Intermission: The Journey of Zena Squad (2)
We've been stuck in Fau city for one month already.
It'd been alright if there were some way to detour the mountain-pass the dragon was occupying, but so long as we can't fly like a bird, we don't have any choice but to go back to Lesseu Earldom and go through the mountains range in the south route passing through Muno Earldom, or circumvent through several small kingdoms by passing through Eluett Dukedom.
It'll take several months to go through Muno territory route, and going through the small kingdoms is out of question. Even though the purpose will be not to wage war with them, we are still the army of Seryuu Earldom after all.
"Zena-san, how about your side?"
"Unfortunately, every store has raised their price compared to yesterday. We really should have bought it the first day we arrived in the city."
Regardless whether we choose to go through Muno Earldom, or wait for the Royal Army to repulse the dragon, securing provisions are important in order to resume our journey, however, the prices have become so bad we can't buy enough amount. We tried to go the neighboring farm villages to buy directly, but some sharp merchants had already bought them all.
There's a small shadow waving hands beyond the crowd.
I can't see the figure, but there's only person who call me like that.
Lilio and Ruu who have gone to investigate for the shortcut come back after 10 days. Doing it in the middle of the road like this would surely make us a hindrance, but I couldn't stand it and went to hug them, celebrating their safe return.
"Welcome back Lilio. Did the shortcut look usable?"
"People can probably go through it, but it's impossible for the civil officials and the maids."
"It's hard even for soldiers you know? Even I gave up in the middle of the way while wearing my usual armor."
If it's impossible for even Ruu who prides herself in her stamina, it's surely something that's harsh for officials-san.
"We also saw the dragon on the mountain pass."
"It's really a lesser dragon?"
According to Ruu and Lilio's story, it doesn't seem to be a lesser dragon. I've certainly never heard a dragon which has colorful collar on its head. Moreover, it doesn't have wings. In Iona's opinion, it's, "Probably a sub-species dragon-monster like wyvern or hydra."
"Then if it can be defeated, we can go through the mountain pass right."
"If we're talking about size, it's even bigger than a real lesser dragon, moreover, it can spew out mist-like thing that can melt stones see~"
I was relieved to hear that it wasn't a dragon for a brief moment, but then fell like a withered blooming flower from Lilio's and Ruu's words.
"Do you have any idea why it's placed itself in the mountain pass?"
"Apparently it likes the oranges growing on the pass. It was having a nap while chewing the oranges together with the trees y'know?"
I wonder if it's a grazing monster? Thinking about the feeding habit of the monster is probably pointless since it apparently drank the stones it melts.
For the time being, I suggested them to report to the captain, and then we went to the temporary residence with heavy steps.
When I saw a young man with black hair, my eyes involuntarily chased after him.
Considering the time when he departs, Satou-san should've been around here.
Ara? I feel like I've seen that black haired person--I wonder who?
Lilio who chased my line of sight said, "Ah! Found you!", and then ran after him.
"That Lilio, what's wrong with her?"
"It was the kid who was waving to Lilio when we left Seryuu city before remember."
I remember after hearing Iona-san's words. It's someone from Seryuu city, a one-armed person called Joi, or Jomis who taught me the way to make croquette and starch syrup. Even like this, I'm good at remembering person's face, but I can't remember that person's name or face no matter what.
"Why are you here now when you departed Seryuu city three months ago? Didn't you said that you'd make it big in the labyrinth city?"
"Didn't I say that the plan was undecided? I heard that there was a ruin on the verge of Zetssu Earldom see, so I went there to have a look."
"Did anything appear?"
"You can say something did, and did not appear."
"What's with that-!"
Lilio and Jo-san's conversation continues without a pause. Even though Lilio should have been tired from the investigation, she seems to be enjoying their conversation while smiling lively.
"It's said that even goblins can't eat a couple's squabble, so let's leave these young couple and report the shortcut investigation to Captain Henz."
"You're right. Feel like I'd get a heartburn if I remain here."
We waved our hands to Lilio and went back ahead to the barracks to report.
"Another shortcut? Is there something like that?"
"Un, according to his story, looks like there's one."
"But Lilio. Even the soldiers-san of this city said that there was only one shortcut didn't they?"
"You see, there seems to be a road that goes pass the valley where the dragon-sham from before resides, see. Carriages can't pass through there, but the slope is gentle so it should be better than the the other shortcut."
Everyone becomes enlivened with the information that Lilio carries when she gets back as the night advances. Since there's a possibility we can break the current situation.
Knight Henz was looking like he would immediately charge to the valley, but his retainer skilfully arbitrated him, and then it was decided that we should send a scout unit first.
However, why does everyone look at me?
--I feel a bad premonition.
After clearing his throat once, Knight Henz ordered, "Then, I entrust Zena Squad to investigate the valley." Of course we do not have the right to veto it. After receiving the mission, we began to prepare the investigation.
