It looked like Andal was awake. He was trying to move his body, and Priesia hurriedly took her hand off from his arm. She took steps back to move away from Andal.
“Excuse me, was that enough?”
Priesia figured that she won’t be harmed since she was the one who healed Andal and she also used her eyes earlier to confirm Riley’s intention. However… Perhaps because of the atmosphere that was unique to dragons, she could not help but to get scared from seeing the dragon move.
“If it is done, then may I go back now…”
It seemed Andal could not care less about Priesia who was cowering at the corner. Andal turned his head and looked at the boy under the mask. Andal vacantly blinked his eyes and said,
Priesia was overwhelmed by Andal’s humungous size. She was shriveling. However, after hearing what Andal just said, she floated a question mark on her face.
Riley was petrified.
Looking at Andal who just muttered his name, Riley said ‘no’ inside. He strained his eyes and started to flinch his facial muscles.
<Hey, it is not too late. Hurry up and correct this.>
Using a method that was closer to telepathy, Riley delivered his thought directly to Andal’s head while carefully glancing at what Priesia was up to.
“Just now, what did you say?”
Although Riley sent Andal a message, he was still tilting his head around as if he was clueless. Wondering what this was about, Andal said,
<Riley, you… Just what are you babbling about…>
Again… Again… Riley’s name was tossed out from the red lizard’s mouth. Riley’s face, which was hidden under the mask, flinched once again.
Riley felt like he knew why this red dragon had failed the amusement tour as a human being so many times. As if he was pleading for Andal to figure this out, Riley desperately called his name.
<What’s with that thing you have on top of your face? Is it a new mask?>
Riley understood that Andal just woke up, so he could be confused with the dream state and the awakened state. However… Instead of the response that Riley hoped for, Andal asked about the mask, which was not even close to what Riley wanted. Having observed this far, Riley was certain now that this dragon failed amusement tours as a human being so many times because he lacked the quick sense.
‘They said that one can make it half way by doing absolutely nothing, and…’
Riley was thinking that it would not have come to this if Andal didn’t do anything at all. Riley sighed.
“Just now, what are you talking about? Riley? Who are you talking about?”
Andal was tilting his head around, but it was Priesia who had even more puzzled look on the face. She took a step forward and asked Andal.
Having heard the voice from the back, Andal found Priesia. Andal lightly flinched his shoulder and stared at Riley, trying to ask what was this human doing in his cave. Andal asked,
<Riley, did you bring this human here?>
As if Andal was putting the very last nail to the coffin, he mentioned Riley’s name once again. With confused look on her face, Priesia went back and forth between the red scaled dragon and the masked man.
“By any chance…”
Priesia was staring at Riley. Feeling the gaze, Riley looked hopeless. He sighed.
Of all beings, Riley never thought he would be betrayed by the friend he saved. Feeling like he just got smacked on the back of his head, Riley just maintained silence. He then casually moved his gaze because of a presence he felt from the back.
“E… Excuse me!”
Nainiae had been watching the situation in secret. It seemed like she decided she should not let this go on anymore. Nainiae showed herself.
She was not in her usual maid dress. She was wearing shady getup of a kidnapper. She was even wearing the mask. Watching her walking in… Riley was so impressed. He muttered inside,
‘As I thought, you are the only…’
“Young Master. No, that’s not right… That is…”
Riley was about to think ‘As I thought, you are the only one I can count on, Nainiae.’ However, after listening to Nainiae hurriedly changing her words, Riley could not take it anymore. He lowered his head to the floor.
It looked as if he got smacked on the back of his head twice in a row. He felt like the head was so heavy that he could not keep it up anymore.
Priesia looked at the mask man, Riley to be exact, and carefully asked,
“By any chance, are you Young Master Riley?”
It was the right answer.
* * *
“See! As I thought, it was as the divine message said, right?”
Thanks to Andal who lacked quick sense, and thanks to Nainiae who also lacked quick sense, Riley’s identity was found out by Priesia in the end. Riley hung the mask on the top of his head as if it was a mask. He looked annoyed.
“Ah, yes… Yes… It was as the divine message said.”
“See. I told you that you might need me.”
Priesia thought that she finally proved Riley wrong for once. She placed her fist at her waist. Full of confidence, she lifted her shoulders.
