『I know I say this literally every single time we go anywhere at all, but Ulmutt was a pretty decent place.』
To us, the city had become a fairly important landmark. It was there that we met Rumina, who in turn helped Fran evolve through a method that you couldn’t really call anything but miraculous. Us meeting Rumina was already one hell of a coincidence in and of itself. There were many fine details that led up to the encounter. There was a pretty good chance that we never would’ve met had the circumstances been even the slightest bit different.
Rumina was one of the first Black Catkin Fran had met since she lost her parents, but that wasn’t all. To Fran, she’d effectively become a mother figure, one that’d shown an incredible amount of warmth and affection. The bond the two shared drove Fran, it made her want to work even harder to improve her clan’s social standing. Rumina was the only reason Fran had finally shown her less mature side. She would’ve probably never acted in a manner befitting her age if not for the older Black Catkin.
One of Ulmutt’s key attractions, the yearly Martial Arts Tournament, had taught us a lot about matchups, tactics, and even how we could best make use of our strengths. We reaffirmed that victory wasn’t entirely based on what was written on one’s stat page, and that we should never get too full of ourselves because there was always someone stronger than us. We both knew that there was simply no way we could beat either Forrund or Amanda in a battle to the death. We were too lacking in more or less every single aspect.
But that was fine.
It was precisely our recognition of that weakness of ours that drove us to reach even greater heights.
「Nn. Will participate next year too.」
『Sounds good. And next time, we’ll make sure we win first place.』
The time we spent in Ulmutt had also allowed us to build a connection with the Beast Lord and several other Beastkin. In doing so, we learned of a possible resolution to the problem of Blue and Black Catkin relations, and that the Blue Cat Tribe had effectively lost its standing.
There was hope that the Blue Cat Tribe could change going forward. We weren’t about to let the Beast Lord and Zefmate be the only two to handle the situation, we’d also put some thought into how we could potentially help them out. The best way we’d come up with so far seemed like it would be taking out any Blue Catkin slave traders we happened upon.
Last time, it took us about four days to move between Barbra and Ulmutt. We now knew the path, so I’d thought that heading back would’ve been a much faster process.
I’d been pretty much spot on at first, as we managed to cover about 70% of the distance in two days, but unfortunately, we ended up running into something we couldn’t really just overlook.
「O-Oh god, please help me!」
That is, we saw a swarm of lesser wyverns chasing a group of three men that looked to be merchants. In our eyes, lesser wyverns were actually quite weak, as we could take them down with ease, but to the merchants, the beasts were monstrous foes they’d never be able to overcome.
Seeing the wyverns caused me to recall the time I fought one to the death back when I was just transported over to the Maookami Plains. The memory was by no means a good one, but for some odd reason, remembering it filled me with a sense of nostalgia nonetheless. Unlike me, however, the merchants weren’t pit up against just a single enemy. There were a whole 10 chasing after them.
Urushi kicked off at top speed in response to Fran’s command. It only took him a brief moment to reach the merchants.
「Damn it! Why!? First flying lizards, and now even magic wolves!?」
「Shit! We’re so dead!」
Our sudden appearance had caused the merchants to end up slowing down. The energy drained from their legs as they gave up on their lives.
「Huh? Wait, what? A kid?」
They didn’t notice Fran, who’d been riding on Urushi’s back, until after she called out to them.
「I-Is that wolf yours?」
「Wait! Aren’t you the Black Lightning Princess!?」
The three merchants once again bumped up their speed. Learning Fran’s identity had shown them a ray of hope. They seemed to be pretty lively, a trait I couldn’t really say I disliked. After all, being lively was much better than breaking down and screaming nonstop.
I doubted saving them would net us any rewards, but we decided to help regardless because ditching them would probably weigh on our consciences.
「Will take materials.」
「We’ll even throw in a bit of an extra reward!」
「Though it probably won’t amount to anything much…!」
「Shut up, idiot!」
「If we die because she leaves, it’ll be all your fault!」
「You say that, but she’s a high ranked adventurer! What the hell are we supposed to do if we can’t pay her fee after she helps us?」
「W-Well… I guess you’re right. I can’t deny that I don’t have enough to pay a high ranking adventurer on hand…」
The merchants began to bicker as they ran for their lives, possibly because they felt relieved that they might yet be able to avoid their demise. A part of me suspected that they were trying to make us feel sorry for them, but I didn’t really mind either way.
