Chapter 69 The Hunt and the Test
*clack* *clack* a dry sound reached my ears. Finding that sound to be calming, resting myself completely to the back of my chair, I read the letter in my hand.
The sender was Utano-san and the content was regarding the reward for subjugating the Griffins. And also a demand to send back a letter telling her about our current situation. She knows that I’m not really the type who writes back letters but looks like she’s really worried for us. Now even I have no choice but to write back a letter in such a case. I smiled bitterly.
But, what should I write back in the letter? While recalling the various events that occurred after coming to Merdiore, I spread out a blank paper cleanly in front of me. Even like this, I am the type who takes good care of things, you know?
As I stretched my body, my back gave a slight crack.
“What was written inside?”(aya)
Here in the Men’s room, Aya, who was playing chess with Solnea, asked that. And even Solnea who sat in front of her looked towards me reacting to Aya’s words.
Feirona and Mururu had gone along with Ms Francesca to do some work in the neighbourhood. While we’re just relaxing here playing chess. Seriously, our lives are so peaceful right now. But that’ll only last till today.
Glancing at the blue bird resting on the edge of my bed—–Utano-san’s familiar, I gave a sigh.
By the way, Utano-san really loves this small blue bird. She really went through a lot of trouble to finally find it. This world is a place where the weak are eaten by the strong. Survival of the fittest. A small powerless bird like this would instantly end up as a monster’s prey. What fly freely in our world, in this world these type of birds are, though not an endangered species, but still are very less in number. The reason she was so fixated to have this small blue bird as her familiar was because apparently it’s supposed to bring happiness or something. She only heard it from somewhere but she really holds it dear. When I gently caressed the small bird with my finger, it made an adorable tweeting voice.
“Is your match over?”(renji)
“No, not yet.”(sol)
“I see. Then first finish it. Then we’ll talk.”
It was Solnea who replied and hearing what I said, she instantly turned back towards the chess board. In contrast, Aya seemed to be really curious about the contents of the letter so she continued to look this way for a while but soon turned back towards the board as well.
Same black hair, beautiful looks, tall height; seeing the various similarities between these two, they really felt like sisters. Solnea would be the older sister though. In terms of looks and body that is.
Once more, *clack* *clack* the dry sound resounded in the room.
From the open window, the noise from the streets could be heard, and the cold wind passed making my clothes sway. The bare mountain visible in the distance had now become a nest for Griffins and the small black spots that are visible occasionally must be the griffins out for enthusiastically hunting their prey.
While thinking of such things, I pondered over the contents of the letter.
It was a letter written in proper japanese. We can read it easily but the inhabitants of this world can’t even read or understand a single bit of it. Back when we were just summoned we had no choice but to talk in Japanese even though it was inconvenient but now it’s become something like a code language for us.
Taking out Ermenhilde from my pocket, I flicked it up with my thumb. As it twirled in the air, shining in the sunlight, I grabbed it and opened to see. It was tails.
“Nah, it’s just that the coin toss gave a tails so I feel like something bad’s about to happen.”
[Isn’t that the usual though?]
Why are you sounding so excited there?
Griffin subjugation. That alone isn’t very problematic. After all, I even have experience fighting dragons that are much more troublesome than just griffins. I won’t feel as troubled just to fight some griffins after all I’ve been through now.
I know how to beat them. Drop lightning if flying, and if that’s difficult, use bait to lure them to the ground and cut their wings using that chance. No matter how great the protection of wind spirit Sylph they might have, they can’t fly without wings. After that, it’s just a big beast that can use magic.
……….the fact that it can use magic puts in a whole different class from other beasts though.
“Are you worried about something?”
Did she notice what I was thinking, Aya was looking towards me instead of the board. Looks like it was Solnea’s turn to make a move.
“Renji-san, are you worried about something? Because you’ve been flipping Ermenhilde a lot recently.”
“……..Is that so?”
While saying that, I put the medal back inside my pocket. I guess, it’s become a habit of mine? I myself never realized it though. But, certainly, whenever something happens I do recall flipping the medal to test whether it’d be good or bad.
“Now, we’ll be getting quite busy from hereon Ermenhilde.”(renji)
[Yeah. I can’t wait.]
“Oh please, I don’t enjoy putting my life on the line you know?”
While saying what I always say, I caressed the blue bird again.
What should I do next? The reward for Griffin subjugation, now I don’t know the current market price for that but the amount the capital—-Utano-san has suggested is a pretty big one. With this much money, it’ll be easy to gather adventurers who’d fight alongside us. I’ll leave that to Dagram though and we should start preparations for the subjugation I guess.
