Today’s a cloudy day and it’s cold in the mountain. It’s great that the lush trees are blocking the cold wind.
I looked at Ravi who was wearing my coat. It naturally made me remember our first encounter. It can’t be helped since her one-piece doesn’t ward the cold very well, but the coat is as usual oversized for her.
It seems that we’ll need a set of winter clothing also. The shopping list is gradually increasing.
(I need to pay attention to that so that I wouldn’t forget)
Depending on the result for today, I can probably afford something nice.
That’s right, I’m currently on the job to make some money for travelling expenses.
Without going through the Adventurer’s Guild, I went to consult with Theo-jii for some money-making jobs, he then recommended me to the city’s self-defense force after saying 「You seem to have a reason. 」
Basically, the quests introduced by the guild are personal requests from the clients.
Meanwhile, the requests from the country or the town did not pass through the guild, but was often recruited from the people who saw the notice on the signboard. However, the public requests also have quite a high difficulty.
By the way, the request this time is about B-Rank if according to the difficulty ranking of the guild. The content of the request is, to subdue the Red-Eyed Dragon.
The Red-Eyed Dragon is a very aggressive and ferocious demonic beast. But their preferences are the problem. When spring comes, and they wake up from hibernation, they would start making nests in mountains near human settlements. And what’s horrible is that they like the taste of human.
They probably did that thinking it’s convenient to procure food. They would swoop down regardless of day and night and grab people away with their sharp claws.
Furthermore, they would appear again if you leave their nests alone, that’s why it’s necessary to subdue it by all means. It’s troublesome because the mountain that had been made into a nest once, would have a high chance that another Red-Eyed Dragon would appear there in the next year.
This city too, has also been subduing the Red-Eyed Dragon for several years.
「Oi! Let’s take a lunch break here! 」
The man that has a big sword behind him looked back at us and yelled. He looks strong, has a black beard along his chin and a little younger than me. His gaze was sharp and dignified, I knew he was exactly my polar opposite the moment I met him.
He doesn’t seem to have a good impression of me.
The truth is, the moment we met at the place to gather, he glared at me with a 「Bringing a child with you, are you looking down on us. Go home if you think we’re hiking.」.
(He’s true that it’s unheard of to bring children on a quest……)
I’ve changed my mind after the incident with Mattroc Orphanage, so I accepted it when Ravi wanted to come along. What Ravi wants to do, I will respect her will. In terms of safety, it’s probably better than she stayed in the inn. The me before would’ve chosen that without doubt.
But Ravi wanted to stay with me. If so, I want to protect her with my best so that she being at my side is the safest. I did tell the other participants that 「We won’t cause any inconvenience」but I was laughed and looked down.
(We are we, and they are they. We will work together, but I shouldn’t mind them too much)
If I were to be uneasy, it would affect Ravi too.
So, I started preparing lunch.
The others, a total of 5 person are sitting in a circle little farther away from us. I heard that they were the party that subdued the dragon last year, they joked around and looked really close to each other. But since the bearded man was the leader, I could see them hesitating to talk casually.
Ravi and I sat down at a place little farther away. I took out the Zuta Bags so that my back won’t get wet from sitting on the ground.
Then I took out the lunch for today immediately. It was the egg sandwich that I made hastily in the morning after borrowing the kitchen from the innkeeper. And then the dumplings soup that’s in the canteen. I thought to put it in the pot and heat it over fire.
(I’m glad that I made soup because it’s colder than I thought)
「Ravi, it would take some time to heat up so let’s eat the sandwiches first.」
After saying the words of prayer as usual, we bit at the sandwich at the same time.
「Wa……! Fluffy egg……! Delicious……! 」
「I see. That’s great」
Since the sandwich is an omelet type, I’ve put in milk into it as well because it would make a fluffy softness spread out inside the mouth when chewing. Then I sweetened it with some more sugar. Also a pinch of salt with spices. This is surprisingly important so that the taste comes out clear.
(Umu. I did well)
We both ate it happily.
When we finished filling our tummy with it, the pot was also done. A nice smell drifts from the shaky pot. The innkeeper gave me some leftover beef to use because it was too much. And the broth made from it was indeed delicious. I look forward to the moment I taste it.
While thinking about such thing and mixing the pot with a spoon――.
「……Oi, you. What is that? It smells awfully good but……」
Even now, they’re looking here while drooling. Even though the bearded leader has his back here as usual, the others seemed to be interested in our pot.
「It’s meat dumpling soup. 」
「Meat dumplings…… this delicious smell……? 」
「Soup…… It’ll warm up the body……」
They swallowed their saliva audibly. Each one of the dumplings are not large. But fortunately, there’s seven of them. It’s just the enough for the people here. I glanced at Ravi, and she nodded back. She probably wants to share it too. Yeah, they’re same in feeling the cold too.
「How about you guys have some too? We would be sharing it but, it should at least warm you up」
「……! Is it okay!? Even though we treated you badly……」
「No, well, don’t mind that please. Since we’ve just met and going out on this quest, it’s normal that you doubt me. 」
「You, what a good guy……!」
I was praised even though I just said what I think is normal. The behind of my neck is a little ticklish.
