Translator: Silver Editor: Kaio
「Just Passing By」 Part 1
Past the vast forest that was located east of Diento, the first rays of the sun illuminated the city walls. Signs of activity could be noticed as the city quietly awakened.
At the heart of Diento was a castle owned by the Marquis. Inside, an elderly man was holding his head in his hands.
With white hair that reached his back along with a white mustache on his face, the master of the castle was this stout man, Marquis Triton of Diento.
“Why is it that..? Didn’t the report say that two giant basilisks appeared near Rubierute? Shouldn’t the presence of such monsters have thrown the territory into considerable disorder?”
The reason Triton’s head was bowed was due to the report that his spy in Rubierute had delivered this morning.
In the report, one of the two basilisks had apparently been subdued by a group of adventurers. After that, said adventurers teamed up with one hundred and fifty soldiers to subdue the second one. However, the five-man adventurer party and the soldiers sent as scouts were said to have suffered heavy losses when they attempted to overcome the second basilisk. The main force, on the other hand, received only minor casualties.
“Well, Messenger-dono from the East said that the technique was still quite experimental, and that I shouldn’t expect much from the hands of the monster tamers… Although, for one of them to have been defeated by a random group of adventurers, I must be cursed with terrible luck. If the soldiers had to deal with the two basilisks simultaneously, then more than twice the number of people would’ve fallen; a good amount of damage would’ve been dealt.”
As Triton said this, a man with a pale face who seemed to be nervous let out a sigh. His hands moved to smooth his hair, hiding the parts of his head where the hair was thin.
He was the Consul of Diento, Cyrus Dorman.
“There’s no way for them to have had thirty shields made from mythril, which possesses a high level of magic resistance…” Triton muttered resentfully.
“As for this report, concerning the bait for the capture of the “commodity’’ set by our liaison in town…It seems that the bait wasn’t taken, nor were they even able to meet with the other party. While the amount is fine for now, they are also running low on the bait. If no other measure is immediately taken, without a person skilled in capturing spirit beasts, it will be difficult to capture them.”
Upon hearing the report, Triton face became even more bitter. The number of things that hadn’t been going well recently had only increased, and the built-up frustration caused him to angrily pull at his hair.
“Damn it! The next one! Their base should be in the forest at the base of the Calcutta mountain range. Have they contacted us yet?!”
“The forest extends a great distance from north to south, so to determine the exact location of their base is a bit… And since it’s difficult for a large subjugation unit to go through the area, it’s unlikely for them to have been subdued. However, if a powerful monster were to come down from the mountains… it would be difficult to speculate what would happen.”
“Contact the liaison again and tell him that we will be changing clients if the bait isn’t stocked up! The act of capturing spirit beasts in and of itself isn’t even against the law!! Cyrus, look for a new trading partner to secure more bait!”
“Is it alright? Isn’t there a chance that they might threaten to expose our deeds to the Capital by passing the information through the peddlers?”
Cyrus had an anxious look on his face as he protested, but Triton seemed to think that having a band or two of bandits threatening him would be nothing more than a small annoyance.
He even crudely refuted it.
“Hmph! When it comes to trash of such level as bandits, you simply have to overwhelm them with military might!! Not to mention the fact that crushing them would really generate some good publicity. Hahaha.”
Triton’s belly shook disgustingly as he laughed, and Cyrus took that as his signal to leave and quietly exited the room.
At the sound of the morning bell, I woke up on a bed inside the inn.
Ponta had her head buried under the blanket, leaving only the sight of her fluffy green and white tail. Sometimes, while moving her mouth, she would let out a small squeal from the depths of her throat, as if she was eating something delicious in her dreams.
Although she had the appearance of an omnivorous fox, she prefered eating nuts and berries over meat.
I woke Ponta by scratching behind her ear, leading to one of her hind legs kicking out. Her jaws opened wide and let out a big yawn. With a jump, she leapt from my shoulder to her usual spot on top of my head. This fluffy fox seemed to like high places.
While Ponta was riding on my head, I draped a large black cloak over my armor. I bought it yesterday when I saw it at a street vendor’s stand. While it would also conveniently cover my showy armor, I bought it primarily because it’s quite suitable for covert operations.
However, while the flashiness of the armor may be covered up, the black cloak paired with the helmet made for a strange combination. If viewed from the side, I imagine that I could pass for a certain person named Vader.
Although I would no longer have people staring at me due to my luxurious armor, I think I would end up attracting attention for another reason entirely.
