DAR Vol. 3 Chapter 11 Part 8
The day turned into actual night and the forest was immersed in an even deeper darkness. Because of a series of events, the inspection party was forced to spend the night in the forest.
The first reason was that the carriages couldn’t advance anymore. The soldiers’ carriage that was knocked over blocked the path. It was the first one of the convoy, so it had to be removed before they could go on. The horse died too, so its corpse had to be disposed of.
The soldiers also removed the other horses from the carriages, to prevent the same thing from happening, but a few of them had run away. The knights’ horses also escaped and very few remained. They probably couldn’t calm them down and tie them somewhere.
The soldiers and knights were exhausted as well, so they didn’t have enough energy to continue traveling through the forest. Especially the wounded soldiers who, despite being healed thanks to Roa’s potions, couldn’t be pushed too hard. The soldiers and knights knocked unconscious by the rabbits all regained their senses, but it couldn’t be said that they were in top form.
Because of these reasons, the party was forced to camp in the forest, but new issues arose.
“What do you mean, you cannot put up the tent!?”
“Of course we can’t!!”
The female knights and the soldiers preparing the camp were quarreling. The former demanded they put up Eileen’s tent and the latter refused; the road was barely wide enough for one carriage, so there wasn’t enough room to put up Eileen’s massive tent anyway.
The female knight, however, wouldn’t relent, until…
“Put it up yourselves then.”
The soldiers then continued their preparations. There wasn’t enough room for tents, so the soldiers too would wrap themselves in blankets and sleep on the ground. The rabbits might attack again, so sleeping in tents would make it harder to see the surroundings, which was another reason why they did not use them.
“Hey, where’s the magic bag with food supplies in it?”
“Maybe it got lost somewhere during the commotion. Look harder.”
The trigger was the loss of the magic bag containing food supplies: after a thorough inspection, the soldiers found out that several supply bags were missing. Most of them contained food: the magic bags with expensive ingredients, brought for Eileen, were almost all gone.
The soldiers imagined that the rabbits pilfered them, which seemed absurd, but being attacked by rabbits like that was incredible too, so no one could deny such a theory.
Even if they had food supplies they couldn’t cook inside the forest, however, so their dinner was dried meat and stiff bread. Even Roa followed suit: he gave smoked meat to the servant beasts and ate it with bread himself.
After the meal, when it was time to sleep, Grandpa Gry moved.
<I’ll be back in the morning.>
Without even giving Roa time to answer, the gryphon disappeared into the forest.
It wasn’t rare for Grandpa Gry to disappear like that, without an explanation. It happened often for it to go off somewhere after securing Roa’s safety. After Roa became able to hear its voice, Grandpa Gry always said so when leaving, so it was at least a little better.
Roa looked at the gryphon go, without any particular thought. He more or less guessed it would happen, so he felt more relieved than usual.
“I wonder if Grandpa Gry knows that king of the rabbits? Or maybe the boss of this forest is someone else?”
Roa thought that Grandpa Gry went to meet an old acquaintance. Because of what Grandpa Gry said before entering that “Rabbit Forest”, Roa thought the gryphon had made it on a whim.
When they were attacked, however, it said that it “promised not to move”, so Roa noticed another acquaintance of Grandpa Gry must have set up that encounter. If that acquaintance was close, it was natural for Grandpa Gry to go see them.
“He could have at least told us what the rabbits’ goal was, though.”
Roa had missed the right timing to do so before, so he meant to interrogate Grandpa Gry before sleeping. Judging from the rabbit king’s actions, it seemed like their strength was put to the test, but he couldn’t understand why.
“Oh well, let’s forget about that nasty grandpa and sleep.”
Roa fell asleep while listening to the twins’ pleased cries.
Grandpa Gry was flying over the pitch black forest. No light filtered through the thick branches, but a crescent moon was hanging bright in the sky. From above, the forest had an oval shape: the road cut through it across the shortest route.
The trees around the road became packed and formed a forest…it was hard to believe, after all. If it was true, the trees would have grown along the road.
