Birby stretched his wings. And with his neck reared, he parted his jaws.
“GYAAAAAAA!” Then came a piercing roar.
Birds scampered from their nests. They chirped and crowed in confusion. Leaves rustled and wings fluttered. And in a few seconds, nothing but the sound of Birby’s flapping wings were left. Shortly, a thud came from Birby’s feet upon reaching the ground.
As soon as Birby leaned lower, I detached myself from the saddle. Then with a jump, I planted my toes and dashed. At the next moment, I was between a boy and a girl.
“Rick! Fae! What are you doing?!” I raised my arms on both sides, stopping them from doing any further actions. But never did I thought that there would come a time when I would scold the reserved twins. However, it was necessary.
Rick lowered his spear, a spear made not out of wood, but steel. “Training.” Rick frowned.
“U-uhm...” Fae was flustered by my sudden appearance. “Magic training?” As soon as she answered my question, the rock bullets floating around her fell to the ground.
I roamed my eyes and checked for any other presence.
Did they sneak out?
First, I turned to Rick with a glare. “Rick, why are you using a real spear for training? I understand that using a real one would be a good experience, but using it against Fae… are you out of your mind?”
Rick remained silent as he stared at his feet.
Next, I turned to Fae. “Now Fae. Since when did you learn attack magic?”
I remembered leaving Fae with basic hints on how to manifest magic, but there was never an instruction pointing out to an attack magic.
“I-I was taught by the Dwarfs...” Fae fumbled her fingers.
I sighed. “Fae, you shouldn’t use attack magic like how you used the others.”
It was a rule. Children should never be taught any kind of attack magic. They could not be held responsible for any accident they may commit if they did. More so for Fae who barely knew anything about magic. Much more that she had never seen or experienced an accident due to magic.
“I-I’m sorry.” Fae turned to the ground similar to Rick.
I gave a sigh of relief. It could have been a disaster if Fae unleashed the rock bullets and Rick failed to properly intercept them. But given that Rick was nothing but untrained to do so, it would have ended badly. No, in the first place, intercepting with a spear was already insane. Using a barrier was always the easiest and most convenient choice.
“Both of you, I’ll talk to you later.” I gestured on both of them to come closer.
“That was a close call.” Kanna approached after telling Birby to do as he pleased for the moment.
“It was,” I answered.
Children were only allowed to learn a select few of magic chants. Those magic fall under Necessity Magic. Examples are Cure, Cleanse, Light Ball, Heat, Bubble, and Pour Water. However, magic like Tinder and Earth Mold—though they could be considered as a necessity—was not being taught to children.
The reason was simple. We could not have children playing with fire, especially for the children whose homes are primarily made of wood or any other material that could easily burn.
Regarding Earth Mold, there were cases were children damaged a structure's integrity. Although it could have been fixed in a matter of hours or days, the price for such was too high for a simple prank.
To put simply, children are not supposed to learn magic that could harm a person or a property.
“Rick, Fae, come closer.” Again, I gestured. Hesitantly, they came forward. As soon as they were within my reach, I raised my hand and gave both of them a light chop on the head. “Learn from this, okay? I can’t have you both being in an accident.”
In response, Rick covered his head in silence.
“Uuu...” Fae pouted while mumbling a cry.
After dealing with Rick and Fae, we headed back to the Tribe. It was a surprise that the gatekeepers immediately opened the gate for us. Maybe because of Birby’s roar, they expected Kanna to arrive shortly. In particular, one of the gatekeepers ran off upon seeing me and Kanna. It was probably to inform the other Chiefs.
In any case, we headed towards the lodging. When Kanna opened the door, and I entered with Rick and Fae holding my hand from both sides, startled faces greeted me.
“Y-Your Highness?!” My servants ran around in search of Ark. “Forgive us, Your Highness, it seems that Sir Ark is away at this moment.” One of my Maidservants bowed before me.
