“Captain…is he alive?” (Loroka)
Loroka was looking at the man that had his head hanging low at the tree trunk. I used my magic eye to confirm. He doesn’t have much mana left, but it is okay. His heart is properly beating and his mana is also pulsing. He simply lost consciousness.
“Oi, are you okay?” (Solje)
I approach that middle-aged merchant, crouch, and slap him 2-3 times on his cheek.
“Oh, you woke u—” (Solje)
The moment the man raised his head, I tensed up. Loroka who was close by did so as well.
Why? This is the first time I have met this person. However, we have seen this person in the documents that Queen Claris sent us.
That’s why, even when it is the first time meeting him, we know this classy bearded gentleman’s face.
It was such an unexpected event that we froze for a bit.
I tell myself. Calm down. This is unexpected, but it isn’t bad.
“…Uh…W-What happened to me?”
The man groaned as he asks us. Looks like he is still not fully conscious. Loroka explained the situation to him in a kind voice.
“It is okay. We have defeated the monsters. You are safe. Your comrades have also avoided a wipe out.” (Loroka)
“…I-I see… I have calmed down a bit now. Hm? You are…a Diaros?”
“Did you come all the way here for some kind of business?”
“I travel a lot.” (Loroka)
“Is that so… You guys are curious people after all. Ugh, *cough cough*.”
“Drink this. A medicine made with alcohol mixed with medicinal plants. It is bitter, but it will take away the pain.” (Solje)
“Thanks… It seems like a skeleton squeezed my throat, you see.”
I give the canteen of elven medicine to the middle-aged man.
“Told you so.” (Solje)
“Y-Yeah. Hm…but it is mysterious. It looks like the pain is going away.”
It is an item handmade with the love of Riel after all. It has outstanding effect.
The man looks at me. Is this the first time he sees a human travelling together with a Diaros? …Ah, by the way, my eyepatch is on. The moment I learned who this man was, that is.
…Cause, you know, I shouldn’t scare him too much. It would be a bit too scary for a confused person to see a golden eye overflowing with dragon mana.
“…I feel like I have seen you before… That’s the kind of face you give me the vibes of.”
“Really? This is the first time we have met though.” (Solje)
Even so, it looks like he is not convinced. He is staring straight at me. Hm, are we acquainted? …Well, if you are Zakuroan to the bone, you must be remembering a different red haired warrior.
That’s fine by me, but I might as well confirm something. Whether you really are the man I think you are.
“…Are you Julian Laichi?” (Solje)
Right, the representative of the Eastern Trade Alliance. A letter target of Queen Claris. And also the man that…I have to kill if the situation rolls into the worst path.
I could tell that Loroka was also nervous. Even with the eyepatch on, the eye is still effective. Jean didn’t understand the situation and was simply watching things unfold for now.
Being unable to voice out his questions is one other weakness of his, but right now that personality of not butting in is appreciated.
Now then, is this strange meeting destiny?
In order to not show my current state of mind, I chose my expressions. A spaced-out expression like that of someone looking up at the sky.
In the 9 years till I met Zephyr…in the time till I reunited with a dragon, I apparently had this kind of expression when looking at the sky, so I am not really that bad at making this harmless expressions.
Relax my face. Keep my heart slightly tough.
But it looked like the tension was pointless. That’s right, Loroka and I were misunderstanding.
“Ahahahaha! They do say that about me often. Well, of course they would.”
“…Hm? What do you mean by that?” (Solje)
“Ah, I am not Julian. My name is Victor. Victor Laichi. Julian is my blood-related brother.” (Victor)
“…I see. I apologize for the misunderstanding.” (Solje)
“It is okay. We look alike after all. And so…who are you people?” (Victor)
There’s no need to hide it. When we group up with my subordinates, he will learn that I am a one-eyed man that rides a dragon anyways. Once he returns home, he will definitely report it to his brother.
“…I am Solje Strauss. Fourth son of Garuna’s Wing Commander, Kane Strauss. A dragon knight leading the Banjar Mercenaries.” (Solje)
“You are…Kane-sama’s…!” (Victor)
Victor Laichi opens wide those brown eyes in his easy to befriend merchant face. He said the name of my father in a reminiscing manner… Well, it is not strange even if we have met before then. I was a brat at that time, so I don’t remember though.
