A few hours later, Cornelia and Bernhart were cutting up the third magic beast of the day. Next to them, Kristoff was standing guard. Roa, escorted by Dietrich, had gone looking for herbs to harvest.
Apparently, there were rare mushrooms in the area…said Roa as they quickly disappeared among the bushes.
Because of the experience acquired during his visits with Crack of Dawn, Roa knew to a certain extent what grew where in this forest.
“It’s just too weird.”
Kristoff, while keeping wary of the surroundings, spoke to the two members working on the carcass.
“Yeah, this is really pretty weird.”
Cornelia agreed. Bernhart was silent, but his expression showed that he too shared their same opinion.
The dead body they were cutting up belonged to a King Serpent. It was a snake magic beast, about as large as a man’s torso. It wasn’t poisonous, but its biting and constricting attacks allowed it to defeat even Wild Boars.
It was the third magic beast Roa and Nostalgia encountered in the few hours after entering the forest. Because of the repeated fighting and dismantling of the magic beasts, they had barely made any progress: they were still in the outer part of the forest.
Two Wild Boars and a King Serpent. Both types of magic beasts normally dwelt deep in the forest. Since gathering materials from monsters was one of their objectives, they weren’t using Roa’s special monster repellent, but even without considering that, the situation was bizarre.
“All these beasts should be further in, we’re not supposed to be encountering them around here. When we found the second Wild Boar, I thought they were moving as a pack, looking for prey, but then a King Serpent comes out? This is just plain weird. Detection also shows that there are a lot more beasts around than usual, I guess there must be something going on deep in the forest?”
“That’s right, encountering beasts like these here is really unusual. Because of them, we’ve only progressed half of our plan…”
Cornelia replied to Kristoff, but her expression was not troubled.
King Serpent’s skin and meat both fetched good prices, so she was glad they could hunt one. While cutting the beast up, she found out that it was a female and could collect its eggs, which could also be sold for a good sum. For Nostalgia, which was in a dire financial situation, it was a very welcome turn of events.
Despite having fought three magic beasts in a short span of time, they were still full of energy and in great form.
….though, we can’t let our guard down…
Cornelia realized that the prospect of big profits and her own condition were causing her to lose focus, so she reprimanded herself. She knew that her good condition was because of Roa’s medicinal candy. She wouldn’t get conceited and let her guard down so easily. She renewed her focus, rolling the bitter candy inside her mouth.
“Something must be going on, but I wonder what?”
“The worst case would be a Wyvern…no, well, the absolute worst would be a dragon. Anyways, a strong magic beast probably appeared in the forest and they’re all fleeing from it. We don’t have enough info to draw a conclusion yet.”
“….dragons are out of the question, but even against a Wyvern we can’t do anything by ourselves…”
“Crack of Dawn apparently took down a Wyvern on their own.”
“They have a flying servant beast though.”
The ability to fly by itself was a large advantage. A Wyvern with its membrane wings ripped would fall to the ground, where even Nostalgia could have a chance against it, but the simple ability to fly made it almost impossible to attack.
It was possible to launch magic attacks towards the sky or to boost one’s physical abilities to try to jump and attack it, but it left a lot to luck; failing to land a strike also meant leaving openings for counterattacks.
As long as there wasn’t a real emergency, they would never use such a haphazard strategy.
Those were the dangers of flying enemies.
Flight magic did exist, but very few could use it: those who could use offensive magic or wield weapons while flying were even fewer.
“Servant beasts, huh… by the way, the boss didn’t thank Roa for saving us, right? He said he would say it himself, so we’ve been keeping quiet, but…I guess he lost the perfect timing…”
“….he sure did. Our dumb leader probably forgot all about it…”
Kristoff and Cornelia nodded to each other.
Nostalgia’s members and Roa’s first encounter was not their meeting in the guild actually.
Some time before, magic beasts had overflowed from a dungeon: the guild ordered all of its adventurers to deal with the emergency.
That time, Nostalgia’s members had just arrived in the country, so their countermeasures against land monsters were not well organized. Dietrich had pushed himself hard to protect the other members, suffering a grave wound in the process. That time, Roa healed him with magic recovery potions.
Roa was accompanied by one of the magic wolf twins then, so Nostalgia’s members thought he was a tamer. When they learned that he was an All-Rounder they were surprised, but also started being interested in him. It could be said that that episode was the reason why they accepted this request.
Roa’s actions that time had been instructed by the party leader. Crack of Dawn, as a “performance” to raise their contribution level to become a Hero Party, sent Roa to go around healing adventurers other than Nostalgia too. For Nostalgia, however, the fact that Roa saved them remained the truth.
The next day, when they learned that the potions were handcrafted by Roa, they only felt even more grateful.