「If so, then …… m-my daughter will go at it first.」
(I wonder did it came out weird?)
I looked at the guys suspiciously, but it seems that they didn’t notice anything.
「Yeah, of course. Your daughter first. 」
That made me relieved.
I put it in the usual mug and gave it to Ravi. Then I handed them out in turn to the others. Everyone was exclaiming 「Delicious」, 「It’s so warm」 or 「It’s the best」
「Hey, how about you?」
I reached out to the bearded man that has his back turned here as always. He glanced towards here and made a frowning face.
「Tch. Getting baited by something like food」
The others flinched from the words that he spat out annoyingly. The atmosphere that was lively froze in an instant.
「How about you keep lazing around until it’s tomorrow. It’s time that we depart already. 」
And we had to pack up our baggage hastily because of that.
After finishing our lunch, we continued climbing the mountains one after another. They were much steeper and had bad foothold than the ones we crossed. I asked Ravi if I should carry her on my back several times, but she denied and tried her best walking on her own. I watched her figure from the back and protected her.
The mountains become more dangerous the more you proceed. The leader at the front had to cut away the thick foliage forcefully many times to continue.
「This mountain is feared by the town folks, that’s why no people would come near unless it’s for the subjugation of the Red-Eyed Dragon.」
The person in front of us told as he was running out of breath. There’s no path where people don’t come.
After we went for about thirty minutes――.
「Oi, look! There’s a trail! 」
The skinny and tall man who was walking in the middle raises his voice. As I looked at the spot he pointed out, I could indeed see a trail going up the mountain.
「We’re lucky this year! 」
「Yeah, really! ――Thanks to that it’ll be much easier」
We all changed direction towards following the trail.
I as well, followed them with Ravi but……
I frowned as I saw the vague footprints left on the ground. I looked closely while crouching down, and I was convinced.
(Just like I thought……)
It looks like a deer’s trail at first glance.
(But this is in fact, footprints of a Unicorn)
They prefer living in undeveloped mountains away from human presence and is known for their intelligence.
「Wait up. It’s better that we give up on this trail. 」
As I called out that, the people looked back at me with a strange face.
「Don’t say anything unneeded or I will send you flying. 」
The bearded man said in a stern voice. Even so, I cannot back down here.
「Look at the footprints closely.」
「Isn’t it a deer’s? 」
The skinny man asked with a face seemingly said what’s wrong with it.
「Nope, if it were a deer, the back hooves traces wouldn’t be visible at all. But this has a vague trace of it. 」
「If so, then wouldn’t it be a boar? 」
「If it were a boar, the footprint would be more deep. And that front part, the shape of the front hoof is quite rounded. And the only creature that has this is a Unicorn. 」
「……! Does that mean there’s a Phantasm Beast-sama here! 」
「That’s nice! Didn’t they say you will be in good luck if you encounter it. I would definitely like to meet it. 」
Everyone is getting heated up. But now is not the time for that.
「Unicorns are a very cautious creature, they usually mask their footprints when they move.」
That’s why you can’t find its characteristic footprints easily. A creature like that to miss out erasing its footprints can only be under a certain circumstance.
「A unicorn would never forget to erase it’s footprints unless they’re getting hunted down by a large type monster.」
Everyone was speechless after hearing my explanation. Only the bearded man was still glaring at me as usual.
「Something like that, I’ve never heard of……」
「Isn’t it because you’re too ignorant! 」
「Then did you know!? 」
「N-no. I also didn’t know……」
Even if it’s the hunters that is familiar with the wildlife would rarely have the knowledge regarding Phantasm Beasts.
I knew it because during my period suffering from inferiority complex, I coincidentally found it when I was going through knowledge that seemed to be useful.
「……Sorry, but we don’t know how far of your story is believable」
Four people faced me.
(Of course, it would become this……)
「……Yeah. That’s why it’s fine if you don’t trust me. However, it’s better to return for today. It’s different than the Dragon. The odds are too bad facing an unknown large type monster. I don’t wish to see you all die. Dragons wouldn’t be looking for food until they completed their nest. Isn’t there still much time before that? 」
「In the first place, you wouldn’t gain anything even if you stopped us.」
「And the soup just now was nice too……」
「That doesn’t matter now you know. 」
「He shared such delicious soup with us. There’s no way he’s a bad person. 」
「Well, that’s true.」
「Stop bickering so noisily! Just stop it already! 」
The bearded man’s intimidation made the four gasps.
「Are you all stupid!? Getting deceived by such an outsider’s nonsense! I bet he’s just getting scared! And he thinks that running away by himself is cowardly so he’s trying to drag us down. As if I would care that! 」
「H-hey, wait a little……! 」
I tried to desperately convince the bearded man, but he never lent an ear to me. As he proceeded following the trails, the others let out a big sigh.
