“Shit!! They won’t stop coming…!”
Kristoff cursed under his breath.
His breathing was ragged and shallow. The fatigue made it hard to move his body. Even with the recovery candy, it wasn’t possible to restore his fatigue anymore.
Nostalgia was still fighting golems in the Aldon forest: they had finally been surrounded, Roa included.
The only fortunate part was that the defeated golems formed a sort of barricade. Every time new golems attacked, they aimed at places where it was easier to move…places where few golems were piled up, so even defeating them normally gradually created new barriers that did not let new enemies flow in.
Now they just needed to defeat the golems that entered the gaps. The golems took unnatural stances when they tried to get over the barriers, so it was easy to attack their limbs and restrict their movements. Thanks to that, Nostalgia managed to hold their own against a large number of golems.
Though, they could only restrict their movements…
If the golems crossed the barricade and they destroyed their core, they could defeat them. However, this would leave corpses inside the barricade reducing the available room for Roa and Nostalgia. Eventually they would be unable to move and the golems would overwhelm them.
They could store the golem corpses inside their magic bags, but that also had its limits. They considered throwing them out after killing them, but it was close to impossible as new golems keep attacking them.
If the damaged golems fell outside the barricade however, they would just attack again after they recovered, as their core remained intact.
In the forest, rich in magic essence, the golems had practically unlimited energy. If they continued attacking, Roa and Nostalgia would eventually exhaust themselves.
In any case, their prospects were grim.
Kristoff inspected the surroundings, but the golems blocked all their escape paths. There were too many to even get an exact count. They easily numbered in the hundreds.
If they could escape their current position Bernhart could do something with wide range magic, but it would only buy some time at the moment.
Unless they came up with a great idea to resolve the situation, using the barricade to defeat the golems was still safer than trying to escape. It surely wasn’t a great plan to risk wasting a great amount of Bernhart’s magic power now.
“Quit whining!! Or you’re not eating the next meal!”
Dietrich shouted while attacking a golem.
“Aah…I’m hungry…I’m hungry!!! Since this battle is so hard, let’s go eat meat at “Snow Peak” when we go back! The boss gets the bill!”
“I like that, let’s do it! If the boss gets the bill.”
Cornelia and Kristoff jokingly replied to Dietrich’s shout. They smiled, but were covered in mud: they were not openly bleeding, but their armor was battered. The recovery candy could heal small wounds quickly, but they suffered more and more wounds it couldn’t heal. Their fatigue was also accumulating.
Roa had attempted to use healing potions several times, but they had refused. They wanted to avoid using them as much as possible, so long as they weren’t fatally wounded.
In the current situation, they had no idea when, if ever, they would break through the golem’s encirclement. There was still the possibility of being wounded later. Because of the risk of Magic Stupor, they wanted to save healing potions for as long as possible.
The situation was desperate, but their eyes were still alive. They believed they could survive and resisted, focusing on catching even the smallest signs of a breakthrough.
“You know, with all the Silver Golems we’ve defeated, we can make a small fortune just by selling their parts. It must have taken a whole silver mine to create all these golems, right? So, boss gets the bill.”
Cornelia talked while striking a golem climbing the barricade with her shield.
“There’s plenty of Rock Golems too though. I guess the Silver Golems used up all the silver, so they had to use other minerals. We’re going to be filthy rich…yeah, the boss gets the bill.”
“We’re going to split the reward, okay!? Why do I have to pay!?”
The group exchanged banter to motivate each other and themselves that they could still go on. That was the only way to keep their cool. Bernhart didn’t join in the conversation, but shared their sentiments.
Roa was different though. He did not fight, nor speak a word.
He was in a safe spot, inside the barricade of golem corpses. He was near the center of the barricade, close to Bernhart, but he kept moving around the safer areas of the barricade. Nostalgia’s members thought that he couldn’t stay still because of fear. They didn’t have the luxury of carefully looking at him, so it was no wonder they thought so.
Roa, however, was animated by a strong will.
That must be it…!
Roa was thinking. He moved and looked at how the golems responded. Their movements were regular: simply put, they followed him. They were targeting him.
Roa thought of reasons why the golems would target him. If his supposition was correct, the reason why the golems had increased so much was tied to Crack of Dawn. Then, as the golems were targeting Roa, his hypothesis could go further.
