Several hours later.
The Hero Party Crack of Dawn departed for their Silver Golem extermination expedition.
The moment their servant beasts were released from their hut, they moved around wildly for a few seconds, glad to finally be free. After looking towards the party’s mansion, however, the gryphon emitted a cry and stopped.
The gryphon’s cry served the purpose of scanning its surroundings, but no one in Crack of Dawn realized it.
<Nnh…he’s not in the mansion either…maybe something happened to his family and he left on a trip…? I cannot act if I don’t know what happened, can I…>
<He’s not around…>
The twin wolves hung their heads low.
Left with no other choice, the servant beasts followed behind the Crack of Dawn members. The party then borrowed a cart at the Adventurers’ guild and rode it through the town.
As regulated by the guild, there were two coachmen on the cart. They were retired middle-aged adventurers, with particularly rough looks on their faces. One of them was driving the cart, while the other stood guard in the back. He was looking at the guardian beasts running behind the cart.
He noticed that one of the magic wolves disappeared, but the next instant it returned, holding a rabbit in its mouth. The sight of the two magic wolves fighting over it was almost adorable, but when the rabbit’s legs were ripped apart and the scene turned feral, the coachman’s brow furrowed.
“Your servant beasts sure are in high spirits.”
The coachman in the back talked to the Tamer Eric, who was next to him.
It might seem like he was implying that Eric wasn’t controlling them properly. Unaware of such hidden meanings, Eric raised his head from the book he was reading.
“Yeah, I guess…”
“I’ve never seen a gryphon as a servant beast before. They’re really powerful, it must be amazing to have one. They’re also very difficult to control, right?”
Eric wasn’t too keen to chat, but he properly replied to the coachman.
The title of “Hero” had been awarded thanks to the ranking the guild managed. It was supposed to be a comprehensive evaluation, but there were unclear sides to it.
There was nothing to be gained from acting rudely to guild workers. The coachmen were employed by the guild, so Eric had to humor the conversation.
“How did you manage to tame it?”
“….I found it all charred black at the foot of the “Mount of Fire” and caught it. It was wounded and weak at the time, so I thought I could use it as a shield, but after the taming it recovered, so I just kept it.”
“Oh…I see…what amazing luck you have.”
What Eric meant by “taming” was probably placing a subjugation collar on the gryphon.
The coachman had its doubts that such a thing could really happen, but he didn’t let it show.
Gryphons were magic beasts of a very high level. It could be possible to place a subjugation collar on them when they are weakened, but after they recover the collar wouldn’t be enough to keep them under control. The coachman would have never believed such a story if he didn’t see the gryphon obediently follow the cart.
It was apparently possible to subjugate magic beasts without a collar, if they were physically weak or were weak-willed. Some farmers actually used magic cows and other beasts without collars and used them for farmwork. The coachman had also heard that in countries by the sea they used dolphin magic beasts for fishing.
Gryphons, however, were magic beasts well known for their harsh temperament, so it was hard to believe that there were ways to subjugate them outside brute strength.
…there must be something secret here after all?
The coachman recalled the reason why he was chosen for this job.
Thanks to many years of experience as a thief, he was confident in his judgment. That was the reason why this job was assigned to him. The guild’s ambiguous order of “find out if there’s anything problematic” stimulated his curiosity.
A “Hero Party” was one of the country’s top parties. To investigate such a party at this point meant that there was a strong reason to do so. It was either connected to the church, or maybe they were suspected of unfair play?
The coachman glanced at the female cleric Bonne, cozily sitting on a very comfy cushion in the best seat of the cart.
Crack of Dawn was too close to the church.
Bonne’s father was part of the brass in the Supreme God Church; Bonne herself was a candidate for the role of “Holy Woman”.
“Close” wasn’t enough to describe their connections.
For the Adventurers’ guild, which did not enjoy the best of relationships with the church, it wasn’t a pleasant affair.
Regardless of the fact whether the party engaged in unfair play or not…it was an undeniable fact that other adventurers looked at Crack of Dawn with suspicion.
The coachman himself had witnessed these party members fighting several times. They were certainly not weak, but individually there were plenty of stronger adventurers. For example, there were better thieves and clerics working for the guild.
The three servant beasts, however, had elevated the party’s status to be worthy of the title of “Hero Party”. Their presence was much too powerful.
Knowing that their tamer was a former archer, anyone would suspect that there was something hidden. Many had already tried to uncover the secret behind Crack of Dawn’s servant beasts, but no one ever reported discovering anything suspicious.
During battle the servant beasts fought in total cooperation with the party. Their movements, flowing like water, even made the party members look awkward at times.
