<Hahaha…my talent scares even me at times…>
The gryphon had quietly sneaked away from the Crack of Dawn and entered the depths of the valley. Crack of Dawn was currently camped in a location far from the depths of the valley, where the golems were gathered.
Exhausted by the continuous attacks of Rock Lizards and other beasts, they decided to call it a day and exterminate the golems the following day. They pitched their tents while the sun was still up in the sky, had a light meal, left one member to guard the camp and went to sleep. That “guard” too leaned against a boulder and dozed off, so it wasn’t really useful.
They had left all guarding duties to Roa until then and knew that thanks to the servant beasts there was no need to stand guard. They had someone stand guard just for added safety, but didn’t think it was necessary: that’s how lightly they judged the situation.
….they would never even dream that those servant beasts were plotting a nasty plan against them.
<Still missing some arrangements…>
The gryphon whispered to himself while looking up. What he was looking at was a wall of wind.
The wind that rose from deep inside the valley, straight towards the sky, and split the valley into two sections, front and back.
The wall was several metres thick, but unless you were mere centimetres away from it, you would not hear any howling nor feel any pressure. The mark of the wall having been created via magic.
And the creator of such a magic wall was, of course, the gryphon. The magic spell it baptized “Wind Wall”, after its appearance, belonged to one of the elements the gryphon was more proficient in: Wind. It was a spell that acted very similarly to barrier magic.
Such continuous spells consumed a tremendous amount of magic power and were difficult to control: one small mistake and they would instantly disappear.
The gryphon, however, had already kept it up for several hours. The large pack of golems beyond the wall were gathered alongside it.
<…look at these metal slugs all bunched up together…just like a swarm of insects. Disgusting…>
The gryphon spat a disgusted comment in a very casual tone. The golem pack looked like mere ants or bees to him, apparently. It hated insects: once it had been wounded and insects caused the wound to infect, a very painful memory for the winged beast. It didn’t even want to lay eyes on one.
Some golems charged towards the gryphon, but the wind barrier easily knocked them airborne, making them crash on the pack a few moments later.
The same thing had already happened several times: among the golems there were many wounded and recovering.
A physical wall would be weakened after repeated attacks, and would be eventually destroyed. They just needed numbers to accomplish it.
A wind strong enough to make Silver Golems fly away that easily, however, was impossible to deal with. The golems continued their cycle of charge, flight, crash landing, and recovery.
The reason why the gryphon had set up such a massive, large scale spell was simple: to create an effective annoyance.
“You’re sleeping all peacefully…then a herd of golems appears! Surprise!” was the gryphon’s plan. It had to keep the golems at bay while also avoiding to decrease their numbers, or it would all be for naught.
This was the nasty plan the gryphon came up as a “prank”.
Servant beasts were still magic beasts. Creatures of a world where death loomed at every corner.
They also lived on the lives of others. Life was very “light”: the lives of insignificant creatures, especially, were lighter than air. Worthless compared to the thrill of enjoying oneself without reserve..
For the gryphon, his own entertainment was the priority.
<Hmm…? It seems a good number of them fled into the valley. They’re fewer than before…but still enough to let the useless lot learn the true extent of their abilities and have the twins play a bit. While I will…>
Just like before, the gryphon looked at the golems, a disgusted grimace on its face. They were still repeating the cycle of approaching the wind barrier and being blown upwards.
The ground shook whenever the golems crashed, but the slew of golems under them acted as a cushion, so the vibrations were not too strong. The noise and clouds of dust were both blocked by the wind wall.
There was little chance for Crack of Dawn to notice.
<We are going to play with you all plenty later, no need to rush. Unfortunately, I will not join in the games though…but not because you started to look like insects and creep me out. Wide range magic spells simply tire me out.>
The gryphon whispered to himself while sending loathing looks to the golems. No golem heard such whispers, of course.
The sun had completely set and darkness was creeping closer in the surroundings. In the increasing dark dusk, Nostalgia was fighting against the third group of golems.
They’re more than before?
Dietrich thought while fighting.
They fought against three golems in the first and second battles, but now they were five. It might be just his imagination, but if they really increased, at some point they won’t be able to defeat them all.
Even with just five, it became more complicated to fight them: when facing against one, the other golems would get in the way. Cornelia was luring them away and stopping them, but there was a limit to what she could do.
It would be ideal if she could slash their joints like Dietrich, but her iron blade was not fit for such precise attacks. She could sever their arms and legs if she switched from sword and shield to her battleaxe, but without her shield she could not protect herself.
More than anything else, the battleaxe’s large size made it difficult to strike golems with it. She would need a “shield” member, so it was ultimately meaningless.
If the attacking golems increased even more, Bernhart would have to join the fray too. If they exceeded ten, they would need Kristoff’s help too.
