DAR Vol. 2 Chapter 6 Part 4

Several hours later…

When the Adventurers’ Guild search and rescue team entered the Aldon forest, the sun was already high in the sky. Then, less than one hour after the search and rescue team’s departure, Roa and Nostalgia left the forest. 

It wasn’t because the rescue team was extremely skilled: Roa’s group left the forest by themselves. It all happened because several misjudgments piled upon each other and delayed the start of the search.

First, they arrived late. They left town in a hurry, but took double the expected time to arrive. This had been orchestrated on purpose by a certain person, but no one realized it.

One other reason was that the Adventurers’ Guild coachmen in charge of picking up Crack of Dawn also acted slowly. They were standing close to the entrance to Norfar valley, but, despite being right next to the location of the disturbance, they did not notice anything.

They kept saying that there was no problem, that they deserved a bit more trust, thus ultimately delaying any inspection of the forest’s surroundings.

If a regular adventurer said that, they would have probably ignored it and proceeded with the search, but they couldn’t ignore a fellow guild worker. They were retired adventurers employed again, many of them being older, which probably influenced things as well.

When the coachman Chuck saw Nostalgia’s members arrive at the camp they had previously set up, they looked terribly tired.

“I’m glad to see you’re safe!”

“….thanks…”

“You had me worried!”

“…that’s….sorry…”

They spoke little, probably due to exhaustion. In contrast with the overjoyed Chuck, their gazes were hollow, their clothes muddy, their equipment damaged. The leader Dietrich even had strange holes in his pants, shaped like magic beast paws.

“What’s up with those?”

There were also three magic beasts with them, species that were not supposed to dwell in the Aldon forest.

Roa shouted “These are servant beasts! They are not dangerous! Please do not worry!” as soon as they appeared from the forest, so no one attacked them, but the mood was tense all the same.

Many of the adventurers who came to the forest for the search and rescue already reached for their weapons, ready to battle. As they did not wear subjugation collars, they could not easily believe that they were servant beasts.

“These are the servant beasts formerly belonging to Crack of Dawn. They ran away and Roa took them in his care…I’m sorry. Please let us rest awhile.”

Then Nostalgia’s members picked the first place they could find and sat on the ground as if collapsing, with little care for the mud and dirt. They somehow managed to move their exhausted bodies and took off their armor.

Only Roa looked like he still had energy to spare, but that was because he was under their protection, or so Chuck predicted. He could never guess that the reason why Nostalgia was so exhausted resided with Roa himself…

Roa was immediately sent to the Adventurers’ Guild horse carriage to receive Subjugation Collars for the servant beasts. Since servant beasts without collars couldn’t be trusted, it was natural that this took priority to resting.

“We have to notify the president! Prepare a horse!”

Chuck would have preferred to ask for more details before sending a dispatch, but looking at Nostalgia’s state, he decided that it was better to let them rest first. He made preparations to first let Coralde know that they were safe.

“And food too! Make them something easy to eat even when tired. I don’t know when they’ll be able to eat, so make something delicious even if it’s cold!”

The magic beasts had already fled the forest and with so many adventurers around, there was no concern of being attacked by magic beasts. Chuck then decided to prepare properly cooked meat, instead of dried meat, and gave instructions accordingly. Their recovery was top priority.

If it was necessary, he would give them time to sleep before eating. Looking at Nostalgia’s members, their armor removed, and the glum looks on their faces, Chuck hurried the preparations along.

𑁋

At the same time, another group of people were looking at them, from a certain distance.

They were the secret agents hired personally by Coralde. They took a position farther away to avoid being found out by the guild’s adventurers. Being already proficient in hiding, if they positioned themselves farther there was no risk for them to be found.

They used magic and optic devices to aid their spying activities and emitted little to no magic power. Even detection magic would have a hard time spotting them at such a distance.

…or at least that’s how it was supposed to be, but after being found by the magic wolf twins, the secret agents became even more prudent: they made sure to stay in the shadows and never to enter their targets’ field of view.

They took turns and surveyed both the forest and the valley at the same time. During their surveillance, they noticed the light of magic coming from the forest, flashing several times. They then noticed a bonfire’s smoke, so they thought someone must have survived, but they couldn’t tell what happened in detail. When they saw Roa and all of Nostalgia’s members emerge safely from the forest, they breathed a sigh of relief.

Even so, their expressions seemed sour.

“They all came out of the forest safe, good. But…”

The words came from the man who had returned once to town during the night and reported to Coralde. He had returned immediately to the forest and resumed the surveillance.

“Where did that gryphon come from?”

He had spotted the twin wolves running on the valley’s ridges, so he imagined they had run towards the forest from his blind spot. However, the gryphon was a mystery.

The secret agents had gone back and forth between the forest and the town several times to make their reports, so they were aware of the commotion in the city. If the gryphon which caused the commotion was the same one that belonged to Crack of Dawn, it had to have left the valley once to go to the city, then return.

But no agent had seen the gryphon enter or leave the forest. Though they were confident in their abilities, it wasn’t unthinkable that they missed it leaving or entering the forest. To have missed both instances was hardly possible…or rather, they didn’t want to consider such a possibility.

In actuality, the gryphon…Grandpa Gry was very skilled in concealing itself, but they were too proud of their skills to reach such a conclusion. When it entered or left, Grandpa Gry felt a detection aura in the surroundings and naturally used magic to pass unnoticed. Grandpa Gry also used the magic in town, but lost its patience after failing to find Roa and did not have the leeway to hide anymore.