There’s also the test for Ms Francesca as well and also the existence of a tough enemy, the Arch Griffin. No matter how much we prepare ourselves, there’s nothing as being overprepared in this case.
And as for Ms Francesca’s test, I feel like they’re overthinking about it a bit too much. As for me, I just want proof that she won’t hold us back……..that is, she’ll be able to protect herself. In the end, she’s only become an adventurer 6 months ago. I don’t expect her to have movements like Feirona or Mururu in just that much time. And of course, neither do I expect her to be able to use magic like Aya either.
As long as she can follow my instructions, not falter even against an incredibly powerful enemy, and if she can be quick witted at any instant. Knowledge and experience will come to her gradually. Just because she worked hard for a week or two, she won’t grow that much. It’ll be difficult to defeat a griffin with just her magic so rather than learn attack magic, what’s more important will be to learn binding and restraining type magic. I wonder if she has realized that.
But then again, I, who didn’t give her any advice and left it all to others, am not being very nice either. Thanks to that, I feel like Mururu hasn’t been talking to me much these days. I do understand that she’s trying to implicitly tell me to give her advice though.
Well, it’s not bad to put in some hard work, and Feirona’s with her as well so she shouldn’t overdo it.
[You’re always like that.]
“I don’t want to die yet after all.”
At Ermenhilde’s voice, I gave a light response. I spoke that very honestly and was truly what I thought as well. I don’t want to die. That’s what makes me, me.
Aya who heard that giggled as she moved her piece. It was funny to see Solnea look at Aya puzzled at that.
“mou, don’t speak such ominous things, will you?”(aya)
“Hm, sorry, sorry.”(renji)
As I gave an apology to Aya, ‘Check’, she spoke. Looks like their match is heading towards the end as well. Or maybe Aya’s finally taking the game seriously only now.
Feirona, Mururu and Solnea have started to get used to the area, Ms Francesca seems to have gotten more calmer as well, and due to the Griffins, there are way less monster attacks these days. Even though threat and danger is just beside us, our current lifestyle is might be the most relaxed out of all the times I have travelled.
We spent two weeks like this. But this peace is also finally coming to an end.
“I really wanted to laze around a bit more.”(renji)
[Hmph. Have you forgotten the objective of this journey?]
[I wonder about that.]
She seemed to sound more severe probably because I haven’t worked for the past few days at all. Basically because I have been lazing around like it was a holiday for me. As I gave a shrug at my partner’s voice, I looked outside the window.
The weather seemed as clear as it could be but the air felt slightly humid. It might rain at noon or at night.
“It’s my loss.”(sol)
“Yes. Solnea-san, you’ve really gotten better at this.”(aya)
“I have not yet won against Aya though?”(sol)
“You won’t win that easily. You have to attain victory through your own hard work after all.”(aya)
While talking, those two began clearing up the chess pieces. I, who was bored, decided to simply admire the small blue bird in the meantime. When I put out my finger in front of it, it looked adorable as it jumped on to that finger. Was it under Utano-san’s control or did it actually have the consciousness of a bird as well? I don’t really know much about familiars but it looks like a normal bird to me right now. I gently caressed the bird with my finger.
[Now that I think about it, does Aya not have a familiar as well?]
“Yes. Even if it’s a familiar, it’s still a living being. And I am really bad with animals.”(aya)
“Is that so?”
“I do find small birds or cats cute but I’m a bit………”
“What about dogs?”
“A long time ago, I was attacked by one so..”
I see so that’s why she’s bad with animals. Due to one incident she ended up not liking all animals as a whole, I guess. But it seems she was pretty embarrassed of that fact as her expression seemed shy as she said that.
“Also, the biggest problem is that I really don’t like controlling an animal against its will……”(aya)
“Yeah, it’s fine that way.”
When I said that, she didn’t have anything more to say.
I’m sure with Aya’s magical energy she control literally anything…….except Gods and God’s descendants that is. Well, I am not knowledgeable about the fine details of contracting a familiar so I am not sure.
But from Aya’s reaction, I think my deduction wasn’t too far off the mark. And to be honest, I’m really happy to see that Aya thinks that way.
“Now then, what did Yuuko-san say in the letter?”(aya)
Having finished clearing away the chess pieces, Aya asked that. Her expression had changed from what it was when she was playing. Even her atmosphere, slightly changed.
“To take care of the griffins asap, that’s all.”(renji)
It seems her reaction was the same as mine, not very surprised. As the name, the Commercial city would suggest, commerce…….or rather, it was a vital point for trade. It has the only trade route with Elfreim and the place where goods to be exported out of Imnesia and imported from Elfreim gather.
