DAR Vol. 2 Chapter 7 Part 4

“So, what’s going on?”

Once they went far enough, Roa asked Grandpa Gry. His hands gripped the wooden brush used to groom the gryphon. Roa had pulled it out of the magic bag, but naturally not because he wanted to brush Grandpa Gry. It was to threaten that any improper statement would be punished with a whack.

Of course, a whack by Roa wouldn’t cause actual damage to Grandpa Gry, but by seeing that Roa was angry, Grandpa Gry lost its usual composure. It looked at the twins, pleading for assistance, but they looked back at the gryphon with irritation.

<What…what are you angry about now?>

“You already know, don’t you?”

<Ngh….I, I wasn’t hiding anything, all right? I just, I just could not be sure.>

Grandpa Gry’s desperate efforts to avert its gaze from Roa said everything. It was clear that it hid it on purpose.

“Is a gigantic magic beast really approaching?”

<It is.>

“Why?”

<It’s the golem survivors. Those slugs apparently hid some separated bodies. I thought I had crushed them all, but bugs aren’t easily exterminated, after all! The saying that “if you spot one, 30 more must be hiding” was really true after all!>

The gryphon laughed out loud, but no one joined in. All gazes towards Grandpa Gry were cold.

“When did you first notice?”

<….>

“You said to come to this grassfield, right? You had already noticed then?”

<….>

“Do you want me to get seriously angry?”

<You are already angry, aren’t you!?>

Roa smiled.

But his eyes didn’t. It was apparently more effective than getting actually angry: Grandpa Gry lowered its head and closed its eyes.

“We finally became able to talk, so I suppose we should have a proper conversation, right?”

<Kh…alright, I admit it. I already noticed when we departed. There was nothing that could be done then, though…>

Grandpa Gry, frustrated, started talking. Nostalgia’s members could not say anything after seeing how Roa intimidated a high-rank magic beast into submission. Towards the servant beasts, Roa acted like a confident master. This was probably his true self.

His personality had been twisted by living with Crack of Dawn, turning him into someone with a very low opinion of themselves. Dietrich, who realized this, had a sort of lonely expression.

<It was hiding underground. After all, those slugs use earth magic to gather minerals and control their own bodies, after all. If they are underground, my powers can’t detect them as clearly. Even if I can tell that they are “somewhere”, I cannot tell “where” that is.>

Grandpa Gry’s expression was sour. It was apparently painful to confess that its powers had their limits. It was clear that it did not want to say it, if possible.

<It leaked fierce hostility towards me, so I thought it would come attacking sooner or later, and led it here. Fighting here will not inconvenience anyone, that’s why! I am careful and attentive, as you can see!>

The gryphon’s expression quickly changed to a gloating one.

“The adventurers are gathered outside the forest. Wasn’t it better to cooperate with them to attack?”

Kristoff interjected. He was a bit down after being looked like he wasn’t all there, but he couldn’t just stay like that when the threat of the magic beast attack existed.

<Small fry is still small fry, no matter the quantity. They would just get in the way and die. That is perfectly fine with me, but…>

Grandpa Gry glanced at Roa.

<…if humans die before his eyes, the brat won’t like it, right? Have you forgotten how one shiny slug (mithril golem) was about to kill you and I had to save you?>

Nostalgia’s members could not say anything in response to that. It was true that rather than dragging others into the battle and risking their deaths, it was better to lead the magic beast somewhere else.

<Let me say this first, I do not hold your fighting power in any regard either! Withdraw from this grassfield with the others!>

Another tremor. The earth shook again.

<It’s coming closer, there’s no doubt about it. Shouldn’t you decide on a plan soon?>

Grandpa Gry grinned. Its smile meant that each tremor was a sign of the magic beast’s approach.

A magic beast large enough to shake the very earth…was it truly that powerful?

The faces of everyone present turned pale.

<Those who will participate in the battle are I, the twins and the brat.>

“Me?”

At the same time as Roa’s reaction, the ground shook again. It felt like a massive footstep.

𑁋

A few hours later, Roa and the servant beasts were more or less in the center of Floural Hill. A gentle breeze blew among the flowers, spreading their sweet scent. The sun was now high in the sky, colored deep blue. It was so beautiful that one would like to just keep gazing at it…if nothing else was happening.

Suddenly, the ground shook again. This time the quakes did not stop, growing stronger and stronger, making it difficult to even stay standing. Roa managed to stay up by standing between the wolf twins, his hands on their backs, and looked around.

