Chapter 5 – Together Again!
Deep within the Aldon forest.
Roa’s group, chased by golems to the brink of collapse, could finally rest for a moment.
Both Roa and the members of the adventurer party “Nostalgia” took their water flasks from a magic bag and doused their parched throats.
Only Dietrich -the leader of the party- was still silently braving the pain caused by the burning and freezing paw marks of the magic wolf twins.
Roa recalled the events that had transpired in the past few days. So many things had happened in just a couple days, each one impossible to forget.
The adventurer party he belonged to, “Crack of Dawn”, was awarded the highest title of “Hero” for its exploits. Crack of Dawn then s became a “Hero Party”. It was like a wonderful dream come true, but the next day Roa was kicked to the depths of despair.
Stefan, Crack of Dawn’s leader, announced that Roa was no longer a member. Roa was an “All-Rounder,” the lowest job in existence, who only handled chores and did not participate in battle. Stefan couldn’t bear that someone like that was a member of his Hero Party. Thus Roa was expelled from the party.
Without even the time to say goodbye to the servant beasts he had taken care of for many years, Roa was kicked out of the party.
Roa was walking aimlessly through the town, when another change took place.
The merchant Coralde, whom Roa visited from time to time to sell his magic potions, hoping to make some spending money, welcomed him to join his trading company, albeit temporarily.
Coralde’s company was one of the country’s top trading companies. Being employed by them was a hallmark to success.
From riches to rags, then riches again. Could this be called being lucky?
This is way too much for someone as ordinary as me…
So thought Roa, who viewed himself as someone completely average and boring. If Nostalgia’s members heard, they would say that Roa was putting himself down again.
Even in the few days since he met them, Roa had proven time and again how skilled he could be. He showed incredible ability as an alchemist, could adjust armor better than the average artisan, was knowledgeable about various forest flora, and exhibited brilliant thinking in a pinch.
Roa was totally outside the norm, in everything except fighting.
Adventurers earned a living fighting against magic beasts. Because of this, fighting prowess was their most valued asset.
Roa was thus regarded quite poorly, as he had failed to move from the lowest job of All-Rounder, but other than fighting he could literally do anything.
“Okay, okay, calm down now.”
Roa calmed down the magic wolf twins and had them drink water too. They were too excited to see him to stay still. He crouched and rubbed them gently. The wolves placed their heads on his knees and enjoyed the rubs, their eyes almost closed.
Servant beasts are normally controlled mentally via accessories called Subjugation Collars. The two wolves, however, wore nothing of the sort. They adored Roa even without something like that: probably more proof of how abnormal he really was.
“I told you that bullying the weak is wrong, didn’t I?”
Roa admonished the twins. Though they did not seem convinced, they whined in apology. They had stamped their paws on Dietrich’s thighs out of jealousy, because Roa was important to them, so they did not feel they had done something really wrong.
The twin wolves rarely came in contact with people outside the Crack of Dawn party, as its leader commanded them. Because of this, they sometimes had trouble finding the right distance when interacting with others.
They were friendly and easygoing, but their notion of right and wrong was sometimes a bit skewed. Being magic beasts, it might be something they couldn’t help, but Roa suspected it was because of their foster parent’s -the gryphon- nasty personality.
Roa’s innocent “bullying the weak” was another blow to Dietrich’s confidence. Roa had used simple words that the two pups would understand and did not mean anything by them, but for Dietrich they were daggers that stabbed him straight in the heart.
He wanted to defend himself, but couldn’t. The twins were clearly much stronger.
In the forest they had visited to gather materials, they had ended up being chased by a horde of Silver Golems. If Roa hadn’t acted as a decoy to let them escape, they would probably be all dead by now. Roa too was ready to die then. They were supposed to protect him, but ended up being saved by him: Dietrich regretted this deeply.
The solution to such a dire situation was brought by the magic wolf twins. From the viewpoint of the twins, capable of defeating dozens of golems in mere instants, Nostalgia was surely weak. He had to admit it. He was proud of their status as A rank adventurers, but before the twins it didn’t mean anything.