The next morning, in order to hear about the shortcut from Lilio-san's boyfriend, we went to a restaurant in the downtown.
"Then, the problematic places during the journey are the valley where harpies are nesting, and the rocky area that springs up slimes?"
"Yeah, there are other places where monsters come out, but judging from what I've heard from Lilio, you guys should be able to pass through the valley with the fighting forces you have."
We're checking the boyfriend's story with an opened map. The map is roughly made, but it's filled with landmarks until the opposite side.
"Ara ara, my my, Jon-kun is building a harem."
"What? Your acquaintance?"
A woman who seems to be the boyfriend's acquaintance appears, and then she pokes the boyfriend's cheek while floating a joyful look on her face. She has the same black hair as the boyfriend's, and looking at their faces, they seem to come from the same town.
Is this perhaps the thing called shuraba?
<TLN: kind of like lover's quarrel, only worse, lovers' carnage?>
"Oh, it's a shuraba."
"W, wait, Ruu."
"That's right, it looks more like a relationship between a man and a woman, or rather like between siblings."
If Iona-san who's sensitive in regard to relationship said so, it must be true.
I was panicked that it would become a shuraba.
"This is Mito, a grandma dressing like a young woman."
"You're cruel, I've said that I'm eternally 20 years old haven't I? I'll spank children who can't be obedient you know?"
"That way of talking smells of grandma."
<TLN: Onomaetopia for *shocked*. Search for がーん image.>
"Don't say that out loud."
Is it my imagination that they look like they're flirting?
Lilio's mood is worsening.
Ah mou, what should I do!
I look toward Iona-san for help, but she seems to be enjoying the situation. Ruu has been eager to be the curious onlooker from the beginning...
"What kind of acquaintance?"
"I picked her up in a ruin."
"Ruin? Is she an explorer?"
"A loo~ong time ago. There was a time when I was an explorer."
I feel that she's not an ordinary person, but she doesn't look like a warrior at all. I wonder if she's magician? If that's true, she doesn't seem like she has any wand or tool to invoke magic.
"Is she maybe your new girlfriend?"
"That's impossible. I'm not into grandmas."
"That's right~ Far from having feeling to this cheeky brat, I don't even see him as a man."
"Fu, fuhn. Okay then, I believe it."
Lilio finally softened after hearing the woman declared that she didn't have any feeling toward the boyfriend-san in relaxed manner.
After finally returning to the main issue at hand, we finished listening about the route. We would have liked the boyfriend-san to guide us if possible, but--
"I can sneak into any place if I'm alone, but I can't show my real ability if I'm with other people. Since my fighting power doesn't even reach you guys' foot. I don't intend to follow you since I'll only become a drag."
--He confidently refused like such.
We pass through the valley that has strange steams coming out of the ground. It's called Withered Valley, and just like the name implies, the trees here are withered. It's alright if we're here for a short time, but it'll be bad for the body if it's for long.
Due to the spraying steam, the scenery in the distance is hazy, the poor visibility is worrying. Monsters could have a surprise attack if we let our guard down.
"Seems that the harpies should appear soon."
"Un, should I go to scout?"
I contemplate for a short while whether I should let Lilio going ahead alone.
However, the contemplation is a bit too late. In the next moment, a shadow interrupted by flying pass us overhead.
"Take the anti-air formation! Lilio search for the enemies around us. Iona-san, I'll leave the command after this to you."
I begin to chant the spell for anti-sound defense.
A Captain who can't command once she starts to chant, geez!
"Yes. There's a high possibility that the shadow earlier is a harpy. Lilio-san, how many crossbow's short arrows do we have left?"
"Sorry, there's only seven left since we used too many for the monster earlier."
"There's probably only one enemy. Those many should be enough."
Un, with Lilio's skill, seven should be plenty enough.
However, the way the harpy flew earlier was odd.
"....■■■■ Sound Protection"
It's perfect with this I think?
The fearful thing with harpy is its sleep-inducing song.
If we can just defend against that, Lilio should be able to take it down.
I start to enter meditation to recover my magic power right at this time.
If it's as I've expected, I'd better recover my magic power to the maximum now.
We couldn't hear anything thanks to the soundproof, but the harpy attacked from top of the forest while screaming something.
"Hahha! With a target this big, I can hit it with my eyes shut!"
Lilio's arrow hit the root of the harpy's wing, and the harpy which had lost its ability to fly crashed to the ground.
"Ruu, guard Zena-san!"
"Ou! Leave it to me."
Iona-san mercilessly smashes the harpy's head with her great sword.
Lilio has also pulled her short sword, but it looks like there's no turn for her.
And then, slightly after it, the creature that was chasing the harpy showed its visage between the gaps of the Withered Valley's trees.
That is the strongest being--