~~Hills to the West of Beilaena, Ten O’clock in the Morning, Twenty-First Day of the Second Month~~
Having gathered information on high-ranking monsters from the Guild, we headed out west of Beilanea.
The monster we had gained information on was the Four-Winged Dragon, Ballad Dragon.
Originally named Beilad Dragon after Beilanea, the region in which it appeared, it ended up being called what it was now as the spelling evolved over time.
The dragon was capable of flight, and as its title suggested, had four wings.
I hypothesized that it was a subspecies of the Sky Dragon archetype that used to exist 5,000 years ago. By virtue of it being A-ranked and capable of prolonged flight, no one seemed willing to deal with it.
“Say, Master… I do think we can handle B-ranks just fine, but don’t you think an A-rank is too much?”
“We did beat an Alpha Chimera, didn’t we? It’s been two years since then, so we should be stronger now, too.”
“You can be too optimistic sometimes.”
“We can run for it when things go south, Pochi!”
Lina can drop pretty big bombs sometimes.
“Of course! You can even ride on my back! Ah, there won’t be a seat left for my Master, though!”
“I can just cling to your tail with my teeth, so no problem.”
“You’re still thinking about making steak with my tail!?”
“Keep talking like that and the Ballad Dragon might eat you first!”
While exchanging one cynical joke after another, before we knew it, we arrived at where the Ballad Dragon was last reported to be seen.
Behind us, we saw Beilanea and the preceding Giants’ Passage in the distance. To our front, however, was nothing but an uncannily bare grassland, with hints of a thick forest in the distance.
“I’m not seeing the Ballad Dragon anywhere, not even with the sky this clear…”
“Ah — isn’t that a pack of Blood Jackals over there? What could have driven them into such a rush?”
The Blood Jackal pack numbered ten or so — Those creatures were known to dash toward where they sense food.
“Smell anything, Pochi?”
“Oh no, stop it, Master!”
In her usual joking routine, Pochi put her front paws over her nose.
“Quit messin’ around!”
“Sniffsniff… mm-hm… I do spell something, yes. I think it’s blood.”
“All right, lead the way, doggo!”
Pochi ran right off in the direction where she smelled blood from, with Lina and I following her closely.
On the way, we were detected by the pack of Blood Jackals, but they quickly turned away and ran off in the same direction we were headed.
What in the world could be going on over there?
Though we couldn’t outpace the Blood Jackals, we did make a certain discovery at a blind spot in the grassland we hadn’t seen back on the vantage point.
The Blood Jackals, which had arrived before us, had already flocked on that certain something in a feeding frenzy.
“A Ballad Dragon… carcass? Doesn’t seem to be decaying yet… so it must have died very recently.”
“A cut from shoulder to chest… that one is certainly fatal. Oh, but we can still take its horns and claws!”
“I guess it’s good luck that we can get the look without many risks, but… We’ll have to wait for these guys to eat their fill, huh?”
“No, Sir Asley, let’s chase the Blood Jackals away.”
Lina can drop pretty big bombs sometimes.
Seeing that it was rare for her to propose such things, I turned to see what she was fixating on.
“…Is there something on its legs?”
“A… dragon egg…”
“What did you say!?”
Lina was right. An egg-shaped protrusion could be seen between the Ballad Dragon’s legs, albeit just half was sticking out now.
It probably was pushed out by either the pain from its wounds, or the Jackals’ feeding moving its innards around.
“I’ll have to hurry, otherwise it’ll fall to the ground and break.”
“Please do. Rise, A-rise, A-rise, Whirlwind!”
From her Spell Circle, Lina created a small whirlwind and sent it into the midst of the Blood Jackals. The whirlwind then gradually expanded, lifting one Blood Jackal up after another.
“Now, Sir Asley! Get the egg!”
Before she even said that, I slid under the Blood Jackal pack as they spun around in the air, ran between the Ballad Dragon’s legs, then carefully pulled out the egg.
“I can’t hold it for long! Please hurry!”
Lina shouted, her expression suggesting that she was having difficulties maintaining the release of her arcane energy.
And Pochi was just loitering around, yawning. She didn’t have anything she could do now, sure, but isn’t that a bad attitude to have?
Ah, now she’s scratching her head.
At a quick pace, while also carrying the egg with utmost care, I returned to Lina’s side.
I thought up some task for the doggo at my side, who was now grimacing at the discovery of fleas in her fur.
