A Creeping Shadow
In the midst of a sweltering heat, I woke up.
These days are very hot past the eighth month of the year. I woke up in sweat from only sleeping.
The bed sheet and blankets were also tainted with sweat as I felt an unpleasant, moist feeling from them.
I quickly got up from the bed and opened the window.
Cool air flowed into the room after the window was opened.
The cool breeze gently lifted up my bangs and brushed my skin.
I closed my eyes and relaxed as it cooled my sweat-covered body.
However, I feel sad that this comfortable breeze will become hot air in the next hour or so.
Well, there’s no use in thinking about something like that right now.
I shook my face left and right to wake myself up. Then, I got a towel from nearby to wipe off my sweat and started to fix myself up for the morning.
I washed my face, tidied up the bed, put on my clothes and headed downstairs from my room.
After I left my position as an instructor in the magic academy, I left the Kingdom of Avalonia and came to this village located northwest of the Vespania Empire called Rigacy.
To be honest, it would have been the best if I traveled straight west, but I took the long way just in case there were people from the kingdom trying to track me down.
It’s such a hassle to take the long route in this heat, but I can’t help it since I don’t want to bring any trouble to Aldo.
There shouldn’t be anyone who can follow me with my magic, but I learned that there are people out there who are capable of that from a training session with Aldo and Kiel in the past.
I went through forests that had many monsters in them and made traps to slow down any pursuers. Magic can be used to block the paths or to divert the attention of monsters onto the pursuers.
Kiel said to me before that “It’s natural to at least do that much. You have to make good use of your magic since you are a wizard”, but I thought those methods were a bit too dirty.
I feel bad for the knights and adventurers who could be tracking me down because they’re simply following orders.
The pursuers should be forcefully driven away when those things happen to them. Because those indirect methods of obstruction are from an infallible adventurer who’s asking them to not follow, I haven’t seen signs of me being trailed.
Another reason why I insisted to pass through this rural village was because I couldn’t cross the border of Vespania in such an open manner.
I mostly avoided the areas with large noble influences as the inspections are tough. I have no idea what information would leak out if I went in those places. I’m not worried about them knowing that I’m a dragon slayer, but if I entered those towns carelessly, the name Kurune would spread in no time.
If that happened, more pursuers might be sent out after me.
That’s why I was traveling through rural villages that no one would expect me to go through.
If it’s about rural villages, then there’s few of those places I had gotten familiar with during my adventurer days. I knew the shortcuts that only lumberjacks and hunters knew, and I also knew about the shacks that were built for resting areas so there would be no problem with camping out.
「Ara~ good morning, Kurune-chan」
When I got down to the first floor, the female owner of the inn called Hannah-san greeted me with a bright smile on her face.
「Good morning, Hannah-san」
I greeted her back with a smile.
「I’m sorry for storming in so late last night」
「Don’t worry about it, I’m indebted to you since you protected me from monsters. You can stay here for as long as you like」
Three years ago, when we stopped by around here, Hannah-san was attacked by the monsters in the forest. Then by either coincidence…or Aldo’s phenomenal observation skills, we managed to rush out and took down the monster.
I remembered Hannah-san from that encounter and when I came here last night to find a place to stay, she gave me an immediate yes.
「It-it wasn’t that big of a deal」
「No, if it wasn’t for you guys, I would have died three years ago. This life I have now is thanks to you. I can never thank you enough」
「D-don’t mention it」
Listening to Hannah-san’s heartfelt voice was making me embarrassed. However, I thought I shouldn’t let that embarrassment and awkwardness get in the way, so I decided to accept her gratitude properly.
It makes me genuinely happy that she was still so thankful towards us from that incident three years ago.
「Ufufufu, it’s so cute the way you get embarrassed. I can’t believe you’re a member of a dragon slaying party」
Hannah-san giggled as she saw me embarrassed.
「Ah! You knew about that too, Hannah-san?!」
「Well, it’s because I started to hear rumors about it recently, that Kurune-chan’s party defeated a dragon」
When I asked Hannah-san on the details, it looks like she heard the Kingdom’s A-ranked party, 『Black Silver』, had subjugated a dragon. But as to who landed the kill specifically, the details weren’t transmitted clearly to this village in the countryside called Rigacy.
