DAR Vol. 2 Chapter 7 Part 1

Chapter 7 – If Something Comes Twice, it will Come Thrice. If it Comes Thrice…

 

A crowd of humans gathered outside the Aldon forest.

Some of them belonged to the Adventurers’ Guild, but most of them were adventurers hired through requests. They acted normally where the guild staff could see them, but secretly circulated various rumors…

Have you seen that? The All-Rounder is together with the Hero Party’s servant beasts!

A man whispered. Triggered by this, a cluster of adventurers began talking quietly. It was next to pointless chatting, in which it was impossible to tell who said what.

…so what? He’s Crack of Dawn’s All-Rounder, right? What’s strange about it?

You didn’t see? They weren’t wearing Subjugation Collars at first! He was commanding a gryphon and two magic wolves without using a collar!

No way, that’s a gryphon!! Who the hell can command a gryphon without a collar!? They’re the wildest magic beasts there are! You know as well as I do about the places people can’t even approach because of gryphons!!

The Citadel Dungeon, right? A castle fortress of old the gryphons turned into their home, so no one can get closer to its surroundings, was it…

They can fly, after all, so their territory is really wide…

Who cares about that! I’m talking about the All-Rounder. He commanded the magic beasts without a collar, doesn’t it mean that he was the real tamer in the party?

…what are you saying, an All-Rounder is an All-Rounder, no?

Are you daft or what? You can’t even understand that?

Shut up, I was wrong, all right?

What are you all whispering about?

Hey, you’ve seen it too right? That All-Rounder was commanding the servant beasts without a collar. So we were saying that maybe he’s Crack of Dawn’s real tamer, and Eric was just a fake that took the kid’s achievements for himself.

What? For real? You can do something like that?

You can with the Subjugation Collar, I guess? Besides, I always found it weird, actually. Eric used to be just an archer, he never showed any talents as a tamer…

Yeah, you’re right. I never heard anything about him being a tamer, and he comes back all of a sudden with a gryphon, of all things? I remember people wondering if he had some secret method or something…

And it was always the All-Rounder kid taking care of the servant beasts, right?

For real?

You fools, enough with the rumors! The guild’s going to punish us!

Punish us? For what?

For what? Crack of Dawn was named Hero Party because they tamed a gryphon, right? If it comes out that they just used the All-Rounder kid for that, it’s all mud on their faces!

Yeah, you’re right…the gryphon is the whole reason why they got the Hero title in the first place…

And that’s fair, ain’t it? It’s not like they’re especially strong or anything. Without the gryphon, it wouldn’t be weird if they were still ranked B.

What? They’re that weak? They have the Holy Woman though, don’t they?

Former Holy Woman, and candidate to boot. People say she messed up and got expelled from the church, you know?

Whoa! And I liked her and all…that air she has just turned me on…

God man, you like that sort of woman? She’s definitely black as tar inside! The whole church is like that, all they can think of is money!

Hey, I get where you’re coming from though. I got my fair share of troubles because of the church too. But it doesn’t mean they’re all bad…and she’s so cute!

Shut the hell up, all of you. The issue here is the All-Rounder! Wasn’t there a rumor recently that he was actually an alchemist?

Oh yeah, that Crack of Dawn downed magic potions like water because he made them?

What? Really!?

Hey, the day after Crack of Dawn was made a Hero Party, the All-Rounder kid was kicked out, I heard. And so the bald trading company’s bald president took him in right away!

Exactly, and because of that people started saying that he was actually an alchemist.

Seriously? So if I got him in our party…he has a gryphon too…

Shut up, you didn’t know!? He’s already hired by the bald geezer. Say anything weird to the kid and you’ll get scalped!

Give me a break, no one gets killed over something like that!

Yeah, you’re a happy feller, aren’t ya. That bald geezer is one scary bald geezer…

The whispering continued endlessly, spreading rumors like ripples expanding on the surface of water…

𑁋

“Ngh…ah….achoo!!”

Dietrich woke up with a powerful sneeze.

<Nghah!! Do not soil me with your spit!!>

The very next moment, a “voice” resounded over his head.

“Shut up…”

Dietrich complained, still half asleep. He closed his eyes again and lied down on his makeshift pillow. It was very soft fur. It felt wonderful to the touch, soft, elastic to the right degree, faintly warm…

He then recalled what it was.

