Chapter 3: The Strongest Onmyouji Goes Abroad
Two days later.
I and Ifa departed from Rodnea with the prince and his escort.
The Kingdom of Astilia is much farther away than the Ramplog territory.
It was going to be a very long journey.
Ifa, who was sitting next to me, asked me worriedly.
“Seika-kun, are you all right? Do you feel sick?”
“Oh. I’ve gotten used to it by now.”
I answer with a smile.
As expected, no matter how many times I ride it, it’s still not very comfortable.
Ifa spoke again.
“If it’s difficult, you can go back to sleep, okay? I’ll wake you up if something happens.”
“I’ll do that when push comes to shove. But as I said, I’m not sleepy yet.”
“I see….. It’s only the first day…..”
Ifa shakes her head and smiles.
“Seika-kun, when we rode in the carriage together in the past, you stayed up all night at the inn on the way, didn’t you? You were sleeping in the carriage when it was bright outside and I wondered if that was the reason.”
“Ah…… you noticed.”
Apart from large cities, most inns like those in small towns and villages are mostly large rooms which you share with strangers.
The fact that we’re all in the same room makes it difficult for one to sleep peacefully. It’s even more so if you’re carrying valuables or have a young woman with you.
So when I came out of the territory last year, I had to stay awake all night at an inn along the way….. But that’s not why I stayed up. If I needed to do that, I would have left it to the shikigami.
The only reason I stayed up at night was because I didn’t want to get carriage sickness and wanted to sleep through the day.
I’d been riding for seven days, but I never got used to it and that was one of the reasons.
“You don’t need to worry, It was rather hard for me to stay awake in the carriage at that time.”
”Yeah….. thank you, Seika-kun.”
Ifa smiled and said.
It’s true, but I don’t think this girl really cares.
Well, that’s probably why she’s liked by so many different students even in the girls’ dorms.
“But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about accommodations this time. With all those guards, I’m certain they’ve at least made arrangements in advance.”
After all, he is a prince.
We may have to camp out because of the number of people, but it’ll still be much more comfortable than a country inn.
“It’s not every day you get to go to another country on such good terms. Perhaps, there are all kinds of dragons.”
“…… Dragons, huh? But it’s amazing, isn’t it, people and dragons living together?”
Ifa raised her gaze and said happily.
“I wonder if he’ll let me ride on his back like the dragon knight does?”
“I think the dragon knight is a fairy tale. I know you like that kind of thing, Ifa…. but it’s very hard to do in real life.”
“I know, but I think we’ll actually get along.”
“No, it’s not about getting along……”
The same is true of the yokai, but it’s difficult to fly on one with wings.
When I rode a yokai, I chose ones that flew completely on divine power alone. Specifically, I rode on mizuchi (A dragon Yokai).
I was wondering how to explain it, when Ifa suddenly remembered.
“By the way, before we left, His Highness Cecilio asked me if I wanted to ride in the carriage with him.”
“He said he wanted to tell me more about dragons.”
The prince wants to talk about dragons but not to me?
No, I get it. The dragons are just an excuse. But even still, why not be polite to me?
In the first place, in the current situation, is this really the time to do such a thing?
I asked, my face scrunched up.
“Of course I refused. I’m Seika-kun’s attendant.”
Ifa says with a smile on her face.
“I’m in trouble, aren’t I? I don’t think he really wants me in his palace.”
“No…. I think he was seriously inviting you.”
“Is that so? If so, I’m a little happy.”
Ifa said as though she was shy.
The carriage goes on with a mulling feeling.
Nine days later.
The city of our destination, surrounded by walls, appeared before our eyes.
Proto Asta, the former royal capital of the Kingdom of Astilia.
The city stood in a peaceful location, with mountains in the background and grasslands spreading out around it.
Although it seemed a little small for a former royal city, it had a dignified and historical appearance.
The carriage stopped before the gate.
“Well, it looks like …… the gates are jammed.”
I answered, looking out the window.
