DAR Vol. 3 Chapter 9 Part 3

“Hnn….”

Nostalgia’s leader, Dietrich, opened his eyes in the darkness. Differently from how he usually woke up in the inn’s bed, he felt strangely good. For a moment, he wondered if he was back in his hometown, but there was no way that happened.

The pungent smell of herbs tickling his nostrils, the soft feeling of a blanket…Dietrich realized where he really was and the pleasant sensation suddenly changed into irritation.

<Finally awake, sleepyhead? You’re always sleeping, aren’t you.>

The voice further boosted Dietrich’s irritation. He looked around, but there was only a small light in the room, making it almost pitch black, so he couldn’t even see his hands.

“….what are you thinking…”

Despite the frustration and his half-asleep state, Dietrich managed to squeeze out these words.

<What am I thinking? Whatever do you mean?>

“…You made me fall into a trap hole!”

It was indeed Dietrich who fell in the hole Grandpa Gry opened in Roa’s house that evening. After playing tag with the wolf twins outside, he ran inside to ask Roa for some water and fell inside the hole in front of the door. He didn’t expect it, so he fell flat inside, lost consciousness and slept until late at night.

Playing tag was one of Dietrich and the twin wolves’ favorite pastimes. He erased his presence as he approached Roa’s house, if the twins noticed they would jump on him in front of the door and chase him until he was out of breath. It could be called play-hunting. 

Dietrich enjoyed it very much too: he trained very hard to erase his presence and used various reactions when the twins jumped on him, so they wouldn’t get bored. However, Grandpa Gry seemed disappointed.

<Trap hole? That was not a trap. You just fell because you were careless. I taught you to always be wary of your surroundings, have I not?>

“…okay, but who would expect a hole like that inside a house!?”

<It was there, wasn’t it? Why do you complain? Shouldn’t you realize how dangerous it can be to take things for granted and regret your actions, instead? Realize your foolish immaturity before blaming others.>

“……”

<If that was a dungeon trap you would be dead, you know? I would rather expect to be thanked for protecting you with magic as you fell and preparing soft stuffing on the bottom for you to fall on…>

Dungeons were locations where magic essence gathered, forming so-called masses of magic power, and magic beasts prowled. The term was initially used for large buildings where magic power accumulated, consequently attracting magic beasts, but it gained a wider meaning as time passed.

“Magic Beast Forests” were also dungeons, in a broad sense of the word, but in this region they were called magic beast forests since antiquity, so few people referred to them as “Dungeons”.

Some magic beasts dwelling in dungeons used to set traps. They were not simple traps as spiders or carnivorous plants created, but complicated contraptions that exceeded human intellect, with which some magic beasts protected their territory.

A classic example was the trap hole, so Grandpa Gry used them as an example.

“…..”

Dietrich, aware that he was still immature, couldn’t say anything in return. He rubbed his face on the “thing” that acted as his pillow, to hide his irritation.

<Enough! My fur will get dirty!>

Grandpa Gry shrieked in protest. Dietrich was sleeping in the gryphon’s bed, or rather, half on it and half on Grandpa Gry itself.

His lower half was on the clean bed, while the upper half was leaning on Grandpa Gry’s stomach. Covered by warm and soft fur, with the right amount of elasticity, Grandpa Gry’s stomach was the ideal cushion.

“Fwawhehe…”

<Do not talk while sinking your head in my fur! The vibration feels disgusting!>

As shown by Dietrich’s lack of surprise, it was not his first time sleeping in Grandpa Gry’s bed. Rather, it was his usual spot when staying over in Roa’s house. Not because they were particularly friends or anything, it was just a compromise they reached.

Dietrich first tried sleeping with the twins, but Grandpa Gry strongly opposed it, saying that the twins would become dirty. Then Dietrich tried sleeping with Roa, but that was not allowed either: sleeping on the floor or outside was not allowed, by Roa this time, so the compromise was for Dietrich to sleep in Grandpa Gry’s bed.

At first they both hated it, but Dietrich lost to the pleasant sensation of Grandpa Gry’s fur, Grandpa Gry lost to the warmth of the human body and now they accepted it without complaints.

Afterwards, Roa realized that the best solution would have been for him or the twins to let Dietrich have their bed, and for whoever lent it to sleep with Grandpa Gry, but Dietrich or Grandpa Gry did not realize yet…

“….is the enemy here yet?”

Dietrich lifted his head from Grandpa Gry’s fur and whispered quietly. The question also served the purpose to change the topic from his immaturity and irritation, but his eyes were serious.

<They came while you were here snoring, sleepyhead. Where did today’s come from?>

“From a country up north, it seems. It’s not clear yet.”

<That playboy is really reliable, unlike you. Where does he get all that information?>

“Who knows? There’s an informant or two, I guess.”

<Hmm….>

Dietrich did not come to stay over at Roa’s house so many times without reason. He pretended to like staying there, to visit Roa and the twins, but his true objective was to get rid of anyone who approached Roa with ill intentions.

<Well. I have no intention of inquiring further about the playboy’s real identity. He said he was a scout and swordsman…from the way he acts, his real profession must be another, but there is no point in delving further. A spy, a secret agent, a foreign infiltrator, something like that, but I do not care.>

“…you’re inquiring enough already…”

Dietrich scoffed. After the events in the forest, Coralde’s company started being targeted by people that attempted to infiltrate and secure Roa. Information about such attempts was gathered in advance by Kristoff, Nostalgia’s scout and swordsman, so Dietrich barged in and stayed over at Roa’s on the specified day, protecting him of their own accord.