Roa looked at his hip. A pouch was hanging from it…the monster repellent pouch.
If the golems fought Crack of Dawn and perceived a threat…
If the golems increased their numbers to fight Crack of Dawn again….
There was a possibility that the golems viewed the gryphon’s smell as the mark of an enemy threat. In that case, the monster repellent pouch would have the opposite effect and end up attracting the golems.
But nothing would change even if I hide it…
If the pouch was put back in the magic bag, the smell would be blocked, but the gryphon’s smell was already all over Roa. They had lived together for a long time: the gryphon’s smell had probably become part of Roa’s own body odor. It would also be pointless to get rid of the smell now that he had already become a target.
What if I used another smell to cover it then?
Roa had several potions and plants with very strong smells in his bag. If he used one of them… but that too would be little use now that he was a target.
Roa regretted not realizing it earlier: if he did, they would have had a chance to escape.
In that case…
Roa bit his lip. His gaze was directed at the four adventurers protecting him. Focused on fighting, they did not notice Roa’s look.
The three swordsmen were fighting back a golem that was trying to cross the barricade, while Bernhart was shooting lightning bolts to stop the movements of golems they couldn’t reach in time.
Roa looked through his bag and took out a bottle, poured its contents all over a piece of cloth, then tied it to his belt. He then took out a rope and set it on fire.
Bernhart looked at Roa silently. White smoke had started rising from the rope Roa had set on fire.
“I’ve thought of something. Could you shoot a lightning bolt -weak enough not to burden you- straight in the direction I tell you, to stop the golems’ movements?”
Roa looked straight at Bernhart, with nothing but seriousness in his eyes. White smoke kept rising from the rope in his hands.
Bernhart recognized that rope. It was used to seep clothes in smoke, for insect repelling properties. It emitted a strong, refreshing smell.
“…..we need to ask the leader first.”
“There’s no time! This is our chance! Please, there’s no time to waste explaining! Please believe me!”
Bernhart looked at Dietrich, but the latter was busy beating back golems. The smoke was spreading: a thin veil of scent covered the inside of the barricade. The smoke was heavier than air and tend to stay close to the ground.
Bernhart realized what Roa was trying to do, but could not predict what it would lead to.
“Please! There’s no time!”
Bernhart was about to shout “leader” to ask Dietrich for permission, but Roa forcefully pulled on his clothes and stopped him. It looked like he was just desperately holding onto Bernhart, but Roa stopped him from shouting on purpose. He then drew Bernhart’s attention again, who was still looking towards Dietrich.
“Please hurry! In this direction!”
“Hurry! We’re running out of time!”
Bernhart was compelled to follow at Roa’s insistence, then started chanting a spell.
Roa had pointed to a direction the three warriors could not cover, where lightning bolts had just fallen moments ago. It was a bit wasteful, but shooting a lightning bolt in that direction would pose no problem.
Thanks to the other members’ efforts, he still had plenty of magic power left and a lightning bolt in that direction would not disrupt their attacks. He would not be disobeying Dietrich’s orders, so it was barely within the realm of acceptance.
Normally, Bernhart would never have followed Roa’s instructions without checking with Dietrich first. However, judging by Roa’s desperate plea that there was no time, the fact that he wouldn’t be outright disobeying orders and that Roa was their current employer, he chose to comply.
A lightning bolt flashed.
Roa threw the smoking rope on the ground.
“Thank you very much! I’m sorry! Please forgive me!”
Roa shouted and, as soon as the bolt vanished, sprinted in the same direction it had flown through.
Bernhart couldn’t move immediately after casting magic. It was just a moment, but it was enough for Roa.
While running, Roa looked at the other golems’ movements. He realized that, even while the golems fought against Dietrich and the others, they were paying attention to his movements.
I can do it! It’s going to work!
With renewed confidence, Roa ran even faster. The golems were clearly following his movements.
“Roa!! What are you trying to do!?”
Surprised, Bernhart called to him, but Roa did not stop. He climbed over the golem corpses and jumped out of the barricade. Thanks to the thunderbolt, the golems around Roa could not move.
He looked around and confirmed that the golems fighting against Dietrich’s group had also left the barricade and were heading towards Roa.