Maybe, in a panic, they forgot that Ark was not around.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. My arrival was unannounced nor was it scheduled so this much is a given. But for now, could you call Camille for me?” After I asked, I glanced at Rick and Fae. “Please tell her to come to my room afterward she arrives. I wish to talk in private.”
A few minutes later, Camille knocked on the door. “Y-Your Highness, I heard you called for me?”
“Yes, I did. Please come inside.”
The moment Camille entered, a bothered expression emerged on her face.
“Don’t worry, it’s not something to be afraid of.” I smiled and gestured to the seat opposite me. Beside the seat were Rick and Fae quietly waiting. When she sat down like a proper maid, I continued. “It’s regarding Rick and Fae. We found both of them when we landed in the forest clearing. During that time—”
I explained the situation to Camille. It seemed that she was oblivious to the whereabouts of the twins. I also asked about Fae’s progress in magic. Just as Fae answered, she was taught by the Dwarfs after she finished the lessons I gave her. Elves were not an option because Fae could neither see nor feel spirits. Although somewhat late, I received some knowledge about spirits from Fenrir.
In any case, regarding Rick, it seemed that the spear he held previously was a gift from my Mother. Although I knew Rick was chasing Father in the recent month, I did not know he was receiving a compensation. That aside, the recent training was supposed to be Rick’s first time in using the spear. Therefore, he was eager to test it out. And knowing he won’t be allowed to leave the immediate premises of the Tribe, he discussed it with Fae and arrived at the previous situation.
Anyway, the issue was resolved peacefully. However, Rick and Fae would now be restricted in leaving the premises of the Tribe. Not if they did not have anyone to look after them.
“Your Highness, have you heard of the problem with the Goblins?” After Rick and Fae went downstairs, Camille asked.
“Goblins?” I knitted my eyebrows.
“Yes, according to Sir Ark, there was an issue with Goblins from the east.”
“Is it anything major?”
Camille shook her head. “I apologize, but I have no idea.”
I nodded. “I see. I guess I’ll have to ask Sylvar.”
Afterward, I left the lodge and met with Kanna. Upon meeting, we agreed to head towards the Tribe’s council. As we headed towards the council, Kanna and I were greeted by Dwarfs, Elves, and Enarfs alike. Obviously, we returned their greetings with a smile.
When we arrived in the council, we climbed the stairs and sat on the nearest table for six. Kanna then remembered that we have yet to eat breakfast, and so she asked a nearby Elf servant to fetch us anything available. While we were waiting, I told Kanna the reason for our rush.
“How long do you think Garfin would take to create a weapon like that?”
“Hmm…” Kanna scratched her cheeks. “I’m not sure. I don’t know how long it would take to process the shedding.”
“Is that so?” Lost with words to utter, I slumped myself forward. I rested my chin on my palm and stared blankly at the wall. Obviously, there was nothing of significance on the wall other than the displayed bones of beasts.
Would three, no, two months be enough?
As I was lost in thought, pairs of footsteps came from the stairs. Shortly after, an unusual pair emerged. One was a female with blonde hair. Her ears were long but typical of an elf. The clothes she wore were mainly made of leather and silk.
The woman waved her hand. [Nice to see you again, Amelia, Kanna]
Following behind her was a medium built man at about half a head taller than the woman. His black hair streaked with a few strands of white was neatly combed. His clothes were of fine black and white silk. A clothing befitting of a butler.
“Your Highness, your posture.” The man bowed.
I fixed my posture and waved back. “Nice to see you too, Chief Ran, Ark.” I gestured towards the empty seats in front of me and Kanna. “Have a seat.”
Ran and Ark complied.
“Ohh, that’s rare. For Ran to be apart from Kan, is this a new age?” Kanna cheerfully asked. “Did you and Kan fought over something?”
[… Kanna, you know I’m not that attached to Kan.] Ran sighed.