As a result, many townspeople spotted Grandpa Gry, but the latter did not seem to care. It knew nothing in town could pose a threat, and even if there was such a thing, it was confident it could escape.

“…let’s leave the mysteries for later. Our priority is to report to lord Coralde.”

After muttering to himself, he too started quickly giving orders to the other agents, like Chuck did.

𑁋

Nostalgia’s members were utterly exhausted. Their bodies felt sluggish and heavy. They glanced to the side and saw Roa walking with the servant beasts, talking with the guild’s adventurers.

…is that guy really human…?

Dietrich would have wanted to stay collapsed on the ground like that and sleep, but clenched his teeth and resisted, as he couldn’t show something so unsightly.

The reason why they were so tired was having to recover the golem materials and erasing all traces related to the holy water. They only picked up the largest blocks of silver, but they collected every last fragment of mithril, which took considerable time: in the end they even got on their knees and looked for any piece left in the grass.

They worked without drinking recovery potions, thinking it would be strange if they still looked energetic when they left the forest, so they felt even more tired than after they were chased by the golem horde. 

Additionally, they also looked for any traces connected to the holy water, despite not knowing if there were any, so they were mentally exhausted as well. Thanks to that, the rescue team did not interrogate them in detail when they left the forest. They would probably go through a proper interrogation when they returned to town.

“Roa…is sure full of energy.”

“Right.”

Dietrich replied to Cornelia’s comment. She was also exhausted too and was sat holding her knees. For some reason, only Roa was still energetic. He hadn’t used any recovery potions, of course the same as Nostalgia. He had also worked like them, or maybe even more.

He was still full of energy, though. It wasn’t because he wasn’t human and had much more strength than Nostalgia’s members, but because gathering materials was an everyday task for him, so he was much more used to it than any adventurer.

He knew how to sit and move without tiring his body too much, the most effective way to look for materials and was to predict how materials scattered after magic beasts were defeated. The twin wolves were also used to supporting him and did so effectively.

On the other hand, Nostalgia’s members had rarely ever gathered materials: clearly speaking, they were bad at it. Compared to Roa, they were total beginners. Of course, the twins wouldn’t help them either.

Such small differences between them and Roa piled up and formed a large gap. Dietrich and Cornelia had enough energy left to talk, but Kristoff and Bernhart, who had less energy than them, looked into the distance, silently. They all hugged their knees, focused on recovering their energy.

After a while, Roa returned from the Adventurers’ Guild horse cart. The twin wolves walked close to him, one at each side, watching Roa’s face gleefully. Grandpa Gry was behind them, clearly in the foulest of moods.

<I dislike this collar!! Twins! There is no need to bear with it while they don’t notice. I shall rewrite the spell formula! Come to me! I said come!>

The three magic beasts were wearing Subjugation Collars on their necks. One of them was clamoring loudly, but naturally no one other than Roa and Nostalgia could hear.

Roa and Nostalgia pretended not to understand, as there were other people around, and the twins completely ignored it. The guild’s adventurers seemed slightly relieved now that the servant beasts were wearing collars, but they were still wary of them. They kept a certain distance from them and did not get any closer.

<Twins! Do not ignore me! Did I raise you this way!?>

The twins sometimes glanced at Grandpa Gry, but walking with Roa was apparently much more important, so their eyes always returned to him.

The Subjugation Collar doesn’t work on these guys at all huh…

He had sort of guessed it, but nevertheless Dietrich tiredly looked on in disbelief at the three “servant” beasts.

The Subjugation Collar was equipped with a failsafe device that prevented it from being equipped to magic beasts which rejected its mind control magic. It was made to clearly tell if a magic beast could not be subjugated. If the collar was equipped, the magic beast was tamed… or so it was supposed to be, but the three magic beasts did not seem to be affected at all.

Grandpa Gry talked about rewriting the spell formula, however, so there had to be some sort of effect.

Dietrich then gave up on thinking, realizing that attempting to apply common sense was pointless with them.

“It looks like they’ll let us sleep for a while. What will you do?”

“That would be great…”

“Should I prepare a tent? But the weather is nice, so maybe you want to sleep on the grass over there?”

“…you’re tired too, aren’t you? The grass is fine.”

Dietrich then stood up, slowly followed by the other members, moving towards a grass field away from the camp now packed with adventurers. On the way, they told one of Coralde’s coachmen that they would rest for a while. They fell asleep soon after.

The gryphon lied down and Roa did so too, leaning on its body. The twins lied down at his sides.

“Everyone, you can use Grandpa Gry as a cushion too if you want. It hates if humans ride on it, but for some reason it loves sleeping together.”

<Hmngh!? That is not true at all! I am just that generous!>

“Yes, yes.”

Nostalgia’s members first looked at them from a bit farther away, but then, looking at Roa’s pleased expression and the tender fur of the gryphon and wolf twins, gave in and were sleeping next to them before they realized.

Soon enough calm, satisfied snoring noises could be heard. The 5 humans and 3 beasts’ sounds blended in harmony in the blue sky.

However, one of them…one of the 3 magic beasts still had its eyes open.

<Hmm. It appears he has some guts. I suppose I shall set up a situation for the brat to show his worth next time. Hehehe….>

These words were whispered in a very, very amused tone.

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