DAR Vol. 3 Chapter 11 Part 5
On the other hand, the Citadel Dungeon inspection party was in the elder’s residence, designated as their temporary headquarters. In such lodging towns, the country appointed lodging facilities for nobles to use as headquarters. Thanks to that the nobles always knew where to stay and the townspeople could serve any visiting nobles in one location, so the system was beneficial to both parties.
The lodgings appointed were usually luxurious inns or hotels, or in case of small lodging towns such as this, the elder’s residence. The party stayed in a lodging town after the first day’s outdoor camping because, just like the unnecessary camping the previous day, Count Amadan’s daughter wished it to be so.
The first day she decided to camp outdoors to preserve the atmosphere of adventure, but Eileen was forced to wait in her carriage for preparations to be done while smelling Roa’s delicious cooking, which irritated her greatly.
After the preparations were finally complete, she took a late dinner, which was too poor in terms of quality and quantity compared to the appetites awakened within her, so she expressed her dissatisfaction. A dissatisfaction which would only grow afterwards.
The simple bed prepared in her tent was too hard and unpleasant to sleep in. The shadows projected on the tent by the bonfires and the presence of soldiers standing guard outside didn’t allow her to sleep peacefully. The tent was built directly on the ground, with a cloth spread as floor, so humidity welled up inside, adding to the unpleasant atmosphere.
It could be said it was all due to her decisions, but Eileen’s attachment to the “adventuring atmosphere” decreased by a lot in one single night. The knights who heard her complaints recommended they stay at a lodging town the next night, so she acted as if there was no other choice and would stay in a proper lodging that night.
Eileen complained about the outdoor camp, but, in terms of spending the night outdoors, she had been quite blessed. Her tent was a gorgeous one, equipped with silence spells cast by the spellcasters that traveled with the party. To be able to sleep on a bed while camping outdoors was a treatment reserved for nobles. The meals she ate were absurdly elaborate and exquisite for camping food.
Anyhow, the party stayed at a lodging town to dispel Eileen’s dissatisfaction, so she had all sorts of great expectations. However…
“My apologies, the elder is out on a certain business.”
First of all, the elder, the owner of the residence they were in, was not present. They did visit without notice and she did not know him personally either, so not being able to meet the elder was not a problem in itself.
“That is fine. We can stay the night here, yes?”
“We’ll be in your care, then.”
“Very well. We shall prepare your rooms, so please wait a moment.”
Thus started their night at the elder’s residence, but the atmosphere started growing more and more peculiar. The service as a whole was strangely slow. Eileen understood that they could not be as efficient as the Count’s servants, but even taking that into account, they were too slow.
The meal’s quality and quantity also seemed to be aimed to be the bare minimum that could be served to a noble without being disrespectful. It was the same for the soldiers too: they did not expect to receive food for nobles, of course, but thought that they would at least have a proper meal. All they had, however, were simple stews prepared quickly and without much thought.
Compared to the residence’s size, the servants present were too few, and even they seemed to be focused on something else. It only “seemed” to be like that, though: there was no clear or evident mistreatment to complain about, so the only thing they could do was not to think about it. From Eileen till the soldier on the lowest rung of the ladder, the whole inspection party spent the night while feeling something was slightly off.
Then, the next morning…
“Hey, it looks like they held a festival in town last night.”
The soldiers were talking in the residence’s makeshift cafeteria. Their breakfast was the usual, bread and soup. The soup was so stewed that it was hard to see what ingredients were used in it and seemed suspiciously close to leftovers. The bread was not freshly baked, but leftovers from the day before.
“So that’s why the atmosphere was weird in the residence…”
If the servants were forced to work during a festival, it was not a mystery that they would be jittery and not very motivated. This also explained why there were so few: the others surely went to the festival.
“I heard that the gryphon participated, though.”
The soldiers eating soup almost spewed it out.
“Why that!? How!?! What the hell was that guy doing??”
“Did anything happen!? They aren’t going to blame us, right!?”
“That” referred to Grandpa Gry, while “that guy” was Roa. Normally, a gryphon participating in a festival meant a large-scale commotion and panic. Since they were together with the inspection party, the whole party might be held responsible.
“Weren’t they camping outside town!?”
Even in Amadan, where it was fairly well known that Grandpa Gry was not a dangerous magic beast, it would be very problematic if it walked around town. In a small town like that, it would definitely cause a huge panic.