And above all, it’s a city where humans, demihumans and beastmen all gather. If something happened to such a place, it’ll create problem between the two continents. That’s why, we were asked to urdently deal with this problem.
Seriously, she makes it sound as if its so easy.
“Why is Renji smiling as well?”(sol)
For a second I didn’t realize what Solnea was talking about? Wasn’t Aya the one laughing? But I realized that the atmosphere was so that I was probably smiling as well. On being pointed that out by Solnea, I used my other hand, that didn’t have the bird on it, scratch my cheek.
“Was I smiling?”(renji)
[Yeah. Looks like you’re quite eager as well this time.]
“……..That’s not it.”(renji)
I’m just feeling more at ease since we got an official order. No matter how difficult or absurd it might be, getting precise instructions always makes things easier.
But I doubt that has any connection to me feeling more eager about it. It won’t make enjoy fighting, and I would never, voluntarily, start a fight myself. I hate getting hurt and have had enough of suffering from the pain. I want to avoid danger.
But if I’m told to do something, I will. Is this what they call being a person with naturally underling mentality?
“Well then, I’ll go and call Feirona-san and others.”(aya)
“Yeah, I leave that to you. I’ll head to the guild.”
Saying that, Aya left the room. It’s amazing how fast she is to always take action like this. She understands what to do even without me telling her, or something like that.
Griffin subjugation. We can’t just head there instantly. First I have to let everyone know the details written in Utano-san’s letter, then make preparations as well. At earliest, we’ll do it tomorrow, it could even be the day after.
Feirona and others should be out on a job they got from the guild. There’s still time till they return. I’ll go and get Dagram to help me with the subjugation prep in the meantime.
“What is it, Solnea.”
While I was in deep thought, Solnea who was still in the room spoke up. She might be confused to see me still here even though Aya left maybe.
“I’m also heading out soon, so what will you do in the meantime?”(renji)
“I’ll come with you.”(sol)
[…….Instant reply, eh.]
Ermenhilde, as if trying to read my thoughts, spoke in a doubting voice. Is she wondering if I have some evil thought?
“If there’s something Solnea wants to do, I want to allow her that as much as possible okay?”(renji)
“Why are you sulking now?”
[I’m not sulking. I just find it strange seeing Renji act so honestly/obediently.]
“What a partner I have, seriously.”
To start the preparations for travel—for battle, I stood up. That said, all I did was put on my mantle, hiding the throwing daggers on me, attaching the dragon bone knife to my belt and the mithril sword to my waist.
“So, what will you be doing?”(renji)
I spoke that towards the small bird resting in the top of my bed. When I did, as if it understood me, it flew lightly and landed on my shoulder.
Though you see such a scene in tv dramas a lot, in actuality, birds are very wary creatures. The fact that they’d land on a person’s shoulder is proof that they’re very used to the person.
Well, considering it’s Utano-san’s familiar it should be obvious though. But still, I felt happy.
“Alright, let’s go shall we?”(renji)
[……what if it flies away due to the crowd and noise outside?]
“If that happens, it’ll still just go back to Utano-san.”
[I guess so.]
Picking up my cloth bag that I use as purse, I cleaned up the room first a bit.
“Now that I think about it..”
While clearing up the things, I turned towards Solnea who was gazing at me dazedly as usual.
“What do you think of chess. Enjoying it?”(renji)
“I am not sure.”
“That’s pretty vague.”
“is that so?”
Sitting down, she held the bad with the chess board and pieces within her slender arms. From the time I bought her that, she’s always held it like that as if it was treasure…..I think.
At least, I have never seen her hold anything this preciously before.
“Didn’t Aya compliment you on your skill as well?”(renji)
As if she didn’t understand what I meant, she replied in a vague sounding voice.
Though it’d look like she has changed a lot while living in Merdiore, she actually hasn’t changed at all. As usual, her expression is difficult to read, she speaks less, and would never say what she wants. At least she’s started to ask about things she’s interested in. and even that doesn’t happen much when with Feirona and others.
Even today, she didn’t say that she wanted to play chess. But because she was carrying the bad around with a face that seemed to be wanting to say something, Aya was the one who invited her to play together. While feeling slight uneasy whether this pace of growth was fine or not, I couldn’t think of any better solution either.
I wonder how it was like with Eru.
These days, I’ve been thinking that a lot. I think…….and then feel sad due to being unable to remember such details. Memories are of the past. Who was it that said that humans should leave the past and head to the future? Did I read it on the Net, or was it in a book? Or maybe a friend or family member told me? Everytime I think of Eru, those words pop up in my mind.