Oh crap…

Dietrich then slowly opened his eyes and looked around.

<You’re the last one, again, sleepyhead. I understand my fur is more pleasant than anything in this world, but you sleep too much! Stand up and get moving!>

It was the nasty beast’s fur, indeed. It’s almost irritating how good it felt…

Dietrich reorganized the current situation in his dozing head.

Scared by the gryphon, no one else dared approach the grass, but he could see people in the camp a few hundred meters from their location. His sleepy eyes eventually recognized Coralde’s coachmen, Roa and Nostalgia’s other members. He also spotted the magic wolf twins, running around in the surroundings.

A bonfire had been lit up: they were having a meal.

“You’re not joining them?”

<My meal is not ready yet, apparently. Why would I go, then? The humans other than the brat would get scared. It is better for me to keep some distance.>

Despite the gryphon’s excuses, it was clear that it didn’t want to go help them. Dietrich couldn’t imagine the prideful magic beast doing anything of the sort. His head still on the gryphon’s fur, Dietrich looked at its face.

A symbol of fear for humanity. A high-rank magic beast with power and attacks that spelled death for those who encountered it. Dietrich looked up at its face while feeling its warmth.

It was an unthinkable situation, but he felt no fear. Perhaps he had gotten used to it, or maybe because of its strangely human-like-nature?

There were several examples of magic beasts that learned human languages after living long enough. High-rank magic beasts could also talk with humans from the beginning.

In the distant past, the first hero and sage commanded magic beasts, such the “Crimson Phoenix” and the “Blue Dragon”, which could speak the human language.

It was a first for Dietrich, however: he never experienced something like that, so he had nothing to compare it to.

I thought magic beasts lived just following their instincts, but I guess that was wrong…

Dietrich thought that even magic beasts that became close to humans only did so because of their instincts, so talking with the strangely human-like Grandpa Gry had been shocking.

Dietrich then realized that Grandpa Gry was staring at him.

“What?”

Unable to sustain its gaze, Dietrich blurted out a question.

<…there is something I want to ask, now that the brat is not around.>

Its eyes were aimed straight at Dietrich, as if trying to peer in his very soul.

<Who exactly are you?>

“…I’m Dietrich, leader of the adventurer party Nostalgia.”

Dietrich, who understood the true meaning of Grandpa Gry’s words, answered while returning its direct gaze.

<Hmm…you still lie? The sword-arm you showed at the end of the battle against the mithril golem was a knight’s. Your mentors are people worthy of being called Sword Saint or Hero, are they not? Your magic control also shows that you must have been taught by a high-class magic user. And yet you claim you are a mere adventurer? You belong to an order of knights, do you not?>

“What are you talking about?”

<The girl’s reinforcement magic, I’ve seen that before too. It’s a particular one, with higher reinforcing effects, but less burden on the body…I would recognize that spell formula anywhere. I can guess which country it comes from too.>

“…..”

<Your magic user, he used to be a scholar, didn’t he? His knowledge and skills are unthinkable for a simple adventurer.>

“….”

<But the playboy is the best at hiding, I’ll give you that. Mingling with average folks, however, he stands out even more. He was trained especially for infiltration, right? He’s your “guard”, I wager?>

Grandpa Gry’s continued questions caused hesitation to appear in Dietrich’s eyes. Even so, he didn’t avert his eyes.

“I am Dietrich, an adventurer.”

The moment Dietrich spoke, Grandpa Gry’s aura expanded. 

Pressure.

Pressure, though without killing intent, but still hardly bearable for humans, weighed heavily on Dietrich.

<Do you mean that, as long as you are with the brat, you will continue being an adventurer?>

“Take it as you will.”

Despite the overwhelming pressure, Dietrich’s lips still formed a smile. He was just bluffing, but he surprised himself of being able to continue smiling while subject to a high-rank magic beast’s pressure.

His body was still leaning against Grandpa Gry’s stomach. From a distance, it looked like they were relaxing, but the pressure was simply keeping him from moving.

<I only wish to continue protecting the brat.>

The pressure suddenly relented.

