After the break, Roa and Nostalgia had a small discussion to decide how they would move: continue advancing or return. Roa said he would follow Nostalgias’ decision, leaving the final decision to Dietrich, who decided to proceed a bit further and see how the situation unfolded.
The three magic beasts they defeated had already provided plenty of materials, so they decided to use the gryphon liquid monster repellent to ensure safer travels. Thanks to that, their progress quickened considerably. The three magic beasts had caused them quite a big delay, but even while gathering flora and minerals, they managed to reach their destination by noon.
The location they selected for lunch was close to a small river.
While there was the chance that magic beasts also visited the river to drink, it was a clearing with very good visibility, one of the locations within the Aldon forest that could be said to be relatively safe.
To save time, the group’s lunch consisted of boiled meat sandwiched in bread and water. After the meal, Dietrich, Cornelia, and Kristoff started checking their weapons, so Roa went foraging for materials in the area, escorted by Bernhart.
Roa went into the river, looking for something. The river was rather shallow, so even the short Roa just needed to take off his boots and roll his pants up to his knees. The current was calm, so it was possible to see the riverbed clearly.
If Bernhart also took off his boots, he wouldn’t be able to react quickly in case of an emergency, so he stood guard on the riverbank, wary of the surroundings.
“I wonder if I can find some…? Oh, there it is.”
Roa was looking for something, talking to himself, then picked up something the size of a fingertip: a magic crystal.
Just like mithril was silver transformed due to magic, crystals too changed under the effects of magic. It was transparent, but observing it under sunlight revealed a faint rainbow light in its center.
The crystals that flowed down from the river source, because of increased river flow due to rain or other reasons, absorbed magic on the way and turned into magic crystals. They had the ability to store magic power, so they were often used to craft magic tools.
The transformation process was the same as mithril, but unlike mithril they changed with weak magic power and could be produced artificially, so they were not very expensive.
Even so, producers that only used natural crystals would pay more for them, so they were treasured by beginner adventurers as a source of income.
Roa’s basket had already caught a good number of magic crystals. Since only adventurers ranked B and above could enter the Aldon forest, very few people visited it just to make some pocket money, so it was a treasure trove for such crystals.
“I guess I’ve got enough…”
Roa looked around but couldn’t spot any more crystals, so he decided to stop. As soon as he got out, Bernhart, ever silent, handed him a piece of cloth to dry his legs. He then extended both hands to receive Roa’s basket.
“Thank you very much.”
Bernhart nodded without a word. When Roa dried his legs and put back on his boots he retrieved the piece of cloth and they returned to where the other party members were.
What a mysterious person. He’s silent, expressionless and seems cold, but he’s very attentive…and rather handsome too, so that gap could make him pretty popular, thought Roa. His gaze then shifted naturally towards Dietrich.
“Hm? What’s up?”
Dietrich noticed Roa’s gaze, tinged with a hint of pity.
“….no, it’s nothing. May I take a look at how you do maintenance for your sword?”
“I don’t do anything special, though? Even if it’s mithril, maintenance is the same as any other sword. I carefully wipe away the magic beasts’ fat and blood, add a light dose of vegetable oil for the rust, then wipe it with wool.”
Mithril was very hard and resistant to rust. Despite this, Dietrich probably felt uneasy unless he cared for his sword, as if it was made of iron. Roa’s eyes were charmed by the flowing-like quality of Dietrich’s sword.
After being coated in oil and wiped with wool, its transparent brilliance was enhanced even more, making it look just like a jewel.
“It’s so pretty…”
“Yeah…so pretty that people say it doesn’t fit me. It seems that thanks to this glow, most mithril weapons are treated as decorations more than actual weapons.”
“I’ve heard that too. They’re especially favored by Church people, since they can emit Holy Light when imbued with magic. The Church uses mithril for all sorts of items other than weapons, apparently. They even say that somewhere in the capital there’s an altar made completely of mithril…”
Dietrich’s brow furrowed.
“As nasty as ever, that church…”
Dietrich spat out the words as if they disgusted him. He probably had had unpleasant run-ins with the church. Roa was the same too, so he smiled wryly.
“But it’s also actually effective in several ways. I’ve just heard rumors, but it seems that “Holy Water” can only be made at that altar.”
“That sounds like bullcrap though. I bet it’s just an excuse to spend money. They’re always making up reasons to make people give them donations.”
Dietrich spoke as if he had been forced to make a donation too in the past.
Roa was curious, but didn’t want to make him recall something unpleasant any more, so he chose not to inquire further.
Dietrich raised his sword against the sunlight, to check of any cloudy spots, then sheathed it.
“People! Once you’re finished with maintenance we’re going! If you’re ready, say the word! As we decided, if things turn really bad we’re hightailing it out of here! Don’t you let your guard down!”
Everyone replied except Bernhart, who simply nodded.
Around the same time, Crack of Dawn too was taking a break, after several encounters with magic beasts.
The party members were sitting down, looking quite tired, while the gryphon was on top of a boulder, checking the surroundings.
<Hmm. They’re closer than expected…>
The gryphon expanded its magic power to investigate the surroundings. Its brow was furrowed, making its originally nasty-looking expression look even more menacing. That was because they had been proceeding much faster than expected.
It thought that the repeated battles against magic beasts would slow the party down, but at this pace they would probably reach the location of the golem swarm in the evening, which would disrupt the gryphon’s “nasty prank” plans.
<Did I read it wrong…?>
The valley was flanked left and right by tall walls of rock. Since the depths of the valley were swarming with golems, the gryphon thought that the other magic beasts would all come running their way. Actually, what happened was that more than half of the magic beasts chased away by the golems, terrified by the gryphon’s aura, desperately climbed over the rock walls and fled outside the valley.
The stone walls were not steep monoliths: using the rocks sticking out of the walls, even humans could manage to climb over them. No magic beast would be unable to overcome that hurdle. The few that have failed to escape had been slain by the golems.
The total number of magic beasts was far below the gryphon’s expectations.
<Gramps, did you fail!?>
The twin wolves peeked at the gryphon’s face.
Compared to Crack of Dawn’s members, panting and wheezing because of the repeated fighting, the magic wolves were still full of energy. They were running around and playing, without showing any sign of fatigue.
<I, fail? I have not—>
<When you fail, you must admit it honestly. Think about the cause, make a countermeasure, and reflect about it a little bit!>
The twin magic wolves looked straight at the gryphon’s eyes.
Their pure eyes made the words die in the gryphon’s throat.
When you fail, admit it honestly think about the cause, make a countermeasure, and reflect about it.
Words the gryphon itself had told the twins. It also recalled having told them that “reflecting about things too long was meaningless” and “instead of regretting something, think of a better plan for next time”, in its usual haughty manner.
The gryphon was torn between praising them for remembering those words or to change the topic from its failure. In the end, its mouth opened.
<…you have done well in remembering those words. Very good! Yes, apparently I have failed. Thus I wish to ask for your help.>
It then looked at the blue wolf.
<You go to the top of the valley: if you find any lizards, scorpions or snakes close by, kick them back in the valley, without killing them. Then create a wall of ice so that even if they try to climb the wall again, they’ll just slip down. Do that where the golems will not notice. Make sure you hide yourself well.>
The gryphon nodded to the blue wolf, then turned towards the red one.
<You act as a bodyguard for the useless bunch. I am going to try to keep the golems from getting closer.>
The gryphon was aware that its predictions failed, but was still bent on acting out its plans for retaliation…