Chapter 27:

Volume 2, Chapter 7, Day 1 of Gryphon Quest

Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team

The party arrived and waited in front of Nora’s shop, as discussed during their time at Shina’s shop.Bookmark here

“Shouldn’t she be out by now?” asked Aiden as he placed his hand in front of his mouth to yawn.Bookmark here

They couldn’t blame him. It was seven in the morning, and he always went out during the night for training with Stacia.Bookmark here

“Maybe we should…”Bookmark here

Before Alice could finish her sentence, an explosion came from one of the rooms above Nora’s shop. The blast was big enough to bore a hole to the rooftop. Splinters and shattered planks flew and dispersed throughout the avenue, layout around them.Bookmark here

“Aiden, Jayce, go! Irene and I will cover any exit from outside!”Bookmark here

Without any hesitation, Jayce kicked down the front door and sprinted up the stairs with Aiden in tow. Bookmark here

While the boys entered the building, Alice and Irene went to their positions around the area. Alice created barriers as platforms for them to climb up to the designated buildings she had chosen as vantage points. Bookmark here

“Thanks!” shouted Irene, withdrawing her silver bow from her magic gloves, grabbing two regular arrows from her quiver, then aimed at the building’s opening in question.Bookmark here

When Alice took a position, she prepared her incantation. Multiple magic circles appeared around her. Spears of ice appeared where the magic circles had been. But she didn’t stop there. She then cast another magic to the spears, covering them with the lightning field.Bookmark here

“Compound Magic: Spark Frost.”Bookmark here

She raised her staff, aiming at the first floor of the building, and waited until…Bookmark here

“There!” shouted Irene.Bookmark here

A black cloak figure appeared at the building’s roof. They turned their attention at Irene to find out that their presence was noticed and broke into a sprint.Bookmark here

Irene fired her first arrow toward the running culprit, while Alice also fired one of her projectiles at the same target. Without giving a single glance and at the very last second from impact, the target swung their right arm, deflecting the projectile as if it was nothing, and dodged Alice’s spell with a leap.Bookmark here

They immediately gave chase.Bookmark here

The boys took position by the entrance of the room in question. Bookmark here

“I’m hearing one person in the room, still breathing. No traps.”Bookmark here

Jayce, swords readied, nodded to Aiden and opened the door. Part of the room’s walls and floors were damaged and stained black from the explosion earlier. Broken tables and chairs, shards of vials, and ingredients were scattered on the floor. In the middle of the room lay a body. Bookmark here

His eyes turned silver, tracing for any magic circles or traps the culprit might have prepared to confirm Aiden’s words. Bookmark here

With that in mind, he walked over to Nora and pressed a finger against her wrist, checking her pulse. Bookmark here

“Her pulse is normal. Aiden, take care of Nora.”Bookmark here

“Understood.”Bookmark here

He leapt out of the building through the open roof. He had sensed traces of mana leaving the scene the moment he checked Nora’s pulse. Bookmark here

S-class Rogue.Bookmark here

He imagined that he would chase after the culprit responsible for this commotion if he were in Alice's position. Besides, Nora was their friend, and they wouldn’t just stand by and watch her get hurt. But what was concerning him was the fact the Government security couldn’t detect this one.Bookmark here

He manipulated his mana, focusing them onto his legs. This technique was similar to Alice’s support spell, except that this was done to the caster themselves internally through focusing mana to a specific region of their body. Bookmark here

Compared to Alice, his mana manipulation was inferior as he wasn’t a Magician class Adventurer. It improved his agility by an additional ten percent. To him, it was better than nothing.Bookmark here

An explosion from outside pulled him back to reality. Alice and Irene were focusing their offence on the target. It wore a black robe. From Jayce’s perspective, he couldn’t tell whether they were armed or not. Without a moment to waste, he picked up his pace to catch up with the others.Bookmark here

I’m here.Bookmark here

Alice heard a familiar voice in her head behind and looked behind her. There was only one person who could communicate with her telepathically. Jayce came to provide backup.Bookmark here