“Well… Regardless of how things turned out, isn’t this a good thing?”
Andal had transformed to his human form. Looking at Riley who appeared to be uncomfortable about this, Andal scratched his hair and mumbled.
“It… it worked out well.”
Was it because she wanted to make Riley feel better? Nainiae, the one who made a mistake earlier, clapped and smiled awkwardly.
“Anyway, I am indebted to you, Priestess. I’ll repay you for this kindness later in anyway I can.”
It seemed even a dragon had to show respect to a Priestess. Andal spoke to Priesia in respectful tone. Priesia lowered her head and responded,
“About expressing your gratitude, I think you should do that to Young Master Riley. His method was not magnificent, but still, thanks to him, you got to receive the treatment.”
Even though Priesia was praising him, Riley was digging his ears as if he was annoyed. He then sighed big again.
“I’m sorry, Young Master.”
Nainiae was quietly standing behind Riley. Ashamed, Nainiae lowered her head.
‘The divine message or whatnot doesn’t really matter.’
Riley thought about Priesia boasting how she was right all along about the divine message and how they should have just followed it. Riley thought about all the bothersome things that were lying ahead and clicked his tongue.
‘That’s not the problem after being found out.’
Now, there was a possibility that Priesia would pester him about some divine message again. This was the reason why he was sighing since a while ago.
“By the way, why did you kidnap me? If you just told me about it honestly, I would have helped.”
“Now that I think about it, when I told you about a divine message during the last spring… It was about a dragon, right? You were so angry at me back then. Was it because you are acquainted with Mr. Andal?”
“Excuse me, Young Master? Are you listening?”
No matter what Priesia said, Riley kept on saying ‘yes.’
Suddenly, a flame burned up in front of his eyes. He blinked and looked at Andal.
“What the… What are you doing?”
“It looked like your mind had ran away from the host. That’s why.”
“Ha, you dumbass bastard.”
“That’s my line.”
“Huh? Is that how you talk to the man who saved your life?”
“I think you know very well how many times I cleaned after the shit that you pooped out. Isn’t what you did for me already well deserved?”
Andal and Riley was glaring and growling at each other. Meanwhile, Priesia was between them. She didn’t know what to do, so she started to glance around.
“First, please have some tea.”
Inside Andal’s cave, Priesia was sitting at a round table. Nainiae came and offered Priesia tea from behind, and Priesia asked her by whispering to her ear,
“Excuse me. Is this all right?”
“Um? What is?”
“I’m talking about Young Master Riley. He is picking fights with a dragon like that. I am concerned about him getting into a big trouble later.”
Priesia looked pale. Nainiae looked at Riley and Andal. They looked like they were about to eat each other alive. Nainiae shrugged and said,
“They are always like this.”
“A… always like this?”
Nainiae responded like it was nothing. With look of disbelief, Priesia stared at Riley.
“To start with, I thought it was so ridiculous to hear that you almost died because of a human. I was speechless? Seriously. Did you fight him while picking on your nose or something?”
“Ha! Look who is talking. I’ve heard that you received facial modification by a human? I wonder what was the Lazy-Sword Young Master doing at that time? How come he got face stumped on without being able to do a thing about it? Why don’t you tell me that you got hit while yawning, why don’t you?”
With violent eyes, Andal was exuding deadly aura. He was daring Riley to say one more word. Checking up on Andal’s mood, Priesia bit her lips.
“Is it really all right for them to act like that toward each other?”
Nainiae lifted the tea pot away from the cup and looked at Riley and Andal like Priesia. She shrugged her shoulders once again.
“They are friends.”
“You heard him earlier, right?”
Earlier, when Riley was wearing the mask, he called Andal as ‘my friend.’ Priesia remembered this, but she still couldn’t believe it. She asked,
“A human and dragon are?”
“At first, I was shocked too, but… Now, I don’t find it all that surprising.”
The atmosphere turned deadlier by the minute. Now, Andal’s magic and Riley’s sword flashed by once. Holding her breath, Priesia brought the tea to her lips.
“So? You are saying you are going to hunt that bastard down and kill him?”
“That’s right. It won’t end with just a desert, so I must.”
She didn’t know when they stopped fighting. The deadly atmosphere left the scene somehow. Instead, they were having a conversation in serious mood. Priesia had a sip of tea in her mouth as she filled her face with question marks.