“Aah!! Then you are the hero of Ludo!! I heard songs of you, Solje Strauss!! The last dragon knight!!” (Victor)
Victor stood right up and hugs me. Yeah, even when hugged by a man, it doesn’t feel bad, but…is this because this man holds respect and admiration towards my family?
Victor is acting like an old relative of mine with that hug of his, and eventually releases me. His nose was red. Was he crying?
“Aah…to think that my life would be saved by the son of Kane-sama… This must be fate.” (Victor)
“…Were you an acquaintance of my father?” (Solje)
“Yeah, in business and personally. My brother made our family big, but…in the past, we were simply managing a hot spring inn.” (Victor)
“A hot spring?” (Solje)
“Yeah, there was a time when Kane-sama and his wife came… Your brother and sister have stayed at our place too!” (Victor)
“…Did I stay as well?” (Solje)
“Yes, I remember the fourth son that was as rowdy as the Zebia Volcano.” (Victor)
Family. With them gone now, when someone else speaks about episodes of them, a warmth fills my heart regardless of what it is.
“Captain, isn’t that great?” (Loroka)
Loroka says this with a face filled maternal love.
Great? Yeah, you are right, it is. That I could hear about those forgotten memories I had with my family, and that I could protect the person that held those memories.
This is a nice fate.
Fate is normally wretched and cruel with me, but the wind of today seems to be a great one.
Right, I have to thank him.
“Jean, thanks.” (Solje)
“Eh? M-Me?” (Jean)
“You were the first one to notice the skeletons. That’s why we could save him.” (Solje)
“Y-Yes!! Thank you very much!!” (Jean)
“Yours is ‘You’re welcome’, Jean.” (Solje)
“Y-Yes!! I will keep that in mind next time!” (Jean)
This man really isn’t used to being praised as usual. Looks like I have to learn how to properly praise this talented subordinate of mine more.
Now then, let’s move. This forest…is kinda weird after all. That’s right, if it were only skeletons, it would be one thing, but to have a Los Gigantes which is an Agarm.
“Okay, we will begin moving! Jean, I am counting on you to cover our rear.” (Solje)
“Yes! Leave it to me!!” (Jean)
Jean says this and unsheathes his saber he doesn’t know how to swing well.
I don’t really mind, but how about learning barehanded combat instead? You are not that good with the sword and you have that much physical strength, so you could become first class with plain barehanded combat, you know?
…Or so I say, but it would be bad to pour cold water onto his motivation right now.
If I were to tell him that just after praising him, it might hurt him more cause of the fact that I raised him beforehand, so let’s not.
“Now then, Victor, can you walk?” (Solje)
“Yeah, I am okay! Despite my looks, I am used to travelling, you know!” (Victor)
Victor tries walking. Yeah, he does look healthy, and my magic eye doesn’t feel any abnormality. Isn’t it great that Los Gigantes didn’t plant eggs or something like that in you? …I wouldn’t want to see that ending.
Did he think my gaze was that of worry towards him? Victor made a few rough steps in place and shows off his stamina. He is a nice person.
And the one other good person, Loroka Sharnel, shows concern for him.
“Try not to push yourself. If you want to, you can ride my horse—” (Loroka)
“Eh? T-The Unicorn? …Ahaha, I would rather not. They say that Unicorns stab your heart with their horn if someone aside from their master touch them, right?” (Victor)
Looks like one other barbaric practice of the Diaros has been made clear. Jean slowly makes distance from Byakuya.
“Eh?! T-That’s…it might be the case for the ones in Barrow Gawik, but this one is okay, you know?” (Loroka)
“That’s right. I was riding it just a few moments ago.” (Solje)
“…Hm? Heeh. Fumu fumu, I see…” (Victor)
Victor’s face turns slightly impish. The face of a man that’s thinking something crude. That kind of thing is universal no matter the culture.
His teasing gaze was directed at the spear genius on top of the unicorn. She seems to be flustered by this. Her eyes below her glasses are swimming.
