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KENS Chapter 67

Chapter 67 Such Days Without Fighting (3)

Hiding myself in a not so thickly grown, lush tree, I gazed up at the sky.

The sky was clear and blue, the clouds white, and the sun was shining as the cold wind caressed my cheeks. While tightening my body from the cold wind, I have continued staring at the sky…….for about 3 hours now. Not that I have a watch on me and I am only able to tell that from the movement of the sun, but I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong.

“About 4, is it……..?”

“nah, that one is slightly smaller than the ones we had seen till now, so that makes it 5.”(renji)

“Really? But like the one before, its wing is also slightly damaged though.”

“Mu.”

[………It’s amazing how you guys can tell all that from down here.]

While we counted the number of griffins in the sky, Ermenhilde spoke that in an amazed voice. No, we’re not just playing around. Finding out the exact number of griffins before we head to subjugate them is also a very important job, you know.

Hiding in the tree, and carrying Mururu near my chest, I put on my mantle to endure the cold. And by hiding my body temperature like that, we observed the movement of the griffins.

Griffins in Elfreim normally make abundantly green mountains as their nests but there was only this bare mountain near Merdiore. There is not a speck of greenery on this mountain.

Then that means these griffins’ behaviour is probably different from the ones me or Mururu know of. Or rather, the griffins must have changed their behavioural patterns to adapt to this new land. And to investigate that, we are observing them from the morning.

It’s not like Mururu pestered me to do something else since there was only chess to play at our inn or anything. This is also a job. We’ll even get a reward for this.

“It’s easy. The one flying right now has a damaged wing…….and the new griffin’s cry is slightly higher pitched than the rest.”(mururu)

“that’s true.”

[……….It’s okay since I know that beastmen have senses far more sensitive than humans but it’s really amazing how you can understand the same things, Renji.]

“It’s experience that’s all.”(renji)

Also, to differentiate between monsters is a skill very necessary to adventurers. Especially when in party, saying ‘Go defeat that goblin’ and ‘Go defeat the goblin with a scar on its face’ make a lot of difference. Those eyes and ears that can catch such peculiarities instantly are very important skills to have to an adventurer in my opinion.

While observing these griffins with Mururu, I gave a yawn.

It might have been better to stay inside with Aya and Feirona and watch their chess games……..Well, but then I recalled that the main reason we came here was because it was painful to just sit in one place and not move around at all.

By the way, currently the skill ranking in chess is Aya, then Feirona, then me and last is Solnea. And it won’t be strange if Solnea surpassed me as well in a few days. I recalled even Aya telling how both Feirona and Solnea learnt things extremely fast. That means, I am just too slow at getting the hang of things. I recall I was told this about swordsmanship as well but still, it’s a weird feeling to be surpassed by kids and amateurs so fast.

I have gotten quite used to this feeling as well but that doesn’t change that it still feels a bit sad and frustrating.

So, getting scared of playing with Solnea again, I ended up going to the guild to get some jobs. Even feel like it’s pathetic as I sighed.

Also, Feirona instantly became better than me. That actually didn’t really surprise me at all though. I had already given up on that.

“The big one, isn’t coming.”(mururu)

“Yeah..”

We have been waiting since morning but the Arch griffin had yet to show itself to us. That is the one I want to see the most though. You can’t tell a Griffin and an Arch Griffin apart from a single glance. Since they are technically the same race, there isn’t much change in appearance. But they can be at least twice as big than normal having lived so long.

A griffin is usually 3-4m big. Slightly bigger than lions of our world. Their wingspan is really big so they seem much bigger than what they actually are. That said, it’s still much bigger than a human.

In comparison, an Arch griffin can be as big as 5-7m. We don’t exactly know how long a griffin lives but we do know that it becomes an Arch Griffin when it has grown to its limit. Even I think that the naming difference is very vague. But, its power is definitely different than normal.

Normal Griffins can use spirit magic that the Demihumans call [Ward Spells], and can destroy a magicians concentration from a single cry to stop their spell casting. But an Arch Griffin can even create wind blades and tornados. If we’re talking about just wind magic, they can fight on equal or surpass this world’s strongest magic users.

“Mururu, have you ever hunted an Arch griffin before?”

” No, papa said that it’s dangerous and didn’t allow it. Even though I am already an adult, he still called me a child and refused me.”

“I see.”

[Probably because your body is still too small.]

“I’ll grow big soon!”

Seeing her get worked up just from Ermenhilde’s single comment is exactly why she’s still a kid but I should probably not say that.