“What if you get poisoned again when you go there again? Are you going to rely on me again? I am sorry, but I don’t want to do something like this twice? I think the back of my head will go numb again if I did.”
Just now, Andal was saying he was going to go meet the purple human that he encountered before. Riley mumbled that he won’t save Andal for the second time.
“Hmp! An illness like that… I can be completely healed if I shed my skin once. The situation was not so dire that I would have resorted to getting help from you.”
“You are a rascal who takes one hundred years to shed skin. What nonsense…”
“Well. If you are bent on hunting that bastard down, then I won’t object to it.”
Riley leaned on the chair’s back support and crossed his legs. Andal enjoyed the tea that Nainiae poured. He then turned his head to look at where Priesia was sitting.
“Priestess. What do you think?”
She was surprised. She asked back.
“I’m talking about that human bastard who is spreading the epidemic as he strolls around. Have you ever seen him? From Nainiae, I’ve heard that you cleansed the Karuta Desert.”
Andal was asking if Priesia met the human who drenched the desert with epidemic. Priesia carefully shook her head and said,
“No. I have never encountered in to him. It is just that… I had thought that I might have to chase him or I might run into him eventually. After all, there was the divine message.”
Priesia said she heard about the issue from Goddess Irenetsa. She looked at Riley and Nainiae.
“That is why I asked you to allow me to follow you.”
“Why? Did that high and mighty goddess tell you that you will have higher probability of running into that human only if you follow us?”
Riley fired right back at Priesia. She shriveled her shoulders. She was being passive and said her reason was not something like that. Priesia added,
“Of the… beings I could trust, Young Master and Nainiae were the ones who I thought were the safest to be with.”
Riley was not liking the part about the trust. He ground his teeth and shook his head as if he was so sick of this.
“I guess. I don’t know about Riley, but my pupil is trustworthy. Priestess, you made the right choice.”
“Nainiae is my pupil.”
Priesia was tilting her head to the side, and Andal explained that he was Nainiae’s teacher. Andal shrugged and took a proud stance.
Surprised, Priesia looked at Nainiae. Nainiae was holding the tea pot while standing behind Riley, and she nodded lightly at Priesia.
“That explains things. At times, I wondered if Nainiae was a dragon… So, you were Mr. Andal’s pupil.”
With his chin supported by his right hand, Riley watched the conversation that went off the tangent. He yawned big enough to stretch his mouth out and turned to look at Nainiae who was standing behind her.
“What time is it?”
“It’s about three in the morning.”
Riley crumpled his face. He took the hand off from his chin and got up.
“I had enough. I’m going to sleep.”
“Hey. I’m not done talking.”
“Go hunt him down or don’t hunt him down. Do whatever you want.”
Riley wished Andal good fortune, went straight to the bed that was prepared at the corner of the cave and closed his eyes.
“Ugh… I don’t know about that rascal, but Priestess, I think I’ll need your help on hunting down that human. I think the holy power will be the key… However, none of my kind knows how to handle holy power.”
“I see. Holy power…”
“I already received help from you, so I’m ashamed, but it looks like you will have to help me again. Epidemic and poison were not all of his abilities. That bastard…”
Using their voices as lullaby, Riley covered himself in blanket and went straight to sleep.
* * *
“… Riley, get up.”
It felt like somebody was tapping at his back with a foot. Riley cringed and struggled as he opened his eyes.
“What is it?”
He narrowly opened his eyes and looked up the sky. The sky was still littered with twinkling stars. Looking at the stars, Riley let out his frustration.
“Is this a joke? It’s still night time.”
“To be precise, it is early morning. Get up.”
Andal brought the tip of his boots at Riley’s back once again.
“There is a saying that early birds get the worms.”
“There is also a saying that outside of the blanket is dangerous.”
Now, even Priesia was urging Riley to get up quickly. It looked like Riley had enough. He crumpled his face and waved his hand to tell them to get lost.
Shortly after he woke up, Riley closed his eyes again to go back to sleep. However, he noticed something strange, so he opened his eyes.
He went to sleep at the cave. So, how come he can see the stars? That question was answered surprisingly easily.
“What is this?”
Riley opened the eyes again. He finally noticed the stars in the night sky and forest around him and realized what happened.
“… Why are we outside?