DAR Vol. 2 Chapter 7 Part 3

Dawn broke out. Roa’s group had spent the night on Floural Hill. There was nothing other than plants on the hill, which allowed for a wide view of the surroundings, so there was nowhere magic beasts or bandits could hide. 

Roa’s group spent such a peaceful time that the events in the forest seemed almost like a dream.

<Brat. Wake up.>

Roa was woken up by Grandpa Gry’s voice. The others slept in tents, with only Roa sleeping with the servant beasts. He fell asleep using Grandpa Gry as pillow and its wings as blanket, with the wolf twins close by.

However, when Roa woke up, Grandpa Gry was in front of him and he was sleeping while hugging the twins.

“….what?”

Still half asleep, Roa looked at the gryphon. Usually he would wake up first, so it was rare for him to be woken up by Grandpa Gry. Some trouble must have happened, so Roa stood up hurriedly.

“Morning.”

Roa heard Cornelia’s voice from behind Grandpa Gry. Kristoff was next to her too. With the servant beasts around, there was no need for anyone to stay awake to stand guard, but Nostalgia’s members and the coachmen took turns all the same. Not being used to no one standing guard, they probably felt worried.

Roa recalled that Cornelia and Kristoff were the last pair, who stood guard at dawn. He thought that Grandpa Gry called them, since they were awake. They both looked a bit sleepy.

Floural Hill was said to be the harshest place to stand guard: the flowery scent and the peaceful atmosphere lulled people to sleep. The camilles, blooming in that season, had positive effects on sleeping, so standing guard on Floural Hill was a battle against sleep.

“Good morning, did something happen?”

Roa yawned leisurely, then the twin wolves sleeping next to him woke up as well. Roa gently patted their heads.

<Time to hunt!!>

“Wha?”

Grandpa Gry shouted, but Roa didn’t understand the meaning of its words. It normally talked way too much when unnecessary and way too little when it actually mattered. Roa gave up and looked straight at the excited Grandpa Gry.

“….we just need to go with you, right?”

<Indeed.>

After observing Grandpa Gry briefly, Roa understood and stood up.

“What? You understood with just that?”

Kristoff tilted his head, puzzled. Grandpa Gry just told them to “follow me”, so they had no idea what was going on.

“Pretty much. Even when we couldn’t talk, I could more or less tell what it thought just by looking. I think it found something…since it mentioned hunting, maybe thieves or something similar?”

“Wow….”

Kristoff and Cornelia were convinced by Roa’s words. If Grandpa Gry found a thief, it would need help to capture it. That was probably the reason why they were called too.

“But why did you wake me up too? You always catch them by yourself.”

Up until now, if the camp was attacked during the night the servant beasts would deal with any invaders on their own accord. It wasn’t rare to find bandits lying about when they woke up in the morning. Roa couldn’t come up with any reason why he was woken up too.

<You told me to never experiment without your permission, didn’t you!? Now let’s go!>

“Eh?”

The next moment, an aura of great magic power expanded from Grandpa Gry. Promptly followed by several sounds of heavy objects falling on the ground.

<…mmh…I used too much magic power. I didn’t aim as well as I would have liked either. A lot of magic power leaked too…I guess I should modify the formula again. Well, if the brat is safe, then there’s nothing to worry about.>

Roa then understood what Grandpa Gry just did. It had tested new magic. Since Roa had forbidden the gryphon from using it without permission, it woke Roa up to use it under his supervision.

“…Grandpa Gry, this is just like using it without permission.”

<What!? I told you I would do it before I used it!>

Grandpa Gry looked at Roa with an utterly shocked expression, as if it couldn’t believe its ears.

“If you don’t tell me what you are going to do and take proper permission, it’s not good.”

<You never said anything like that!! I took all the trouble of waking you up before using it, didn’t I!? Is that not enough?>

“You just showed it to me, you didn’t have permission!!”

<Simply unreasonable!!>

Grandpa Gry’s shout made Kristoff and Cornelia shudder.

“You’re the unreasonable one here, Grandpa Gry!!”

<Is your heart so miserable, brat? I do a little thing that’s not to your liking and you always punish me so eagerly! Who do you think I am!?>

“You’re Grandpa Gry, aren’t you? I punish you because you did something worth scolding! The twins are good kids, so I rarely ever scold them, don’t I?”

<I am a magic beast! What do I care of humans and their standards!?>

“Look! You can’t say anything and you try to change the topic! So childish…”

<Childish!? You’re the brat here, not me!! Oh yes, you’re a short human pup aren’t you? Hehehe>

“You know that I have a complex about that!! I’ll never forgive you!!”