「……It’s not like we’re ignoring your advice, but we have a favor to repay. We can’t possibly leave him to be alone. 」
「Even though his mouthing is rude, he’s a good person with a strong sense of responsibility. 」
「We all, was saved by him countless times……」
「It’s fine that just you two return here. 」
I glanced towards Ravi. Ravi held my hand tight and gave me a nod. It’s the look of believing in me.
「No. If so then we will follow you too. 」
There’s no way I would abandon them. I paid more attention than before to watch their backs.
「This is…… what happened here……」
The bearded man murmured while stupefied by the scene. I held Ravi up and covered her eyes.
The destination we reached after following the trail. Inside of the huge nest that was half completed was empty.
There’s no way that it went out to collect materials to make its nest. After all, there’s a huge puddle of crimson in the nest. And there were chunks of meats scattered all around the area.
The skinny man threw up while covering his mouth. That’s expected. The thick smell of blood that’s permeating in the air would upset anybody’s stomach.
「The Red-Eyed Dragon is not here but, this much blood……. Did it get eaten……? 」
As he murmured with a pale face, the sound of flapping resounded in the sky, and it became dark in a moment. We looked upwards panickily.
What was above was――
(Dark Demonic Dragon……!!!)
The glossy span of wings, the body protected by scales, and ferocious eyes glowed in blue――
The King of Dragons.
If it were to appear in a small village, everything would turn to nothing in under an hour. That is what a Dark Demonic Dragon is.
「……T-there’s no way……. It’s ten times stronger than a dragon……」
The pale faced skinny man turned around and started darting.
「Not good……! Don’t run! 」
It is said they like to attack those who run away. I tried to stop him desperately, but he didn’t hear me. The dragon floating up in the sky, suddenly swoop down in a breath.
「Get down!!! 」
Just as I yelled that out, the bearded man and skinny man both dived flat on the ground. But there will surely be a second attack.
「I will get its attention! Run away in that time……!!! 」
The bearded man screamed out after getting up. Without stopping, he ran in the opposite direction.
The dragon immediately flapped its wings and chased after him.
「You can’t! It’s too reckless……!!!! 」
There’s no way a human can outrun a dragon. It’s catching up with every flap.
「Shit……!!! Is there no other way than this……!? 」
The skinny man yelled out with a crying face.
(――No. As if I would let that happen……!!)
I kicked against the ground and jumped upwards, chanting.
《Boil up the expanding power ―― Rising Flight !!! 》
I applied the buff on my legs and flew up to the sky while carrying Ravi. Thanks to him attracting the Dark Demonic Dragon’s attention, I was able to take its back.
However, the sharp claws would reach the bearded man soon if I don’t act.
《The spirit of fire, bless me with the flames of anger that you hold―― Fire Magic Salamander―!!! 》
A violently swirling flame falls on the back of the Dark Demonic Dragon. I need to deal more damage to strike it to the ground. Its nerves are under the back scales.
(I must deal enough damage somehow……!)
But even with my max leveled fire magic, I can’t get through its scales. Of course, that’s still in my prediction. I just need an instant. I’m waiting for a gap.
(To do that I need more firepower……!)
I released fire magic, while using wind magic on top of it. The flames reinforced by the wind increased multiple ten-folds in ferocity. It’s as if the embodiment of anger ravaged on the back of the Dark Demonic Dragon.
The hateful smell of flesh burning can be smelled. It was difficult, but finally a result came out.
It let out a cruel agony and turned to me.
It was to the extent that it shook the earth.
(He definitely felt that one!)
It shook its head around, while crying towards the sky. The diamond-shaped reverse scale on the underside of its chin ―― Every dragon’s vital spot.
I held my breath――
「Daddy, do your best……! 」
The small cheering from Ravi lit the fire in my heart.
(Leave it to me!!)
《The goddess that defends the Holy Sanctuary of Absolute Zero, bid me a freezing kiss―― Ice Magic Hail!》
The icicle released from my palm, piercing through the dragon’s reversed scale.
The Dark Demonic Dragon released a death agony before falling on its side. At the same time, I landed on the ground with a plop.
As I looked around, everyone was looking at the dragon stupefied. Most of them were collapsed on the ground on their backs.
I lowered down Ravi, and asked the nearby person.
「Are you alright? 」
I reached out to them one by one and pulled them up. The last one remaining on the ground was the bearded man. He tried to stood up by himself but, it seems that it was quite painful as his leg was injured when running away from the Dark Demonic Dragon.
(Would he hate it if I help……)
Even so, I offered my hand……
「Sorry for the trouble……!」
Suddenly, he prostrated on the ground and apologized.
「If I were to listen to your words back then, everyone wouldn’t have been in such danger……. Just apologizing isn’t enough but I really feel very sorry……」
「N-no, you, wait! Lift your head up please……!
「I’m really sorry……」
「I understand, so please lift your head already! 」
In the end, he apologized to me many times even when we descended from the mountains. Same as me, the others also repeated that it’s fine not to mind it, but he’s not satisfied with just that.
(Putting your comrades in danger because of yourself, of course he would be like that……)
This case this time might affect his way of thinking in the future. If that is a change of good or bad, that I can only wish.