<I am a magic beast. I care little for any human other than the brat.>

Grandpa Gry looked away from Dietrich, towards Roa, who was working on something.

<It is my right to do what is necessary to realize my wish. It is the brat’s right to do what is necessary to realize his wishes. Now that we are bound in a contract, we are always equal. If he wishes to keep you close, I will accept you. However…>

Grandpa Gry looked again at Dietrich and glared at him.

<I dislike you!!>

Grandpa Gry then quickly stood up. Without support, Dietrich rolled on the grass.

“Whoa!”

Dietrich unconsciously reacted, but the grass provided a soft landing. All his eyes could see was the clear blue sky.

<Looks like my meal is ready>

Right after Grandpa Gry spoke, Dietrich’s body was pushed by something and rolled on the grass.

“Woof! Woof!”

A red and a blue fur coat appeared and disappeared at the sides of Dietrich’s vision. After a light impact, his body was rolled with even more momentum and he understood that the twin wolves were bouncing him like a ball between themselves. His rolling had probably sparked the light of mischief in them.

<Twins, did you not come here to call me?>

A somewhat tired voice resounded. The wolves had suddenly showed up to announce that Grandpa Gry and Dietrich’s meals were ready.

Dietrich was relieved to be freed from the conversation with the gryphon and rolling on the grass did not cause any pain, so he let the twins do their thing. The situation, however, gradually became fun for him too. He imagined a grown man like himself being rolled around by wolf cubs and started laughing.

“Pfft…hahaha!!! You two!! Stop it! Dumb dogs!!”

Unable to hold it back anymore, he laughed loudly while calling to the twins. As if triggered by his laughter, they rolled him back and forth even faster.

“Hahaha…bwahahaha!! I said stooop!”

“Woof!”

Dietrich spread his arms and legs as much as he could, trying to stop the rolling: he quickly stood up and launched his counterattack.

“Come on! You’re going to get rolled too!”

Dietrich chased the twins, grabbed their bodies and launched them on the grass together. The blue and red balls of fur rolled perfectly.

“See if ya like it!”

Dietrich then pushed them with his hands to give them more momentum: the perfectly round balls of fur rolled on energetically.

“Woof! Woof!”

“Woof! Woof!”

Of course, if the twins had run seriously there would be no way for Dietrich to catch them, nor would they be rolled like that. They were enjoying it too.

After rolling about enough, it was Dietrich’s turn again. They gauged the perfect timing, split roles in pushing his arms and legs and set to roll him again.

“No! Stop! Hahaha!!”

“Woof!”

Once again Dietrich rolled on the soft grass. Dietrich’s laughter and the twins’ happy barks resonated in the plains.

Grandpa Gry was standing still, watching over them.

<Twins…you came for me, did you not? Twins….?>

The gryphon looked simply lonely, mumbling to itself. The wolf cubs and the human played like that for a while, rolling each other, but fun times don’t last long.

“Hey!! Stop playing around, it’s time to eat!!

Roa’s distant call made the twins’ ears perk up, and the next instant they were rushing towards him, not even looking at Dietrich anymore. They barked a couple times when they passed next to Grandpa Gry, but did not slow down one step.

What remained were Dietrich rolling on the grass and Grandpa Gry looking at him.

<…..>

“…..”

They looked at each other, speechless. The hierarchy in the twins’ heads had become clear. Even if they had fun playing together, Dietrich would be immediately ignored if Roa called. Grandpa Gry was checked every now and then, but ignored even if it called to them.

On the other hand, Roa could call them from afar and they would respond immediately.

The way the twin wolves treated them was very different. Evidently, Roa was at the top of the ladder for them.

”….shall we go?”

<Yes, let’s.>

A newly formed, strange sort of connection between them, the man and the gryphon plodded towards the camp. Near the forest’s exit, where the horse-drawn carriages Roa and Nostalgia rode on were stationed, a bonfire had been lit, with large pots over it. The pots, two in total, billowed merrily.

“Dietrich, sit here please.”

When the man and the gryphon arrived, Roa invited Dietrich to use a wooden crate as a chair. Nostalgia’s other members were already sitting. Roa was the only one hastily making preparations.

“You sit and eat too, Roa.”