In that oval forest, a bit far from the center, a mysterious, very large tree grew. It was very thick, but not very tall. Grandpa Gry landed at the foot of this tree, where the rabbit’s haven was located.
Countless rabbits were standing on the green moss, just like a carpet, and looked at Grandpa Gry. There wasn’t any fear in their eyes, only the nostalgia to see an old friend. Their gaze towards Grandpa Gry was full of kindness.
<No one from that time is left, I see…>
Grandpa Gry’s sad whisper melted away into the night.
<I’m coming in.>
The gryphon looked at the rabbits, then approached the large hole opened on the side of the trunk of the mysterious tree. It was wide enough for Grandpa Gry to enter without problems.
<My, my, the noisy one is back.>
A voice could be heard from inside.
<Listen to this shitty white-haired relic…>
Grandpa Gry’s beak spat out insults, but it was curved in a smile. It advanced inside the hole and found a rabbit. A pitch black rabbit with long drooping ears.
Its black fur, however, had white streaks: as Grandpa Gry said, it was probably a sign of the rabbit’s age.
“Wing Rabbits” were rabbit-like magic beasts, and that was their king.
<That’s rich coming from someone twice my age…>
<Stop talking and acting like a geezer, then.>
Grandpa Gry sat next to the Wing Rabbit, as if it was its usual seat. Grandpa Gry’s large body next to a Wing Rabbit small enough to fit on a human shoulder. Their sizes were completely different, but for some reason it felt very natural for them to be together. They exuded a very similar aura.
The Wing Rabbit then spoke again.
<The forest elder must have a semblance of authority, as you know.>
<Puffy? Authority? Pshaw!>
<Do not use the name the princess bestowed on me!>
The Wing Rabbit stood up and kicked Grandpa Gry’s back.
<Do you have any other names? Puffy.>
The small animal’s kick did not have much of an effect. Grandpa Gry casually parried it with its wings.
<I repeat, do not address me so casually! You’re not better anyway, you->
<Wait! Do not call me with that name anymore!>
Grandpa Gry pressed the Wing Rabbit’s body with its front legs.
<….you’re Grandpa Gry now, right? You seem to be destined to have bizarre names. Lady Philia was bad at names too, but…>
<Wasn’t Eileen worse? Puffy?>
<I told you not to use that…>
The Wing Rabbit crawled out from under Grandpa Gry’s claws and sat next to the gryphon again.
<….those were truly fun times…>
The Wing Rabbit’s tone was nostalgic.
<Did you know, Puffy? They even wrote tales and plays of that foolish girl! She’s loved and admired as Princess Knight Eileen! That whimsical girl, only good at picking fights and chasing after men. How many headaches did she cause my master and I…?>
<Naturally I do! What old stories are you telling? You’ve lost track of time, geezer!>
<Hngh! It’s just…I know someone who looks up to her. I just recalled it, that’s all!>
Grandpa Gry tried to change the uncomfortable topic, but the Wing Rabbit snickered.
<Your current master? That brat, right? He passed the test, thanks to the magic wolves. Nice eyes.>
<No, the one that stayed in the carriage the whole time.>
<The maiden that was trembling like a leaf in the carriage…? She’s going to die. Are you sure she should pass?>
<Not a problem. We have to take her with us because of certain reasons. Seeing someone from the kingdom the foolish girl and my master protected die brings me no joy, but it cannot be helped.>
The rabbits’ attacks were meant to reduce the number of people who went from the Kingdom of Perdu to the Citadel Dungeon. They wanted to limit the number of deaths as much as possible. It was not for the sake of the current inhabitants of the kingdom, however, but for the magic beasts’ former masters.
<Oh yes, I happened to find some good alcohol. You’re going to stay till the morning, right? Fancy a cup?>
<You happened to find it? You mean your rabbits stole it, don’t you? They were raising a ruckus about their supplies disappearing, you know? Get some snacks and I’ll forgive you.>
<Ooh! But of course, old pal!>
The two then began their banquet, rich in old and nostalgic stories…