“Roa! What are you doing?!”
Shouting voices came from inside the barricade. Roa kept running at full speed, as to shake them away.
Roa had taken a gamble.
What he had taken out of the magic bag and poured on the piece of cloth was monster repellent. He had poured plenty of it, to make the smell as strong as possible.
As Roa predicted, the golems were following the gryphon’s smell, so if he scattered the smell as he ran he could act as a decoy. For added safety, he had lit up an insect repellent so that the barricade would be filled with another smell. The remaining monster repellent smell should have been dispelled.
The golems were chasing after him as expected. Roa’s gamble paid off.
He could hear the golems’ heavy footsteps behind him. He could also hear the chasing golems bumping into those incapacitated by the lightning. It was enough to determine that a large number of golems were chasing him.
Roa was running as fast as he could to put as much distance as possible between the immobile golems and Nostalgia’s barricade. Because of this impromptu golem barrier, the chasing golems could not catch up to him quickly. Even without that, humans could still run faster than golems.
Roa did not plan to flee like that, though. He didn’t know how far the lightning bolt had flown, but, sooner or later, he would run out of its range and encounter other golems or, perhaps, the chasing ones would catch up first.
In any case, Roa would surely be killed if he was surrounded by golems. If he only drew the golem mob away from Nostalgia and gave them time to flee, it was enough.
Dietrich would probably understand Roa’s intentions and run away, to protect his comrades. There was no chance for Roa to be saved, so he would never choose that option.
Roa believed so.
Roa could not fight, but that had nothing to do with running.
The golems were powerful magic beasts, but their movements were dull. Roa’s small physique could probably help in running from such massive creatures.
Roa ran as fast as he could, only looking forward, barely paying attention to the sounds around him.
He ran between the spaces occupied by golems, trying to find areas with as few as possible.
A woosh sound flew past his ear. The fist of a golem had brushed by him: the sound made Roa realize that the golems in the surroundings had started moving.
He didn’t know whether he had exited the lightning bolt’s range or the chasing golems had caught up to him, but he did not have the luxury to ponder about it.
Roa kept running.
Pain jolted his back. He had probably been punched by a golem. The powerful impact sent him flying, rolling, crashing on the ground. The pain made it impossible for him to speak or even breathe.
I have to go farther!
He stood up despite the pain. He could barely stand on his shaking legs, but he wanted to gain as much distance as possible.
Roa breathed in deeply.
“I can…still go…!”
Roa ran off on his heavy legs. Rather than running, it was like his legs were moving alongside his body as he fell forward. Even so, he was advancing.
Behind him…no, all around him, the rumbling noises caused by golems echoed with the sounds of metal grinding and clashing reverberating through the forest.
Another shock on his back. Roa fell forward, as if he was pushed.
Is this….the end…?
Roa felt something heavy on his back. He had probably been caught by whatever struck him as something was standing on his body.
Roa was moments away from being killed, but smiled.
He was happy because he managed to protect someone else. To meet his end after actions worthy of an adventurer was his heartfelt ambition. Even if he was chased out of the party or registered into the Creators’ guild, he was happy to end as an adventurer.
In the end, Roa hadn’t completely given up on being an adventurer.
Roa was ready. He closed his eyes, accepting the incoming death. Yet…
He thought he would be killed quickly, but nothing happened…he thought he would be crushed to death, but the weight on his back did not change. His back….was warm?
Golems should be cold and hard.
A peculiar sound could be heard from above Roa.
Roa let out a weird shout.
Something licked my ears!?
Roa twisted his upper body and looked behind him. There, he found two familiar faces.
“Eh? The twins? Why?”
The twins answered Roa. Looking at the two magic wolves riding on his body, Roa was speechless.
Four sparkling eyes looked at Roa, filled with glee. Behind them, two tails wagged furiously.
Roa’s mind fell into utter confusion.
“Er…first of all, it kind of hurts like this so can you move…?”
The twins duly obeyed Roa’s words and got off from on top of him. The sparkling eyes and wagging tails remained unchanged.
When Roa tried to stand up, the pain on his back made him sweat profusely.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch…”
Moving even just a little sent jolts of pain throughout his body. He reached for his magic bag amidst the pain, took out a healing potion and drank it.