“Isn’t it nice though, it shows that your father deeply cares for you.”

“I wish he’d stop treating me like a child though.”

“In my opinion he’s just simply worried for you not because you’re a kid or anything.”

“………Renji, are you taking my father’s side?”

“hmm…….I don’t know him nor have I ever seen him so I can’t really say.”

But I think I understand how her father feels. I really haven’t met him but I’m pretty sure that he really cares for Mururu. Maybe he’s worried as hell since Mururu had to come all the way here alone due to Zwenelia’s oracle. I recalled how Mururu had been broke when I met her. She had told how she had been robbed of all her money by some people. It’s great that it was just money. Those heartless people could even take someone’s life as well.

When I thought of that, I suddenly felt the warmth in my arms as more precious. Just thinking about how this warmth could get stolen, my heart tightened. It’s the same feeling I had for Aya and Souichi—and all the kids back then. Feeling like a parent yet not actually a parent. Even I can’t explain it but I find those feelings really precious to me.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking about how I totally understand what your father felt.”

Hiding away on a ship, getting mugged. Anyone would be uneasy.

“Renji’s also treating me like a kid?”

[That’s not it, it’s better to say that he’s just worried for you.]

“That’s right. It’s just as Ermenhilde says Mururu.”(renji)

“fuuun.”

She didn’t seem very satisfied and made a sulky sound. I felt that this was what made her seem so childish but I think at her age, I was also similar I think.

I smiled hoping she won’t notice but she did notice it and my arm was slightly pinched. Rather than pain, it felt itchy. That was again also so amusing that I shook from laughter.

“Hmph.”

[If you get angry from just this, then you really are a kid.]

“That’s not true.”

This time she pinched my upper arm slightly stronger.

“ow, that hurt.”(renji)

“That was the intent.”(mururu)

As we continued looking at the sky while messing around like this, a few Harpies appeared in the sky this time. They had the lower body of a bird and the upper body of a hairy human. Instead of arms, they had wings, and though they didn’t have a beak, they had fangs inside their mouth. They were mostly orange-ish in colour.

Just when I was thinking that they probably rose p from near the foot of the bare mountain, they suddenly did a nosedive again. Looking that way, I spotted a few goblins moving on the ground.

And just when I thought they’d go directly at the goblins and attack them, even faster the Griffins violently assaulted the Harpies. Facing an attack from a body that’s more than 3m the harpies were unable to withstand it and began to freefall from just a ramming attack from the griffins. It’s not important but this is the time when Griffins hunt it seems.

“As expected, it has become like this.”(renji)

[What do you mean, Renj?]

“Nah, I was just thinking about how the movements of other monsters has also changed since the Griffins arrived.”

[That’s true.]

Goblins feed on cattle, humans and wild grass. Harpies feed on such goblins and humans. They had such an ecosystem built but due to the sudden appearance of Griffins that eat humans goblins and harpies, the hunting methods of monsters has changed. Or rather, both goblins and Harpies have stopped attacking anything out of fear. Due to that, even when the Griffins are prowling in the air, the other monsters come out of hiding unable to starve any longer. And that’s when the Griffins attack.

Right now, only the Griffins are winning alone.

If we leave them alone, the number of griffins will increase at a fast rate. And once the number of goblins and Harpies reduce, they’ll start attacking humans next. Here, it’d be the unlucky Merdiore city. Now, I doubt they are so lacking in personnel that the whole city would fall just toa  few griffins but they will suffer quite a lot of damage.

Right now, there’s five of them and Griffin’s breeding season is in spring. After only a few months, their numbers will double. Griffins are similar to the birds of our world in the sense that they lay multiple eggs at the same time.

“Mururu, don’t move.”

“Un.”

Though we are pretty far away, the Griffins are sensitive to even the slightest of movements in the air due to having the protection of Sylph. And though there is a certain method to use that against them as well, it’ll be difficult to face them with Mururu alone. And if it ended up calling other griffins, we’ll have no way out.

Covering us with my mantle, I observed the Griffins as they preyed on the Harpies. Really, they are pretty big. In fantasy novels and manga, Griffins are often portrayed as rideable mounts but I really doubt these things are tameable. After all they eat humans and are really ferocious. Even if I was on its back, I’ll only be worried of getting eaten by it.

