Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team
“We have arrived!”
Irene’s announcement prompted Alice to get herself up to her feet. She was in the middle of a portable alchemy lesson with Nora this morning. They decided to do this when they found out that the carriage had runes crafted to improve the transport’s stability.
She went over to the front, peering out through the canvas. The morning sunlight brought down to her eyes, blinding her vision momentarily until her eyes became adjusted to her surroundings.
In the middle of a vast forest, buildings, stables, stalls were not only built on the ground level but along the trees from bottom to the top, with stairs installed spiralling around the trees as a pathway.
She looked around and then looked up at the sky, her hand raised to block the sunlight. Her eyes caught sight of silhouettes flying up high in the sky. Gryphons were coming and going from what seemed to be an office building at the top of one of the tallest trees around here.
“I wonder where they are heading,” Alice muttered.
“They seemed to be delivering packages. There’s also a rider for each gryphon.” Irene added.
Even if Alice placed all her effort in her eyes, she couldn’t tell whether the riders were there.
Nora guided Irene to bring the carriage to a stop at one of the inns’ stable.
“We will be staying at this inn until the quest is over. Once we check-in, we will meet up with our client.”
The indoor stable was built to accommodate twelve carriages and twenty-four horses, two horses in each designated carriage capacity. After hopping down from the carriage, Alice went to the front to disengage the horses’ reins.
“Thank you for bringing us here,” Alice whispered to the horses while brushing their necks softly.
They made an approval sound as if they were saying, “Your welcome.”
The horses were lent by one of Jayce’s associates. He didn’t mention who that person was. But even if she did, all she received was, “I can’t reveal their identity without their consent.”
“Suspicious,” said Irene with narrowed eyes.
Alice’s passive skill activated at those words. Irene was attempting another one of her pranks.
“You guys would do the same thing if you’re in my situation,” said Jayce as he was petting the horses.
The horses were kind to Alice and the others, but they remained hostile against strangers who came close to them. That made Alice wondered Did Jayce told the horses that we’re his friends?
“That’s even more suspicious!” exclaimed Irene while flailing her arms.
Aiden sighed in the background.
“He’s not lying,” Alice interjected. She decided to play along with their prank. “I may not have any basis to defend him, but all I know for sure was that he wasn’t lying.”
Both Irene and Aiden were silent for a moment, then—
“Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I was only joking.” Irene held both hands onto her stomach, fighting off the aching feeling.
“Come on, Irene. We have to get to the—,” said Aiden.
He suddenly felt an immerse killing intent that came from right next to Irene. It was more like that Nora placed a hand to Irene’s left shoulder and gripped it hard enough to make her stutter.
“Irene, I believe we don’t have the luxury to delay our meeting with our client any more than necessary. Don’t you agree?”
“Y-yes,” Irene replied with a nervous smile as she turned toward her.
Alice and Jayce exchanged wry smiles and walked out of the stable with others in tow.
“Hello. Welcome to Icarus’ Inn. How may I be of service?”
They were greeted by one of the receptionists when they approached the counter.
“Hello. I made a reservation for one single room and two double rooms under the name Nora.”
Hearing that, the receptionist took out a large book and flipped through the pages, searching for Nora’s reservation. She then asked Nora to imbue some of her mana into her name written in the book itself. This was one of the inn’s traditions to affirm their customers' identity who made the reservation through a letter. Of course, due to their delay in their travels, Nora had to make another letter to postpone their reservation for this inn.
Her written name responded with a bluish glow as if it accepted its rightful owner. When the glow died down, she produced three keys from her magic gloves.
“Here are the keys to the rooms. Two keys per room. If there is an emergency, please do not hesitate to ask us. Extra charges will be implemented if you ever lost the keys.”
Their allocated rooms were on the second floor of the building and next to each other. Nora will be living alone in her single room. As for the remaining double rooms, Alice and Irene will accommodate the first room, and Jayce and Aiden will live in the other.
It was almost lunch when they stored their clothing, items and a few maintenance items, but they decided to meet their client instead. When they exited the inn, Aiden heard whispers from the villagers.
“Did you hear about the attack at the village? I didn’t expect it was that serious.”
“Yeah. What did the gryphon riders do to it?”
“This didn’t happen for the past three generations now.”
“Yeah. What gives? The gryphon riders rarely have any issues such as this.”
So the gryphon riders have something to do with this?
“Aiden?” asked Irene as they moved out of the inn.
“It’s nothing,” he whispered so as not to be heard by Alice and the others.
Irene knew there wasn’t any point to cause any trouble here and nodded.
Their client was located at the Gryphon Rider’s main headquarter. They had many branches established across the country, and their network was solid. The gryphon riders’ main job was to deliver packages and letters to their recipients.
Speed was their motto. On top of that, they were the only group was able to form a bond with gryphons and elder gryphons. From what Alice had heard from Jayce and Nora, there was a long history where an adventurer saved an injured elder gryphon that held a grudge against adventurers for hunting their kind and that adventurer was the one who stopped the gryphon hunt.
That was the first pact created between that adventurer and the elder gryphon. Even the gryphon riders affirmed their stories as they were escorting them to the general meeting room. When they stood by the entrance of the available meeting room, they heard a noise coming from the room itself.
“Don’t take that route!”
A deep voice reverberated through the double doors, causing the doors to shake ever so slightly.
Alice gave a questioning expression toward the gryphon riders. The gryphon riders told them that this was normal. That said, they opened the door, welcoming them to enter the meeting room.