It made me extremely sad, yet at the same time, I felt that I didn’t feel as depressed I thought I would. Is that kind of relationship people have with their past? Even though it concerns yourself, it starts feeling like it does not matter to you any longer.
“Is that what it was?”(sol)
“Was I being praised?”
“Yeah. She was definitely praising you.”
When I was going into deep thoughts again, Solnea’s voice brought me back.
And I smiled wryly at her way of speaking.
As she tilted her head in confusion due to not realizing other people’s good intentions, due to her good looks as well, she looked cute. From here onwards, she’ll show interest in a lot more things, converse more, and understand emotions. When she does, I wonder how Solnea would change.
Or would she remain the same?
“You really should speak up more about what you want to do.”(renji)
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. It’ll be helpful to me as well.”
As I left the room after confirming all of my equipment, Solnea followed after me. The bag with the chess board was still held close to her chest making me smile.
“You can leave that in the room. You don’t want to drop it and break it right?”(renji)
Giving an obedient reply, she went back into the room.
“She’s like a docile child.”
[Do you really want such a big kid?]
Even if an adventurer has a child, that child will only face misfortune. If you want to have a child, do it after you stop being an adventurer. Resting my back on the wall of the inn, I folded my arms.
“Even now, I already have my hands full with acting like a babysitter. If the number of kids increase further, I won’t be able to handle it.”
[if Aya heard that, lightning will fall on you, you know?]
“I never said ‘who’ were included in kids though?”
Shouldn’t Mururu be the one you think of at first? Well, for Ermenhilde I guess Aya’s also still a child.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting.”(sol)
“Don’t mind it. Now then, let’s get going.”(renji)
Together with Solnea who came back from the room, we headed down towards the first floor of the inn—–when, I felt a sensation on my mantle. As usual with a emotionless expression, Solnea held on to the edge of my mantle.
Now if she had held on to it with just her finger or something, it’d be really cute but seeing her hold on properly with her whole hand was well, very Solnea-like to do so.
“What is it?”(renji)
“Renji, will you play chess with me later?”(sol)
Due to the sudden comment, I couldn’t even reply back properly.
“Just now, didn’t you say to tell what I wanted to do?”(sol)
“Don’t you ‘indeed’ me damnit.”(renji)
I lightly hit my partner who was some incomprehensible things from above my trousers.
Even if you tell me to play chess with you now..Let alone Aya, I’m weaker than even Feirona at it. I am not sure if I can win against her. I honestly have zero confidence of winning.
“Aya and Feirona are both stronger than me you know?”(renji)
“Strong or weak is not relevant to me when playing chess with them though.”(sol)
I don’t get it. Then why is she playing chess…….well, I guess you could say that she just enjoys playing that’s all. But in that sense does the opponent’s strength really become irrelevant?
“Well, if you’re okay with me, sure.”(renji)
[Shouldn’t be really difficult for you to win against her now, Renji?]
“I think so. But if she doesn’t mind that, I don’t mind playing with her.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.”
But well, it’s going to get really busy for sometime so the chess match will have to be put off for later though.
“I’ll get really busy for some time so it’ll be a while till I get to play with you but, is that fine?”(renji)
“I do not mind.”
“I see. Okay, then let’s head to the guild now.”
Saying that, I began to walk. This time she didn’t pull on my mantle.
Leaving the inn and reaching in front of the guild, I passed through the swinging double doors as the noise of the adventurers came to me. Even though the threat of Griffins was there, it’s not like adventurers don’t have any other job.
True, the damage from monsters like harpies and goblins has lessened but adventurers also have other jobs like escorting merchants, and gathering herbs and ingredients for magic and alchemy as well. The profits will be less but they’ll still be busy with such jobs. Some the adventurers saw me come in and looked towards me. Some of them, who were an acquaintance of mine, raised their hand and gave a greeting. I greeted them back but other than those gazes there were also some which were more focused behind me. That is, they were looking towards Solnea. Rather than a simple man like me, a beautiful girl like her is a better treat for their eyes after all.
“You’re finally here, Renji. Since it was you, I thought you’d be here first thing in the morning.”
[fumu. Did something happen?]
When I spoke up to Dagram who was at one of the counters looking bored, he suddenly told that to me. When I tilted my head confused at what he meant, he also got confused seeing my reaction.
“What? Aren’t you here to accept the griffin subjugation request?”(dagram)
“Well, yeah I am but, why did you say I’d be here first thing in the morning?”
“Well, that’s because a letter from the capital came here last night.”
“……..is that so?”
“You didn’t know?”