<I have little use for your forgiveness!! Ah…no, twins, I…I’m in the wrong…? You’re on the brat’s side…?>

The wolf twins apparently said something to Grandpa Gry, who found itself at a loss for words. Roa couldn’t hear their voices, but they nodded vigorously to him.

“Hey!! This is no time for bickering!! Did you kill them!?”

Cornelia used the chance to interrupt the conversation. Even if it was just a quarrel, Cornelia Kristoff felt cold sweat running down their backs as they watched Roa talk back to a high-rank magic beast. A creature that could kill them with a single swipe of its front paws. Who knows what could happen if its mood went sour?

So she tried desperately to change the topic. Roa and Grandpa Gry, glaring at each other so close that their faces almost touched, turned towards Cornelia. She and Kristoff were nervous, but for Roa and Grandpa Gry this was something like a game.

“Grandpa Gry, did you kill them?”

<I just put them to sleep. I tried this magic for the first time, so I couldn’t control it well and it ended up affecting nearby animals too, but they shouldn’t be dead. I cast a weak spell, so it won’t kill anyone.>

What Grandpa Gry attempted was “Sleep”, a mental manipulation magic spell. The effects of mental manipulation spells depended on the target’s state of mind, so they were not absolute. In many cases, the target resisted it, preventing any effects.

“If they’re just asleep, they might wake up sooner or later. Let’s tie them up before they do.”

“Right.”

Kristoff and Cornelia talked to each other, then started walking. Roa and the servant beasts looked at them, then started moving too. The change of topic had succeeded: both Kristoff and Cornelia breathed a sigh of relief internally.

<Playboy! Can you tell where they are?>

“Yeah, I can tell now that they’re sleeping. To think they were so close.”

Before Grandpa Gry put the targets to sleep, Kristoff’s detection did not pick up any human presences. But now he could detect four of them, so they were probably very skilled in concealing themselves. Being able to do so in a grassfield without any natural obstacles was a clear sign of their skills.

Grandpa Gry saw through them all the same, though.

After a while, the tied up intruders were rolled up to the camp. They were a group of four, three men and one woman. Next to them, for some reason, there was a large deer too.

It had fallen asleep because of Grandpa Gry’s Sleep uncontrolled spell, so they picked it up too. They already gave it the coup de grace: its neck, bitten and crushed, hung downwards.

The sun rose higher in the morning sky. The sound of Roa and the others moving around woke up the coachmen and Nostalgia’s other members too. They saw a group of unknown people tied up and gathered, wondering what happened.

“What’s up with these people?”

Dietrich, still barely awake, asked on behalf of the others. He suppressed a yawn and was clearly still drowsy.

<How should we know? We just captured them, we haven’t interrogated them yet! Are you stupid?>

Grandpa Gry cast a cold stare towards Dietrich. The latter was about to react, but remembered the coachmen were there too, so he limited himself to stare back at the gryphon.

“I’ll wake them up, then.”

The coachmen didn’t know about Grandpa Gry’s magic, so they were told that the cause of their state was sleeping potions Roa made. Dietrich glanced at Grandpa Gry, then made an impromptu gesture and touched the intruders. At the same time, Grandpa Gry dissolved the spell.

“Hng….”

The mysterious group woke up immediately.

“Hey. Who are you?”

Dietrich’s tone was low. He didn’t mean to sound menacing to interrogate them: he was just irritated to be woken up so early. The group heard his voice, but their eyes were locked onto Grandpa Gry. They looked terrified.

“We, we are sir Coralde’s private soldiers. We were patrolling the surroundings for your safety!”

The group they thought to be thieves had a surprising real identity.

“Eh? Sir Coralde…?”

One of the coachmen, looking from a distance -out of fear of Grandpa Gry- reacted. The mood then turned quite awkward.

The mysterious intruders were Coralde’s secret spies, actually.

They belonged to the Mercenaries’ Guild and had signed a long-term contract with Coralde. The coachmen knew about their existence within the company, but they had never met them before. The coachmen looked at each other to see if someone knew about their presence, but all of them shook their heads.

<Indeed. I could not feel any hostility from them.>

Grandpa Gry’s words turned the mood heavy on the shoulders of those who could hear them.

You could have said that earlier!!!

They all restrained themselves from shouting. Roa, Cornelia and Kristoff tied them because they thought they were bandits. The ropes were tied firmly, biting into their limbs, so they wouldn’t be able to escape. It definitely hurt just to be tied, and even if they were freed they would definitely leave bruises.

If they knew that the mysterious “guests” did not bear any ill will, they wouldn’t have gone so far.

“If so, then why…”

Roa slipped up and started replying to Grandpa Gry, but the tied spies thought the question was directed at them. After a little while, they decided to answer.