….don’t you increase so much, okay? Do me a favor here…
Dietrich silently prayed as he slashed the five golems’ arms and legs and stopped their movements.
“It’s over! Cornelia, finish them off!! Kristoff, are there more coming?”
“The bad feeling is still there.”
“…I see…we can’t rest easy yet!”
Dietrich smiled at Nostalgia’s members, who smiled back.
He made sure everyone was still doing well and felt relieved. This was mostly thanks to Roa’s recovery candy. Battle fatigue can’t be recovered easily: breathing becomes more difficult, exhaustion piles up. Muscles start burning.
Counting the Rock Lizard encounter, this was their fourth consecutive battle. All encounters required them to fully focus: normally, they would be too exhausted to move properly at this point.
Thanks to the recovery candy, however, after a few minutes of walking they would be back to top form.
I guess we’ll get through this somehow…
Without Roa, they would have eventually grown exhausted, surrounded by the golems and killed, but it looked like they could manage to escape from the forest somehow.
Dietrich found a glimmer of hope and smiled from the heart.
“Bernhart, can you make a light? It’s gotten too dark.”
“….no problem. Recovery is faster.”
“Don’t worry about the beasts spotting us and lighten up. They’re aiming at us anyway. It’s too late to worry about that.”
“Don’t overdo it though. If you think there’s any risk, let me know. We’ll switch to the lantern.”
Bernhart nodded and whispered a chant, then a ball of light appeared over them, illuminating the surroundings. It was a basic light magic spell that consumed little magic power.
Over time, however, it would consume magic power, making it impossible to use magic when it was really needed. Using it at the wrong time could prove disastrous, so one needed to be careful with it.
Thanks to Roa’s recovery candy, Bernhart’s magic power recovered at a faster rate than it was consumed by the light spell. If he just walked with the spell on, he would never run out of magic.
In order to walk safely in the forest, it was definitely better than using the lantern, which illuminated a much narrower range. Using it as they walked instead of quickly lighting it up whenever the golems attacked also allowed them to see the surroundings better and pick better positions to prepare to battle.
The fact that they could use a light continuously and not worry about fatigue were both thanks to Roa. All Nostalgia members realized this and looked at him with gratitude.
Around the time when the sun set, the twin wolves were on top of Norfar valley’s rock walls.
Crack of Dawn’s members were asleep, the gryphon had sneaked away, so they had nothing to do. They were on top of the walls, but still kept track of the situations around the tents.
The gryphon would scold them if something happened before the “fun” began, so they kept watch properly.
“This is so fun!”
The twin wolves were running and jumping on the rock walls surrounding the valley, one on the wall facing the forest, one on the opposite wall facing the plains. They were quite far from each other, but their eyesight allowed them to see each other clearly even at nighttime.
The blue wolf Hati was on the wall facing the plains, the red wolf Skoll on the wall closer to the forest. The ground under them changed as they proceeded.
A thin membrane of ice and white smoke rose under Hati’s paws; no flames rose under Skoll’s, but the grass turned to ashes instantly and the same white smoke rose up.
Normally the gryphon, their master of magic, forbade them to use magic, but this time they had permission, which apparently made them extremely happy. They were more skipping than walking.
Sometimes, they looked at each other, stopped and waved their hands—front paws at each other. Then they jumped, happily. The gesture of waving paws was taught to them by Roa when they were still puppies, small enough for Roa to be able to carry both in his arms.
Roa brought them with him on walks when he went shopping; whenever he saw someone he knew he would say “Let’s say hi!” and waved his hands together with their front paws. The shopping arcade’s ladies would then pet them, sometimes they would also receive treats.
One day, they started waving their paws without Roa prompting them to.
They eventually grew bigger and Crack of Dawn’s leader forbade them to go out so often, so they couldn’t go into town anymore, but the twins still liked that gesture. They used it often with people they liked or even people they met for the first time, if they didn’t feel malice from them.
The twins stopped at the same time and looked up. They looked far away, towards the hill overlooking the valley and the forest. It was too far for humans to even distinguish the trees on the hill, but the twins seemed to have noticed something there, so they smiled and waved.
<Oh? It’s gone…>
They tilted their heads, puzzled. They were disappointed for a second, then looked at each other and smiled.
Jump, leap, jump.
The twins kept prancing on at the same rhythm.
One freezing the soil, the other one scorching it. The white smoke hailing from their paws dancing in the air, as if following music. A prelude to the nightmare that was going to begin.
<Twins, it’s about time.>
The gryphon’s voice reached the twins’ ears. As soon as they did, the twin magic wolves rushed down the valley’s rock walls, leaving one a frozen trail, the other a scorched trail in their wake.
A nightmare was about to begin in Norfar valley…