Translator: “Ashita” Editor: “Weasalopes”
West of the Royal Capital.
A large river lies here, it flows slowly, stretching out from here to the East with meanders along the way. Its water eventually flows to the Royal Capital and ends up in the ocean thereafter.
This river, which passes through the Royal Capital, is among one of the Royal Capitals’ prominent rivers. It supports the lives of the people living in the Royal Capital in ways such as sea transportation, irrigation and a source for drinking water.
Right now, at the center of this river, tens of magical beasts are advancing downstream.
Only what lies above their neck can be seen from the surface. And the heads of these magical beasts were endowed with a single, distinguishable, large horn that stood tall.
They are known as Heavy Lancers (Heavy Calvary), a type of large magical beast.
The group of Heavy lancers chose to move via the river as they did not want to be noticed by Humans.
Night has long fallen and the scenery was covered in darkness.
Due to this, the Humans would not notice the group of Heavy Lancers which were advancing downstream no matter how large these magical beasts were.
『Just a little bit more』
The Chief of the Heavy Lancers who is the vanguard of the advance let out his feeling of relief.
The lights from the Royal Capital have come into its view.
It was a long journey.
The Chief of the Heavy Lancers thought back to the incident which led it to leave the Forest of Spirits.
『No food left』
That was the reason.
The grass which was the source of food for the Heavy Lancers had been depleted.
It was not that the greenery of the forest was reduced. It was just that the grass that the Heavy Lancers ate was starting to disappear.
It was not like the Heavy Lancers only ate one species of grass. They actually ate many species of grass.
Among these, their favorite were those that were three to five meters high. They were probably easy to eat as this came from the perspective of those which body height were thirty-six meters high.
However, both types seem to have hidden themselves.
The chief speechlessly glared at the short grass which grew at its feet.
Even though it was lesser than one meter in height, it had a large flower that let out a strong scent. Honestly, it was not edible.
Twisting its neck to shift its vision, it looked at another grass.
Growing there was also a short grass. Its flower was white but strangely, it stored a large amount of honey.
Just beside it was a deep green grass with some height. It had no flowers. Its appearance is not bad but it was extremely bitter. Neither could become their food source.
And this species was the epitome of one which was few in numbers but multiplied quickly. This same old grass was there whenever they went right now.
They move through the many flowers in full bloom, seeking for edible grass.
In time, Humans appeared. These little living beings that are not even the height of their ankles, might not think much as they tend to jump out in front of them.
The Humans also persistently followed them around like a horsefly or mosquito aiming to sting.
『They are a Nuisance』
They could ignore the Humans, use their feet to knock the Humans down or trample over the Humans.
However, he pitied them after looking at the figures of these people who were like desperate branches at his feet.
The Chief changed the direction he was moving in by a little.
At that moment, the flower which was touched by its feet shook considerably, filling the air with a strong pungent scent. It unconsciously closed its nose and its look became grim.
And it ponders about the near future.
They are searching around and eating what little edible grass there was remaining. But it is over once they finish eating all the remaining edible grass. The grass will no longer grow at that place.
『This will not do』
It was not like this before. Even if they ate all the edible grass in one place, the grass will grow once again given some time.
If this continues, their food source will disappear in the near future. If that happens, the only way would be to starve to death.
『What should I do?』
The Chief asked itself.
The forest was the only place it knew of that had the grass that Heavy Lancers ate. Even if they were to move, there was nowhere to go.
The Chief continued fretting over this difficult problem which was without a solution.
However, there was a turning point one day.
It realized that there was an anomaly in the veins of the earth.
The veins which stretch out from deep within the earth all concentrate at the Forest of Spirits and stretched nowhere else.
But for some reason one of them which lies in the deepest parts stretches to the outside.
That vein was thin thus only beings with close ties with the earth such as the Heavy Lancers and an existence such as its Chief could detect it.
The possibility that that points to.
『Is there another forest?』
Or a mass of mana?
That it did not know.
It has never heard of there being another forest. But it also did not think that it was a mass of mana.
If there was a mass of mana, it will have to be let out somewhere which will cause either an earthquake or an eruption. However, the Chief did not sense such an omen.
『……I do not know』
The Chief shook its head.
But there was something it knew. If things continue as is, they had no choice but to wait for their deaths.
If that was the case, they should take a gamble and leave while they still have some strength remaining.
After a short and serious internal debate, the Chief resolved itself.
『Let’s head out』
Believing in its own senses, it led the group out of the forest.
Following the vein, they headed South.
The Chief was cautious.
They only advanced after eating their fill and it chose the routes that avoided inconveniences. These were issues like the territories of other large magical beasts and large dwellings of humans.
『We will become hungry if we were to fight』
That was the reason.
They seem to have entered the territory of another race midway as they came under an attack by the Giants. But they managed to repel them somehow.
However, when there were only a little ways left until their destination, they found out that the vein led to a dwelling of a significant number of Humans.
『I guess it was not a forest』
The Chief’s mental state as it saw a distant view of the Royal Capital from the mountain pass was like that of the feeling when Humans come face to face with a gigantic ant colony which stood towering among its surroundings.