“The Adventurers’ Guild showed suspicious movements, so we were tasked with protecting you without anyone finding out. Our role is always to move in the shadows, we are not supposed to meet you directly. Moreover, if you know about us the risk of any hostile forces to find us increases. Sir Coralde had no ill intentions, please understand.” 

The leader of the group answered, with a heavy tone. As he said, they lived in the shadows. They were confident in hiding their presence, even their own existence, as they carried out stealth missions. Despite this, they had been easily found and even tied up, which they surely found shameful.

On top of that, they were found out not by their enemies, but by whom they were supposed to protect, so it was natural for them to lose confidence.

“No, you often hear about people being protected by escorts they are not aware of, we know of the existence of such groups. We should thank Mr. Coralde for assigning you to us instead. Rather than that…”

Dietrich knew than Roa’s question was directed to Grandpa Gry, so he didn’t know how to react. He glanced at Grandpa Gry and saw that the gryphon wasn’t sorry in the slightest. It found the situation slightly irritating, instead.

<They were going back and forth outside the forest from the start, I know. The twins found them too and I knew that they weren’t hostile, you know? Only you hapless humans didn’t notic…gfghm! Brat! What is the meaning of this!>

Roa tackled the gryphon’s neck and choked it with both of his hands. Grandpa Gry emitted a shrill cry. For those who couldn’t hear the magic beast’s voice, it was a sudden, bizarre action. They did not understand why he would attack a high-rank magic beast like that, without provocation. The coachmen and spies were fearful that the gryphon might fight back.

“….what are you thinking?”

Roa pushed his head close to Grandpa Gry’s ears…or where they were supposed to be, and whispered.

<What…do you mean?>

“There’s no need to capture the people watching over us, is there?”

<I did it to test new magi…a-actually, I did it so they wouldn’t be dragged in trouble!>

“Grandpa Gry! Just now, you were talking about an experiment! Weren’t you!?”

<Playboy! Come here, now!>

“Eh?”

Kristoff was trying to hear what Roa and Grandpa Gry were talking about, but he didn’t expect to be called out. Hesitantly, he approached Grandpa Gry.

“Don’t ignore me, Grandpa Gry.”

<Playboy, repeat the words I am going to say. The brat or the sleepyhead would work too, but you’re the one the humans here would trust the most.>

Roa, still very young, was understandable, but for Dietrich it was an unintended insult.

“Eh? Okay…?”

Grandpa Gry’s intense glare made it impossible to refuse. Kristoff didn’t know what the gryphon would say, but decided to comply and stood in front of the group.

<Listen, you lot! Danger is approaching. Repeat!>

“Listen, you lot! Danger is approaching…”

“… ‘You lot’??”

The reaction was not about what Kristoff said, but how he did. Anyone who couldn’t hear Grandpa Gry’s voice would be very suspicious of Roa’s strange actions and Kristoff’s suddenly different speech. They actually furrowed their brows and looked at them with suspicion.

<My detection magic has registered the approach of a magic beast. A gigantic one.>

“My detection magic has registered the approach of a magic beast. A gigantic one…wait, for real!?!”

Kristoff’s surprise at his own words failed to express the gravity of his words. Roa and Nostalgia’s other members too were speechless because of the sudden development.

<This place will soon become a battlefield. We captured those people because they would just get in the way.>

“…..”

<You should take refuge somewhere together with them. The battle….why aren’t you repeating my words?>

“…..”

A heavy atmosphere oppressed everyone other than Grandpa Gry. Even the twins looked at the gryphon with disappointment. The latter looked around and was surprised to see everyone frozen stiff. The silence continued for a while, until Dietrich finally broke it.

“….sorry, it looks like Kristoff is in a bit of a panic. Can we talk with Roa in private for a moment?”

“Yes, that is alright…”

Dietrich’s proposal was accepted by the leader of the Coralde company coachmen, Chuck.

“Er, could you untie us though?”

The still bound spies spoke, but no one moved to free them. The reason was that while they said they were secret spies hired by Coralde, there was no way to confirm it. It would be different if someone had seen them in the trading company, but no one had. 

More than anything, it was a fact that they had been spying on Roa’s group for a while, so Nostalgia’s members were still wary of them.

Another tremor. The ground shook, only for an instant.

“Another quake? Is a volcano erupting or something?”

Someone commented and everyone looked at the surroundings, but they could not see smoke anywhere.

“In any case, I’m sorry but please give us some time. We might have to leave urgently, so could you make preparations?”

“Understood.”

Dietrich’s words changed the topic back. Following him, Roa, Nostalgia’s other members and the servant beasts moved a bit farther from the rest. Kristoff was in last position, his shoulders dropping, his pace weak.

“…they definitely think I’m suspicious…”

Because of Grandpa Gry, they still looked at him like not everything was right with his head. Kristoff started to feel like crying.

𑁋

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