I called out to the uncle cooking in the kitchen behind the bar as I left. Since this place only served food at night, it’s necessary for me to get breakfast from the street stalls.
There were many street vendors in town, with each one soliciting potential customers in a lively manner. While I was walking, my vision was suddenly covered by a fluffy tail.
Did Ponta find something of concern? This seemed to happen whenever I pass something that she wanted. Ponta’s eyes would become locked towards a certain direction, and my vision would be filled with only her tail.
I adjusted Ponta back to her proper position on my head before heading in the direction of the stall that caught her interest. It seemed that the stall sold her favorite kind of nuts. The husks were a light brown color, and between the cracks, green nuts could be seen. They looked like pistachios.
She seemed to be pleading for me to buy some. I handed five copper coins over to the saleslady and and received a small sack of nuts in return. I peeled the shells off and fed Ponta two or three nut at a time, resulting in her squealing happily as she chewed on them. The shells from the eaten nuts fell to the ground, only to be crushed under my feet as I walked by.
For the past few days, I’d been strolling around the city with Ponta on top of my head.
I checked all over town, but I had yet to find any information about the enslaved elves implied by that male elf. In all honesty, since I had no idea where the elves could be and since I couldn’t simply ask around about it, we’d just been aimlessly wandering around the town…
In addition, since the imprisonment and sale of elves was illegal, in order to engage in this lucrative business, both the vendor and the customers must possess quite the amount of power behind them.
If that’s the case, rather than the general area of the town, the nobles’ district located near the feudal lord’s mansion seemed most suspicious. It had a large number of guards with very little pedestrian traffic, making it hard for a person to sneak around there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not compelled by any sense of justice in particular. Although it might be imprudent of me, the truth was that I was simply killing some spare time. Without any sort of purpose, I would’ve likely shut myself up inside my room at the inn and simply played with Ponta all day.
Anyway, I hadn’t even particularly thought about what I’d do if I had found the captured elves. Since I was trying to be inconspicuous, I think I would secretly help if there’s a chance for me to do so.
When I thought about how the elves of this world were being unjustly persecuted, I was left with an indescribable feeling.
Though I had yet to see one, do beast people also exist in this world? Judging from the tone of that elf, if they did, then they might be persecuted in a similar fashion as the elves…
While having such thoughts, before I knew it, I found myself in front of the Adventurer’s Guild. Though it had only been a few days, it felt like a lot of time had passed.
Aimlessly walking around the city any further probably won’t provide great results. I entered the building, thinking I could try looking over the request board after my long absence.
Several adventurers were scattered around choosing their own request from the board. I went up to it as well and looked around for any interesting requests.
All of a sudden, something caught my eye. A search for missing people.
The contents were as follow: Find the group of people who did not return after going into forest upstream from the Rydell River. It has already been five days after the time they were supposed to return.
The forest, which stretched from the base of the Wind Dragon Mountain Range to the Rydell River, was commonly known as the Wind Dragon Forest. The forest around Rata village was also part of the Wind Dragon Forest. The forest that surrounded the northeastern base of the mountain range seemed to be vast in scale as well.
However, on the other side of the Rydell River, the name of the forest was changed, even though they both shared the same mountain range. Names such as ”Forest of the Elves” or “Lost Forest” were given. People have said that, past the river, a vast forest was spread.
There were rumors of a strong monster that ran rampant inside the forest. A number of elves were also said to have been living there.
However, I currently had no intention of taking up the request.
It was a request that doesn’t reward you unless you brought back the missing parties or proof of their death. This is the type of task that would be put in the back of people’s minds once they found another request. I heard that experienced adventurers would teach the rookies regarding the potential gains of a request using examples such as this.
Nevertheless, I could take this opportunity to carefully map out the river upstream.
I left the guild, and made my way to the eastern gate, which was facing the direction of the Wind Dragon Forest. Unlike the southern and northern gates that had caravans regularly passing through them, this gate was much smaller in comparison: It had only about the width of one carriage. Furthermore, the eastern gate was on the outskirts of the city’s red-light district. Not only were the roads narrow, but they were also filled with strange shops and suspicious alleyways. While there weren’t a lot of pedestrians during the day, after the sun had set, the streets would be crowded with women attempting to bring men into their stores.
Because I wanted to avoid troublesome things, I decided to keep away from this part of the city at night. Moreover, with my body the way it was now, even if I visited one of the shops, it would be pointless…
I left through the eastern gate, walked over the two wooden bridges, and made my way upstream on the right side of the Rydell River. To the east was the Wind Dragon Forest that stretched on for twenty kilometers. However, with【Dimensional step】, I could cover that distance in less than five minutes.