From what it could see, it was not a forest. And a dwelling as large as this could very well have the power to disrupt the veins even if they were no mass of mana.
The Chief despaired.
There was no strength left for them to return to the Forest of Spirits. They had exhausted a considerable amount from fighting with the Giant race.
And even if they managed to return, they probably had no future left.
The Chief looked around at those it led. They were not informed yet.
『I am sorry』
It is the end for this group.
Its powerlessness had led to the lives of everyone here being taken.
As the Chief tried to tell everyone about this, it felt something from the vein. The Chief instructed everyone to be quiet and honed its senses to their limits.
And it was certain.
『Spirit Beast-sama is here』
The Spirit Beasts live within the forest.
It was not like they do not live in the outside world, but it was rare or temporary in some cases.
And right now, there is a Spirit Beast at the end of the vein.
This indicates that there was a forest there. At least that is what the Chief believes.
『The Master of the forest is the Spirit Beast-sama』
Since ancient times, there will be a Spirit Beast within forests that gains power from it and also protects it.
As long as that being accepted its role as the master of the forest, there were no issues with it going anywhere else.
Even if the place is among the large dwellings of Humans.
『We must proceed with utmost caution』
It would like to reach a distance, where it could communicate its will to the master of the forest, without Humans noticing.
Even if each individual is small in size, their numbers are extremely large. Facing them in an exhausted state is too dangerous.
For that reason, it chose to move within the night even when they were not adept in, through the river to get closer to the dwelling of Humans.
『Will it accept us?』
Fortunately, they managed to get by without alarming any Humans.
The distance was already at a point where communication with the Spirit Beast was possible using the veins.
It was only worried about that.
『Please save us. Spirit Beast-sama』
The Chief started calling out for the Spirit Beast as if it was praying.
Walking in the town of the Royal Capital which has become dark, I climb up three flights of steps made of stone. This was very difficult when I was exhausted.
I finally reached home after much effort.
I just came back from the Merchant Guild. It has been several days since I have been home after my departure for the mission.
(I am exhausted)
I open the door to find my familiar members waiting for me. It seems they have sensed my presence and came to welcome me.
I proceeded to sit cross-legged in the living room and laced Imosuke and Dangorou on my knees. I then lined the table with the seafood dumplings I bought from the Takeout Store.
Its actual name is different but I cannot think of a better way to describe it. It is stuffed full of prawns and even has scallops and squid in it. This is to be eaten with a thick soup.
「I was not able to eat this at the start but now, not having this makes me feel like something is missing」
As I say this, I poked the herb that was floating on the soup with the tip of my spoon.
It was a herb with a strong and unique flavor.
My first impression of it was that it tasted disgusting. I remember getting angry and wondering why anyone would put this in to ruin a dish that is already delicious.
「It’s amazing how someone becomes when someone gets used to something」
Now, I will add that no matter what.
As I enjoyed its delectable taste, I cuddled my familiar members.
When I did that, Dangorou suddenly stretched out its round and ticklish body.
It moved its feelers seemingly searching for something.
「What’s wrong, Dangorou?」
After wriggling for a while, it said something to Imosuke.
I did not know what they were saying so I watched over them as I enjoyed the meat juices from the seafood dumpling.
They probably wrapped up their conversation. Imosuke turned to face me.
Imosuke and Dangorou looked at each other. They do not seem hungry.
When I asked who, they replied that it is an animal.
『Can we call it over?』
Perhaps it wanted to treat its friend to dinner?
If it is someone Imosuke knows, something from the Forest Garden will suffice.
Although I said sure, it seems like Imosuke has something else it wanted to say.
『Can it stay here?』
I raised my eyebrows.
Things are different if it is a matter of coming over to hang out for a period of time. An immediate answer is impossible.
I asked several questions.
「Is it a Spirit Beast just like Imosuke?」
It shook its head. Seems like that is not the case.
I then tried asking what it is.
That answer is too vague. Seeing me go quiet, Imosuke anxiously asked.
『Is it fine?』
「Well, let’s have a look first」
I answered as such for now. I should take a look at its face first if it were to stay here.
Receiving my reply, Imosuke shook its head vigorously.
A moment after it did that, a magic circle the size of a plate of curry rice appeared on the bath towel laid out in the living room.
「Whoa, nicely done Imosuke」
I look in admiration at Imosuke’s growth.
When it summoned Dangorou, it took time and the magic circle was about the size of a pet bottle cap.
「Come to think of it, it became able to do more things after being in charge of the Herbal Tree」
As expected of one which held the title of 『Protector of the Seed』
And a small living thing appeared from the magic circle. But there is not only one/
「He-hey, isn’t there quite a lot?」
My voice unconsciously got louder as I was shocked by the number of figures which continued to appear.
The number is not something countable with two hands, its in the tens. That sight was the very definition of hoard. They flowed out from the magic circle and spread out on the bath towel.