We’d been willing to help them out for free, but I wasn’t about to turn down any sort of reward. If anything, it would be better for us to demand one. There was a good chance that we’d be swarmed by the masses if word got out that we were willing to help the weak for free.
My only problem with this whole setup was that I didn’t actually know what would’ve been considered fair payment, so I just told Fran to say something random that seemed to suit the situation.
「Will worry about reward later. Will ask for money equivalent to value of life.」
「Move away, or will get hit.」
Fran and Urushi leapt at the lesser wyverns without really minding the merchants. They only managed to get out of the way in time because I buffed up their legs with a support spell.
The merchants seemed to be panicking in response to Fran’s offer.
Thinking about it a bit led me to realize the implications our words had carried.
A C rank adventurer had basically told them to pay whatever they thought their lives were worth. They probably felt like we would end up spreading rumours about how cheap they were if they didn’t give us an amount that ended up satisfying us and that we’d basically put their reputations as merchants on the line. It would’ve been much better for us to just ask them to pay whatever the market price was.
Either way, I decided to shelve the thought and just focus on the lesser wyverns for the time being.
Though they were objectively on the weaker side, the wyverns were still wild magic beasts. They immediately realized that Fran and Urushi were threats, and as such, chose to surround the pair instead of chasing the merchants down.
They stopped moving after they arranged themselves in a circle, as if they’d realized that they would die regardless of whether they advanced or retreated.
「Want to test.」
『What do you have in mind?』
『Hmmm… Yeah, I think I see where you’re coming from.』
We’d only ever applied the spell in confined spaces, namely Rumina’s dungeon and the tourney’s enclosed battleground. We’d never used it in a larger, more open environment.
There wasn’t any real reason for us not to try it out.
『Alright. I’ll get the spell ready. You make sure the merchants actually manage to evacuate.』
Kanna Kamui was extremely difficult to control. I was actually able to make better use of the spell than Fran.
My Accelerated Thought, Parallel Processing, and Sorcerer skills rendered my Kanna Kamui able to cause twice as much destruction as her’s.
Moreover, using it would give her a pretty bad headache. Her first cast of the spell had even caused blood to start dripping from her nose. It was obvious that it heavily burdened its user’s brain. It was so bad, in fact, that I wanted to avoid letting Fran use it if possible. I couldn’t help but suspect that every single cast would just flat out reduce one’s lifespan.
I built up a bunch of magical energy as Fran and Urushi intimidated the Wyverns and prevented them from escaping.
『Everything’s ready on my end.』
「Nn. Merchants moved.」
A thick, white lightning bolt began rained down upon the lesser wyverns the moment after I voiced the spell’s name. The open area around us served to demonstrate the full extent of its destructive power.
Low, rumbling roars followed the brilliant white flashes as they tore through our surroundings. It was almost like an angry God had descended upon the area for the sole sake of going on a violent rampage.
Both Fran and Urushi had already expected to be assaulted by a series of incredibly loud sounds, so they’d covered their ears in anticipation. The merchants, however, had not, so they ended up screaming and pressing their hands against them.
Crap. We’d told them to retreat, but it looked like they were still relatively nearby. It looked like we were going to have to heal them up a bit later on in hopes that they’d forgive us.
『Uh… It looks like I might’ve gone a bit overboard.』
I’d been expecting our thunderbolts to just leave the lesser wyverns charred, but it seemed that they ended up doing so much damage they caused them to just flat out evaporate.
The spell had created a 15 meter wide crater, and heavily damaged the forested area around it.
Everything within a 50 meter radius of the crater had been totally messed up by Kanna Kamui’s impact. There were no longer any trees our immediate vicinity. The ones that lay a bit closer to the 50 meter mark were still present, but they’d fallen over, and some were even still on fire.
『Yeah uhh… we should probably avoid using Kanna Kamui unless we have to.』
The spell would probably end up annihilating any companions we happened to have. In fact, I was pretty sure the merchants only still existed as of right now because we’d told them to retreat ahead of time.
They’d been sent rolling because of the shockwave, but, at least they were still alive, right?
『Well, so much for gathering materials and magic stones.』
Urushi seemed rather disappointed that the attack had destroyed all the wyvern meat.
『Oh well, I guess that’s that.』