It seemed to be the carriages of merchants waiting to enter the castle. We might have arrived when it was crowded.
But there are quite a lot of them. The imperial highway runs through the city and it seems to be true that it’s a big city.
A voice calls out to me from outside the carriage.
When I looked, I saw the prince getting off his carriage and walking toward us with several guards.
“I’m sorry. It’ll take some time. Why don’t you get some air while you still can?”
“Yes, I will.”
I turned my head back to look at Ifa.
“Shall we go down?”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
Ifa got out of the carriage first and stretched.
“It’s a nice place.”
She walked happily through the meadow.
She seemed more energetic than I was, but she must have been tired after being in the carriage for so long.
I talked to the prince, who was standing near me, following Ifa’s figure with his eyes.
“It’s a pleasant place.”
The prince chuckled.
“I guess it is. I like it here too. It’s not as idyllic now as it used to be, though. That’s why it’s taking so long to get into the castle.”
“What’s going on?”
“The horses of the merchants seem to be frightened. Just a few moments ago……”
I felt the presence of a powerful force with all my being.
The shadow of a large shadow glided across the earth.
I looked up at the sky and blinked blindly —- .
A huge monster was flying overhead, spreading its wings leisurely.
Its silhouette is similar to that of a feathered lizard.
But its presence was almost that of a dragon.
That is a dragon.
I’d seen pictures of dragons many times in literature, but this was the first time I had seen a real one.
There are powerful incarnations like that in our world, too.
“…… hasn’t he left yet?”
The prince next to me muttered.
He noticed my gaze and began to explain.
“It seems to have started flying around here a little while ago. He’s probably on alert because of the merchant’s carriage that arrived at one point. That’s why the horses are frightened. But if we don’t do anything, he won’t attack us.”
I certainly don’t sense much hostility. It also seems true that he lives with people.
I asked him, while making some preparations.
“It’s very big. Even in literature, there were very few references to them being that big.”
From head to tail, it is roughly thirty or more meters long.
“It seems to be a species of that kind. They call it a Greater Dragon.”
“…… is that so?”
I wish he had told me that beforehand. If I had known that, I could have looked into it in more detail. But that’s okay.
“By the way, you said he’s on the lookout for carriages. I’m afraid that the number of carriages has increased since we arrived.”
“We may have provoked him a little……”
The dragon, which seemed to be flying away to the mountains, circled its huge body in the sky above.
It lowered its altitude and, as if by chance, came right at us.
“Um, it’s coming this way.”
“Yes, it’s coming this way. He seems to be a little wary of us.
The prince said without moving.
I looked at the other guards and they were also unperturbed. I guess that’s the way it always is.
The dragon lowered its altitude further and came so close that we could see its rugged face and blackish scales.
Then it flew away right above us.
A gust of wind hit the top of the wagon, causing the frightened horses to whinny.
Ifa, who was a little further away from us, fell on her butt.
I looked at the back of the dragon and said.
“He may be big, but what he does is no different from a crow guarding its nest.”
“…… Seika-dono is a bold man. Even the strongest adventurers scream when they aren’t used to it.”
The prince said, somewhat surprised.
“But you are right. If we do nothing at this point, he’ll leave in due time.”
The dragon flipped itself up in the air again.
But at a slightly higher altitude than before. Perhaps the prince was right and he was planning to leave after one more intimidation.
The dragon was closing in again.
At that moment, I felt a clear flow of power, this time from the ground.”Come from the Fiery Land —- [Lava Tiger]!”
A man’s voice echoed.
Then, out of nowhere, a reddish-black beast, that exceeded his height, suddenly appeared.
The huge beast sprinted across the grassy plains, scattering heat waves around it and then leapt high into the air and attacked the approaching dragon.
Neither its claws nor its fangs could reach the dragon in the sky.
But the dragon flapped its wings in fright and flew off in the direction of the mountain.
I scrutinize the beast as it howls and rages, its enemy fleeing.
It looked like a lava beast.