<Unlike the playboy, you aren’t useful at all, so you don’t have to come, do you? You’re just disrupting our peaceful lifestyle.>

Roa was protected by the servant beasts, the Coralde company by the town’s best security. Most attempts of breaking into the Coralde company were foiled by security, the culprits apprehended and punished: the servant beasts had little chance to intervene.

It sounded like Dietrich would never get a chance to shine, but he still stayed over at Roa’s to protect him. In the forest events he couldn’t really show his worth and ended up being saved by Roa, so he was simply being stubborn.

As for Roa, he did not notice that he was being targeted: he didn’t imagine it in the slightest. After the Aldon forest events the servant beasts were the center of attention, so he avoided going out whenever possible, but he thought that the focus was on the servant beasts and Nostalgia, not himself.

As usual, he was positive that he was not the kind of person to attract attention. Because of this, even if he heard there were intruders, he simply thought they were trying to break into the Coralde company. He also thought of Dietrich as a friend that often visited to get free dinner and stay over, not bad but a little annoying.

“Say whatever you want.”

Dietrich then buried his face in Grandpa Gry’s fur again.

<The brat is invested in you for the moment, so I will not confront you, but try not to get cocky. For us, you are just in the way. If I ever deem you noxious for the brat, I will get rid of you.>

”…..”

Grandpa Gry’s cold words made Dietrich sink his face even deeper, without moving.

<Do not expect compassion from me. Even if we sleep together like this, I do not have the slightest interest in you. I only train you because I hope it will have a positive effect on the brat and the twins. You are an expendable tool, nothing more. I am a magic beast. A creature that kills even parents or siblings if they are deemed unnecessary.>

Grandpa Gry’s heavy tone blended into the darkness of the night. Dietrich slowly raised his head and looked in the direction Grandpa Gry’s face was supposed to be. Dietrich couldn’t see it in the darkness, but Grandpa Gry’s eyes functioned well in the darkness, so it should be able to see him.

“…hey, did Roa say anything about Crack of Dawn?”

<….no, nothing…>

Grandpa Gry expected Dietrich to foolishly retort again, so it felt puzzled as it replied to the sudden change of topic.

“Yeah, I thought as much. He still hasn’t come to terms with what he feels. He’s too kind. If they didn’t kick me out, I might have been able to save them…is what he thinks, I bet.”

It was just a hypothesis, but Dietrich was confident. In the last month, Roa had not mentioned Crack of Dawn even once, to the point of it being unnatural. Every time the topic came up, he tried to change it, to let the conversation die quickly. He did so after rejoining with Grandpa Gry in the forest and after they returned into town.

At first, Dietrich thought that the cruelty Crack of Dawn subjected Roa to in the past made him hate them so much that he didn’t want to even talk about them, but after observing him for a while, he realized that wasn’t the case.

Roa thought that if he was there, he might have prevented Crack of Dawn’s horrible end and regretted it. Dietrich had seen people in similar situations many times before. He too had been tormented by such thoughts in the past. That was the reason why he could tell. 

As far as Dietrich knew, Roa was very stubborn and obstinate. He disliked people pitying him so much that he pretended to have overcome it all and acted as if nothing happened.

It was the same when he was kicked out of the Hero Party; he acted like he was completely fine, but was horribly hurt inside, so Dietrich’s kind words made him cry immediately.

“He’s desperately trying to hide from you and us that he’s worrying about this: talking about Crack of Dawn might let us realize it, so he’s avoiding the topic as much as he can. Do you understand?”

<……>

Grandpa Gry did not answer Dietrich and continued looking straight at him in the darkness.

“You’re trying to protect Roa in your own way, I get that, but think of how he’ll feel later before you act….”

Dietrich then looked away from the direction Grandpa Gry’s face was supposed to be and stood up.

“….I’ll go take a look outside…”

He then opened the door from which moonlight faintly filtered in and went outside. Dietrich’s footsteps grew farther and farther, and the quiet of the night returned.

<….did he disrupt my heart on purpose, to prepare for when we will be enemies? He thought I found out everything and faced me head-on? Or is he really stupid? Oh…well…>

Grandpa Gry whispered faintly, then its beak twisted into a small grin.

𑁋

Outside, under the moonlight, Dietrich walked through the premises of the Coralde company, far from Roa’s house. The house Roa bought was inside the perimeter of the Coralde company, so Roa did not build any walls or fences. It was possible to enter and leave freely.

After walking far enough from Roa’s house, Dietrich sat down next to a building. He then sighed deeply, his head in his hands.

“Man, what the hell am I doing…telling a magic beast to consider a human’s feelings…am I stupid or what…?”

He regretted going off on Grandpa Gry. It was a magic beast because it didn’t think about what humans felt, after all. Humans and magic beasts might look like they thought about similar things, but they functioned on two completely different basis.

Dietrich thought he understood that but feelings, as he would have towards another human, welled inside him and he ended up speaking his mind. Maybe a cause was also the fact that he couldn’t see Grandpa Gry’s face in the darkness.

He also felt embarrassed speaking so bluntly to someone much more powerful when he was just a weakling in comparison, but all he could do was squirm.

“That gryphon is way too human-like…I end up thinking that it could understand how we think…”

He thought that a reason was that they could communicate, but that wasn’t everything. Grandpa Gry had too much knowledge about humans and their customs. It knew humans so well that it was strange to think that it actually was a magic beast. That was the reason why he thought the gryphon would be able to understand human feelings.

“I hope…we don’t become enemies…”

The problem is what orders come from the country…

They might not have to become hostile, but the fact that they were on good terms with Roa might be used to get him on their side. In that case, Grandpa Gry would classify them as trying to rob Roa of his freedom and treat them as enemies…

Dietrich then raised his head and looked at the moon shining in the sky.

𑁋

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