When Dietrich took his seat, Kristoff -who was sitting next to him- called to Roa. He was holding a wooden bowl, filled to the brim with what looked like wheat porridge. 2 large meatballs topped the porridge. The coachmen probably prepared food easy to digest, so Roa and Nostalgia could eat easily.

“As soon as I finish preparing the servant beasts’ meals, I will!”

Roa then poured the contents of the other large pot in a wooden crate-like container. It was not porridge, but soup with meat and greens. It contained lots of meat and looked positively delicious.

“Roa, I want that too.”

Dietrich remembered seeing the same soup before. It was the wild boar and whiteroot grass soup they had the day before…or more precisely, in the early morning of the same day. It had a firm meaty flavor and was very delicious. This time it had a lot more meat than the one they ate in the morning, so it looked very appetizing.

“I’m sorry, this is for the servant beasts!”

Roa refused with a smile.

“Not even one bowl?”

“One of them eats a lot, so I’m not even sure if this will be enough, actually. Besides, it doesn’t taste good, you know?”

<I’m sorry for having a healthy appetite, hmph.>

A peeved reply could be heard, but since the Coralde company coachmen and some Adventurers’ Guild people were still around, Roa ignored it.

The source of the voice too sat close to Nostalgia, but as soon as it did the coachmen and adventurers moved away, just like retreating waves. Even if it was wearing a Subjugation Collar, they still feared it. It was good enough that they didn’t run away.

“It doesn’t taste good?”

<Hmm? The brat’s meals always taste great, though?>

“It doesn’t exactly taste bad, but it’s made for servant beast palates, so humans don’t like it much. It has little salt and less spices too. It feels thin, or should I say watery.”

“Servant beasts have different tastes than us? We ate the same thing last night, didn’t we?”

“It seems like they don’t like rich flavors very much. If it’s a once in a while, it’s okay, but…food flavored for humans is, in human terms, like really spicy food for them.”

“I see.”

It was pretty convincing. Dietrich didn’t hate spicy food per se, but he wouldn’t eat it every day. It was delicious only if eaten every once in a while.

In this country, various spices circulated. The ones from the southern regions and rarer species were very expensive, but the ones the locals could cultivate were fairly common. The most popular ones were dried mustard and ginger.

<How greedy of you to actually attempt to rob my meals…as expected of you!>

Those words were heard together with a howl-like cry from Grandpa Gry. It flashed a mischievous grin at the same time, but Dietrich simply glanced at the gryphon and ignored it. Roa and the other Nostalgia members did so too, but the other humans present were rattled by the sudden cry.

Some gripped the hilts of their swords, others bumped into each other and stumbled as they awkwardly tried to flee.

“Quiet, Grandpa Gry.”

<Hmgh, sorry.>

One word from Roa made the gryphon lower its head and turn quiet. The people around them felt relieved and, at the same time, looked at Roa with newfound respect. They understood that he wasn’t just together with the servant beasts, but actually commanded them. Their opinion of Roa completely changed that very instant.

As soon as Roa placed the wooden containers in front of the servant beasts, they eagerly started eating.

“Who’s the greedy one now…?”

Looking at them, Dietrich muttered under his breath. The other humans couldn’t hear, but the gryphon’s ears wouldn’t miss it.

<I am not greedy in the slightest. Last night I settled for a little because you lot had to eat too! I am an excellent servant beast, capable of restraint and kindness, as you can plainly see!>

Dietrich had a thing or two to say in response, but kept quiet because of the other humans’ presence. Roa had served him the wheat porridge bowl, so he started eating too. It was seasoned deliciously and he felt his whole body warm up as it entered the stomach. Roa too prepared his portion and finally sat down.

Right then, the Coralde trading company coachman, Chuck, appeared.

“The guild is fine with interviewing you later, apparently, so we can go back to town if we want. We don’t know if they’ll let the gryphon in town, however. What will you do?”

“Oh, I see.”

Being the group’s leader, position-wise, Chuck spoke to Roa. The latter gave a brief reply, then reflected a little.

It was obvious that they didn’t know if they would let the gryphon in town. Any subjugated magic beast, unless it was extremely weak, would never be let inside immediately. Normally they would have to camp outside town for a few days to check its behavior.

The Subjugation Collar’s effects were trusted, but for the sake of safety such measures were taken all the same.