The pain subsided, as well as the fatigue from all his running, so he could recover some semblance of mind. Roa sat up and looked at his surroundings.
Roa’s body froze for a moment. To soothe his shock, the twin magic wolves approached him and started licking his cheeks.
Before Roa there was a countless number of golems, all knocked out. Their bodies reflected the moonlight and shone in the darkness.
They did not look damaged in any way, but were completely still. The only explanation was that they had been killed without exterior wounds.
Roa had no idea what had happened, but he knew that he was saved.
“Why are you two here?”
Roa asked while energetically rubbing their heads, but naturally the twins had no way of answering. As he was rubbing them, Roa noticed that the Subjugation Collars on their necks were no longer there.
“Did you run away?”
When Roa’s hands stopped, the twins leaned forward and put their heads on his thighs, urging him to rub them more.
Completely forgetting how he had accepted death a few minutes prior, Roa was enjoying a pleasant time amidst a sea of golems.
I wonder what happened?
They had surely run away: Eric would never remove the collars outside of the servant beasts’ hut. He seemed to know that the servant beasts did not like him and could probably not command them without the collars, so he never removed them.
Either the collars somehow fell off and they fled, or there was another reason…in any case, something serious must have happened to Crack of Dawn.
First of all, Roa and Nostalgia thought that the reason for the golems’ multiplication lay with Crack of Dawn. The fact that the golems chased the gryphon-based monster repellent Roa used was further proof.
So was Crack of Dawn defeated and fled? The twins were unscathed and full of energy though.
Eric would surely use the servant beasts as shields before they were wounded, so it would be impossible for them to be defeated if the twins were alright. The servant beasts acted on their own sometimes, but always followed orders. At least whenever Roa saw them.
That happened because Roa obeyed the party members, so the servant beasts did too, but Roa never noticed it.
One of the twins, the blue one, raised its head. Its furiously wagging tail stood up straight, then it ran off.
“Eh? Where are you going?”
Roa was about to stand up to follow it, but the other wolf had still its head on Roa’s thigh. Furthermore, as if to scold Roa for not rubbing it, it used its front paws to hold him still and started rubbing its head against Roa.
Roa thought that, if one of them was this calm, there was nothing to worry about, so he sat down again. There were still loads of golems lying in the surroundings, but thanks to the twins he felt completely safe.
“…what happened to grandpa Gry?”
The red magic wolf tilted its head at the question, then put it back on Roa’s thigh, fully enjoying being rubbed.
Roa had been taking care of the twins since before their eyes fully opened, so he always talked to them as if he talked to children.
However, their bodies had grown a lot: they were now as big as large breeds of dogs. Their heads were rather heavy too.
Roa then heard a thud-like sound, as if something heavy had fallen on the ground, not too far from his position.
Roa thought that the golems were attacking again and tried standing up, but the red magic wolf prevented him from moving.
“Hey! Stop it! We have to run or…”
The wolf then put its whole weight on Roa, forcing him on his back, then started licking his face.
“I said stop!”
No matter what Roa said or how much he tried to break free, the wolf did not budge, happily continuing to hold down Roa. It was much heavier and more powerful than Roa, so pushing it away was out of the question.
As Roa was fighting…or, in better terms, playing with the red wolf, one more weight saton his body. The weight of one more wolf.
The blue wolf had returned and joined its twin in licking Roa’s face. Soon after, the red wolf left this time. A bit later, another heavy sound was heard.
The red wolf returned and they lay on top of Roa for a while, then the blue wolf left again.
Another heavy sound. This continued a couple more times and Roa realized what they were doing.
“….could it be that you’re taking turns defeating golems?”
The wolf happily nodded to Roa’s words.
A twin kept Roa still and protected the area, while the other went to defeat golems. Roa realized it and finally stopped resisting.
Even so, the twin wolves shouldn’t be strong enough to defeat golems. However, considering the number of golem corpses around him, Roa had no choice but to believe it.
The twins continued this routine for a while and Roa continued rubbing them. It was because they kept pressing him to do so, but Roa, even if he hadn’t met them for just a few days, missed them too.
A man and two wolves enjoyed a peaceful time under the moonlight.