「—I'm so used to it, this one too...」
Alexis checks the comfort of the gauntlets he has put on and then puts a large shield on his back.
They are all made of magic crystals, and they were the ones he had used as his primary weapon when he conquered Avalon.
However, he did not bring shields of Lorenzo and spear-swords of Lorenzo, which he used in the battle against God. They are national treasures, symbols of the god killers, placed in the home country of Sagrado.
Now, Alexis had returned to the luxury hotel he had rented and was getting his equipment ready.
Like Eden's personal belongings, Maria's and Alexis' personal belongings are not so different from the time of the conquest. The reason is that it gives them authority as the conquerors.
And the reason why people seek trade and exchange is that they are the conquerors. They want to be associated with the "real" heroes. Therefore, making the presence of Avalon visible is a form of diplomacy.
This is indeed an excessive amount of equipment for a simple journey around the world, but it kills two birds with one stone since it also protects them from thieves along the way.
Alexis finishes putting on his full body armor, shield, and spear sword and looks at Maria and Eden. They have also finished their preparations and have gathered together.
Maria is dressed in braids and round-framed glasses, wearing a conjurer's robe over chainmail and carrying a staff, and Eden is dressed as usual as a personal guard.
「Maria, you changed your hairstyle to that one. It looked good on you, that secretary look.」
Maria's cheeks turned vermilion when Alexis pointed this out.
「Does... Does it matter? Besides, we're dealing with a human being. They'll be more careless, won't they?」
「Well, that's true.」
Her attitude is as usual, but it is indeed less harsh to be told like this than to be told in a formal secretary's outfit. Rather, it seems like a timid woman is trying to be strong.
「...I guess it's better to have more pawns...」
Alexis is convinced and says, "Well!"
「They should be ready by now. Let's go.」
""Ye"", they nodded in unison.
* * *
They were waiting in front of the east gate, which leads to the highway from the capital town of Dushan.
In front of them stood two wagons flanked by merchants from a merchant company.
「Oh, that's the magic crystal we've heard so much about!」
「That's wonderful! I've never seen precious metals of this quality!」
As soon as people see Alexis and the others, the merchants are in an uproar.
They first focus on the material of the magic crystal, as expected of merchants.
「Hey! You guys, you should greet them first!」
With a clap of her hands, a young woman breaks through the crowd and appears.
She wears her wavy red hair down to her waist, a dress and a leather corset. She has a clear impression with dark skin and turquoise eyes.
And when she looks back at Alexis and others, her blue jewelled hair ornament ruffles on her hair.
「Pardon me, Conqueror」
She must have heard from the King because, without hesitation, she walks straight up to Alexis and the others.
「I am Ilaana Saldivar, the leader of the caravan. Please accept my warmest regards today.」
Unexpectedly, she looks at Alexis closely as she asks him to shake hands with her.
At her waist hangs a slender sword, but it is not well armed.
Because of her equipment, Alexis couldn't help but say, "Is it all right?"
「This mission. Have you heard from the King?」
「Yes, of course.」
「This mission is dangerous for sure」
「I'm aware of that」
「Especially for a woman like you」
「Yes, I know. That's why I've come forward, Conqueror」
Ilaana's piercing eyes look into Alexis' eyes.
Alexis shuts his mouth and looks back into her eyes.
（What's going on?）
He realizes this and becomes silent.
But soon, he decides he cannot remain silent and gives her some advice.
「...You may not be safe...」
「You're worried about me?」
Surprisingly, her eyes widened.
「Well, of course...」
「But you are a royal family of a foreign country, aren't you? I was told so...」
She looked doubtful.
But it was short-lived. Rather, she mumbles and smiles at me, "—No need to worry about it."
「This mission cannot fail. For that reason, a woman should be there, too, to increase the success rate.」
After hearing her unafraid manner, Alexis couldn't say any more.
「...In that case, I can't guarantee your safety」
Alexis's words caused a stir among the other merchants.
「It's okay, I'm ready」
She said this to the merchants, then went to one of the wagons and flung open the curtain.
There were piles of crates of various sizes.
When she opened one of them, a magnificent armor made of steel and decorated with gold appeared.
