Mountain Pass Crossing: Air Raid
The next morning, with the rising of the sun, we made our morning preparations. The company was clearly accustomed to travel, and so they set out early.
At first, the path had been a gentle climb, but the higher we got, the steeper the incline.
“There, you can do it.”
I patted Mulze on the back encouragingly. It was even harder for the horses that had to draw the wagons.
“Time for a rest!”
I heard someone shout in the front, and so we rested near a brook. As the horses quenched their thirst, I looked up at the sky. I could occasionally see birds, but there were no signs of harpies. However, the sky was covered in gray clouds, as if to match my anxiety for the road ahead.
“They usually don’t attack while there are still talk trees around you.”
Said Gunat, as I was looking up.
“Hey, do you know if there are any queen or harpy hunting requests out?”
“There are fixed quests, but they live near the cliffs at the top of the mountain. If it’s not an ambush at night, you can probably hunt one or two of them. But they tend to run away after one of their own is killed. It’s not worth the trouble of climbing the mountain. So no Adventurers bother to hunt them. Are you thinking about doing it?”
“Not at all.”
“Right? Everyone’s the same. It’s only during the breeding season that they don’t run away. And the eggs sell for a high price. So that’s when people go. Still, it’s not enough to lower the number of harpies, which live scattered across the mountains. As for finding the nest of a queen, that only happens once every ten years.”
“Is that so-”
The whistle interrupted the conversation. It meant that we were under attack. The relaxed atmosphere of the caravan suddenly became very tense.
The sounds of battle echoed. When I looked, I saw a giant praying mantis. It must have been about two meters tall. A killer mantis!
Its pincers were sharp enough to cut through armor, and it was fast like the wind. Its mandibles could crush your skull. Even worse, they could fly if they needed to. They were D-Rank monsters that were called the assassins of the forest.
It was Lodoz, the leader of White Snake Scale, that faced it head on. With a large shield in one hand, and a short, wide sword in the other, he fought.
However, the killer mantis’s swift attacks forced the C-Rank Adventurer to stay on the defensive.
…Well, it seemed like Lodos had no intention of attacking anyway.
Apparently, the short sword was not meant for attack, but for defense.
The combat style that emphasized defense was solid and reliable. The gathering Adventurers did not intervene directly, showing their trust in Lodoz.
And while Lodoz fought it like that, several archers unleashed arrows at its back and stomach. Though one arrow did not do much damage, they kept shooting them one after another.
Eventually, the killer mantis opened the shell on its back, preparing to spread out its wings and fly.
However, Lodoz would not miss this opportunity, and he stabbed with the short sword.
Furthermore, now that its stomach was exposed, Jirot’s throw spear pierced into it. At this point, I almost felt bad for the killer mantis.
As powerful as it was, it now fell to the ground. And the others finished it off with a few spear thrusts.
Still, what had caused it to fly in and attack us all alone?
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
Said Lodoz when he returned.
“Really? It looked like a perfect victory.”
“Because of our numbers. But more importantly, it’s strange that it came here alone. I do not like it.”
After we finished resting, we were told to stay on our guard as we set out once again.
As we continued to climb higher, the dense forest turned into a grove with good visibility.
The air grew colder, and the trees shorter.
The sharp whistle, and someone pointed to the sky. When I looked up, I saw two shadows, which were not birds, flying against the gray sky. So those were harpies.
Things immediately became tense. By the time we were completely out of the grove, Leliane moved towards me on her horse.
“A message. There is a queen. Be careful.”
“They know already? That’s fast.”
“The harpies above aren’t attacking because they are scouts. The fact that they have their own roles proves that there is someone leading them.”
She explained, and then went down the line to inform the others.
Upon hearing the news, things became clamorous. Those who could not fight were given wooden shields to guard our flanks.
The caravan advanced slowly, almost as if we were afraid of being noticed.
But more and more harpies were gathering in the sky above. There were already about a dozen. Still, they did not attack.
But their numbers continued to increase, and they flew around, creating a spiral.
Eventually, they were at a place where it hurt my neck just to look up. We were practically right below them. That was when something dropped from the sky and onto the grass with a thud.
“Raise your shields! They are throwing rocks!”
Someone shouted. As I did not have a shield, I held my two-handed sword above my head. Was this an air raid!?
Soon after, I saw something like sesame seeds being scattered from the flock of harpies above.
And immediately after, a chain of thuds. Rocks that were the size of orc fists were raining down.
I heard screams and crashes, and the screeching of horses.
One almost hit Mulze, but I moved Mine Breaker so that it bounced away.
“One man down! Please heal him!”
“A wheel was destroyed!”
“One wounded here as well!”
I quickly dismounted and rushed towards the injured.
The man’s leg was bent in the wrong direction.
I pushed it back into place without hesitation, and the man screamed.
“Shut up! Mei-lei-mote-sei Heal!”
I put my hand over the broken bones and healed them.
“How is it? Can you stand?”
“Aye, thank you. By the way, where’s your staff?”
You can ask about that later!
“Is there anyone else who is wounded?”
Apparently, the other healer had treated the other wounded person. But one of the wagons had lost a wheel, and the caravan had halted completely.
Up above, the harpies continued to fly in a circle as if to inspect their prey. Well, at least there was no reloading for a second round.
And then, one figure near the center suddenly folded its wings and rushed towards the ground.
One after another, the others followed. It looked like a thin, long tornado getting ready to strike.