“Oh, that’s yellow lotus…”
Roa was looking around while patting the twins and spotted a familiar plant. It was yellow lotus, a kind of medicinal herb. It couldn’t be used to create magic potions, but its roots could be made into stomachache medicine. Many of the craftsmen Roa knew used it often.
After hearing Roa’s words, the twins’ ears sprang up; they raised their heads and ran off. Roa hadn’t given them any orders, but they always tried to help. They wouldn’t let even the smallest comment go unattended.
Many things had happened, but the twins were still the same as before. Roa looked at them with a gentle smile.
<Woof, woof, woof♪>
The magic wolf twins were in a good mood. They barked a melody thought up on the spot, in complete unison.
Their singing couldn’t be heard by humans, but they were prancing around as if dancing, so anyone could tell that they were in high spirits.
They had been separated from Roa for a few days. They didn’t make a ruckus because of Roa’s absence, like the gryphon, but they were lonely and worried. They had always been together with Roa, so they would naturally feel lonely if they were separated. Their attitude was simply more mature than the gryphon’s.
They had finally met again and could stay with him, so it was obvious for them to be excited.
Other people came and Roa’s safety was ensured. From the twins’ standpoint, these people got along with Roa much better than the Crack of Dawn members did and did not emit the slightest hostility towards him. They were a bit concerned that some of them got along too well with Roa, but they handed out punishment, so it was okay.
There were no more presence of magic beasts in the surroundings: the situation was safe. In that case, the twins had one thing to do.
In a forest, gathering useful materials was the obvious thing to do. They knew about minerals and plants, both their smell and their looks. They also knew the characteristics of insects, animals and magic beasts.
They were careful enough not to gather too much, for the future, and also knew the rules to pick up materials without ruining them. Thanks to being with Roa, they had acquired knowledge surpassing not only adventurers but even experts, but they didn’t care much about that.
If they gathered materials, Roa would be happy. That was the important thing.
They wanted Roa to join them, but noticed that he was tired. Not only physically, but also mentally exhausted. So they wanted him to rest.
<Foo foo foo woof♪>
The twins ran off in two separate directions. They stayed close enough to be able to run back to protect Roa if anything happened and kept checking the surroundings for any threats.
They looked for medicinal herbs, cutting the leaves, careful not to damage the stalks, gathering them little by little. They ripped tree bark without damaging the trunk, looked for mushrooms via the smell and dug them out while paying attention to the spores.
If they couldn’t hold any more in their mouths, they returned to Roa. Their timing was the same too.
The twins didn’t need to talk or to communicate between each other. They knew what the other was thinking, they recognized the other as a part of themselves.
They did have separate consciences, but they could be said to be two parts of one whole.
After placing materials at Roa’s feet, they poked their heads towards Roa. He then would flash a big smile and gently pat them.
Happy whining sounds. The twins enjoyed Roa’s pats for a little while, gleefully.
<Okay, one more time!>
The magic wolf twins ran off one more time, hoping to make Roa even happier.
After the forest disturbance quiet down a little, Roa’s group could finally find a moment to rest…at the same time, a signal of incoming trouble surfaced in the city.
It took about one day via horse carriage from Aldon forest to the city, a time that included also the resting time people and horses needed. A fast horse on its own could probably cover the same distance in two hours.
In Coralde’s company in the city, one such horse had just arrived, bringing a letter from the coachman Chuck. He was stationed outside the forest, waiting for the party’s return, and had noticed the magic beasts fleeing away from it. He had thus petitioned Coralde for instructions.
Coralde received Chuck’s letter from the messenger horse and, despite the late hour, acted immediately. He first went to the Adventurers’ Guild, which was in charge of supervising the forest, then contacted Adaman city’s lord.
Even if the Coralde trading company was large and powerful, they could not act on a magic beast forest on their own. Only adventurers could enter a magical beast forest, barring special orders from the lord, so it was especially off limits.
There were exceptions, but in any case an escort by adventurers was necessary. It would also require days of waiting, so Coralde chose to follow official protocol. No matter if the method used was the normal one or a shortcut, one had to go through the Adventurers’ Guild no matter what.
After receiving Coralde’s message, the Adventurers’ Guild guildmaster was holding his head in his arms.