Jayce, go for the offensive. Irene and I will go for any openings.Bookmark here

He immediately closed the distance between the target and himself, appearing right beside them without a word.Bookmark here

For some reason, the target wasn't surprised by his sudden appearance. The air around them was calm, being aware of each other’s movements. Bookmark here

I will provide a distraction.Bookmark here

Jayce gave everything he got to closed the distance between himself and the culprit, then swung his sword from its sheath.Bookmark here

Although they dodged his blade perfectly, that was what Jayce was aiming for.Bookmark here

At that moment, Alice fired a lightning shrouded icicle at the culprit’s right leg while Irene fired an arrow at the centre of their back. All of these actions were executed while they are chasing them.Bookmark here

With two projectiles coming toward them, Jayce readied another skill with his left blade, but then his movement suddenly came to a stop when the culprit spun around to grab his right arm and locked his head with both legs. Bookmark here

They used this momentum to twist Jayce’s body and spun around. As they did so, the target grabbed the dagger from his boot then deflect Alice’s magic while using Jayce as a shield against Irene’s body.Bookmark here

What?!Bookmark here

The target was way faster than Aiden. After releasing Jayce, they tossed the dagger aside and ran. Magic circles appeared before both hands. Bookmark here

When Alice saw the magic circles, her mind began to race in full throttle, identifying the type of spells that appeared before them. The rogue launched a lightning spell and a fireball at the girls. Bookmark here

Alice reflexively cast barrier spells for both Irene and herself, but it was too late. She didn’t manage to strengthen the barrier to the full extent. The translucent shields could barely contain the spell, sending both Alice and Irene to stumble back to their rears.Bookmark here

Alice got herself back up as soon as her mind able her to. The rogue adventurer was nowhere to be seen. She quickly walked toward the edge of the roof and looked over the plaza. Bookmark here

There were too many people. The target probably blended themselves into the crowds at this point.Bookmark here

Irene walked up to her, and after scanning the entire plaza with her keen sight, she heaved a heavy sigh. Bookmark here

“Is everyone all right?” asked Alice. Now that she was sure that it is no longer possible to give chase, she was concern about everyone’s current condition.Bookmark here

“I’m good.”Bookmark here

“I’m okay.”Bookmark here

Irene and Jayce responded to her question briefly.Bookmark here

“What should we do now?” Alice gazed toward Jayce. Should they continue their chase? Bookmark here

“There’s nothing we can do for now. Let’s head back and check on Nora. She might know something about this.”Bookmark here

____________________Bookmark here

“Ughhhh.”Bookmark here

She opened her eyes. Her visions were blurry as the light sneaked into her surroundings through the canvas. Reflexively, she held out her hand to block the light while using the other to rub her eyes. As she did so, the entire room shook, causing her to startle. Bookmark here

She stood upright and looked around. She found herself sleeping on a mat within the carriage.Bookmark here

“You’re awake,” said Alice.Bookmark here

“Where am I?” asked Nora.Bookmark here

“We are currently in a horse-drawn carriage and making our way to Icarus Village.”Bookmark here

After hearing that from Alice, she looked at the other side of the carriage. Jayce was currently sleeping. His eyes were covered with a scarf, probably taken out from his magic gloves.Bookmark here

“Are you all right?” she continued. “You have been unconscious for three hours.” Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m fine,” replied Nora with a disappointed expression spread across her face. “Well, that experiment was a failure,”Bookmark here

“Experiment?” she repeated, tilting her head to one side. She wasn’t expecting this kind of answer with everything that had happened.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Did something happen?”Bookmark here

“By any chance, you know about the intruder who entered your home?”Bookmark here

“Intruder?” she stared at Alice quizzically, then a thought came across her mind. “Oh, that was my scout. She is shy when it comes to interacting with people.”Bookmark here

Scout was a term used for people who ventured out in the world searching for rare herbs and ores, ranging from recording their locations and collecting them when needed without compromising their availability. Alice thought about asking Nora for her scout’s name, but she remembered the nature of her job, so she kept that question within her.Bookmark here