“But aren’t you worried when you leave Kan on his own? He does some weird things now and then. He might even be doing one right now.” Kanna chuckled.
Ran brought the palm of her hand to her forehead and sighed. [You might be right. I wish he could learn a thing or two from me.]
Ark raised his arm and coughed to the side. “Pardon.”
Then for some reason Ran, was flustered. [T-that was nothing, right? Right?!] She pushed and pulled on Ark’s shoulder like a child. [You didn’t see anything, right?!]
“I have no idea by what you meant, Lady Ran.” Ark was calm and composed as usual.
On the other hand, by chance, My and Kanna’s eyes met.
Something is different.
I was confident enough that something was amiss. And I was sure Kanna had the same thought in mind.
I faced forward and raised my hand to my mouth. “Ahem.” My lips naturally curved into a smile.
Ran halted, and for a moment, she went silent. Afterward, with a straight face, she sat straight. [Please tell me you saw nothing.]
“Can’t,” Kanna commented.
“I happened to not see every—anything,” I replied.
With a bright smile on her face, Ran spoke. [Ah, Chief Amelia, regarding your arrival, it seemed to be unscheduled. But it’s fine. However, right now, I’m the only Chief around. And so Sylvar and the others could not meet you today. But rest assured, Garfin, Arkand, and Dresbon would probably return tomorrow.]
Letting the change in the topic slide, I spoke after Ran. “I see. But if that is the case, then something is happening?” I could not imagine that five out of six Chiefs would leave the Tribe at the same time.
“Lady Ran.” Ark interrupted. “Could you please give me the honor to explain the situation? If there’s anything amiss with my words, please do correct me.”
[Ah, I guess it’s fine.] Ran nodded. [Yeah, I’ll support you on the side.] Ran then relaxed.
As soon as she did, the breakfast Kanna requested, arrived. One by one, plates with roasted strips of meat and fresh vegetables were laid on the table.
[Oh, you haven’t eaten yet?]
“Yeah.” Kanna nodded. “We were gliding for a few hours early this morning.”
“Then, Your Highness, please have your meal. I’ll explain the details afterward.”
I shook my head. “Don’t mind it, Ark. Explain the situation while I’m eating.”
“As you wish.” Ark closed his eyes. “But first—”
“Erina,” having Ark’s next words in mind, I responded. She’s in the Duchy.”
“… I understand.” Ark placed his clasped hands on the table. “Goblins, Your Highness.”
I nodded. “I heard it from Camille too. But please continue.”
“Further east, numerous groups of Goblins were sighted. Mostly in groups of five, they were found to be heading towards west. This was first documented when Your Highness returned and cited the events you’ve been through during the proving.”
“Yes, I remember. There was goblin captain among the ones I met.”
[Yes, that’s it.] Ran said. [But it’s weird, isn’t it? Mostly, goblins are found near a race compatible with theirs. Well, if you know what I mean…]
Now that she mentioned it, it really was weird. Maybe I was too focused on returning that it never crossed my mind.
“Yes, I know. Copulation, isn’t it? No, forced breeding.”
Ran nodded with a straight face. [But there’s a problem.] Ran shifted her sight towards Kanna.
I turned my sights towards Kanna as well. “...”
Then naturally, Ran and I sighed.
No wonder why she’s quiet…. Maybe, just maybe, Ran had the same thoughts.
Kanna was wolfing down on her food. Obviously, she was oblivious to the situation.
“Hmm? What’s with those faces? Oh, Lia, try this one.” Kanna reached out a fork of lettuce wrapped in bacon.
“Fine.” To get over it with quickly, I leaned towards Kanna and took the food into my mouth.
“It’s good, right?” Kanna smiled brightly.
“Yes it is,” after taking my time savoring the food, I replied. “Anyway, Kanna, I think Ran has something to tell you.”
“Go ahead, Ran. I’m all ears.” Kanna took another piece of the food and offered it again to me. “Don’t worry about it, I’m listening. I’ll just feed Lia.”