Servant beasts were, obviously, magic beasts. Barring a small number of species with high intellect, magic beasts normally possessed the same level of intellect as normal animals.
Some species with high longevity eventually acquired intellect on par or superior to humans, but it was hard to think that such magic beasts would ever become servant beasts.
Three servant beasts with an intellect equal to normal animals, trained to be capable of fighting alongside humans…their tamer had to definitely be skilled.
The adventurers’ suspicions met the conclusion that the tamer Eric, a former archer, had to be a genius.
“Could you tell me the name again?”
“No, not your name, I meant the servant beasts’ names.”
The coachman smiled a bit, thinking that his conservation partner made a joke.
“They don’t have one!!”
Maybe embarrassed by the misunderstanding, Eric spat back and returned to his book.
The coachman looked at him, his shoulders dropping.
…they don’t even have a name? Or maybe he was embarrassed and couldn’t say it?
The coachman looked away from Eric and reflected.
Servant beasts were beings full of mysteries. Battle-oriented servant beasts could rarely be tamed before the invention of subjugation collars. One of the reasons was that no principle had been found as to how magic beasts could be tamed.
After all, the reasons explained by tamers were many and sometimes even conflicting. Some said that defeating magic beasts and showing them superior power allowed them to be tamed, while others said that once their hearts connected they would understand each other. Others even said that giving a name to the magic beasts bound them, thus turning them into servant beasts.
There were rumors of a powerful magic spell, the basis upon which subjugation collars were made, and magic drugs that could manipulate their minds. There were even stories of tamers who listened to the magic beasts’ words and made them into servant beasts, which sounded like a fairy tale.
Because of this, most tamers were people who changed jobs halfway and were outside the usual master-disciple system.
Based on this knowledge, the coachman first tried to ask about the servant beasts’ names, but that proved to be ineffective.
Well, if this party really has any problems, I bet the cleric acting as a holy woman is in the center…
The coachman then gave up on finding the servant beasts’ secret for the time being and switched stance.
He only tried talking to Eric because he was close and would be easy to talk to: he wasn’t the one the coachman suspected the most.
The coachman and Crack of Dawn would be together the whole day. There would be plenty of chances to know more about the female cleric.
Thanks to the servant beasts, it wasn’t really necessary to keep watch. But when the coachman looked again towards the back of the cart, he found the twin wolves playing with the rabbit they caught, tossing it back and forth. The gryphon had caught a deer, who knows when, and was half dragging it along.
Where did it even catch it?
Surprised by the speedy hunt -the deer hadn’t even made a sound- the coachman realized again how powerful a beast the gryphon was.
The cart Roa and Nostalgia’s members were riding was far ahead of Crack of Dawn’s cart. When they reached the halfway point to their destination, they decided to take a rest.
Rest stops were placed at fixed intervals along the roads. They were managed by villages or towns nearby, so their appearance and structure were varied; some were just pillars and a roof, others even had tea shops and snack stalls.
The rest stop Roa’s group stopped in was a fairly famous one in the area, which also had a tea shop inside. While rough, it was a building made of stone. There were even tables and chairs set on the grass all around it. It was bustling with a crowd of travelers.
“Okay, I will leave for a little while then.”
As soon as the cart reached the rest stop, Roa was about to go off somewhere.
“Wait a minute! We’re supposed to be your escort! Don’t go off on your own! Hey!!”
Dietrich shouted at Roa, then Kristoff quickly caught him. Because of the sudden “escape” Kristoff took the relatively rough course of action of putting Roa in a joint lock.
“Ouch!! It hurts!!”
“Where do you think you’re going!?”
Caught in Kristoff’s joint lock, Roa was returned to the other Nostalgia members.
With no idea why he was treated like that, Roa looked at them, utterly confused.
“Where…? I was just thinking of gathering materials while you ate…there’s a small river behind this rest stop, where a lot of Whiteroot Grass grows. The rest stop manager already authorized me to gather things there, so there’s nothing to worry about that.”
Whiteroot Grass, a kind of medicinal herb, grew close to small bodies of water. It couldn’t be used to make magic potions, but it could be used to make normal medicine to bring down fevers or cure infections and was also edible.
“…Roa, man, are you really aware of your position? You aren’t, are you? We were hired to escort you. What happens if the person we have to escort takes off on their own?”
Roa tilted his head to the side at Dietrich’s words.
“But around this rest stop it’s pretty safe, you know?”
“That’s not the problem! What about your food, anyway?”
“…I was thinking of nibbling on some dry meat while gathering…”
“C’mon, you have to eat something properly at least!”
“But if I don’t pick up the Whiteroot Grass…”
Dietrich and the other Nostalgia members held their head with their hands. The conversation wasn’t leading anywhere. Behind them, the coachmen laughed wryly.