“Anyway, I’m guessing everyone is prepared?”Bookmark here

“Yes, we have two weeks supply of food prepared and camping gears for five of us.”Bookmark here

“Good to hear my students are well prepared,” said Nora with her arms cross and nod to herself.Bookmark here

“You only teach us magic, though,” said Jayce while lifting his blindfold.Bookmark here

“What was that?!” said Nora as she narrowed her eyes.Bookmark here

It could be Alice’s imagination as she saw a glimpse of sparks that occasionally appeared between their eyes. She smiled wryly at their exchange and returned to the front, where Aiden and Irene were.Bookmark here

Icarus Village located West of the Capital. With their current transportation, they would arrive at their destination in the next three days. That said, they had to set up camps and rest for two nights for now.Bookmark here

As Alice moved the drapes aside and peeked out, she looked around their surroundings. They were travelling on the main road, surrounded by plain grassland on both sides, and they were wide open enough that they wouldn’t invite to any potential ambush.Bookmark here

“It is almost lunchtime. Let’s stop the carriage somewhere,” said Alice, pointing a finger toward the plain just before the forest.Bookmark here

“All right,” replied Irene as she steadied the reins. Bookmark here

“I will go scout ahead,” said Aiden. He dropped down from the coach and dashed toward the nearby forest ahead of them without waiting for any word from them.Bookmark here

“There he goes,” muttered Irene, watching Aiden, who was slowly disappearing into the distance.Bookmark here

“He sure is excited to go for a recon. On second thought, that might be his nature as an assassin.”Bookmark here

“Between him and me, he loves the forest more than I do.”Bookmark here

“That was unexpected. I thought you would be the one to initiate that role.”Bookmark here

“Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy nature, but…” Irene’s eyes seemed to gaze somewhere far outside of their reality.Bookmark here

Alice didn’t speak a word, waiting for her to continue.Bookmark here

“There was an incident that happened in the past. Because of me… Aiden…”Bookmark here

“There are monsters on the north side of the forest, but they aren’t heading toward our direction, so it should be fine to have lunch just outside of the forest.”Bookmark here

Before Irene could gather enough courage to speak her mind, Aiden appeared above the carriage, providing details of the monster activities in the forest.Bookmark here

“Huh? Did I interrupt something?”Bookmark here

Knowing Aiden and Irene, instead of looking above her, she glanced at Irene, who clenched her fist, and she could hear the frustration coming from her. Just before they reached their checkpoint, Aiden had fallen unconscious thanks to Irene’s wrath. Bookmark here

After tying the reins to the carriage, Alice informed Jayce and Nora that they would have lunch here. Everyone hopped out from the carriage through the back. The sun was shining at its apex. Summer may be approaching, but thanks to the forest, it was windy and comfortable.Bookmark here

It could be the fact that Alice’s outfit was designed with high-quality material and integrated with runes that provide thermal comfort. Jayce set up a work table to prepare ingredients. Irene with the campfire, while Nora kept an eye on their surroundings. Bookmark here

“Do you need something?” asked Jayce as he turned around to look at her.Bookmark here

“Oh. Umm. I was wondering if I can help with anything.”Bookmark here

Alice felt terrible that Jayce did all the work by himself. For now, it was the least she could do to help. As she thought about it, Jayce sensed the anxiety she felt. Bookmark here

“You can help prepare the ingredients.”Bookmark here

That said, Jayce placed the ingredients on the preparation table next to him and gave instructions to Alice. Bookmark here

“Alice…”Bookmark here

“Yes? Did I something wrong?”Bookmark here

“That is not how you would hold a knife.”Bookmark here

It was pretty strange from Jayce’s perspective. No matter how many times he taught her how to cook. He always had to be there for her. She was excellent in magic and battle tactics, but cooking wasn’t her field of expertise. Bookmark here

Right now…Bookmark here

At this moment…Bookmark here

Alice was holding a kitchen knife in a backhand manner. If there were any onlookers around them, they would be terrified and think Alice is some lunatic killer roaming around in the street, killing people indiscriminately.Bookmark here

