—Journeys are bound with meetings, companions a treasure.
The ones walking the olden path together are the devilish swordsman and the bow princess.
Journeying the world, seeking the dragon song that’s carved in the sky.
The devilish swordsman is yearning for a reunion with the wings.
—The bow princess prays to the second coming of the dragon knight.
Is this a journey for the sake of changing the world?
Or is this a journey to change the meaning of the world he himself is seeing?
These eventual heroes still unknown, wandering the ends of the world.
“…You took a while, Captain Solje.”
The greeting I got after entering the store wasn’t a civil greeting like ‘welcome’.
At an old and small road that has no name given to it, what’s around that path was a characteristic small workshop with only one apple tree growing in its garden.
There, a single elf girl was furrowing her brows.
Long and slender legs in my taste, long silver hair, and long pointy ears characteristic of her race. A bow, which has seen constant use, on her delicate back. You could tell at a glance that she is an elf.
Her name is Riel Harvel.
She is a beautiful young girl with her propency to anger being one weak point of hers at times.
In the first place…I didn’t ask her to ‘please wait for me’ or ‘come with me’, you know? Why should I get complained at?
But I have learned.
When I say things like that to her, it definitely ends up souring her mood.
I am a 26 year old adult, and she is 17. We have a 10 year difference. I will show her the composure of an adult.
“Sorry for the wait, Riel.” (Solje)
“…Doesn’t sound like you mean it.” (Riel)
“I can tell by looking at your eyes, Captain. You don’t think you are sorry for making me wait, right?” (Riel)
She stares intently at my right eye with her jade color eyes.
Uooh, she is so beautiful that it made my heart jump, but if I say that, I will get punched.
I have learned, you know?! Flirting, touching, and making babies is prohibited till marriage. Elf women are strict in that sense.
“…That’s not true. A former dragon knight doesn’t lie! I am apologizing for real, you know, Riel-san.” (Solje)
“Humans are all liars. Contrary to elves.” (Riel)
“Oi oi. Have I hurt you before?” (Solje)
“Then believe in me. There are also humans that won’t deceive you. Have a big heart and trust in me.” (Solje)
“It really does reek of a liar.” (Riel)
“Cause I am.” (Solje)
“…Oi, can I stab you with an arrow?” (Riel)
“There’s no way that’s okay. Anyways, we both managed to safely gather, so let’s work.” (Solje)
Now then…I should explain the situation a bit.
This is a workshop managed by a demi-human -a dwarf. It is a truly common store adjacent to the road. With several wagon wheels of differing sizes lying below a tree that are spares for the moments when the wheels of wagons break in the way.
This characteristic rundown store is where Riel designated as a meeting point.
…No, it is not me who decided it, she arbitrarily declared this, and before I could deny it, she had disappeared somewhere…
Well, if that can be considered an arrangement, then it is true that I have arrived half a day late.
But that should be something natural. Because you know, there’s a bounty placed on my head by the strongest force in this world, the Empire.
Also, even when this is close to my former homeland, it has already completely become a colonized land of the Faris Empire. In other words, we are on enemy territory. The number of humans increases, and the number of demi-humans decreases.
The culture, philosophy, and laws change. Even just a bit ago, I saw a fairy thief being hung on a tree.
…In the past, the laws of Garuna were the most tolerant to them. They wouldn’t be hung at a tree in the middle of the road just for stealing bread.
We wouldn’t have hung someone unless they were quite the criminals. Hanging is way too heavy of a punishment for stealing bread.
They are using that as a warning. By leaving the corpses hanging, they scare the demi-humans. Telling them: ‘I will kill you if you go against us’.
The people of the Empire are slowly hating the demi-humans more. Even when the people of the Empire do misdeeds, if you complain about it, they would simply react excessively and even bring out political arguments to deny it.
A starved demi-human stealing bread would be bashed as if they were the root of all evil in society. They must be educated, they must be put under surveillance, they must be controlled. They acted as if the peaceful life of the paradise-like Empire would be stolen.
It was quite a difference from the time when it was allied with Garuna.
…That’s why we obviously don’t get along with each other. It has been 9 years, but my actions are still being controlled by anger.
To be more specific, I am constantly picking a fight with the Empire that is zealously increasing their territory with wars.
Being hired by demi-human countries and small countries, I have been fighting with the Empire together with my comrades. We do have the skills after all. Us, the Banjar Mercenary Group, can survive in the battlefield, but winning a war…rarely.
Just by looking at a map, anyone would be able to tell the reason. 95% of this continent is Empire territory or in hegemony with it. The vassal countries are not even treated as dogs, they are treated as livestock.
The only big country against small countries that are like stardust. Just how much is the percentage difference between military power?
