Chapter 4 – Abnormality in the Forest
The group picked up their luggage and got ready to depart. They had taken a break before preparing the camp, so they hadn’t unpacked yet, which helped.
“Okay, let’s go!”
Cornelia, Kristoff, even Bernhart clearly replied with “roger”, followed by Roa. This exchange happened several times during battle too, but every time their reply was perfectly synchronized. They were completely in sync.
Roa was slightly embarrassed to be the only one to answer with “yes”. He then recalled that, just that morning, Dietrich had been ignored by the others when he raised his voice in town.
I see, so at that time, he tried and failed to do this…
It’s pleasant to hear companions reply in sync to a leader’s command. More than anything, it signals a sense of unity.
In a proper situation, it raises morale.
Only in a proper situation though…
Roa now understood well how wrong it was to do it in town at dawn, just to get on a horse carriage.
Roa started walking alongside Nostalgia’s members, lost in such thoughts.
Kristoff was in the lead, followed by Dietrich, with Roa in the center, Bernhart behind him and Cornelia taking up the rear. Kristoff was in the lead, but he wasn’t paying attention only in front, but in all directions.
What Kristoff used to do so was detection magic: it was a simple spell which used little magic power, but since it was necessary to keep constant watch of the surroundings, its mental toll was rather heavy.
In exchange for using it at all times, Kristoff would not normally join in the party’s battles. In other words, thanks to Kristoff acting as scout the other members only had to focus on fighting.
Bernhart too did not normally participate in the fighting. Magic power was limited: a single offensive spell was capable of completely changing the tides of battle, so they would not waste it on enemies that could be taken care of by other members.
Nostalgia’s fighting style consisted in Kristoff scouting any threats, Dietrich and Cornelia fighting, Bernhart assisting them whenever necessary.
“….this is bad. They’re coming up from behind, heading straight for us. They’re definitely chasing us. Three units….big ones.”
Kristoff spoke a few minutes after the party started walking. His tone did not show any impatience. He knew full well that impatience would not help at all in the current situation and was keeping his feelings in check.
“Will they catch up with us?”
Dietrich’s tone was very quiet too. He talked while walking forward, not missing a step. Roa too, thanks to his many years of experience as All-Rounder, was used to such situations and was calm too.
“They’re not especially quick, but they are faster than us. Even if we start running, they’re going to catch up with us sooner or later.”
“…I see. I wanted to use the shortest route out of the forest, but that won’t take us away from the valley. Supposing that the source of this anomaly is in the valley, the first priority is to get away from it. Let’s keep going at this pace, when they catch up with us we’ll counterattack. Let me know as soon as you can.”
Dietrich chose to keep walking and counterattack the beasts because he didn’t want to risk being surrounded. As the magic beasts came from a single direction, if they kept advancing and quickly beat them back whenever the beasts caught up, they could avoid the worst outcome, to be surrounded.
This decision was backed by his assumption that they could take care of the monsters dwelling in this forest and Norfar valley without much trouble. It also signaled that Dietrich thought that the magic beasts’ attacks would continue for a while.
Why were magic beasts coming out of Norfar valley?
Why were they chasing after Nostalgia and Roa?
What was the cause of it all?
Dietrich reflected but could not reach a conclusion.
There were too many unknown factors. He was not confident in how to react.
Why didn’t I decide to turn back as soon as we detected an anomaly in the forest?
He did not show such regrets or lack of confidence in his expression or attitude, though. The worse the pinch, the bolder you must act. Any worry would infect the other party members.
He knew that such a thing would only lower their survival ratio.
“They’re coming! 3 units, from behind.”
Soon enough, Kristoff spoke again.
“Roger! Let’s take them down.”
Nostalgia’s members stopped, put down their luggage and prepared to strike back…then it arrived.
Heavy footsteps, the sound of crushed trees and plants.
What appeared from the bushes was a roughly three meters tall, giant human-like figure.
Golems were not normally found in areas rich with nature. Dietrich also recalled that Silver Golems had appeared in the Norfar valley and an extermination requested had been posted.
He only knew because that same request had been accepted by the Hero Party Roa used to belong to. Coralde had informed them about how he expected the guildmaster to move, as well as about Crack of Dawn.
3 beasts..no, 3 golems…
Dietrich corrected himself and tried to calm down.
The extermination request was supposed to be for 2 golems. But there were more.
Golems increased when they felt in danger. They increased their numbers in order to ensure their continued survival as a species. Based on this knowledge, Dietrich reached a conclusion.
“You messed up, blasted Hero Party!!”
“Cornelia! Stop the one in front! I’ll take care of the other ones!”
Cornelia smashed her shield against the golem in front. The golem’s powerful advance stopped instantly, almost incredibly. Dietrich passed next to her and headed towards the other 2 golems.