That time, Roa had helped many people, so he didn’t remember all of them, but Dietrich wanted to find the right timing to properly thank him.
…or at least that was the plan, but during the first meeting Roa’s meek demeanor caught his attention, so they didn’t talk about it.
On board of the carriage, when the coachman mentioned being saved by Nostalgia a good chance appeared, but Dietrich was too down in the dumps to talk: at the rest stop they were too focused on Roa running off to gather Whiteroot Herb to mention it, and after that Dietrich seemed to have completely forgotten about it…
“Our boss can’t think about two different things at the same time, after all…now he’s focused on the escorting so he probably forgot about that.”
“He’s really dedicated when he’s working…”
Bernhart’s hands did not stop working on the carcass, but he nodded to Kristoff and Cornelia’s words.
“Hey, looks like they’re back.”
A bit after Kristoff’s words, the sound of footsteps on grass could be heard.
“We got a huge catch, people!”
Roa and Dietrich appeared from between the bushes, with a loud announcement atypical for that forest environment.
Dietrich carried a large basket from which a large number of toxic-looking red items poked out. Roa, walking next to him, had a sort of resigned expression.
Kristoff looked at the toxic-looking things with clear suspicion.
“Mushrooms, all mushrooms! I know they look like one bite could kill you, but they can apparently be used for medicine. For aphrodisiacs even! The moment I heard we could make aphrodisiacs I asked for some! Lately things have been going pretty well with Felis from the inn, so with some aphrodi-mghshr….”
Dietrich couldn’t finish his sentence. With what failed to become a proper shout, Dietrich’s body was blown backwards, the mushrooms in the basket scattering through the air.
The red mushrooms formed a pretty arc in the air, which Roa gazed at, in a daze.
“We’re here to work!! You dumb adult!!”
Dietrich’s quick trip through the air had been caused by a swift kick from Cornelia. Powered by her full body armor’s weight, it would be fierce even if she held back.
Her face was bright red, maybe because of anger or perhaps out of embarrassment, as Dietrich quickly destroyed the praise she had just assigned him.
Kicked in the air, thrown on the ground, rained on by red mushrooms, Dietrich mumbled again what seemed to have become his favorite phrase.
“Do you really need these suspicious mushrooms?”
After she calmed down, Cornelia asked this question. Her eyes, turned towards Roa, looked very strict.
As this was work for her too, Cornelia wouldn’t say it outright, but her cold gaze indubitably meant “Throw the ingredients for medicine like that in the trash”.
“The medicine made with these can be sold at a very good price, you see. Mr. Coralde told me that if I ever found some I should bring it back right away…”
Roa was shaken by her gaze, but replied firmly. He wouldn’t use those ingredients himself, but they were very important both for him and Coralde. They couldn’t just toss them away.
“….even if you say aphrodisiac, it will only have a mildly exciting effect on people…it’s not a magic potion, so it only works on couples that already like each other…besides, making love potions that would work without a person’s consent is a crime.”
Magic spells and potions that bent others’ will existed, but were treated as taboo and were illegal in most countries.
Making so-called “love potions” that influenced a person against their will was not allowed. At least… on the surface.
Dietrich, who had been kicked away and was now slumping on the ground, mumbled “so it’s okay for me and my Felis…”, but fortunately Cornelia did not catch it. If she did, another flurry of blows would have probably rained on him.
Kristoff, on the other hand, thanks to his ears trained for scout work, caught it and whispered “No way…” to himself.
Felis was the daughter of the inn where Nostalgia lodged, but the fact that she felt affection for Dietrich was very far from the truth. There was no need for investigation: everyone’s eyes said so clearly. This “truth” only existed in Dietrich’s brain, probably.
“Besides, I don’t think I’ll make aphrodisiacs with the ones gathered this time. Mr. Coralde said that they needed ingredients for cosmetics after all.”
“Those mushrooms apparently stimulate the areas of the human brain that have to do with “sexuality”. They can work as aphrodisiacs, but if women use them one of the side effects makes their skin prettier and hair glossier. The Coralde company thus started selling them as cosmetics, lowering their aphrodisiac effect. They say that they’re pretty popular among nobles lately.”
The aphrodisiacs made with those mushrooms -named “Red Mushrooms”, without much imagination- were very difficult to gather, despite their vague effects, so they were very expensive. Even Coralde’s company had very little in stock.
Roa, however, had found a spot where they grew in this forest and had brought them back in a large quantity, thus Coralde’s company could advance their studies on them. They had distributed them to the company’s many married workers and inquired about their effects.
As a result, they learned that they had beauty-enhancing effects on women and “energizing” effects on men; but, as there were cheaper and more effective energizers already on the market, Coralde chose to use them to make cosmetics.