He regretted staying in for overtime and not going home earlier. Even if he did, though, he would have probably been called back to handle that urgent matter, so he somehow got rid of his gloom and started giving out orders.
“….send scouting teams to the Norfar valley and Aldon forest. They don’t need to go inside, just circle the surroundings on horseback. Then ready a request for B rank…no, A rank adventurers. We need at least five parties. Choose people apt to rescue missions. As soon as the scouts return, we’ll decide what to do next.”
His orders followed protocol for such a situation, but he didn’t agree at all.
“I can’t stand it…”
After all staff members left the room, the guildmaster grumbled to himself.
The first thing that irked him was the fact that, while he had received contact from Coralde’s company, the guild’s coachmen -who were in the same location- had not sent any communication.
Total beginners like the trading company’s coachmen had noticed it, but actual pros, the guild’s coachmen, didn’t? The patrolling officers had not sent any report either: one more thing for the guildmaster to be irritated about.
The Adventurers’ Guild hired patrolling officers, pros that surveilled areas where magic beasts dwelled, like the Aldon forest. They were tasking with patrolling all such locations and reporting in case they noticed any irregularities.
Even if something abnormal happened in a magic beast forest, it was extremely rare for its effects to extend as far as the city.
Because of this, the number of patrolling officers was rather small, and as they patrolled all locations the frequency of their surveillance was low, but they were paid for such emergencies, so it would be wasted money if they didn’t prove themselves useful at a time like that.
Useless, the whole lot of them…
The guildmaster sighed heavily while leaning back his large body on the chair. The creaking sounds of the wood resounded in the quiet room.
Should I wipe out the first report received from the Coralde company…?
The guildmaster considered acting as if the first communication about the matter had come from a guild worker, but then shook his head as to get rid of that train of thought. The lord had already been contacted, so this countermeasure was out of the question.
Even if he announced that the guild had noticed the situation first, it would just raise the question why he did not report it. No matter what he did, the guild had already lost face, so all they could at the moment was to go with the flow. Struggling was just a waste of energy.
“…wait…Viviana had said something…”
The guildmaster recalled the conversation with the head of the reception department, Viviana, a few days prior. The conversation mentioned that Crack of Dawn had become a Hero Party largely thanks to servant beasts much more powerful than the party itself and that an All-Rounder recently been banished from the party had been hired by Coralde’s trading company for whatever reason.
The guildmaster suspected that Crack of Dawn controlled the servant beasts with illegal methods and the All-Rounder was connected to it. If it was true, it could lead to a scandal that would put the very existence of the guild at risk.
In order to dispel that worry, Viviana had come up with a frightening proposal.
“….It might be safer to have them disappear before any scandal comes to light…”
He didn’t know if Viviana really meant that. The guildmaster, however, grinned when he recalled her words.
In the current situation, it sounded like a very appealing idea.
It was a “lucky coincidence” that the “Hero Party Crack of Dawn” and the “All-Rounder,” potential seeds for a scandal, were at the center of the problem. The troublesome adventurers’ party from abroad was with them too.
The foreign party had recently caused an incident that had lowered the reputation of the country’s adventurers, so the guildmaster would very much appreciate if they disappeared off somewhere.
The guildmaster pondered.
If no disturbance had actually happened, the Coralde trading company would be the one to lose face.
If a disturbance happened, he would lose face and would be reprimanded by the Adventurers’ guild HQ and the local lord. But if any seeds of concern and troublesome elements could be swept away with it, it would make it easier to swallow the bitter pill.
He could maybe even see Coralde all forlorn because the All-Rounder brat he got his hands on kicked the bucket…
The guildmaster started to think more deeply about how to deal with the Norfar valley and Aldon forest incident.
Since the disturbance involved a magic beast forest, no one would blame him for coming up with a countermeasure after a thorough inspection of the location. The rescue expedition was delayed because it took time to draft a proper countermeasure. The people in the forest died, but it couldn’t be helped.
Between the city’s safety and the lives of 10 or so people, the former was definitely more important.
The guildmaster bared his canine fangs and quietly laughed to himself. He then continued to consider the method to delay the rescue efforts and the “accidents” that could happen in the forest.