Dietrich guessed that Crack of Dawn had driven the golems into a corner, making them feel desperate enough to start increasing their numbers, then lost track of them. Assuming that this was the cause behind the anomaly, he felt increasingly irritated.
His conclusion was right and wrong at the same time.
Dietrich thought that Crack of Dawn had driven the golems into a corner through battle, but actually they had just scattered the monster repellent’s base liquid. What they failed at was just “not thinning the monster repellent base liquid”.
They didn’t lose track of the golems. They hadn’t even come in contact yet.
If Dietrich knew the truth, he would probably still be irritated at how ridiculous it all was.
Three Silver Golems. As the name said, their bodies were made of silver.
They had thick bodies, much thicker than human armor, completely made of silver. Normally, no sword could damage them. Mithril could, but it presented the same risk of damage to the blade as to try to slice a boulder with it.
What could he do, then?
The gryphon called the golems “snails”, but their nature was closer to beetles or crustaceans.
Silver golems were silver exoskeletons controlled by a slime inside. Just like beetles and crustaceans, their joints were thin and soft.
Dietrich avoided the golems’ attempt to crush him with surprising agility and slashed them with equally surprising focus and precision.
He aimed at one arm and one leg. The elbow, then behind the knee.
He slashed their joints till half. It was enough to knock human-shaped beasts off balance.
Dietrich did so to both golems.
It was difficult to aim at arms and legs that were wildly moving to attack, but Dietrich’s speed and great focus allowed him to.
Golems, like slimes, had a weakness: the core inside their body. Destroying their armor and the core inside with a sword, however, was a difficult task. Compared to that, slashing the joints in their arms and legs was much easier.
Dietrich shouted and kicked the golem he attacked towards the second one. The golems, having lost their balance because of their slashed joints, helplessly clashed and rolled on the ground with a thunderous sound.
Dietrich had already turned to the golem Cornelia had stopped with her shield.
Thanks to Cornelia keeping the golem still, it was simple to cut off its joints. This time Dietrich didn’t just slash them, but completely severed them.
In a very short time, the three golems were collapsed on the ground. As long you didn’t go too close, they were just masses of silver thrashing about and crushing plants. Because of their weight, once they lost their balance they couldn’t move by themselves anymore. If left alone they would recover, like slimes, but there was enough time to finish them off.
“Cornelia, you have the Battleaxe, right? Go finish them off.”
“Kristoff, are there any more coming?”
“I have a bad feeling…”
Kristoff’s words meant that while his detection field did not catch anything, he could feel something was there. Considering the distance, it wouldn’t take much time.
“As soon as we finish them off, we’re going. I’m sorry, but give up on gathering materials this time.”
Dietrich then flashed a confident smile to Roa and the other Nostalgia members. Inside, however, he was seething with anger.
Kristoff, Cornelia, Bernhart, Roa. I’ll never forgive them for putting my party members…my family at risk because of a stupid mistake. When we go back, I’ll have to think of some “punishment”…
Dietrich was smiling as he looked at Cornelia finish off the golems, keeping his rage sealed inside. He didn’t realize himself that he unconsciously started to think of Roa too as family.
Golems were one and many at the same time. Each one had their own consciousness, but they also shared one with other golems. What one golem learnt and thought was shared with nearby golem packs. This was a characteristic of slimes, the base golems were built from.
Slimes simply shared where food could be found or dangerous locations, but golems could share thoughts of higher intellect.
Some of the increased golems had fled the valley. The survival of a few golems or the whole pack was not a big difference. The valley was a paradise for them, but it would be meaningless to stay there if it meant being wiped out. If the golems managed to defeat the source of the dangerous smell in the valley, the other golems would just need to return. Thanks to their shared consciousness, they would soon learn of the victory.
Where they fled to, however…in the forest, they found the same smell. It was definitely the same smell that made them fear being wiped out, but it was fainter. The golems thus concluded that it had to be “that thing”’s children.
Since the smell it emitted to mark the territory was fainter, it was natural for them to reach such a conclusion. A child would be weak now, but could grow into a threat for the golems. If they didn’t kill it while they could, they would be killed themselves one day.
The golems then headed straight towards the source of the smell. Coincidentally, some Rock Lizards which had fled the valley before the golems fought with the source first. As the lizards were easily defeated, the golems grew confident.
It has to be “that thing”’s children. Small, yet strong.
It must be killed.
The golems approached the source and found that “that thing”’s children were five. The instant the golems reached the source, they were faced with killing intent. Intent to kill the golems.
Truly dangerous, after all.
The golems tried to crush the “children”, but were quickly wounded and rendered incapable of moving freely.
Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous…
The three golems were incapacitated.
Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous…
One of the golems was cut open by one of the “children”, its core destroyed.
The golems’ comrade has been killed all too easily.
When the three golems were killed, such thoughts spread clearly to the whole pack.
All golems which had crossed into the forest started heading towards the source.
A new pack also started moving in the valley.