Chapter 45 – A Lonely Hand


Then, a while later.

After discussing with Azel what needed to be done, Wadler went back to work, saying that he’d put Ulysse in charge of guiding us around since he still had work to do.

He heard about Azel’s visit in his busy schedule and still came to greet him. They didn’t see each other often, so they probably had a lot of things to talk about, but they couldn’t afford to do so.

So, instead of stopping him, we saw Wadler off and decided to look around the inside of the naval headquarters base with Ulysse leading the way.

—That was just fine, but…

“…Hah……hh…”

Sweat trickled down my cheeks. They were working around without rest, so there was no helping it. I wiped it off with the back of my hand and moved my feet strenuously.

In case you were wondering why he was so desperate…

Azel strangely seemed eager to get the inspection over with. He was on work mode and looked around the base at an extremely fast pace.

We were only walking since the naval base had a rule where you “must not run on hallways”, but it already looked as if we were having a walking race.

Clack.

“This is the dining hall! The soldiers can eat for free, if they take a minimal amount of food. We buy as much food as we can from the city and keep the economy around the neighborhood going!”

“Alright, their nutrition ain’t a problem. But the menu is insufficient. It’s fine even if you charge them for it, so at least put something for them to indulge in on the menu. In that case, the chef, no, let’s see… Hire an assistant. There’re soldiers that have been put out of commission for certain circumstances, right? It’ll be easier than instructing a commoner the military regulations from scratch. Plus, if they got the aptitude for it, you can train him as the replacement chef.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Next.”

Slam.

Suddenly, a demon lord appeared from the opened door. It was a horror phenomenon.

Right after that, the words uttered in rapid succession in a curt and blunt manner left the soldiers beyond the opened door stunned as they froze like stones.

I wondered how many times I had seen this kind of scene.

Those poor soldiers didn’t even have the time to take the grains of rice that were stuck in their mouths. Neither did they have the time to stand up straight when the head of the army they work for, and of the realm, came in for a surprise inspection.

Azel took a moment to look around, analyzing the scene he saw from there, finding the good and the bad points one after another, and if it were something that could be improved immediately, he would order Ulysse to deal with it on the spot.

If it didn’t look like it could be done, he would write down what they could do for improvement and troubleshooting on the parchment he had at hand for the meantime and give it to Ulysse.

Azel was in that sort of work mode, and Ulysse was just smiling and effortlessly following him, seemingly used to this particular inspection of Azel.

He wasn’t falling behind the walking race, and he was quick to write down what he was told.

He seemed to be quite the expert at manipulating magic, just as you’d expect from a demon who studies magic tools, and was able to control pen and paper mid-air without trouble, writing neatly even without a binder.

They both smoothly did their own jobs individually.

I planned on helping them if they didn’t have enough people, but seeing how things were like this, I guess they didn’t need my help in the slightest.

“Hah, ha… Nngh…”

The current situation was me struggling to keep up, rather than helping them. I was also unable to break into their conversation.

Hmm… There’s no point in me being here at the moment.

I didn’t know why Azel was in such a hurry, he wouldn’t even look at me. He would only look ahead. I knew it was his job, of course, but still.

Clack.

“This is the training grounds! …They are trained by units, and in addition to naval combat, they are trained for land combat.”

“Hah? Aren’t you mistaking that for a playground? What’s with those navies who came out of the water? Are they dying fishes? Well, they all move sufficiently and in order. But improve that one further. You have to get them in line a lot faster.”

“Shall we increase their training time?”

“No… Don’t. Make sure you train their physical reinforcement magic, not just their own natural abilities. They aren’t like the air force, which highly comprises of high-ranking races, and everyone in the army already mastered it. Then, if they can use magic of water attribute, they can surround and move the enemy by generating a water field in the air. If they can’t swim, just swim. I’ll send an instructor from the army to teach physical reinforcement magic. Don’t remove their basic fitness training but replace it with another program. You don’t have to increase the time.”

“Understood. I’ll inform father!”

“Okay, next.”

Slam.

Ugh, there’s still more? After a total of three hours of racing, I was starting to get a little out of breath despite being a reinforced human being.

No, I called it walking race since they were demons, but I was in a marathon. My forehead was covered in sweat.

Azel continued to tour the main rooms and facilities on the base, doing the inspection in a short time that would normally take several days.

I was useless, so the least I could do was to simply follow them, so that they wouldn’t be inconvenienced nor would I be left behind.

Though… After running for three hours straight, it’s quite hard. But I’m still fine. Totally fine.

Azel glared and growled at the setting sun, and just went on and on eagerly.

Ulysse, who was standing beside him, stepped back a little and stuck his tongue out at me.

“You must be exhausted. You don’t have to come if you can’t keep up. I came here to welcome my lord, after all. I don’t need extras.”

“Hah… N-No, I was given the task of ‘accompanying Azel’. So, I’ll follow him until the end… Ha…”

“Hmph…! How cheeky!”

He snorted at me with reproach when I hardened my resolve and shook my head despite being told that I wasn’t being helpful.

Ulysse puffed out his cheeks, obviously in bad mood, and quickly ran away from me. He then went next to Azel, linked arms with him, saying ‘Let’s go!’ as he pulled him forward.

—Squeeze…

“Nnnh…?”

I felt my chest tighten a bit.

Why is that? Did I eat something strange this morning? It’s not like I picked up some food anywhere and ate it.

For some reason, I felt a bit disheartened when I saw them with their arms linked. Then, I placed my hand on my chest and slightly tilted my head.

Azel hadn’t noticed it, but… Ulysse was probably in love with him.

That was why he took his arm, alluring him with physical touch, and threatened me whenever I got close.

If so, then I should keep my distance from Azel and make sure that Ulysse wouldn’t get jealous. I could at least do that, but I wouldn’t really be able to help him since I also had to respect Azel’s will.

But somehow, it felt a bit… lonely.

Once I came to, I gazed at their backs that had become far away from me as I slowed down my pace.

My gaze unconsciously pierced through their linked arms and I suddenly had become aware of my hand that no one was touching.

“…Hm, right. His left arm was free, so he just lent it for a bit.”

I felt like I was all alone again, but I suddenly remembered that Azel’s left arm was free, and my eyes lit up again.

I firmly clenched my hands, and started to run forward, picking up my speed again.

Alright, let’s get to work.

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