Jayce had to put his hands defensively, slowly and gently, and readjust the knife's grip in her hand. Thinking she might mess up the ingredients, his hand guided her knife hand to prepare the ingredients. Bookmark here

I’m not taking any risk of having Alice ruining the ingredients to serve others.Bookmark here

Alice didn’t seem to be bothered by any of this. She thought of his action as an act of teaching. His hands felt so warm that she could feel the heat transmitting through her hand, then the knife’s handle and its blade.Bookmark here

His guiding hand made hers feel smooth and relaxing, letting the blade do all the work to peel and chop the ingredients. There wasn’t a single resistance coming from the ingredients themselves.Bookmark here

In a few minutes, the preparations are done. Bookmark here

Jayce let go of her hands and took a few steps to the side. Bookmark here

“Shall we bring these over to the campfire?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Lets—”Bookmark here

Alice took the bowls of ingredients and, as she turned to the campfire, Irene and Nora had been watching them with the edges of their mouth turned upward. She lowered her gaze, hiding her reddened cheeks and ears with her hat. Bookmark here

As Alice was about to hand over the prepared ingredients to Jayce, he raised his hand. “You will be cooking this time. I will guide you through the process.”Bookmark here

Alice’s eyes became round. Bookmark here

From Jayce’s perspective, Alice’s eyes seemed to glimmer. He remembered his experience when Alice served him dinner for the first time and led him to food poisoning. Bookmark here

That was why, on some occasions, he allowed her to prepare and cook only when he was available to supervise. Bookmark here

Why is he staring cautiously?Bookmark here

“We’re going to cook a beef stew for everyone and a creamy mushroom and onion soup for Aiden.”Bookmark here

Jayce acted as her assistant this time, handing her the bowls with the ingredients while bringing the empty bowls back to the table. At the same time, he gave her instructions at specific times, making sure she was ready for the next step. He kept his eyes on her movement and his.Bookmark here

While supervising Alice, he was cooking beef stew and onion soup, keeping his pace with hers to serve the dishes simultaneously.Bookmark here

“There is something else you need to add to that mushroom soup.”Bookmark here

He materialized a jar in one hand and grabbed a clean spoon from the table. The air became visible as they hit the glass container he held. Bookmark here

“What is that?” she asked while stirring the contents of one of the pots.Bookmark here

“Take a guess.”Bookmark here

He opened the lid and handed the jar to her. She guessed based on the smell.Bookmark here

“Is this… sour cream?”Bookmark here

“Yes, you are correct. Add one spoonful of sour cream into the mushroom soup. That way, it will enhance the mushroom flavour further,” he stated academically.Bookmark here

With that, she added a spoonful of sour cream to her wooden spoon. When she stirred the mushroom soup with a wooden spoon, the aroma gradually changed and became stronger. The smell of fresh air and the soups before her complimented each other, making her feel like she connected to nature. Bookmark here

“Now that everything is added, place the lids onto the pots. Wait for ten minutes, then kill the fire.”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

They stirred the soups and stew once more before placing the lids. While waiting, Alice turned to him and asked a question.Bookmark here

“That jar just now, did you craft runes into them to cool the contents?”Bookmark here

“Yes. The same applied to the jam you used at Moon Village.”Bookmark here

“Irene, Nora and I also went to Shina’s cafe.”Bookmark here

“Oh. Did you enjoy her dishes?”Bookmark here

“They are delicious. I’m surprised that you crafted her tableware.”Bookmark here

“I did owe Nora a favour for helping me getting the materials I needed for my equipment. This is the first time she asked me to help her apprentice instead of paying her in coins.”Bookmark here

Hearing that, she was about to burst a laugh. Jayce raised an eyebrow at her.Bookmark here

“Is something wrong?”Bookmark here

“It’s nothing.”Bookmark here

When the time was up, they grabbed the pots’ handles with a cloth and brought them to the table where the others were, having a light and filling lunch for the first day of their travel. Some of them even asked for seconds. Jayce indicated that Alice’s beef stew was a success but couldn’t find a reason behind the manifestation of her usual ones…Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.