Their size is about the length from the first joint of the thumb to the end of the thumb. They are a four-legged living thing.
I lied on my belly to have a closer look at them and moved my face closer to these little living things.
When I concentrated on simply looking at them, their appearance seems to be one between a horse and a cow. What is unique is their large horn which looked like a large Hercules Beetle……
As I began to harbor doubts, these tiny four-legged living things shook their bodies all at once.
I unconsciously let out my voice. A large amount of water droplets came flying over.
For some reason, the four-legged living things were soaked.
「What in the world is this Imosuke?」
I asked as I got up and wiped my drenched face using a nearby towel.
*Nod*. That is true.
I tried to delve just a little bit deeper.
「Aren’t these Heavy Lancers?」
After Imosuke turned to face the four-legged living things, it turned back to face me.
『They said they don’t know』
It seems like it was conversing with the four-legged living things.
It is true that the name Heavy Lancer is something that Humans came up with. The ones in question probably do not know.
I give up and ask about something else.
「Where did they come from?」
「……Is it from the Forest of Spirits?」
「Why have they come?」
『Because they are hungry』
Come to think of it, it did say that.
When I asked what they eat, it was grass. Just then, I remembered my doubt.
It is common knowledge that the Forest of Spirits is a spacious and plentiful place. Is it possible for such a place to have a shortage of grass?
「No, it must not be that simple of a matter」
I shook my head, reflecting on the shallowness of my thoughts.
I have watched a documentary in the past. The fight for survival is fierce even in plentiful places. There are probably those who are left with no food at the end of a fierce turf war.
A large forest will also have a lot of food. This should not hold true.
「Why are they this small?」
I continued asking.
It seems like my intuition is telling me that these four-legged living things are the Heavy Lancers I fought with the other day.
Of course, I cannot even guess why they have become this small.
It seems like Imosuke does not understand the meaning of my question.
「They are actually quite big right?」
I asked a question on top of another.
『Is that so?』
I gave up the thought of trying to get answers regarding this.
Thus, I changed my point of 『attack』.
「Can you ask if they know me?」
The group of living beings which looked like miniature Heavy Lancers stayed obediently on the bath towel.
It seems like Imosuke asked one of them which had a different fur color.
The answer was that it does not know.
「That makes sense」
Even if they were the very same Heavy Lancers, there was no way they would know how I specifically looked like.
I unconsciously let out a bitter smile. I was too impatient if I do say so myself.
「They won’t do anything harmful right?」
That is what I am worried about. I would really want out on them suddenly getting bigger and assaulting us.
「It is alright」 Dangorou assured with confidence.
Comparing the Heavy Lancers which were less than a thumb long, the almost twenty-centimeter long Dangorou looked reassuring.
「If I recall correctly you were given the title 『Tree Protector』」
I put what I had just thought of into words.
Dangorou proudly bent its short body slightly forward.
I granted it the title after it became the vice-in-charge of the Herbal Tree. After looking at Imosuke, I had a feeling that Dangorou too had learned something unique.
When I think of it like this, it felt fine to leave it to them.
As I felt a gaze, I looked towards Imosuke which was on my knees. Imosuke tilted its neck slightly asking for my answer.
It seems to be worried about whether I would grant its request.
「I understand, it’s fine」
I told Imosuke as I let out a breath.
After receiving my reply, Imosuke turned to the group of Heavy Lancers and swung its head slightly.
With that, the miniature-sized Heavy Lancers went out of the house from the side door and headed for the Forest Garden.
After they moved for a while, they started eating the grass there. They seem to be quite hungry as their tails were wagging vigorously like they were overjoyed.
I had a sudden realization as I watched this sight.
「They came because they were hungry. Come to think of it, it did say that」
If I were to assume that these miniature-sized living things were the Heavy Lancers I fought with, then the reason for their invasion into the Kingdom was to come to the Garden Forest.
That means that the cause for this fuss lies here.
「Will they come here whenever from now on?」
I imagined these large-type magical beasts forming a line and aiming for the Garden Forest.
The feet of these large-type magical beasts would trample upon towns and villages or even the walls of provincial towns and numerous people would run about in the blazing flames in an attempt to flee.
I have no basis for this. It is just my selfish imagination.
「……This is gonna get me real busy!」
I turned around and threw my hands out like I had given up.
Imosuke and Dangorou looked over, shocked at hearing my loud voice. I signaled with my hands that I was alright.
There is no helping it regarding this matter.
Also, I am scared to think.
That is why I decided not to.
(For now, let me pretend that I do not know anything and move on)
All is well as long as no one finds out that the magical beasts came.
When the time comes when the surrounding people find out about this and I become unable to live in the Royal Capital, I will escape. I will transplant the Herbal Tree into a flower pot and run along with Imosuke and Dangorou.
Imosuke will live as long as there are leaves from the Herbal Tree. Dangorou should be fine regardless.
「……I should not only deposit at the guild’s bank but also prepare some cold hard cash」
As I turned defiant, I decided not to care about matters such as whether these are the Heavy Lancers I fought with and why they got smaller.