Moreover, in case of a high-rank magic beast like the gryphon, normally their movement inside the city was limited. When Grandpa Gry was with Crack of Dawn, it was only allowed to move between the party’s mansion and the city gates. They were also instructed to use roads as far away from public facilities as possible.

Grandpa Gry was already well known as a servant beast, but that was under Crack of Dawn’s tamer, Eric. If it was presented as Roa’s servant beast, it was highly likely that they would not let them in town.

“If we go now, we will be forced to camp outside, I guess. What should I do…?”

It was already past noon. By the time they arrived in town, the gates would surely already be closed for the day. Based on the horse carriages’ speed, they would arrive in the evening.

In case of emergency reports, people were allowed inside even after the gates were closed, but their current situation was different. They could try bribing the gate guards with some gold, but it was not necessary to go so far at the moment.

“Let’s move. The air feels “nasty” here.”

Kristoff whispered while glancing at the Adventurers’ Guild staff. Thanks to his training as scout, he was very sensitive to the atmosphere around them.

The guild’s people clearly viewed Roa, Nostalgia and the Coralde company coachmen as abnormal. The freely moving gryphon was a source of fear, but also of irritation.

“Yeah, I agree. We should leave.”

Dietrich agreed, but it was because he was concerned about Roa. He estimated that the party who went in the Norfar valley to investigate it would be back soon enough. They would definitely come back with news of Crack of Dawn’s demise.

Dietrich thought that it was surely better for Roa and the servant beasts to not be there then. It would be cause for trouble and could also affect Roa mentally. Dietrich hoped for Roa to agree with his proposal of leaving, while not noticing his true reasons.

“I agree too, we should leave. There’s the Magic Bag thing too…”

Cornelia was concerned about the limits of the Magic Bags. The ones they had were modified by Grandpa Gry to remove their capacity limits. They could exceed their limits and break down anytime. If they did, all their contents would spill everywhere.

Their contents were great quantities of silver and mithril. If the Adventurers’ Guild staff found out, it would definitely start a huge commotion.

<Let’s go. This place isn’t pleasant at all!>

Lastly, Grandpa Gry shouted. Roa nodded to his surroundings.

“Understood, let’s go. Let’s use the most suitable road, considering that we will camp outside town.”

<In that case, there was a road with a large flower field, right? That is a good one! It has a very nice smell and feels great!>

The location proposed by Grandpa Gry was perfect for setting up camp. It was a flower field, but it wasn’t under human management; it was just a natural wide grassfield. Its vegetation was very rich and flowers bloomed all year, barring winter. It was also a gently sloping hill spanning several kilometers, so it was called “Floural Hill”.

<In this season, the camilles are blooming, I think?>

“How about camping on the Floural Hill?”

Roa presented Grandpa Gry’s proposal to Chuck, while making sure not to show any reactions to the gryphon. It would be a detour, but they were in no rush. 

More than anything, Roa wanted to gather camilles too. Their aroma improved sleep quality and they were delicious in tea as well. They could also be used in magic potions with calming qualities. If there was the chance, he would very much like to gather some.

“Let’s do that, then. How many years has it been since I last camped on Floural Hill…? Sleeping there feels really good, with the flowers’ scent and all, but it’s so close to the city that it’s rarely used.”

Chuck agreed too. It was perfect as a camping spot, but, because of the reasons Chuck stated, very few used it. It was more suited for picnics.

“Okay then, let’s finish eating and prep…”

A tremor. Before Roa could finish his sentence, the earth shook.

“An earthquake!? Everyone, take cover!”

Dietrich quickly gave orders. The shouts of other leader-like members of each group present could be heard. The quake, however, settled after an instant. There was no need to take cover.

Earthquakes and tremors did not occur often in the area, but were not exactly rare. If they weren’t too strong, there wouldn’t be problems, or so everyone thought. As it stopped quickly, everyone thought it was a weak one, so no one was concerned.

“…looks like it settled. Let’s finish eating and prepare to leave.”

After Roa spoke, everyone continued eating, as if nothing had happened.

Only Grandpa Gry, however, tried its hardest to keep a smile on its beak, as it acted natural while looking towards the forest.

𑁋

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