Compared to the small countries that are made up from old and young male and females alike, the enemy has an army made of young conscripts and soldiers who willingly enlisted. There’s no line of logic that says we can win.
Even if we win one war, the next one would be difficult. The conscription system of the Empire allows them to quickly replenish their forces. Even if we kill many empire soldiers, new empire soldiers show up.
The only choice we have here is challenge the next battle with our exhausted forces. It is a way too disadvantageous condition…
That’s why the Faris Empire is doing war around the world all year long. Because the more they fight, the easier it is to win. Having localized defeats won’t be enough to create a chance to stop their invasions.
To stop the invasion of the Empire, there’s the need to deal a big hit on them. That in itself is a feat of utmost difficulty.
They absorb small countries, increase their territory, and make a human settlement in the colonized land. Have the demi-humans thoroughly oppressed, instill that divisive mindset to the humans that were living there beforehand, and change them into imperialists.
That hung fairy was also a part of those deeds. They are publicizing that demi-humans are inferior and wicked beings.
…I love to kill those kind of shitty imperials. But I can’t just fight indiscriminately like crazy all year long. A wanted man rampaging in enemy territory? …That’s stupid.
That’s why at times I would hide stealthily like an insect, and live while avoiding a clash with society-sama.
I am a tall man with an eyepatch and a crazy big dragon longsword. A guy like me trying to not stand out is hella difficult damn it.
That’s why, isn’t it okay to forgive me for being only half a day late, Riel-chan?
…Is what I want to say, but this girl is troublesome like a mother.
‘Being late is the worst act an adult can do. It is exactly because you are a wanted man that you should be punctual with your times, don’t you think?’, since the time she told me that, it has become hard to go against her. Does she think of herself as my supervisor? A bodyguard? Maybe she likes me?
…Oops, derailed a bit there.
Anyways, the situation is like that. I apparently broke a promise I wasn’t even aware of, and am being scolded by the straightlaced elf.
My being late must have been contributed by the fact that I lowered the corpse of the fairy and destroyed the life of the imperial guy who did it. That’s why I don’t really mind being scolded. It was worth it after all.
Now then, this place is a plain village you can find anywhere called Abotson, and we are at the only blacksmith here.
Of course, it is not as if the dwarf and the other demi-humans are liked by the villagers -which are mostly comprised of imperials- but if you have the technique, you meet the demand.
The blacksmithing skills of the dwarf at the ‘village along the road’ are being considered important. After all, they can repair the wagons six times faster than humans, and no matter how abused those wagons are, they don’t break even when reaching the next settlement.
‘We are supporting the circulation of goods’, is what my friend dwarf said.
True. After travelling the world without a dragon, I understood the importance of a blacksmith. Even the horseshoes are their making. Without those, the horses would be pained to the extreme.
Well, it just means that dwarves may be persecuted, but their safety is somewhat assured. All hanging onto whether they are useful to the human-samas, though.
Even so, this old man is the same. He doesn’t have freedom of movement, and because of the superiority doctrine, he receives blatant exploitation. He has been made a tool for the human society.
But maybe because of the good or bad of being a craftsman by heart, he believes that the times when he is hammering iron in this store are the ‘best moments of his life’.
Even if he were to obtain ‘freedom’, he would still choose the same everyday life.
We could take him out of here, but…the old man is not wishing for that. If I were the ruler of a big city, I would let him hammer as much steel or mithril as he wants though…
Well, that just means a wanted mercenary man like me cannot satisfy him. The only iron-made things I can provide to him are armors after all.
By the way, that was quite the sight. This old man’s repairing skills had made the distorted parts of my armor disappear completely.
It was godlike speed.
He told me it is 280 ciels and immediately began to take off my armor. Then he began to hammer it right after, scraped off the rust, and applied oil to the joints in the complexly entwined scales of the armor.
When I put it back on, I could tell that the armor with no dents was disturbing my movements a whole lot less than ever before. The old man can talk to the iron. Looking at the wounds, the wear, and dents, he shaved off the ‘unnecessary parts’ of the armor.
It is work skill that made me want to roar. 280 ciel is way too cheap. He is an advanced level craftsman within the dwarves, no doubt about it. I would like to secure one of them in my mercenary group, but…I can’t take the old man away from here and destroy his happiness, right?
He is even looking so happy repairing that saucepan.
And so, this old dwarf that’s going clink clank as he hits the metal is the witness of a dragon.
That’s why Riel and I are here. Having him repair our armor was a happenstance. Our real objective is to find the dragon.
…No, finding a dragon is my objective. Now that I think about it, Riel, why are you here?
There’s no need to waste your long awaited break by tagging along with this drunkard captain, you know?
…Hmm, in other words, she was worried about me going into the Empire territory alone.
Maybe she really does like me? This little brat elf who hates humans? …If that’s the case, I would be happy.