The recipe for such cosmetics, incidentally, was invented by Coralde’s company, so Roa did not know it.
“Ah….the “Angel Drop” series. It’s pretty popular lately….”
Cornelia seemed to recall the name of the cosmetics in question.
“Yes, that’s right!”
Roa immediately confirmed her words.
The Angel Drop series was a popular series of cosmetics sold by the Coralde trading company.
The company sold many kinds of cosmetics, but only the Angel Drop series was an exclusive. It was easy to realize that the cosmetics made with Red Mushrooms had to be those.
The Angel Drop series was too expensive for common folk to afford, but they were famous for being as effective as they were costly. Since they were available only in very small quantities, they were monopolized by nobles. Even then, rumors about their effects spread, so many women longed to have some.
“Cornelia, my dear? You’re not going to ask him for some after you kicked me away, are you…?”
Just as Cornelia started to say something, Dietrich interrupted her with a rather creepy tone of voice. She turned towards him and found him staring at her, grinning. Despite his light tone and smile, the glare in his eyes was scary.
This is bad….
Nostalgia’s members and Roa were terrified by the pressure emanated by Dietrich’s twisted grin.
“Of…of course not. I was just…I was just going to say to pick up the mushrooms and go on already!”
“Yes…yes, of course! Cornelia would never say something like that!”
“Of course I wouldn’t!!”
“Yes, yes! The sweet Cornelia who shouted at me to focus on my job and kicked me so harshly, she would never say something like that!”
Needless to say, normally Dietrich never addressed Cornelia with words like “dear” or “sweet”. In other words, he was implying that he would pretend it was all a joke.
Cornelia looked at the Red Mushrooms, frustration in her eyes, as she bit down on the medicinal candy in her mouth. Next to her, Bernhart continued to cut up the King Serpent, in total silence, determined to stay out of the situation. He was almost finished…
Bernhart had actually noticed something. Far from mentioning it, however, his expression remained as unreadable as before. He always spoke very little and would rarely join in conversations. If what he noticed would cause another commotion, he would absolutely not say it.
What Bernhart had heard was that the Angel Drop series was indeed very effective, but only as cosmetics. Using them regularly would show a difference, but just that.
Bernhart knew something that could provide even greater effects on hair and skin and had immediate effectiveness to boot.
That was magic with healing properties and healing potions, but no one would ever think to use them for beauty purposes. Even if their healing effects were positive for the body, they also burdened it at the same time.
The accumulation of this burden would cause headaches and nausea, symptoms known as “Magic Stupor”, so it was unfit for regular use as a cosmetic.
Magic Stupor also more easily affected those with weak magic power, taking more time to pass, so its affinity with noble madames was quite low.
Roa’s medicinal candy, on the other hand, healed fatigue and small wounds slowly, without burdening the body, so it could maintain a state of recovery without causing Magic Stupor.
A candy that could be used everyday and was clearly effective, though in a small scale.
If one was looking for beauty effects, the candy’s weak effect was more than enough. Roa didn’t seem to be aware, but the candy could become an ideal cosmetic for ladies.
Bernhart had realized this much, but did not say a word. Roa had handed the candies out very easily, but Bernhart was sure that they couldn’t be cheap. They could easily become much more expensive than the Angel Drop series.
His predictions turned out to be correct.
Using one whole medium grade healing magic potion on the ingredients allowed the creation of 10 candies at most: it was an incredible item after all. Using it just to relieve fatigue and heal small wounds was a massive waste.
One medium grade healing potion could heal wounds grave enough to make someone unable to move, and their price reflected such an effect. No adventurer would ever use it to heal fatigue that a good meal and rest could heal too, or to fix barely noticeable wounds.
The only exception was Roa, who probably gathered the ingredients and concocted them himself, so he could ignore all costs. The only person who would ever think of making something like that was also Roa.
He had tried to replicate the same effect with cheaper magic potions, but had not succeeded yet. Because of that, Roa treated the candies as incomplete items and never mentioned them to Coralde.
If Coralde knew about them, he would definitely push to release them as a finished product, for cosmetic purposes. While there might not be many adventurers willing to pay much to adventure while their fatigue slowly healed, there were plenty of aristocratic ladies willing to spend small fortunes on cosmetics.
Ignorant of the dream-like cosmetic she was crunching in her mouth, Cornelia’s thoughts went to the Angel Drop series, which suddenly escaped her grasp.
Bernhart peeked at the other members, still gathering the mushrooms, as he finished carving up the beast with admirable skill and placing the King Serpent materials in the magic bag provided by Coralde.
The somewhat humorous accident had caused Nostalgia’s members to completely forget about the abnormality of the forest.