The Coralde trading company coachmen and Nostalgia had already taken refuge. They had instructed them to leave Floural Hill, so they would not be involved into the battle. Since they had enough time, they might have moved to a nearby hill to watch over the situation.

Roa’s expression was calm. Not because he was not afraid, but thanks to Grandpa Gry and the twins being with him, he could stand it. He looked at the three magic beasts, waiting for the moment the enemy would appear with a sort of excitement in their eyes, and thought it wasn’t something to fear.

<Brat. I trust you are ready.>

“Yes!”

He answered with impetus, imitating Nostalgia. That single word reply was enough to fill him with courage. Did Nostalgia’s members always experience this excitement? That moment, Roa felt like he understood the true meaning of fighting alongside comrades.

<Well said!>

Grandpa Gry twisted its beak into a grin, excited. Within the current Roa resided absolute trust: he felt like he could entrust his very life with them. And also the existence of those who would entrust everything to him.

Grandpa Gry and the wolf twins were servant beasts, but Roa viewed them as true comrades. In Crack of Dawn, he had always felt excluded. They acted together, but he was never treated as a comrade. Roa himself did not think of them as comrades either. He just put up with them in order to become an adventurer.

“Woof woof!”

“Woof woof!”

The twins looked at Roa and howled. Then they lightly waved their front paws. They meant to say that he could relax, they would protect him no matter what.

“Thanks!”

Roa moved his hands, still on their backs, and rubbed them. The situation required them to be tense, but they fully enjoyed the back rubs. Roa was supposed to be their guardian, but in turn they protected him too. Roa and the twins were equal partners who protected each other, albeit in different ways.

As for Nostalgia…Dietrich said that Roa was a comrade. However, Roa thought that he had just gotten in their way. They were not in equal standing, they just protected him one-sidedly. They were not true comrades. That was the reason why he thought that if his own life could be enough to save them, it was worth it, and lured away the golems when they were attacked in the forest.

“Hmm?”

The tremors stopped. In the resulting silence, Roa voiced a surprised reaction.

<It’s coming.>

As if Grandpa Gry’s words were the signal, vibrations much more powerful than the quakes shook the earth, splitting it apart. A deafening roar filled the surroundings.

Then, as if in response…

<Mwahahahaha!!!! Good!! What wonderful hostility you radiate! Yet I shall shatter it all! What more appropriate for someone as powerful as I!?>

Grandpa Gry’s cries of glee echoed. Pollen and petals flew everywhere, signaling the gravity of the situation.

They did not reach Roa’s group, however. Soon enough, the vibrations that shook their whole bodies did not affect them anymore. It was all due to Grandpa Gry’s wind magic. It had erected a barrier around Roa and the others, protecting them by making their bodies float. It then made them rise higher in the sky.

<Hahahaha!! Now!! Show your body, fed on resentment and hate! Mwahahaha!!!>

Grandpa Gry’s voice echoed again. Roa and the twins felt their excitement abate, their minds grow cooler.

“….I don’t know who is the real bad guy anymore.”

“Bow wow…”

“Bow wow.”

“You’re right, it’s clearly Grandpa Gry…”

Roa patted the twins’ heads while looking at Grandpa Gry with some exasperation. Thinking about it, the golems had their home invaded, were slaughtered without being able to resist, chased the enemy to exact revenge and were greeted by boasting and laughter. The bad guy was definitely Grandpa Gry.

The twins also happily assisted it, but they acted completely innocent in front of Roa. They might be the most malicious ones, actually…

Slowly, something crawled out of the fissure formed in the earth.

<As expected.>

A transparent body, glowing eerily in the sunlight. It rose to the surface by its own will. It seemed liquid, but also showed elastic and sticky properties.

<You finally broke out of your shell, slug!!>

The liquid pushed the shattered ground upwards, forming a larger crevasse. What finally appeared was an extremely large spherical body.

“A slime!?”

A large, sticky creature with a core. It was a kind of magic beast Roa was used to seeing too. He had heard Grandpa Gry’s prediction, but did not think that the golem would really turn into a slime.

<O cursed magic beast, with instincts changed by alchemy to fabricate a doll carapace! Did your fury let you recover your primal will? Mwahahaha!!!> 

Golems were alchemical creatures, created using slimes as base. Through alchemy humans created a human-like carapace, easier to control, improving these magic beasts by making them move like humans.