Well, whichever the case, having a beauty of this degree moving around with me is kinda fun. She is incredibly skilled as a bodyguard, so having her around wouldn’t be a hindrance.
This girl had at some point in time lost her childishness and had grown into a beauty. She had a tomboyish side to her before, but now she has become graceful.
She has also grown in height and can make melancholic expressions of a woman at times. She truly is becoming a charming woman… In the future, I might seriously want to hit on her.
…Haah, I do want to continue enjoying the sight of her profile, but work is the priority here.
I left everyone of the group at the hideout, and have come all the way to my homeland.
Let’s do what must be done. I want a dragon. At whatever the cost.
“Hey, old man. Did you seriously see a dragon?” (Solje)
I asked the old dwarf. But he ignores me. He doesn’t show any fear towards a dangerous-looking man like me and is single-mindedly hammering away.
Haah, he is really going on his own pace. Or maybe he is senile?
I felt like sighing. Cause I am beginning to feel like I can’t expect much from what this old man says.
But there’s nothing else to do here, and he did repair my armor.
I shake the shoulder of the old man.
After doing that, he finally noticed that he is being talked to.
“…Ah, sorry about that. My ears ain’t good, ya see.”
“……An inherent trait that comes with being a blacksmith. You are going all clink clank everyday hitting iron after all.” (Solje)
“Isn’t it only because of the age?” (Riel)
Riel is a girl that says unnecessary things. Well, she is just honest to a fault. She was apparently a countryside elf with no knowledge of the outside world after all.
In the communication of elves, there’s apparently almost no factor of lying in it.
This is just my speculation, but that village must have had unending quarrels.
Okay, I will ignore her words. I try challenging the old man once again with a big voice.
“OLD MAN!! I HEARD!! YOU SAW A DRAGON!!” (Solje)
“…Yeah, I saw it. It was 5 years ago though!!”
“It was a story of 5 years ago?!” (Solje)
“Don’t make such a blatant disappointed expression, Captain. That’s rude.” (Riel)
“…Uh, t-true. The old man is not at fault after all. A-AND SO!! WHERE?!” (Solje)
“At that time, I ran out of iron ore, you see. I brought people of the village with me, and we went to get some in the mountains. At that time, a dragon with big wings flew by, and we ran for dear life.”
“…By mountain, you mean the one around here?” (Solje)
“Hm, that’s right. At the south here, within the mountain recesses, you can get ore from there.”
“…I see. It is true that this place isn’t that far from the holy grounds… Also, iron ore, huh.” (Solje)
Did it react to the land coated in magnetism?
Fumu…an unskilled dragon might get lost.
“And so, what happened after?” (Solje)
“Hm? We ran away and that’s it. We don’t wanna go to that place ever again, so the villagers and I have been buying our iron ore from other settlements.”
“I see, so there’s hasn’t been a big group trying to drive it away, huh. Then, there’s the possibility that it has nested there…” (Solje)
I mumble this as I take out a map.
I spread it open at one of the workdesks of the old man.
This is a handmade map made by us dragon knights. We have special measurement knowledge passed down, so it is more accurate than the ones sold in the market, and it has beneficial information for me written down.
Now then, the mountain the old man talks about being able to get iron ore from…must be this one. From the place I placed my finger at, I trace it back to the holy grounds with my gaze. Mana crucible, vegetation, river flow, elevation, geological features.
From this map where a mix of dragon knight codes are written down, I gather information while forming a hypothesis.
…Within dragons, there’s young ones who would make tunnels their ‘nest’. Young dragons have a tendency of hating having their scales wet in the rain after all.
If it is a young dragon that hasn’t even developed communication, their way of life is like that of an animal. They don’t know how to cast waterproof magic to their scales. That’s why young dragons require a nesting hole.
If the dragon that the old man saw does exist, maybe it is like this…
An egg that was laid in the holy grounds had been washed up by a big rain, and…it flowed in the downstream of the holy grounds…around this forest, and hatched there.
—Hoh? There’s been cow thieving since 4 years ago in this village…
I don’t remember this, but this writing is mine. I might have heard this ‘cow thieving’ talk at the bar…and then wrote it in the map?
Well done, past me.
Fumu, then, this is not the work of a thief, but simply that a dragon ate them?
…I see, there’s the possibility.
Then there’s only one thing to do.
“OLD MAN!! THANKS FOR TELLING US!!” (Solje)
“I don’t mind. You have a nice armor there. It was fun fixing it up. As expected, it is more fun to treat weapons and armor rather than doing the maintenance of wagons.”
“…YOU ALSO DID A GOOD JOB!! I WILL BE COMING HERE AGAIN!!” (Solje)
“Yeah, I will give you a discount. I would also like to sharpen that sword on your back next time.”