“A-Aren’t you misunderstanding something here, Victor-san?!” (Loroka)
“No no, don’t mind me! I wish you happiness!!” (Victor)
“G-Geez!! I won’t let someone who says that ride my unicorn!!” (Loroka)
Loroka-sensei is beet red in anger. Allowing someone else to ride the back of your unicorn. Looks like that’s also some sort of strange custom of the Diaros.
Now then, rather than pursuing knowledge, we should prioritize reuniting with our comrades. We keep guard of our surroundings as we return by tracing our steps back.
The forest was silent now.
When I speak to Zephyr through the magic eye, it seems they have also finished dealing with the monsters over there. Right now, Riel and Mia are treating the wounded. Zephyr is keeping watch in case more skeletons show up.
The situation has been wrapped up. For now, that is.
“…Is it a normal occurrence in these lands to have a swarm of skeletons appear?” (Solje)
“I throw the question to the resident Victor. Victor groans.
“Hmm…They show up every now and then. This is the first time we have been surrounded by that many though.” (Victor)
“I see. Well, that’s how it should be, or it wouldn’t be a main route for trading.” (Solje)
“Yeah. But this forest has many accidents occurring. There’s many who have their bones buried in this place. That might be the main source of skeletons.” (Victor)
“Accidents? Why? The main road there is decently big though?” (Solje)
I feel like getting out of that road is harder.
Victor shrugs his shoulders and says.
“…They end up entering the forest.” (Victor)
Loroka asks in my stead. She is a knowledge hungry person after all.
“To the forest? For what?” (Loroka)
“This is a fairytale of sorts, but…it is also a legend passed down in secrecy.” (Victor)
“What kind of legend?” (Loroka)
Loroka-sensei is clinging onto the topic like the scholar she is. Well, I am interested as well. It is a legend that would make people risk their lives. The price is pretty high. Then, there should be a treasure that merits it.
“…There’s the legend of the Bandit King in this forest.” (Victor)
“A bandit king?” (Loroka)
“Yeah, he used this forest as one of their strongholds, and brought chaos to the surrounding countries. It is a story of about 500 years ago. It is said that his treasure is hidden in this forest.” (Victor)
That’s quite the old treasure. I feel like even a treasured sword would rust. If it is metallic, it might already be in shambles already. But if it is gold…ah, when I have the time, I could try searching for it. It makes my heart beat! A land where treasure sleeps!!
I see, that kind of exploration in my free time would be fun. If we seriously find it, the nights where my subordinates will have their stomachs hurt at night would disappear…! Wouldn’t that be the best day?!
“…500 years ago. Aah, Yukiris Zahart.” (Loroka)
“Who is that?” (Solje)
I only have superficial knowledge. Loroka-sensei has knowledge inside her head that surpasses even that Gandalla or maybe it goes all the way and is stored in the extra space of her giant boobs.
“Yes! It is a big bandit that rampaged in the living sphere of us Diaros!!” (Loroka)
“All the way to the north? That’s one unbelievable guy.” (Solje)
“Yeah. Zahart would wreak havoc in the north of the continent, gathering treasures, or so it is said.” (Loroka)
“A bandit among bandits.” (Solje)
“It is not known yet if he had a specific treasure he was searching for, but what we Diaros had to be the most on the watch for was the constant attacks to our Sacred Ground, Leaz.” (Loroka)
“The Sacred Ground of the Diaros?” (Solje)
I can imagine two things. An incredibly beautiful place. Since it is a prohibited to enter space, where the culture of the Diaros is dyed in ‘touching is taboo’, I feel like just trying to go there will have your head chopped off.
“It is a sealed land where not a single soul is allowed to enter.” (Loroka)
I think I understand the culture of the Diaros now. First of all, the basic is the ‘don’t touch’. If you touch, you deserve to die.
All the tribe is untouchable. That’s the Diaros. Yeah, harassing Loroka-sensei sounds like one straight ticket to hell!
“What’s sealed there is the Possession Aqua Aura.” (Loroka)
“Aqua Aura? Crystal…the Possession Crystal?” (Solje)
“Yes. A treasure of the Diaros which sealed a Zeruaga.” (Loroka)
“It sealed a Zeruaga…?” (Solje)
“We are experts in alchemy, so…our ancestors created this in the past and sealed a Zeruaga.” (Loroka)
“Something like that actually exists…” (Solje)
Right, there’s many legends about ‘treasures’ that have been used in battles against Zeruagas. The Possession Crystal is one of them.