When I entered the forest, Ponta started to wag her tail happily. Was the light-green fur a trait developed to live in the forest, after all? If there was a group of fluffy foxes in this forest, maybe Ponta would want to return to them. I ventured deeper into the forest feeling a little lonely at the thought.
The inside of the forest wasn’t very dark; I was able to see pretty well, but the tall undergrowth made each footstep difficult to discern. To my right was a sheer cliff, and underneath it was the Rydell River. The sound of the water flowing echoed in the forest. Combined with the singing of the birds and the rustling of the leaves from the wind, it made for an amazingly tranquil atmosphere. The fear of monsters meant that few people ever got to experience such a place.
I continued my hike upstream while enjoying the patches of sunlight filtered through the foliage and the sound of the water. Suddenly, a patch of brown fur appeared in the tall grass.
Ponta let out a miserable cry as she moved from my head to hide at the nape of my neck. From the side, it looked like I was some auntie wearing a mink scarf.
The fur patch, which was about the size of a large bear, began to move. The sound of something crunching resounded throughout the area. When I noticed this, the brown bear stood up on its hind legs.
But the bear that stood up was vastly different compared to the bears that I knew of.
While its body was that of a bear, it had the head of a wolf. Furthermore, it had long straight ears like those of a donkey. While its ears twitched, the beast glared at me. The mouth that was dripping with blood let out a vicious roar. Was it angry that its meal was disturbed?
A cool metallic sound rang out as I unsheathed my sword. The wolf-headed bear glared at me while measuring the distance between us, and slowly approached.
Victory goes to the one who makes the first move!
I transferred beside the monster with 【Dimensional step】and quickly stabbed my sword into its abdomen from the side. Then, I instantly changed to another location. There was no need to use any other skills at this point, as I had already delivered a fatal blow.
The combination of losing sight of its prey and the sharp pain it felt caused the beast to frantically swing its fore-paws in a reckless manner. However, more blood flowed from the stab wound in its abdomen with every move it made during its rampage. While standing at a safe distance from the wolf-headed bear, I waited for the creature to weaken on its own.
About ten minutes later, the creature fell onto the ground and began to gasp for air. Though it was still breathing, it had already ceased to be any sort of threat.
Ignoring the wolf-headed bear, I headed towards the place that caught my attention. It was a small clearing, the place where the creature was having its meal.
Although it was damaged considerably with several bite marks along with various bones that had been crunched, I recognized it immediately.
It was a human being.
However, this lump of flesh, which was once a human, didn’t have any of the items necessary for proper identification. While I examined the nearby thicket, Ponta, who had recovered from the encounter with the wolf-headed bear, let out a cry from her usual position.
When I searched the bush that caught Ponta’s attention, I found a human head. The damage wasn’t particularly bad; it was still possible to make out the general facial features. However, it was impossible to tell if this was the one of the missing people mentioned in the request.
I also didn’t want to carry this severed head back with me. While I could describe the face to the people at the Adventurer’s Guild, they would probably ask to see it themselves for verification.
All of a sudden, I noticed something weird. The place where the neck was severed was very clean. That wouldn’t be the case if this person was attacked by wild animals. Or perhaps, out there, a monster capable of making such clean cuts existed?
Could it be that the missing group was attacked and killed by bandits? In fact, as there weren’t any weapons or even any luggage around the dead body, I felt the possibility of that was quite high. No one in their right mind would enter a dangerous forest empty-handed, after all.
That being said, could their hideout be nearby?
When I observed my surroundings, I saw bloodstains near a patch of undergrowth inside the clearing. Although the blood had already hardened into a discolored black, I decided to let it guide me deeper into the forest.
The trail led me to the banks of the Rydell River. It continued past the rocks and gravel near the river edge before stopping. This part of the river was more upstream, but it was comparatively much wider. As a result, it was also shallower. It seemed that this person managed to escape by crossing from the other side of the river.
The forest on the other side belonged to the elves. Were they responsible for the disappearances? However, it was unlikely that the elves would be living in the immediate vicinity of the river. It was too close to where people would enter and leave the forest. Although it would be difficult to find elves here, considering that it’s the outskirts of a forest that few people were willing to enter, it could make for a suitable hideout for the bandits.
“Hmm, are you up for a bit of scouting, Ponta?”