「As you can see, this load is armor. The wagons in the front row are commodities.」
She pointed and spoke, then pointed to a row of wooden crates mixed in with the armors.
「I've opened three of those crates, so you can hide yourself inside them.」
When Alexis thanked her simply, the girl nodded and closed the lid of the armoury that had been left open.
Alexis, Maria, and Eden then climb into the back of the wagon and hide in the empty boxes Ilaana had told them about.
After Ilaana re-curtains the load, she urges the other merchants to get into the wagons.
Ilana sat beside a merchant on the coachman's stand in the front.
Ilaana pointed ahead.
The carriage starts to drive slowly toward the eastern road.
* * *
The coachman of the merchants, led by a woman merchant, soon comes to the forest entrance. At that moment, the sound of horses running can be heard from behind.
The merchants stop chatting and listen.
"Are they coming?" one of the merchants says. But Ilaana shakes her head.
「Wait—they'll get suspicious. Pretend not to notice and continue chatting」
With that, the merchants resume their chit-chat.
「Well, I'm glad we made such a good purchase this time.」
「I never thought I would be able to get such a great product...」
「I bet it will sell at a high price.」
They continue to drive the carriage, maintaining an air of normalcy.
Meanwhile, the sound of horses running behind them is gradually getting closer and closer, gradually increasing in number.
But soon, Ilaana whispered to the merchant who was playing the role of a coachman.
The merchant nodded his head and increased the speed of the carriages with a crack of his whip. The following carriages follow him.
The sound of the horses' hooves approaching from the rear also increased, and they came closer and closer.
The merchant cracked his whip more, but there was too much difference in speed between a horse pulling a loaded wagon and a plain horse.
Soon, mercenary-looking men riding horses approached from both sides to surround the merchant.
Then, three horses blocked their path in a circle.
The middle one shouts in a loud voice.
And the carriage comes to a halt.
The men look at the wagons as if licking their lips, showing their swords and axes in their hands.
「That's quite a load, isn't it? And there's a woman too! Who's the boss?」
「I'm the boss.」
Ilaana stood up, and they whistled.
"She's quite pretty, isn't she?"
"Not bad. I like her," they talk for a while.
「Can you leave this wagon with its contents?」
While saying this, the merchants try to reach for the weapons they carry for self-defense against the grinning faces of the others. However, the people surrounding them were probably twice as many as the merchants. There must have been twelve or thirteen of them.
They pulled swords, spears, and axes out of their hands before the merchants could reach them.
Meanwhile, even though this group of merchants is working together and carrying weapons, they are not professionals in combat.
And gradually, they start to look at each other in fear.
「Hey, are you sure about this? Boss...」
A merchant finally, seemingly unable to bear the uncertainty, speaks to Ilaana.
「—Well, who knows?」
That was Ilaana's reply.
The merchant turns pale and gasps.
「Hehehe. So, what do you do now? —Well, whatever. Merchants are evil. I don't mind killing evil.」
As soon as they realize that the men intend to kill them, the merchants abandon the wagons and run away.
The men try to follow them, but when they see Ilaana take the reins of the wagon and drive the horses, one of them shouts, "Wait, don't scatter!"
「The first priority is the wagons! Don't let them escape!」
Following the instructions, the men stopped scattering their horses and again surrounded the wagons.
The horse pulling the wagon staggered as it ran out of steam.
Ilaana grits her teeth as the men get off their horses and climb onto the coachman's platform on which she rides.
Ilaana tried to reach for the sword at her waist, but before she could reach for it, the men had her in their arms and had her tied up with a noose.
「Stay quiet, you little sissy」
The man says, licking his tongue.
「We kill men, not women. —We'll have plenty of fun, though.」
"Bastard," Ilaana snarls.
The man's face turns sour, but then he smiles, his lips twisted into a smile.
「You're the lowlife merchant. Even though you are rich, you are still a greedy, greedy scoundrel!」
The man leaves Ilaana on the coachman's stand and takes hold of the wagon's reins.
And he said, "Let's go home, boys!"
Then, the wagon is driven toward the deeper woods.
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