To Reach the Ruins
I walked behind Daniela as we made our way to the settlement. Unlike all of the towns we had seen up until now, the houses were all built in random locations, and weaving through them felt like a very unique experience.
It was like some kind of foreign frontier town… That was how familiar I had become with the other cities and towns of this world. And so I felt a little restless.
The was a settlement without restaurants and smithies. It had only what the beastkin needed to survive. And in the far back of this settlement, stood the house of the chief. It was larger than the others and was more intricate in design.
When we got closer, the two younger escorts ran forward and stationed themselves on both sides of the entrance.
The chief said to them. And then he turned to us.
“Now, come in. It’s much warmer inside.”
We bowed and then passed the thick cloth that hung over the entrance.
It was surprisingly spacious inside. A bed and shelves were against the wall and there was a table in the center. The entire floor was covered in a carpet. Hmm. I guess we were supposed to take our shoes off here.
“Ah, I would be much obliged if you took your shoes off. It’s hard to clean the carpets.”
I was going to anyway, but Daniela had had no such inclination. As her foot hovered inches above the carpet, she began to take off her boot. Our eyes met.
“I was just about to take them off.”
“Sure you were.”
I replied to her awkward excuse. I then took off my own boots and placed them neatly in the corner before stepping onto the carpet. It seemed like there were multiple layers of them, and I almost felt like I was walking on a soft mattress.
Chief Leonardo took off his shoes with practiced speed and he and Ash quickly settled into some chairs. We followed their lead and sat down as well.
“Allow me to thank you first. You saved one of the children of our settlement. I am grateful.”
“Once again, I’m sorry for attacking you by mistake. I really am.”
They bowed so low that I thought they would hit their heads on the table, and so I frantically stopped them.
“No, we probably should have tried to return her to you as soon as we found her. We are partially to blame.”
“Stop being silly, Asagi. The sea of trees is a dangerous place at night. Waiting for the morning was not a bad decision.”
Thankfully, Daniela was there to put an end to this very business-like talk, where we competed over who could take the blame.
“Mishka is safe. And you are unhurt. That is all that matters. We should move on. This incessant apologizing is just tiring.”
“That is true… Miss Daniela is right. May we put the matter to rest?”
“Yes. I have nothing to say.”
And so we put that behind us and talked about what was important. The ancient elven ruin.
According to the chief, the ruins were in the deepest part of the sea of trees. The end of the Ritune river.
“There is a large lake there. We call it the ‘Asul Lake.’”
“Asul Lake… And that’s where it is? The ruins?”
“Aye. I’ve seen it myself. The ruins are on an islet in the center of the lake. But I have never gone to it.”
Ash explained that there was a terrible monster that lurked near the lake. It was a constant threat. And the icesnow phase did not affect it.
“Have you ever seen a dragon, Asagi?”
“A dragon? Uh, a few times.”
“I see… It is a surprise to me that you have faced them more than once. But the monster that lives by the lake is a dragon. A water dragon. And it also happens to be the most powerful kind. A Blue Dragon.”
Dragons came in a variety of colors. And the colors showed what ‘attribute’ they had. Apparently, this Blue Dragon had been living there for a very long time.
Well, no one really went to the far depths of the sea of trees, but there was still plenty of food in the forest. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like things had just become a lot more complicated for us. I suppose that was just how life goes.
“So, we will need to get rid of this Blue Dragon in order to reach the ruins…”
“Is it really impossible to reach the islet without fighting it?”
I would rather not have to fight such a monstrous creature. And so I tried asking. However, Ash and Leonardo shook their heads.
“It was a long time ago, but some people tried to get on the island while the dragon was sleeping. And…”
“The dragon came out the moment they landed. And they were all devoured”
“So even Asagi’s Legs of the God Wolf will not mean much…”
“It’s impossible to hide from the Blue Dragon’s eyes. There was a time when we wanted to find out what was in those ruins, but we have long since given up. We lost young lives to it. That’s all that ever happened.”
A long silence followed the chief’s words.
Until we came here, I thought things would be easy. But I was wrong…
“Still… We cannot complete our objective unless we kill this dragon. So we must do it.”
“But can we? The Wind Dragon was one thing, but I can hardly imagine how much stronger this one will be…”
“Hmm… It is in the water too. That would be the source of its magic. We must consider that as well.”
Indeed. There were too many disadvantages. The Wind Dragon had been strong enough. Just the thought of it made me want to give up…
As we remained indecisive, Ashe muttered something.
“…Maybe if the Lord Snow Cat…”
I reacted immediately. I had just heard about this monster that offered protection. They were talking about the abnormally evolved being.
“The Lord Snow Cat is a monster, but it also offers us protection. Just like you did.”
“Such monsters…well, among some humans, they are called ‘abnormally evolved beings.’ Monsters with high intelligence. Some of them are still hostile against humans, but there are also some who are friendly.”
Beowulf, Arthur, and Rachel were all friends towards humans. However, the Assault Kobold and the Loup-garou were another story.
“Yes, the Snow Cat is our friend. It is not the most polite being, but it helps us when we are in trouble. Perhaps it will help you…”
“Indeed… I think it might be worth a try for you two to talk to it.”
The Lord Snow Cat, huh… A kind monster that was also rude. That was hard to imagine. Was it a tsundere?
“But first, we must prepare a feast for our guests. Ash, if they start now, that should be enough time to finish by night. Go and give the order.”
“Very well. Asagi. Daniela. See you later.”
Ash stood up and quickly left the house. Then the chief also stood up.
“I will and go and talk to the Lord Snow Cat first. You may move freely in the meantime.”
The chief left and then it was just Daniela and me in the house. My nerves were calmed now, and so I stretched my limbs and leaned back in the chair.
“….Ahhh…. …So, what do you think we should do?”
“This Blue Dragon is an unexpected obstacle.”
“But this Snow Cat is going to help us, right? Though, I have no idea what it’s actually going to do.”
Ash had run over the snow as if sliding. If that was because of the Snow Cat, was it able to make your body lighter? But I was already a thrall of the God Wolf. So, maybe it would just go to Daniela?
“I have my own way of doing things. Even if the Snow Cat were to ask me, I would not accept.”
Well, light elves were supposed to be the direct descendants of the ancient elves. Perhaps accepting something like that could affect her negatively if she’s not careful. It would be best to stay as she was.
“Well, we can think about that later. Why not go exploring?”
“Sounds good. I’ve never been to a beastkin settlement before, and so I wanted to look around.”
The difficult stuff could be dealt with later. As we were in agreement, we put on our boots and headed out to explore the settlement.