The appearance and names of the people were a mess, and Aldo was called Andrew.
I found that funny and instinctively laughed.
「But, not just the name, the part about how he took down the dragon was weird too. A dragon is a huge monster that’s bigger than a large building, right? Wouldn’t it be impossible to cut down a dragon by its neck with a sword?」
Although Hannah-san was laughing, I could only make a bitter smile.
Aldo did cut down the dragon that’s comparable to large buildings by its neck. That’s weird, right? Just because he has a special sword, it’s not something that could normally be done.
It’s said that you can make a sword’s sharpness go up by infusing it with mana, but that alone wouldn’t nearly be enough to take down a dragon’s head.
In fact, everyone other than Aldo had infused their swords with mana, but they couldn’t even damage the dragon’s corpse.
I continued to talk to Hannah-san about the things she heard and other small things.
I have been avoiding contact with people as I moved lately, so having a conversation with her felt really refreshing.
After a while, customers other than me started to come down from the second floor.
It seems that we went on and talked for quite some time.
「Oh my, I’ve kept you for so long. I’m sorry」
「No no, no such thing. It was fun that I was able to talk to you for so long」
I actually wanted to get going before the sun came up, but I don’t regret it since I got to hear about so many interesting things.
Let’s tell Aldo about the trail of rumors I heard when I get to Nordende. I’m sure he would be making a grim and agonizing face.
「Are you going already, Kurune-chan?」
「Yes, I’m going to get going right after breakfast」
「I see. It’s a shame but I wanted to talk to you more」
When we started talking like that again, some hungry customers started to complain and say things like 「Are the food ready yet?」
Hannah-san started to rush back to the kitchen after that.
「Oh, Kurune-chan. Do you want me to make a lunch box for you?」
「Sure! Thank you!」
I sat down on an empty seat after I replied.
The tables around me have travelers, merchants, and rookie adventurers having pleasant conversations as they waited for their breakfast.
「What are you doing today?」
「I heard the village nearby was in a pickle from monsters ruining their crops」
「Well then, shall we go there?!」
「At last, are we freed from herb gathering quests?!」
I smiled as I saw this nostalgic and peaceful scene in this inn.
That reminded me of how I was when I was an adventurer.
The only difference was that Kiel and Aldo would bring back rare and difficult quests for us to do so it was tough. They would bring back quests to fight strong monsters in faraway countries without regards for profit.
I thought I was really going to die when we fought the monster called the mage slayer one time in order to make me stronger.
I listened to the conversation of the rookie adventurers as I ate my breakfast while reminiscing about questing in the old days.
When I finished my food, I got the boxed lunch from Hannah-san and exited the inn.
The summer sun shined on me as I stepped out of the inn.
Unlike this early morning, I walked out while being a bit fed up from the heat filled air.
If I keep going like this, will I arrive in Nordende in a month?
It would be nice if the heat would die down a bit by then…
When Kurune walked out of the inn in Rigacy…
A man in black clothes stood across from the inn in the shade of a residential home.
He did not take his black coat off in the summer sun, and he even wore a hood on his head. He did not show a single bit of skin and he wore a pair of black gloves. It was as if he was the embodiment of shadow itself.
Although his existence did not blend in with the countryside village environment, he had completely assimilated himself with the shade of the residential houses.
Therefore, Kurune did not notice his existence.
「…That’s the wizard from Aldred’s party…」
He spoke slowly.
It was in a really low and cold voice, but there was a slight feeling of joy in it.
「…So Clark’s information wasn’t a lie after all. Going around the countryside villages was the correct move」
The man in black muttered so as he walked towards the direction Kurune left in without making a sound.
Slypheed Kingdom lies further west down that way.
Even if he were to lose track of the wizard, it was obvious to the man in black where she was headed from the standpoint of someone who knew about the countless quests that Aldo has done before.
「…Aldred. I’m not going to let you quit while you’re ahead」
The voice of something close to resentment from the man in black disappeared along with the sound of wind from the village of Rigacy.
TLN: Oh shieet, something’s happening again