The Griffins beak has a lot of strength. It can rip apart an arm off the body very easily. It was the same with even harpies as the Griffins tore them apart limb by limb and swallowed them whole. And after having their full, they left just the innards lying there and flew away. And even those innards were eaten away by the goblins, so all that was left was blood stains. Seeing such a scene right in front of me made me recall that one scene from that dinosaur movie but it is reality here. Thinking about how the next time I could be the one in place of those harpies, I really couldn’t laugh about it.

Even after witnessing such a cruel scene, my heart didn’t waver at all, probably because I’ve also grown up and matured now. And seeing that even Mururu showed no such signs either even though she’s half my age once again proved to me the cruelty of this world. Not that someone like me who has only lived a mere 3 years here has any right to say about it though.

“Now then, it’s pretty depressing thinking of how we have to fight those things as well.”(renji)

“You’re always like that.”

[that’s true.]

“Really, you two sure get along so well.”(renji)

I have been trying to be more proactive recently you know? Is this that? Because the first impression was just so bad?

While thinking of that, I opened my mantle and stood up. Looks like it’ll be difficult to get to see the arch griffin today. Since the Griffins in the sky have disappeared as well, it’s about time to return.

Since I sat in the same position for such a long time, all of my joints hurt.

“We’re going back?”(mururu)

“yeah, do you have something else you want to do?”

“Nope.”

Saying that, she also jumped up to her feet. She really is so nimble. I feel that no matter how many times I see that.

“Renji, have you hunted a Griffin before?”(mururu)

“More or less, yeah.”

Griffins exist in Elfreim and Abenelm every here and there as if it was completely natural. I’m bad against flying opponents but that doesn’t mean I could just avoid them completely.

Well, we didn’t face them alone, magicians like Aya or Koutarou were good opponents against them. If they’re flying, hitting them with a single lightning attack would end it. The power of a thunderbolt……..is it referred to as ‘power’? but anyway, the voltage of a thunderbolt is about a billion volts. And the amount of time it takes to hit is just a microsecond. Even the temperature around the air increases incredibly high. There is no way to dodge it and nothing could survive after getting hit by that……there was a time I truly thought that was the case. Well, dragons and ghosts-types are able to survive that without trying much……..Ghosts aside, I still find it strange how Dragons are still categorized under normal life forms.

“Can you beat one alone?”(mururu0

“Probably not.”(renji)

[Why do you reply that instantly……..]

“Because I’m an honest guy. I hate lying.”

[With which mouth are you saying that?]

Shrugging at Ermenhilde’s amazed voice, I began walking towards Merdiore.

Mururu quickly came up to walk beside me as well. Due to the fear of griffins, the goblins and the harpies in the area don’t come out much nowadays so it’s pretty relaxed even walking so openly like this. That said, it’s nothing more than postponing the actual problem.

“I’m hungry.”(mururu)

“Well it is almost noon.”

By the time we return to Merdiore, it’ll be past noon. Thinking of that, I brought a cracker from a small bag attached to my belt.

“Want one?”(renji)

“Un.”

Even after seeing that gruesome Griffin’s eating scene, we were the same. Mururu ate that cracker beside me and looking at her made me hungry as well so I also brought out a piece of dried meat and bit on it.

Walking while eating isn’t exactly good manners but I really am not in any position to say that. If Aya scolds, we’ll both get scolded together. While I was walking and thinking of that, I felt my mantle getting slightly pulled. Looking that way, Mururu was looking up towards me.

“Will Fran not travel with us anymore?”(mururu)

“Well, yeah. She’s just a student. She has to go to school to learn a lot as well.”

“School?”

“It’s a place where men and women of her age go to study like in Magic City Ofan and here in Merdiore.”

“………study.”

“It’s really important you know?”

“I see.”

She spoke, in a depressed voice.

I guess since they were so close, parting hurts even more. Right now they are in the same city but that’ll change when we get on the ship. Well, it’s one of the never changing things of travelling after all but I guess it must be harder at Mururu’s age.

“It’ll get lonely.”

“That’s true.”

I agreed to Mururu’s mutterings. It will be a bit lonely. We travelled together for almost half a year, so it’s only normal to feel that way.

But just because it makes you lonely doesn’t mean you should hate such farewells in my opinion.

I am an adventurer. A traveller who goes from city to city, village to caves. With meetings come farewells. And then come reunions. You go away only to unexpectedly meet somewhere to have a happy reunion. When I said that, Mururu lightly hit me.

“If,”

“hm?”

“If fran said that she wanted to travel with us, will you take her along?”