“Hang in there, Lina! Rise, A-rise, A-rise, Transient Blades!”
I carefully placed the egg on the ground, then traced a Craft Circle in the air.
Bladed beams of light lashed out the Craft Circle, cutting off the Dragon’s horns, fangs, and claws.
“Dammit, Pochi! Go get the damn loot!”
“Ah — AWOOOOO!!”
Pochi’s reaction was a beat too late, but she rushed to collect the horns, claws, and fangs all the same, and brought them back to me.
As she was doing that, Lina seemed almost at her limit, so I gripped her hand and drew a Spell Circle.
“Heh… Ah — Huh…?”
“Rise, Magic Shift!”
Magic Shift, one of the spells that I had invented, enabled the caster to transfer his arcane energy to another mage.
Lina’s abilities as of now meant her arcane energy emission had extremely low efficiency. Her pool of 400 or so MP would be completely spent in less than a minute.
By using my spell, the consumed arcane energy would be drawn from my pool instead of hers, transmitted through a channel made by linking hands.
“U-um… thank you…”
I couldn’t quite see Lina’s expression since she was casting her eyes down, but considering the scene yesterday, there shouldn’t be any problem now.
After confirming that Pochi has gotten everything there was to be collected, Lina stopped holding on to her Whirlwind spell, letting the Blood Jackals back down on the ground.
The beasts, dropped from several meters above ground, started chowing away at the Ballad Dragon’s carcass as soon as they landed.
It seemed like they never even noticed that we had caused that scene. That or they were too hungry to care…
Lina had good reasons to not kill the Blood Jackals.
One was that the egg was right behind those beasts. Another was that Blood Jackals were known to feed only from carcasses, and not harm humans.
Though they sometimes did so out of extreme starvation, it was a very special case.
Because of those, and her being as kind as she was, Lina had chosen to use a harmless spell for the job.
“Now, what do we do with this?”
“What to do, indeed…”
“Lina was the one who first noticed it, so she has the final say. That’s how nature works. Sell it, make a fried egg, or you can even hold on to it and see if it’ll hatch.”
I already knew what she’d answer, though.
“D-do you think I can do it?”
“You mean you’ll hatch it?”
Well, now that’s some enthusiasm.
Sure, monster eggs were one of the few things a mage would give an arm and a leg for.
Through imprinting, it was relatively easy to make hatched monsters into Familiars. But it was also true that it would very likely attract Familiar thieves.
In this case, Lina probably did not have that in mind, and acted out of her kindness alone.
“Pochi will keep it warm for you, so there’s no need to worry.”
“Wha — That’s the first I’ve heard about it, Master!”
“Wow, what a surprise. It’s the first I’ve spoken about it, too.”
“Then I’ll focus all my time and energy on incubating it, and you two will be out earning money! For my livelihood!”
For her livelihood, she said — Pochi sure looked satisfied saying that.
Maybe she just wanted to say that line.
“Still, who could be the one who had defeated the Dragon? All signs point to it being by a human, don’t you think?”
“It’s reasonable that they might have not noticed the egg, but they didn’t take any loot, either… Maybe they just wanted to show off their power.”
“…They should be quite powerful, then.”
Lina said, her shoulders visibly trembling.
It was an A-ranked monster, so typically a party of level-60 combatants would be needed to take it down. And for a one-on-one fight, an adventurer may want to be level 100 to match its strength, though it’s a different story if there also was a mage with support spells.
From observation, the injuries the Dragon had sustained were all cuts of equal size. If it was indeed just one person pulling that off, they would have to possess strengths not tied to levels and numbers as well.
And since they were cutting attacks… It might have been one of the Six Braves, or someone else of equal or greater skills…
I’m not under evaluating my power here, either. I do think I can take down an A-ranked monster, given that I kept at a safe distance. It was precisely because the Ballad Dragon was an airborne enemy that I had decided to challenge it.
I was confident that I would be able to keep my calm in battle, too. And if I were to get rid of my detrimental title, The Fool–
Well, no — hypothesizing about things now wouldn’t do any good. I just have to what I can now. Yes, that’s it.
“Boy, the world sure is a big place! Now let’s go back and rake in the dough~~!”
“Ah — I’ll carry the egg.”
“You know that it’s pretty heavy, right?”
“Yes, I can handle it!”
Since she insisted, I had no reason to say no. I passed the egg of 40 centimeters diameter to Lina, and we hurried on our way back without incident.