“…The bandit might have wanted to steal it then.” (Solje)
“Who knows. We don’t know for sure ourselves. He might have had a Zeruaga he wanted to defeat.” (Loroka)
“And so, the Bandit King, Zahart-san, has hidden his treasures in this forest, and the greedy adventurers brought here by those stories entered the forest, got lost, died, and became skeletons, huh. Now, they are all a big family of skeletons.” (Solje)
I feel like this will be written in history teaching materials about how people are greedy beings.
“But it is strange that there would be these many skeletons appearing.” (Loroka)
I am happy that the intelligent Loroka-sensei would think the same thing as me. I can brag about my own brain.
That’s right. Leaving aside the treasure talk, the appearance of skeletons and an Agarm stink of something. Putting it bluntly, I think that maybe a new Zeruaga has come to this world.
Maybe I am overthinking it? It would be great if I am.
It is just like how geniuses work. You don’t know when one will appear, but…they will one day come once again. It might be today, or it could take a century.
Just like how Ares killed a Zeruaga with his fangs, there will definitely be a day when his grandson will be doing the same. The lifespan of a dragon is long after all. Even if I am unable to participate in the God Killing Battle… If it is in the lifespan of Zephyr, he will one day battle one.
For the sake of that day, I as the first generation rider of Zephyr will raise him into the best flying dragon.
That’s right, I have to raise my training ability. Train the dragon and…the socially awkward werewolf, and have them grow into men that can create a number of legends.
Ah, my thoughts derailed a bit there.
There’s a lot of corpses of adventurers sleeping in this forest, and if he says skeletons easily appear…there’s no need for us to stay long. It isn’t that much fun to defeat these guys.
Fighting should be done between people with a decent degree of strength. Also, I have a more important mission right now than adventuring.
Seriously, in the face of that difficult mission, I feel like facing an army of monsters would be easier.
If the situation proceeds in the worst case scenario…I would have to kill the brother of this man that has the memories of my family…
I am going to be taking away the family of the man that knows my family…
“Anyways, Solje-sama…you have grown splendidly. I am sure your father watching from above the skies is proud of you.” (Victor)
“…That would be great.” (Solje)
I wonder what kind of eyes my father would look at me with, if I were to shoulder a dragon longsword with that kind of crime.
It is all for the sake of overthrowing the Faris Empire that destroyed my family and homeland.
To protect Ludo which has a similar wind from that of Garuna.
Even with that, he will definitely…not forgive me.
——-That was the forest where the darkness familiars live in, at the depths where the corpses move.
Giving power to the cursed werewolf’s blood.
Playing with the skeletons.
The Invading God’s presence was at the deep reaches of the forest…hidden from the eye of the dragon.
——The dragon knight silently walks on the snow.
A conflicting swirl coiled inside his heart; mission, duty, pride.
What he should protect are the people, or his own honor?
What definition does honor follow in order to be established in the first place?
——On top of the unicorn, she thinks about the feelings of the red haired man.
It was about time to admit it.
The reason why she was fine with him touching her horn.
The reason why she was okay with allowing him to ride her steed.
——The wolf wishes that the captain acknowledges him.
He wishes for strength.
No matter if it is cursed, no matter if it is evil.
Since the time when that person brought him out from the depths of the forest.
——-The young adventurers advance through the snowy road.
They finally arrive at Zakuroa.
The watch Gindou made was pointing at evening, closing on to night.
Victor tells them to please stay in the inn of memories!!
——The dragon knight shouldering a sad duty remembers.
That’s right, this inn!!
I certainly did come here!! That’s why I know!!
There’s mixed bathing heeeereeee!!
…Solje, because it is you, I can pretty much imagine it, so I will be playing my lute again tonight.
For a fun night!! And be careful of injuries! The bow princess is a tsundere, and there are only few men who have been able to safely touch a Diaros!
Even with all that, you will still do it, right?!
Do your best, go get ‘em our Solje—wait, what’s with you, Claris?! I am getting heated up here!! Ah, don’t!! Don’t throw my lute out the window!! Instruments are not made to be treated in this way!!