“I wonder. If it’s her own will to do so, I’ll think about it.”

That said, even if it’s her own will, the journey from here onwards will be a matter of life and death. Unlike Imnesia, Elfreim is a land harsh to humans. Just because she got used to travelling a bit doesn’t mean that I can take her there so readily. And Abenelm is beyond the question.

Well, I don’t even plan on taking Mururu and the others to Abenelm either though. If possible, I just want to take Aya with me there.

“……..I see.”

“Don’t coerce her okay?”(renji)

“I won’t. I won’t even ask her to…….but.”

[But?]

“It’s nothing.”

Looks like she really does want to still travel with her. She’s still a young child. I understand the feeling of wanting to stay with a friend you finally made. But, this alone I cannot help. If she pushed her and got Ms Francesca injured, it’ll be Mururu who’d feel more hurt.

It’d be fortunate if it ended with just an injury in fact. Danger comes along with you when you’re travelling. From here onwards, monsters will only get stronger and stronger. Me, Feirona and Mururu will be busy protecting ourselves first. Even Aya can’t protect both Solnea and Ms Francesca at the same time. She’s specialised in using highly offensive magic spells after all, not protecting others. Now will Ms Francesca be able to protect herself when the time comes……..If you asked me that, I’ll hesitate in nodding.

“Don’t make such depressing face and let’s return. If you keep up that face, you’ll only make others worry more, right?”(renji)

“un.”

Putting my hand on her low hanging head, I lightly patted her. She didn’t resist and let me continue. Back when I did this to Aya and Souichi, they usually cheered up again.

“Renji, I want to eat that as well.”

“Yeah, sure. Now eat this and cheer up.”

Handing over the dried meat that I had half eaten, Mururu quickly munched it down.

When you’re hungry, your thought always go in the negative direction. Now though it’d be difficult to fill your stomach with just the emergency rations, it’d be great if she cheered up even a bit. It really messes with my own mood when she gets depressed as well. Maybe that’s because I’m too indulgent towards children though.

[It’s like you’re artificially feeding your kids.] (T/N: like how animals or humans teach young animals how to eat.)

“Now that’s just rude, Ermenhilde.”(renji)

“I’m not a kid.”

Even her reply to Eremnhilde’s insensitive words was lacking energy. This might be a serious.

.

.

.

Getting back to the inn, I saw a familiar looking carriage standing in front.

Confirming it with a side glance, I parted with Mururu and headed to the mens room but no one was there. Feirona was probably in the woman’s room playing chess with the girls. Thinking of that, I somehow felt a bit lonely. What is this feeling of alienation I’m getting?

“Say, Ermenhilde?”(renji)

[What, Renji?]

I spoke up to Ermenhilde as I sat down after throwing my mantle on my bed.

“Are you also sad at parting with Ms Francesca?”

[Well, I guess I do feel lonely but then again, not really either.]

“What is that supposed to mean?”

[……….Meaning that, I’ll be with you no matter what.]

“What an embarrassing statement.”

[Really?]

Calming down after removing my equipment, fuu, I leaked out a heavy sigh.

I’m not lonely. After getting to Elfreim, I’ll part with Mururu and Feirona as well after all. I have already resolved myself to say farewell to my comrades.

But, I also felt tired realizing that I had grown so accustomed to saying farewell to people that my emotions in the matter were nowhere near as strong as Mururu’s. I recalled when I parted from Utano-san back at the capital. Half a year, maybe a full year even. It might get even longer, maybe I might never come back alive. Yet, I easily said my farewells and left on the journey. I wonder what she feels about that. Maybe if I get the chance, I should ask her that. Well, I think I’ll just get humiliated if I ever asked her something like that though. I know that she shows no mercy at such times after all.

“Really, it’s heartening to have you with me.”(renji)

[fufu, I know right?]

“yeah.”

I don’t know how serious she was so I ended up smiling wryly. Maybe she said that just to cheer me up. Or maybe that was truly the will of Ermenhilde.

But, by talking like this, it’s true that my heart felt slightly lighter than before.

Getting back up from the bed, I stretched my body. It’s because I’m hungry that I’m thinking of such things. Just when I was thinking that, my door was knocked on.

“Come in, it’s open.”(renji)

“pardon the intrusion.”

Along with those words, honey coloured hair that I hadn’t seen in the past few days came into my view.

“Ms Francesca.”

“It’s been a while, Renji-sama.”

She wasn’t in her usual travelling clothes. Instead she was wearing high class elegant clothes.