“Hey, mithril boy, listen here.”
Dietrich raised his head and looked at the coachman.
“Being from another country, I guess you didn’t know yet, but in this country All-Rounders don’t eat with other party members. In rest stops, while the others eat, they have to check the supplies, fill in anything missing or do any chores that they can’t do while the cart is moving. For Mr. Roa too it must be something like a habit.”
Dietrich looked at Roa, who nodded in agreement.
“I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have acted on my own.”
Listening to the coachman’s words, Roa realized that he had acted on his All-Rounder instincts. When he visited this rest stop with the Crack of Dawn party, he went to pick up Whiteroot Grass every time. While it could be found near any small river, as far as Roa knew the Whiteroot Grass near this rest stop was the most effective as a medicinal herb.
He didn’t often have the chance to visit this rest stop, so for Roa gathering Whiteroot Grass was the highest priority.
“Er, if you apologize you put us on the spot even more…”
Cornelia understood the situation, but was not sure about how to deal with it.
For Nostalgia, Roa was the person they had to protect; even though they were paid by Coralde, he was also their employer. One of their duties was to respect their employer’s wishes as much as possible, but they would have never expected their employer to act like an All-Rounder.
Roa understood what he did and felt really terrible about it, his countenance turning pale too. This probably happened because of his experience of being scolded when he was in Crack of Dawn.
Even if I told Roa that “you’re the employer, you should take charge and give us orders” right now, I’d just confuse him even more…
Cornelia was reflecting on the issue, but it was a rather tricky one. Kristoff and Bernhart shared her sentiment.
Kristoff, despite having put Roa in a joint lock, did not know what to say either. Bernhart, who was expressionless, talked very little, had not much of a presence and was shy to boot, looked the same as before, but he was concerned too…probably.
“…okay. So it’s important to go gather that Whiteroot Grass, right?”
The question came from Dietrich.
“Yes. The quality here is very good, so…”
Roa whispered in response, weakly.
“…I see. Let’s go get it all together, after the meal.”
“One more thing! Don’t make us worry again! If you have to act on your own, tell us first!”
Roa’s answer was full of energy.
Dietrich flashed a big smile and nodded.
Except Roa and Dietrich, everyone was stupefied by the sudden development.
“You wrapped it up by treating your employer like a kid?” was what pretty much everyone wanted to say, but Roa seemed convinced, so they decided not to. More than anything, they did not want to risk endangering the situation after it was apparently solved. Everyone thought the same and swallowed their words.
If someone talked, Roa would probably be confused the most. No one wanted to do that to the most important person in the current situation.
“Anyway, to make Roa work without food is pretty horrible.”
Dietrich was more angry with Roa’s past working environment than his decision to go off on his own.
“….well, but that’s normal.”
Kristoff interjected in the conversation.
“That was his role, so it couldn’t be helped. Leader, when you’re having a good time, eating or napping, I go out to gather information sometimes.”
“You’re not going to say that you never noticed, are you?”
Kristoff’s cold gaze stabbed Dietrich.
“No, I mean, of course I did! Every time!”
“…mithril boy…us coachmen take care of the horses or check if the carts aren’t damaged while you eat…”
“I noticed, I really did! Why is everyone accusing me anyway!?”
After Dietrich’s lame complaint, Kristoff and the coachman looked at each other and smiled wryly.
Kristoff jokingly pointed out Dietrich’s poor choice of words because he wanted to prevent Roa, after being scolded like a child, regarding Dietrich as above him in rank. The coachman probably understood his intentions and joined in.
Coralde had told them not to act as if Roa was inferior to them and Nostalgia’s members did not think of him as being below them from the beginning. Because of his habits, however, Roa himself acted as if he was below them, which made things difficult.
If, on the other hand, they treated him as superior excessively, he might end up feeling outside their circle.
The ideal relationship was that of a spunky brat and his serious friend: a relationship between equals, in which Roa could easily discuss with Dietrich what he wanted to do, and in the end, Dietrich would make the final decision. At least that’s what they all thought…
…except Roa and Dietrich.
“Okay, got it! Let’s all eat together. After the meal, we’ll split and go gather Whiteroot Grass, take care of the horses and check if the carts are damaged. How does that sound?”
Unexpectedly, as Kristoff and the coachman thought, Dietrich’s conclusion included Roa’s wishes and treated everyone as equal.
“Well then Roa, after the meal tell us where the Whiteroot Grass grows.”
Roa nodded vigorously.
He finally got used to addressing me without “Mr.”….
Unaware of everyone’s thoughts, Roa was simply happy that Dietrich called him without titles, naturally.