Its reddish-black skin was all armor made of minerals and lava. It had a rounded face, a supple body similar to a cat’s, and only the red and black stripes, which looked like a badly made pattern, barely resembled a tiger’s. Its physique was not that of a tiger, as it was supposed to be. But its stature was nearly three times that of the original tiger.
It was a Lava Tiger …… a monster that should have lived in a volcano.
“That’s not good.”
The lava beast was still excited even though the dragon had escaped.
It let out an angry roar, shook its body —- and, as if to vent its frustration, attacked Ifa, who was standing alone in the distance.
Ifa stood there with her eyes wide open.
She showed no sign of running away or resisting.
I furrowed my brow and made a sign with one hand.
<<Soil Phase—- Art of Fortification>>
A swarm of translucent pillars stood in front of the lava beast.
The Lava Tiger jumped at the pillar and bit it, but it was as thick as a giant tree, so it was not broken through.
No…… if you look closely, the surface seems to have been melted by the heat.
The quartz in the “Fortress” should be able to withstand the heat of lava…. but that armor seems to have a higher temperature than I thought.
I left the prince behind and stepped forward.
I don’t know what it is, but i’ll take care of it anyway because it’s dangerous.
The lava beast noticed my presence and turned its eyes toward me.
Its burning legs kicked across the grass and came toward me.
Its fangs were bared.
At the same time, the moment I was about to unleash a technique from an invisible shikigami—-
The Lava Tiger was as if it had been pulled by invisible reins and its body was turned upside down.
“How can you be so quick to lash out?”
The man’s voice rang out again.
The voice was coming from a magician wearing a —- black robe and a few of his followers. He was wearing a large hood completely covering his head and is holding a book open in his right hand.
“Is that a….. grimoire?”
“Hey, be quiet. That’s a breach of contract.”
The Lava beast was struggling but seemed to be prevented from moving.
The magic that binds the Lava Tiger is apparently connected to that grimoire.
The lava beast was in a rage, but it was prevented from moving.
“Enough, go back.”
The magician closed the book with a snap and the lava beast turned into particles of light and was sucked between the pages.
Finally, I’m convinced.
That man is Summoner.
He’s a rearguard who contracts monsters and summons them to fight at will.
The Lava Tiger must have been his summon.
“How dangerous, how dangerous. Are you alright? Prince Cecilio.”
With a frivolous tone, the summoner man walks toward us.
“Zekto, What are you doing?”
In response, the prince’s face contorted as he spoke.
“You knew there was no danger from the dragon! Why did you summon that beast? You could have harmed our guests from the empire!”
“That’s not right, Your Highness. I just saved your life.”
The man called Zekto shrugged his shoulders.
“You can’t tell me that there was no danger. If the client dies, we’ll be in trouble. Besides, our situation has changed while His Highness was gone.”
“Things have changed?”
“The last few days, the dragon has been flying much less frequently. But instead, he seems to be quite feisty. There are a number of residents who were growled at just as they arrived here. Do you understand? We had a close call just now.”
The prince, who had been told this, fell silent.
What is this? Who’s this guy?
“Your Highness, who is this?”
I asked and the prince looked at me and spoke.
“Excuse me, Seika-dono. This is Zekto, the head of the Zekto Mercenaries, as I called him. Zekto, this is Seika Ramplog, the Dragon’s research emissary. He’s also the son of an imperial count. Please don’t be rude.”
“Huh. Still a kid…. Oops, excuse me. He’s even younger than His Highness and yet he’s a research emissary, that’s a big deal.”
Ignoring the man with the underestimating attitude, I ask my question.
“A group of mercenaries? Why on earth would you have such a thing?”
The prince stammers for a moment and then answers somewhat bitterly.
“To subdue the dragon.”
*Art of Fortification.
The art of producing quartz pillars. Its main component, silicon dioxide, has a melting point of 1650°C, is chemically stable, and has excellent strength. It is also the most abundant molecule in the earth’s crust.