“So? Did something happen?”(renji)

“Ah, no, I was just wondering how Mururu was so..”

[……….You two really do get along so well.]

“Eh?”

“It’s nothing. So, did you meet Mururu already?”

Stopping Ermenhilde from saying anything more than necessary again, I spoke up. It’ll only make this awkward between those two if Ms Francesca hears about it.

“Yes. Since I was in the other room till now.”(fran)

“I see. Oh right, why don’t you sit down first. No need to talk while standing.”

Offering her a seat, I also sat down on the opposite side of the table.

“Want something to drink?”(renji)

“I’m fine, thank you.”

I missed her formal way of talking as well. As she gave a wide smile, I smiled as well.

“It’s been a while. Have you been fine all this time?”(renji)

“fufu, looks like Renji-sama hasn’t changed much either.”

[Not really. Just now, he was moping around thinking of various things.]

“…….Is that so?”

“well, who knows.”

Hitting Ermenhilde over my pocket, I simply gave a shrug to her question. Seriously, Ermenhilde talks a bit too much.

“Oh right, so you taught Chess to Solnea it seems?”(fran)

“Yeah,  so, can you play chess as well?”

“A bit, I was taught by a friend. Since my friend had a set in our dorms.”

“I see. If possible, play with Solnea once in a while. She seems to have taken quite a bit of interest in it lately.”

“So it seems. I played her a while ago, and only won barely.”

Barely, eh? Was that an indication of her skill, or was she just being humble. Going by her personality, it’s probably the latter.

And aftr talking of such things with her for a while, the door was knocked on again.

“Yes?”

“pardon the intr—–”

Before she could finish speaking, the door got opened. The one who knocked on the door was Aya it seems but it was Mururu who opened the door half way through her words.

Probably, she got curious of what we were talking about alone in my room. Well, it was probably different for Mururu though.

“Ah, wai…….Mururu. You’re supposed to let me finish…….”(aya)

“Renji doesn’t care.”(mururu)

“I do care. Open the door after the proper greetings Mururu.”(renji)

“…….you do?”(mururu)

[Do you really care?]

Ermenhilde, you have the same opinion as Mururu as well?

“What if I was changing clothes? Wouldn’t it be awkward?”(renji)

“But Fran is here right now……….”(mururu)

“I’m talking about when she’s not.”

“I don’t care really.”

“Then do so. If you’re an adult already, normally women don’t just walk into a man’s room so thoughtlessly.”

“…….is that so?”

“Eh, ah, yes…….I think?”(aya)

Why did she ask Aya there? Is it because she’s also a girl?

Also, the fact that you don’t mind such things is proof that you’re still a child Mururu. I’m worried that she’ll get tricked by some weird man later on.

Aya being herself, who knows what she was imagining as she was blushing. Seriously, what are you imagining? Realizing my gaze, she panicked and look here and there trying to avoid me and cleared her throat.

[What were you imagining?]

“uwaah!?!”

[……Why are you so surprised at my voice?]

As usual, this is so amusing. Offering both of them to sit as well, I moved to sit on my bed since there weren’t enough chairs. That means only Feirona and Solnea are in the other room. That room is bigger but I can’t just tell them to go away either. Thinking of shifting to that room if the talk paused for a while, ms Franesca brought up a different topic.

“Renji-sama, tomorrow night, do you have any prior appointment?”

“Nah, not really. Why?”

“My father, was hoping to invite both you and Aya-san to dinner.”

“me and Aya, eh?”

I looked towards Aya and she gave a nod. Since she also her senior at school, Aya didn’t seem to mind it much. Looking towards Mururu, she was talking with Ms Francesca happily. Seeing her, I guess it really can’t be helped I felt. That said, I don’t think I need to read too deeply into this.

“What about Feirona, Mururu and Solnea?”(renji)

“It’s fine. He has said to invite all of them as well.”(fran)

“Then, I accept that invitation.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, tomorrow you’ll get to eat to your heart’s content Mururu.”

“………..I don’t eat that much.”(mururu)

When I said that, Mururu replied sullenly. Her expression was so adorable that all three of us gave a smile. She seemed to mind that as she lightly hit Ms Francesca. While gently caressing her head, Ms Francesca seemed to be having fun as well. While looking at those two, I laughed and even Aya was smiling.

[It will get lonely I guess.]

At Ermenhilde words no one else reacted. Meaning those words came only to me.

“I guess so.”

That’s why, I also spoke truthfully.

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