All the soldiers expressed accusatory doubts, but the soldier who first mentioned the topic had an awkward expression on his face.
“About that…it looks like the town celebrated it…”
The soldier finally decided to say the words, and this time the other soldiers were left with confused expressions. Naturally so: a town celebrating a magic beast was unheard of. Servant beasts were nothing but tools, so no soldier would ever think of them as something to welcome or celebrate.
Their doubt-filled eyes turned towards the soldier who first mentioned the topic. However, he had no more information to provide. On the contrary, he had talked about it hoping to find someone with more information. The reason why he knew about the festival and the gryphon’s participation was that he heard the residence’s servants talk about it in the early morning.
He heard them mention multiple times the words “esteemed gryphon”, with profound respect and even admiration. It looked like they were talking about a king, not a servant beast. The soldier related this and the others were even more confused.
“….seriously, what the hell is going on here?”
“This is a normal lodging town, right? Okay, it’s a servant beast, but how can they be okay with a gryphon?”
“That guy didn’t feed them some weird drug or anything, did he…?”
New doubts and questions popped up incessantly, but no one could answer them.
“I don’t get how it happened…but one thing we know for sure, that guy enjoyed the festival and a whole lot of good food.”
The words plunged the soldier group in a very dark mood. They already resented Roa for the first day’s dinner and the second day’s breakfast. It might seem silly to resent someone for something like that, but they did so very seriously. Resentment due to food is deep-rooted, as they say.
If they heard that Roa enjoyed the festival the night before, their resentment could only grow.
“Why only that guy!?”
Roa ended up inadvertently creating another reason to be resented.
The reason why the inspection party’s service was not fully satisfying was not just because part of the servants had gone to Grandpa Gry’s welcome festival. Another reason was that the townspeople knew that the monsters’ attack on their town had been caused by the inspection party’s leader, Eileen, in the first place.
The residence’s servants did what they had to do without uttering a single complaint, despite their feelings towards her. They had pride in their jobs, so they would provide a sufficient level of service, no matter to whom. It was only a sufficient level, however: no one put any effort to do any more. As a result, the inspection party felt something was off.
If the soldiers knew about it, the target of their resentment would likely shift from Roa to the inspection party’s leader.
The inspection party’s travel then proceeded while stopping at lodging towns along the way. Eileen, so obsessed about adventures at first, seemed to have had her fill after the first day: she did not complain once as they stayed in lodging towns every day. Roa, on the other hand, camped outside, on the outskirts of town, every day after they left Camaro.
Camaro had been an exception among exceptions, after all. Not only did the other towns not welcome Grandpa Gry, but did not even allow it beyond the gates.
As the journey proceeded, the roads’ conditions became rougher and rougher. The party’s destination was the Citadel Dungeon, an area teeming with magic beasts. It was a very remote area, so as they proceeded towards it human settlements grew scarcer and scarcer.
The roads the party traveled on were built more than one thousand years ago. At the time the Citadel Dungeon was not overtaken by gryphons and magic beasts, it was just a castle fortress.
For this reason a road leading to the Citadel Dungeon existed, but it was not maintained at all.
No one would be so foolish as to maintain a road that led to a place where only magic beasts lived. It was natural for the road to grow rougher as they proceeded, even if it was built with ancient technology and was extremely resilient.
The stone pavement was corroded, with large holes here and there. It didn’t drain rain well anymore, so there were many puddles too.
The lodging towns and rest stations grew more scarce too. Just like the road’s poor condition, it marked the scarce human population in the area. Finally, seven days after the party left Amadan, there were no more lodging towns to aim for. From hereon, not only Roa but the whole inspection party would have to camp outdoors.
There were some villages even in such a remote region, but they were barely self-sufficient communities, so there was no way they could provide for visitors. Even if they did, they surely did not possess lodging facilities for a group as large as the inspection party.
“How long until we arrive?”
Roa whispered to himself while bouncing on the red magic wolf’s back.
<Hard to say. If I flew directly, we’re already two-thirds of the way, but from here onwards it’s going to be more and more difficult for humans to proceed. So we will take either as much time as we took to get here, or maybe even more.>
“Difficult for humans?”
<The roads will be even rougher. Some spots might not be possible to cross on a horse carriage. In that case, the party’s progress will slow down, will it not?>
The rough state of the roads made the horse carriages shake much more, causing some party members to feel sick and increasing the frequency of breaks, so the progress the party made decreased day by day. The horse carriages managed to advance for now, but they probably couldn’t do so until their destination.