However, the magic beast before them now had returned to its original form. The driving force behind such a change was resentment. Its resentment had peaked after so many of its brethren were slaughtered, freeing the instincts sealed by alchemy.

<How interesting!>

The core that surfaced from the crevasse was larger than Roa and even Grandpa Gry. It looked like its diameter spanned several meters. Its surface also glowed in a familiar way.

“Grandpa Gry, is that mithril?”

<Indeed! That core is protected by a mithril shell. It kept its golem-like tendencies in a strange way…or might be that the reason why I could not detect it clearly? That is quite a nuisance! I cannot even foresee its thickness!>

A slime’s body was composed mainly by water. Because of this, underground its presence was just like water, making it very difficult to detect via magic, but the magic absorbing capabilities of the mithril which protected its body disrupted detection even more.

Because of such difficulty of detection, Grandpa Gry predicted that it would be protected by mithril, but it was much sturdier than expected.

<Because of that, there are no other ways to scan it. To pierce through all that slime and also destroy the mithril protecting the core is impossible for myself alone. There is a high chance it would escape.>

The core had already surfaced, but the transparent liquid continued oozing from the fissure. If it was simple water, it was enough to form a lake: it was now occupying the area for several hundreds of meters, maybe even exceeding one thousand.

Grandpa Gry’s group was unaffected, as they had rose in midair, but the ground was being devastated.

Slimes melted anything they touched. That was the only offensive these magic beasts possessed, but if they turned so large it was extremely dangerous. The ground was scorched, plants and trees dissolved.

“…and it was such a treasure trove of ingredients…”

This was what Roa was thinking about while looking down at the slime. Most of the plants growing on the hill had high reproducing abilities. If they suffered such damage, however, it would probably take dozens of years before things returned to normal.

Can slime ingredients be used for anything…?

The unreal view of the gigantic slime swallowing anything and everything as far as the eyes could see made Roa think of that instead of instilling fear into his heart. 

The slime had tried attacking them, with tentacles the size of adult humans, but Grandpa Gry’s magic repelled them. That was the reason why Roa did not feel in danger.

Slime materials normally scattered everywhere after they were defeated, like a spray of water, so it was impossible to collect them. If the slime was this large, however, things would be easier, so Roa thought if they could prove useful for anything.

<Well then, it seems like it almost resurfaced completely above ground. Time for the festivities to begin.>

Grandpa Gry grinned.

<As we discussed, I have to execute two large-scale spells to prevent it from escaping. Adding the spell to keep us here, it makes three. This means that I cannot move from here and I might not have enough magic power to cast other spells.>

Grandpa Gry’s tone was totally excited.

“Is this really the only way?”

It seemed so excited that Roa started doubting if it wasn’t pulling them into another prank.

<…you’re quite the suspicious one.>

“I guess it’s because of your usual behavior…”

<Absurd! I told you that there are other methods, but they present more risk of causing damage or letting it flee!>

“You could do something about that though, couldn’t you? You took it easy until now, didn’t you.”

<If it manages to flee, it won’t be this easy to find it anymore, you know? Their abilities might be low, but alchemical creatures have enough intellect to understand human commands. It would definitely target us while hiding. If it attacks us in town, you lot will be in trouble, won’t you?>

“Sigh…”

Roa sighed loudly and clearly.

“You acted so high and mighty, but your detection abilities sure have their limits.”

<Brat, you better remember that…!>

Roa and Grandpa Gry both grinned. Banter before the fight: to dispel any nervousness in this manner was the mark of the adventurer Roa aspired to.

<Twins, I leave the brat to you.>

The twin magic wolves nodded vigorously. Roa rode one of them, the twin with blue fur. It looked a bit too small for Roa to ride on, but it was always a magic wolf. It was much more powerful than an average horse.

<Let’s go!>

“Yes!”

<Ten, nine, eight, seven…>

Grandpa Gry started a countdown.

A magic beast using numbers…

Roa thought Grandpa Gry could do math, as it freely modified spell formulae, but he couldn’t help reacting like this when it started counting.

<Four, three>

The moment Roa was getting ready, the magic under their feet suddenly disappeared and he fell along with the magic wolf.

“Waaahhh!!”

Roa was thinking that he still had some time left, so he screamed because of the sudden fall.

<Mwahahaha!! This is the price to pay for looking down on me!!>

Grandpa Gry’s voice reached his ears as they fell.

“You cheating magic beaaaaast!!!”

<Hahahaha!!!>

Roa’s scream and Grandpa Gry’s laughter echoed together.

𑁋

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