“I can eat on my own, Kanna.” I stared at Kanna with half-closed eyes. “I’m not your pet.”
“Oh, come on, Lia. Just a few bites.”
“Ran, please continue.” I gave in and took another bite of Kanna’s offer.
[… I never thought you’d give in to Kanna. But anyway, the gist of the situation is, we can’t locate the Goblin’s nest. Kan and Sylvar are out there trying to communicate with spirits to extend our scouting range, but I doubt they could get that further in.]
Kanna offered her fork again. “It’s because of the High Dragon, right?”
[Yes.] Ran nodded. [It’s because of the High Dragon that we can’t approach any further. The spirits could get close, but not enough to reach the dragon itself. For the moment, we are speculating that the dragon itself was commanding the goblins, but it seemed unlikely.]
“Yes, it’s too unlikely,” I commented. “But by coincidence, the dragon and the goblins are from the east. And with the information at hand, that’s the only plausible premise.”
“Just as you said, Your Highness.” Ark offered a glass of water.
[Our best bet is to slay the dragon itself or skirt around its territory. But we’ll have to descend Alabaster and pass through Laurel to do that.]
“I can give permission if needed.” This time, I ignored Kanna’s offer and took the fork and knife on my plate.
[That’s reassuring.] Ran shifted her sights to Kanna. [However, slaying the dragon would open up more possibilities.]
“Too difficult.” Kanna shook her head. “I’ve seen the dragon in the east. It’s a type that remains mostly on the ground rather than fly to the sky—a Woodland Dragon maybe. Well, unless we can drag the dragon to the sky and do simultaneous dives, it’s too difficult. Otherwise, we are doomed to lose a lot of our population in order to succeed. And at the Tribe’s current condition, losing a lot of us would be fatal.”
[True.] Ran nodded. [We can’t afford to lose too much of our population.] Then she sighed. [But other than you, there’s pretty much a select few who could match up with dragons alone.]
“I’m not alone though? I have the wyverns and the beasts.” Kanna crossed her arms. “The difference in taking down a dragon without them is staggering. Much more if I don’t have Garfin’s weapons.”
“Hmm? Aren’t spirits a great way to deal with dragons?” I commented.
Wait, if the spirit is—
[Not if the spirit in question is in the lower ranks.]
[And most of us here in the Tribe mostly have a contract with low to intermediate ranked spirits. Well, High ranked spirits are quite rare anyway so that’s nothing new.]
“And among the Elves, only Sylvar has a contract with a high spirit,” Kanna said.
“That’s difficult,” I muttered.
A moment of silence followed. It was soon broken by a cough.
“Your Highness,” Ark said. “Putting the Goblins aside, there’s the matter with the Dwarf Chiefs.”
[Ah, you’re right,] Ran said. [But I’ll leave this one to you. Since, after all, I don’t know that much about the caves of Alabaster.]
“My pleasure.” Ark smiled lightly. “Well then, Your Highness, Chiefs Arkand, Dresbon, and Garfin returned to the Endless Chasm. It seems there was an unsolved matter regarding the previous event.”
I tilted my head to the side. “Unsolved matter?”
“Yes, the complete disappearance of the Devourer and the tunnels it left is still a mystery. It left Arkand, Dresbon, and Garfin curious and have been investigating the cause. Especially the tunnels that were left.”
“Now that you think about it, that’s weird.” I nodded with a curious expression.
That… makes sense. But Devourer huh. I clenched my hand into a fist underneath the table. I need to look for one.
Deep inside me, I knew where the Devourer disappeared to. But explaining it was far too difficult.
But the tunnels it left huh. I never thought of it. But then again, I don’t think I have the time to explore it. Haah… If only things were peaceful…
“And Garfin and the others would be returning tomorrow?” I asked.
“Most probably.” Ark nodded.