It was the morning of their second day on the journey. Lapis was watching the sunrise and got totally mesmerized by it. In front of her was the bonfire, which surprisingly had not gone out and was still blazing brightly, beneath her buttocks was a tightly-wrapped Gula.
“The morning feels so refreshing…”
“I don’t feel refreshed at all…”
“Please consider this a lesson. I’m starting to wonder if you’re actually Lust and not Gluttony…”
Of course, there was a reason for Gula’s current state. The Evil God had sneakily slipped into Loren’s tent just before his watch shift was about to end, yet was caught by Lapis. She said she wanted to see how comfortable a high-quality sleeping bag was, but Lapis was certain that her goals were somewhat different. She then immediately properly tied her up with a rope, so that she couldn’t move.
“Don’t lump me with that guy…”
“Aren’t you two the same?”
“Not at all?! I’m being like that with Loren, not with anyone else! But Luxuria is indiscriminate!”
The one Gula mentioned was the Evil Gold of Lust, whom they had encountered in a previous job. Recalling what she had witnessed back then, Lapis could feel the refreshing effect of the morning disappearing, and a spectacular frown appeared on her face. Despite his title, the Evil God of Lust was, for some reason, a macho queen. He had betrayed a lot of Lapis’ expectations for Lust, and the trauma, he had burned deep into her mind, was still present.
“Is that so?”
As long as Gula’s target was Loren, Lapis didn’t care if she was indiscriminate in her taste or not. Lapis could never overlook such a thing, and she would stop whoever went after Loren, be it Gula or Luxuria. Just that in Luxuria’s case, Loren probably would also receive some mental damage, so she guessed Gula was somewhat better.
Loren and Tizona woke up a short while later, and after exchanging morning greetings with them, Lapis immediately started to prepare both breakfast and lunch. It’d be troublesome to get the cookware and such ready on the road, so it was better to make lunch now. They could munch on it later while walking.
Lapis first made a simple stew with salted meat and vegetables. She served it with some bread and with this breakfast was done. After that, she lightly toasted some bacon and vegetables, and sandwiched them between two slices of hard, crunchy bread for lunch.
When Lapis was wrapping the sandwiches in cloth and putting them into her luggage, Gula, who was still tightly tied up, spoke unhappily:
“Lapis-chan, that much is not enough at all.”
“You really want to eat up all of our supply, don’t you?!”
Lapis had made ten sandwiches. Loren, Tizona and her would have two each, and the rest was for Gula. But from Gula’s point of view, even if all of them were for her, it still wouldn’t be enough.
Lapis wanted to save some of the food considering what was left of their supply, but she had a hunch that Gula wouldn’t listen if she told her to tolerate her hunger. With no other choices, she prepared the remaining ingredients and made twice the amount of sandwiches she had planned. Gula was still unsatisfied, but reluctantly gave in after being told there was nothing left.
“I feel like I’ll have heartburn right from the morning.”
“There’s no other way but to get used to it, I think.”
Lapis gave Loren and Tizona their servings of stew and bread, got her own and then shoving the rest to Gula, who had been untied by now. Gula greedily wolfed it all down directly from the pot. Manner wise, it was an appalling sight, enough to make one lose their appetite. The other three ate while trying to avoid seeing her as much as possible, and breakfast ended like that.
They broke camp and started the second day of their journey.
From this point on, security on the highway began to worsen little by little. There weren’t any big towns nearby, and the place their party was heading to was on the very edge of Vargenburg’s territory. Naturally, there were not many patrols or workers in this area, and so the chance of encountering thieves, bandits or monsters increased.
“Normally, we should proceed with caution.”
Lapis muttered in an exasperated tone when a man burst into flames in front of her eyes.
A startling scream rose up, and people tremblingly watched the burning figure. But the flame continued to lick at its victim with no concerns, until the man became ashes and scattered in the wind.
“You thought your number would be enough for an ordinary group of four travelers, didn’t you?”
Loren swung his greatsword with a roar. The blade cleanly cut into a man’s torso, leaving his lower-half body standing on the ground while sending his upper body flying into the sky. Looking up at the shabbily-dressed body, Lapis sent out some magic bullets. They pierced the heads of the men surrounding her, leaving red, white and pink pieces of flesh and bone scattered magnificently in the air. Lapis looked at them with pity.
“Tizona, can you do something about how you kill them? If everything is burned to ashes, I won’t be able to scavenge their pockets.”