In case the horse carriages couldn’t proceed anymore, the knights on horseback would not be affected, but the others could only walk. There was also the problem of transporting food and other supplies. Magic bags might make things work out somehow, but it was easy to see that they couldn’t store everything.
It was hard to imagine that the inspection party prepared enough magic bags to hold supplies for their many members: magic bags were not so cheap that they could prepare so many for a mere inspection party.
If the supplies that didn’t fit in the magic bags were transported by the troops, their exhaustion would become another issue. Roa had an idea to reduce physical fatigue to a minimum, but considering that they clearly did not trust him, they probably would not let him even speak.
<In some spots the trees around the road are so dense that they form forests. They’re not magic beast forests, but there are troublesome beasts in some.>
“Well, nothing you can’t deal with, right Grandpa Gry?”
<That is true.>
Grandpa Gry grinned. Looking at the gryphon’s amused expression, Roa felt that something bad was going to happen and furrowed his brows. It looked just like the face Grandpa Gry always made when it came up with a prank.
<After we exit the forest we’ll be at the border. Once we cross it, we will arrive in the ancient battlefield where the undead roam. You will be more effective than me with them, right brat?>
“That’s true, but…”
Roa’s expression was full of concern. Surrounding the Citadel Dungeon was an old battlefield, famous for being populated by undead born from corpses and dead spirits. Spellcasters that used recovery magic and people with lots of recovery magic potions, like Roa, could defeat them with ease, but they were very difficult opponents for average soldiers and adventurers.
Roa had prepared as much as possible, but he didn’t know what preparations the inspection party made. He didn’t know how much he should help. He could simply ask them, but the foul atmosphere between them made even normal conversation difficult.
The biggest issue, in the end, was that the relationship between Roa and the inspection party did not improve at all. If only they could exchange information they could prepare some countermeasures, but it was not possible in the current situation.
If only he could know the reason why the atmosphere was so bad he could try to fix it, but the soldiers just glared at him silently and the knights avoided him on purpose. The soldiers threw all their food resentments on Roa and the knights thought the magic wolf twins threatened them, but Roa could never imagine it.
If Roa was bold enough to try to talk to them he might find out and improve the situation, but he had developed the bad habit of keeping quiet like that. His poor opinion of himself made him think that someone like him had no place to interfere.
Roa then thought about whether his preparations were enough to protect the whole party, thus his expression clouded. It might work in the beginning, but as they proceeded towards the Citadel Dungeon, there was a risk that many party members would die.
That’s how bad the affinity between the undead and regular humans was. Roa intended to bring back everyone alive, if possible, but knew that he by himself didn’t have enough power to protect them all. Even if he borrowed Grandpa Gry’s strength, he wasn’t confident he could protect everyone until the end.
He might have to abandon the inspection party…Roa realized this and felt depressed.
Incidentally, Grandpa Gry and the magic wolf twins were ill-suited to fighting against the undead. Ghosts and Liches were impervious to physical attacks and most magic attacks, while Zombies and Skeletons kept moving even if part of their body was missing.
Grandpa Gry especially hated Zombies; they could be considered its natural enemy because of the insects swarming their decaying flesh. Grandpa Gry hated insects so much that it didn’t want to have anything to do with them.
The old battlefield around the Citadel Dungeon was especially populated by Skeletons, while Zombies were a rarer encounter, but they were still present. Grandpa Gry meant to have Roa deal with any and all undead.
<Well, er, you know. We’re going into places where humans rarely tread, so you’ll be able to do a lot of the gathering you like so much! I am not interested so I don’t know much, they say there are fanatics who go all the way to the Citadel Dungeon just to gather materials!>
Grandpa Gry couldn’t bear to see Roa depressed because of what it said, so it tried to cheer him up somehow. Roa’s eyes started sparkling again, erasing his sullen mood. Roa had never come to this area either, which meant that he could find plants, animals, magic beasts, minerals and much more than what he knew from books. He might even find things no one ever saw before.
“That’s really exciting!”
Grandpa Gry heard Roa’s enthusiastic tone and nodded, satisfied. Roa knew well how to handle Grandpa Gry, but the opposite was also true. It knew well what buttons to push to console him.
With a mixture of worry and hope in his heart, Roa and the inspection party continued on the path to the Citadel Dungeon.