be a master in using fire. But she protested with a merciless expression:
“Wait a minute, I’m not a tinderbox. Besides, there’s green wood mixed in this, isn’t there?”
“Can’t you dry them?”
“It’s not that I can’t, but… Well, you know my nickname, don’t you? Should my ability be used for things like this?”
Tizona asked with a rather pitiful expression. Surely this was a too lowly work to ask of a twice-named mercenary, wasn’t it?
Loren calmly replied:
“I don’t care. If you don’t want to do it, then buy firewood in the next town. Of course, this will be added to our expenses, and given that we will be camping a lot due to the round trip, you need to buy enough for future use. Alright?”
“…Just let me do it.”
Buying firewood would further increase the expenses, and so Tizona reluctantly changed her mind. She then lifted her hand over the tottering pile of wood gathered by Loren.
“Can you dry the green wood?”
“It’s alright if I just heat them up and do not burn them, right? In the worst case, I can force them to burn.”
“Isn’t that magic?”
Asked a priest of the God of Knowledge, who suddenly became curious about the process.
It didn’t look like Tizona intended to hide anything, so she answered while scowling at the pile of wood:
“It’s my blessing. Another one aside from <<Roast>>.”
“That’s really convenient, isn’t it? To be able to use magic to dry things…”
“I’m not sure, but it’s not supposed to be used like this. Rather, you should be more surprised about me having two blessings.”
“Now that you mention it…”
Aside from Tizona, Lapis hadn’t met any other person with a blessing… except for a certain adventurer named Klaus. He had a blessing called <<Boost>>, which allowed him to increase his own power and the power of those he touched. Klaus had never mentioned having another blessing, so Lapis wasn’t sure if he was hiding it or if Boost was the only one he had. However, judging by the way Tizona spoke, it seemed that for one person to receive two blessings was extremely rare.
“I have not only one, but two rare blessings. And now I’m using one of them to dry your firewood…”
“You’re using it for a peaceful purpose though?”
“Why does it sound like you are trying to give a noble purpose to my blessing here? Isn’t it strange?!”
“What blessing is it, by the way?”
“It’s called <<Heat>>. I’m using it to dry firewood now, but this is what I used to burn our employer’s troops. And it’s where my nickname comes from.”
Said Tizona and her left hand twitched by a small spark that immediately turned into the fire. As she clenched her hand into a fist, the fire started to grow and took a shape similar to a sword.
“This is how <<Heat>> is originally used.”
Tizona opened her left fist, and the sword disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. There was no actual need to draw a sword, she simply wanted to show it to them.
Lapis exclaimed, truly impressed:
“You really don’t need a burner at all.”
“You’re the first one ever to have that kind of reaction after seeing <<Heat>>.”
Tizona continued silently drying the firewood, but her shoulders now had slumped in disappointment.
After solving the issue with fire, Loren and Lapis managed to somehow prepare Gula’s dinner. But when Tizona checked the amount of wood left, she became utterly surprised:
“Wait, how could you use up almost all the firewood?”
Tizona dried up quite a lot of firewood, but the amount left was barely enough for a bonfire. She was even unsure if it could keep fire going throughout the night.
To answer her astonishment, Loren wearily pointed at Gula:
“We used more than half of it to cook… Complain to the big eater over there.”
“I’m not even half full.”
Gula said sadly while rubbing her stomach. Tizona saw her devouring enormous amount of food, yet could not fire out where the hell did all go. Even more strange was that fact that her stomach didn’t even look bloated.
“I have a feel that we’ll need to stock up once more before reaching our destination.”
Lapis muttered in dismay while opening her map. The donkeys’ load was quite heavy, but it lightened up considerably after just one camping and the donkeys now looked somewhat happier. However, if this continued already after the second camping they would run out of food. It wouldn’t be possible to reach their destination if they do not stock up at a village or a town along the main road.
“Physical activities increase appetite, huh.”
“Loren, is this really okay?”
Lapis pointed at Gula, who procured a toothpick from somewhere and was chewing on it. Loren was unable to give her an answer.
Saying it was not alright would mean throwing Gula out. What bothered him about doing so was not her being indispensable but the prospect of her actions afterwards. Rather than dumping a dangerous crate of combustibles without knowing where it would end up, it was better to spend some money and keep it within sight.
“It can’t be helped. We won’t find any solutions even if we try to. Rather than that, let’s decide the order to keep watch, then go to sleep.”
“Well, let Gula keep watch for the whole night then.”
“Wait a minute! I want to sleep too.”
Gula spat out the toothpick and protested, to which Loren and Lapis looked back at her dumbfounded. Unsure if she said something strange again, she faltered a bit.
Lapis asked her, sounding rather confused:
“Do you even need to sleep?”
“I do?! I’m still a living being, you know?!”
“Haven’t you had enough sleep to rot your brains off? Not sleeping for a few days is still alright for you, isn’t it?”
“You don’t even intend to let me sleep even just once?”
“Please work as much as you eat.”
Lapis said matter-of-factly, and Gula’s expression turned sad.
Thinking that she couldn’t let things progress like this, Tizona intervened:
“I’m not sure how serious you are, but she’ll die if she doesn’t sleep for four days.”
“But she won’t. At most, she’ll just have some hallucinations.”
“Why don’t you just let it go? The one whose pocket hurts the most is me, isn’t it?”
Gula hung her head at the poison secretly hidden behind those words.
Seeing that Lapis had no objections, Tizona took out an hourglass from her luggage:
“The sand will run out in exactly two hours. Since there are about eight hours left until morning, let’s take turns and keep watch for two hours each.”
“Should we draw a lottery?”
“No, I proposed it, so I’ll go first.”
And so the order of keeping watch was decided like this: Tizona ⇾ Gula ⇾ Loren ⇾ Lapis.
Hearing this, Gula energetically leapt at Loren as if her dejected expression earlier had been all a lie. Loren didn’t have any time to dodge her advance and ended up having her clinging tightly to his arm. He tried to shake her off, but she held on firmly with both arms, making it impossible for him to push her away.
“In that case, sleep with me, Loren.”
“Why should I?”
“Cause our sleeping bags are the normal type, while yours are high-quality. It’ll surely feel different, right?”
It was true, but that didn’t mean he should comply with her wish. Gula embraced him in bed just recently, and the situation back then was really dangerous. If she did that within the tight confines of a sleeping bag, he would simply burst.
However, he didn’t think that Gula would accept a refusal. Thinking that he was just human, Loren proposed a compromise:
“You can use my sleeping bag then. The normal one is fine for me.”
“But that’ll be meaningless. Two people will be warmer, right Loren? Right?”
Gula rubbed her body against Loren. At this very moment, Lapis approached her from behind and covered her from head to toe with her sleeping bag. She even neatly tied Gula up with a rope while Loren watched on in astonishment. Like this Gula wouldn’t be able to come out when her turn arrives. While Loren was wondering about such things, Lapis tossed a tightly-packed Gula into her tent and turned to look at him.
“You don’t feel regret or anything, do you?”
“Thank you for saving me.”
Hearing his thanks Lapis looked relieved. She then bade Loren and Tizona goodnight and crawled into her own tent.
“Sorry, it’s quite a trouble but when it’s Gula’s turn, can you take her out of the sleeping bag? I think she won’t be able to get out on her own.”
“Well, I’ll leave it to you then.”
Loren waved lightly at a nodding Tizona and slipped into his tent. A day of walking had worn him out, though not as much as the matter of Gula’s appetite, and sleep came soon after he crawled into his own sleeping bag.