“Yeah, an acquaintance at the capital……Utano-san’s letter came to me only a while ago after all.”
Looks like a letter was sent to the guild through another route as well. Then couldn’t they have told me the same last night as well?
But I guess they didn’t have time to send someone to me. Not to mention they must have thought that I’d be here sooner or later anyway.
“What the hell? Even though the letter to me came from some damned old man , you got one from a woman? As usual, you make me jealous.”(dagram)
“Let me off. Here, I am supposed to write back a letter telling the current circumstances you know? Me, write a letter? There’s a limit to how much that doesn’t suit me.”
“yeah, I guess so. Just imagining you sitting in front of a desk writing a letter, it really doesn’t suit you at all.”
“Well if we’re talking about that, you working at the reception doesn’t suit either though.”
“Shaddup. Who do you think has been kindly offering all sorts of good jobs to your comrades, huh?”
While I was talking with Dagram like that, the little bird sitting on my shoulder lightly poked at my cheek. Getting surprised, I stopped talking and it became calm again.
Is it telling me to finish things here quickly?
“Hm, the hell is that bird?”(dagram)
“Utano-san’s familiar. This is the one who brought me the letter.”
“Houu, since this is Ane-san we’re talking about I was sure her familiar would be some demonic beast.” (T/N: Ane-san technically means older sister but is also used for women who are confident and dominating types sometimes.)
“Even though she’s like that, she really likes cute——-”
I spoke till that when the little bird started pecking at my cheek again. This time, it was actually serious and it really hurt making me raise my voice.
“Kakaka. Looks like the master and the familiar are one and the same. What the familiar sees and hears also reaches the master, that is her, Renji.”
“That doesn’t mean the familiar has to get angry as well.”
Though I’m also stupid to still say such things even while knowing that but how devoted is this familiar to Utano-san.
When I was thinking of that, it started pecking at me again. This habit of always making others rush is also similar to its master.
“I and the people around me will be troubled if I were to rush anything though.”(renji)
“But then again, you take a bit too much time with things as well.”
[umu. It’s exactly as he says, Renji.]
“What will I gain by rushing things? If I keep on running looking just ahead, I’ll miss all the beautiful scenery around me.”
[I feel like Renji get’s a bit too captivated by the scenery and completely stops moving most of the time though.]
Isn’t it fine though? Beautiful scenery, clean air, idyllic atmosphere. I love all of it. Looking at me holding my head, both Dagram and Ermenhilde laughed out loud. Goddamn it.
“So, you’re accepting the grifin subjugation quest?”(dagram)
“……yeah. We’ll start tomorrow at noon. So make sure that as few as possible people leave Merdiore during that time.”
“Looks like you’re planning to have a pretty intense battle.”
“Aya is with us after all.”
When she fights seriously, it’s really bad for people to be anywhere near. Honestly speaking, even I become nothing more than a burden at that time.
I gave a shrug but Dagram gave a tired sigh. As a veteran adventurer, or rather, as someone who were in Merdiore two years ago, he knows very well just what level of magicians both Aya and Koutarou are. After all, it was these two that blew away one whole section of that bare mountain that the Griffins have made into their nest right now.
But still, it’s nowhere near like the time in Abenelm where they’d create craters at every place they go.
“Well, I’ll try and do something. Think it’ll take a lot of time?”(dagram)
“Can’t say. I went quite a lot of times to observe the griffins but that Arch griffin alone didn’t show itself.”
If it was just simple griffins, it’ll end pretty fast but without confirming exactly how old and how skilled that Arch griffin is, I can’t say anything for sure.
Of course, it’ll still be nowhere near the Demon God Nayfell’s level though.
Even if I wanted to hear more about that arch griffin, the ones who barely returned alive last time from fighting it also succumbed to their wounds and died the other day.
Even if they were adventurers, death still felt sad. Without letting such emotions show too much on my face, I gave a sigh.
[I couldn’t even tell even the normal griffins apart though……..]
Are you still talking about that?
“This will be slightly troublesome I know but I leave it to you.”(renji)
“It’s not just ‘slightly’ damnit. Just how many people do you think come and go through the highway everyday??”(dagram)
“Who knows? I can’t tell without properly looking into it. But it’s a big number I’m sure.”
If you don’t even know, don’t tell me that! Looking fed up towards my comrade who hadn’t changed at all, he gave his sultry smile.
And as if it was pre-established fact, a voice of disgust came instantly from Ermenhilde.
Now then, all that’s left is too meet up with Aya and the others and prepare for tomorrow. Looks like tomorrow will be really busy. I muttered to myself.
Towards me, as if trying to console me, the small blue bird tweeted softly.