They were attacked by ten or so bandits, at a spot where the trees along the road were thick enough to hide in. They had noticed the bandits beforehand, but everyone believed finishing them off would be better than taking a detour. Right now, the bandits were having the bitter experience of being demolished right during their attack.
“Scavenging these bandits? You must really need money.”
“Whatever sum I found will lessen the burden on your own pocket, won’t it?”
“…How about this?”
Tizona seemed to agree with Lapis’ argument. She waved her hand lightly, and the flame enveloped a bandit’s head. The fire didn’t spread to his body, and only his head turned into ashes. The headless corpse fell to the ground, the cross-section at the neck burned black. Compared to the corpses slashed by Loren and head-blown by Gula’s magic, it looked much prettier.
“You really can do it if you want to, don’t you?”
She should have done this right from the beginning if she could. There was no need to burn everything down: what could be used should be used, Lapis believed.
Tizona looked at her with a slightly disgusted expression.
“It’s a hassle to aim.”
Tizona replied and continued to turn another bandit into a headless corpse.
It was easier to scavenge like this. Lapis fished around the corpse’s pocket and found some copper and silver coins, which she gave to Tizona.
“Is it alright to give them to me?”
Tizona looked at the coins and then back to Lapis, who answered in a light tone:
“I think the employer should have the first right to whatever found during a job.”
Actually, what she found wasn’t much, and she thought she should just give it to Tizona, who bore the heaviest financial burden in this job.
“When we fight against monsters, could you please use the same trick? We can’t sell their body parts as raw materials if they’re burned to ashes.”
Tizona, who had been fighting as a mercenary, had never thought about scavenging money from her fallen opponents or selling monsters’ bodies as raw materials.
“That reminds me, you don’t have any weapons, Tizona.”
Right at that moment, another body was sent flying to the sky. It had been roughly cut off diagonally from the shoulder and was now whirling in the air, scattering blood everywhere. It was a common sight since she had partnered with Loren, and she had gotten used to it by now. Still it was not a pleasant sight to behold, Lapis thought and turned her gaze to Tizona’s waist.
Tizona’s armor was surely splendid, but she didn’t carry any weapons from what Lapis could see. Seeing as Tizona worked as a mercenary, she wondered why.
Noticing Lapis’ gaze, Tizona slapped at her own waist:
“If I’m in a serious fight, it’s better to not carry any weapons.”
Tizona answered laughingly.
Her reply made Lapis feel uneasy. Even magicians carried staff – it was just common sense to carry some sort of weapon. Tizona seemed to expect her to understand underlying reasoning, but Lapis just couldn’t.
“Aren’t you a swordsman?”
She looked like a swordsman, she just couldn’t be a magician with that heavily-decorated armor.
Tizona held out both hands, and two swords of flame appeared in her palms.
“There’s no need to carry around something I can conjure myself, right?”
“But you can’t parry with them, can you?”
Lapis asked. A bandit charged at her from behind but was destroyed by fire, leaving behind only four limbs and a head, which were falling to the ground. Looking back over her shoulders, Lapis noticed something like tooth marks on the severed body parts. She frowned and glared at Gula, who had just used <<Predator>>, her Evil God power. Noticing Lapis’ stare, Gula bowed repeatedly. She probably couldn’t endure her hunger anymore. It would be a serious problem if Tizona noticed though.
“They can burn off my opponents’ weapons in battles.”
As if to prove her words, Tizona used her flaming blade to parry the axe another bandit was swinging at her. The steel blade and the flame blade passed through each other without any resistance at all, but the steel blade was cut into two pieces and fell to the ground.
The bandit looked at his axe in disbelief, and Tizona turned her blade around and cut off his head. The flame burned and sealed off the wound, and the bandit quietly became a corpse without a single drop of blood spilled.
“This is absurd. I feel bad for your opponents.”
Lapis thought it would be too much if what she had seen today happened on a battlefield. If you kept a distance from Tizona, you would be burned by a high-temperature flame with no way to defend yourself. But if you got closed, you would be done by a sword of fire that you couldn’t even parry.
Lapis believed she could fight against Tizona using demonic abilities. But if she were to fight her with the power of a priest only, she would have no choice but to surrender immediately.
“You’re kind, Lapis, to feel bad for bandits.”
Lapis tilted her head in a puzzlement. Was it strange to feel pity for those who got trampled on with no decent chance to fight back? But the bandits, the object of her pity, had been completely annihilated by then, and Lapis could only offer the corpses scattering on the ground an offhand, silent prayer.