The room was ten metres by ten metres with a high ceiling. A long wide table, placed in the middle of the room, had maps and documents laid on top. However, there was a large crystal positioned at the far end of the table. The crystal gave a faint glow.
In response to the crystal, the man who seemed to be the leader of this facility nodded to it.
“Update me when you get there.”
After giving his command, he moved a piece to a specific location on the map and turned his gaze to Alice’s group.
“Welcome to the Gryphon Rider Headquarters. I’m Darius, leader of the gryphon riders. Now, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Despite the vulgar statement from earlier, his tone and choice of words were business-like. Darius looked around mid-twenties, around Lucius and Lysette’s age, from what Alice had gathered from the escorts. On top of that, he was the newly appointed leader of the gryphon riders.
With that in mind, they gathered around the long table, waiting for their client to give out the details of this quest. The leader of the gryphon riders gave the details, descriptions and abilities of the elder gryphon. He also placed a few pieces on the map before them, detailing where the elder gryphon had been through ever since it went berserk.
“Something doesn’t add up.”
Jayce activated his telepathy rune to communicate with Alice without glancing at her to avoid unnecessary attention.
“They were hiding something, right?”
Alice had the same thing in mind as well. Elder gryphons were majestic creatures, and they had formed a pact with adventurers. Her mind began racing, thinking back to the words presented by Darius. She didn’t detect any lies, so that means…
“Go for it,” suggested Jayce, keeping his eyes on the client. He had to read his body language and tone since he didn’t have the passive skill as Alice’s.
“What did the gryphon do to deserve this?”
Everyone’s eyes focused on Darius, waiting for his responses.
“I don’t know.”
Alice’s passive skills had confirmed their suspicion. But before she could give her response to his answer...
“You don’t know?” interjected Irene, her eyes narrowed at his answer.
It was natural for her to be that way. After all, her parents housed rare species that were on the brink of extinction. Throughout her childhood and Aiden’s, they learnt how to appreciate and love animals. They were the ones who took care of Irene and Aiden whenever they got lost in the forest.
“Irene…” said Aiden, telling her to hear him out first.
Jayce could sense the tension coming from the gryphon riders. Probably because of Irene’s cold gaze. All he could think of during that situation was It can’t be helped.
Darius cleared his throat and continued.
“It happened during our expedition at the ruins. The elder gryphon with us went out of control when it deciphered one of the hieroglyphs in ruins. The other elder gryphons wouldn’t attempt to decipher the rest of the hieroglyphs as they didn’t want to risk anyone going berserk.”
They all nodded to Darius, seemingly satisfied with all the details they needed for this quest. Adventurers must gather as much information as possible for everyone’s safety against monsters, traps, and resource management.
But before they could leave, there was one last question that came across Alice’s mind.
“Does the elder gryphon have a name?” asked Alice, thinking a creature that was respected by the gryphon riders, adventurers, and the villagers here should have a name at least.
“Her name is Aether. One of the very few elder gryphons who mastered illusion magic.”
“But why hunt Aether when Nora might be able to find an answer from the ruin to settle this problem?”
“Aether had caused enough damage to other villagers, and we don’t want her to make matters worse than it is.”
“I think we have reached the end of the discussion here. Thank you for your hospitality. Nora and my guild will have to prepare for the hunt.” Jayce stood up from his chair and gave a slight bow at their client.
Before Alice could speak, she could have sworn she saw his clenched fist as he walked out of the room. Nora, Irene and Aiden left the room one by one without a word. As she returned to the hallway, she could hear the leader of the gryphon riders muttered: “I’m sorry.”
“So what now?” asked Alice as they were on their way back to the inn.
“What are your thoughts about this?” He didn’t look at her in the eyes at all. He was memorizing the layouts of the gryphon rider headquarters.
Besides, this was the first time for the guild and himself to visit the gryphon riders’ HQ. They were one of the best scouting parties and delivery service providers in the country.
He wondered what bonds them and the gryphon riders together. Was it trust? A Pact? A common goal? None of these was written in the documents and books he had in his magic library.
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?”
“There are three plans I could think of. The first plan is to hunt down Aether before Nora finish deciphering the hieroglyphs. The second plan is to hold off Aether until Nora could finish deciphering the hieroglyphs and save it, but that would put our party in a more dangerous situation than the first plan. The third plan…”
“The third plan…?”
“We save Aether before Nora finish deciphering the hieroglyphs from the ruin.” Before she realized it, she had spoken out her third plan with everyone around her.
They could feel her determination and kindness from her words. She thought it wasn’t right to hunt down Aether because of this.
Hearing that, Jayce gave her a faint smile.
“That’s possible. I’m all ears.”
“Yeah! Let’s save Aether!” replied Irene with her fist up in the air.
Energetic as always.
Aiden silently nodded to her suggestion.
“It seems you guys have a plan in mind. Anyway, I will do whatever I can at the ruin tomorrow.”
Nora, Irene and the others were browsing the other stalls. While purchasing and eating their lunch as they went, they also restocked their supplies from travelling merchants they met and, if possible, gathering information about Aether’s activities.
After visiting their client, they went to the Food District for lunch. The food market was bustling with activities. Food stalls were set up according to cuisines and dietary, from vegetarian to poultries to desserts and weapons? No, those weren’t weapon stalls but rather stalls specifically selling kitchen knives.
“Th-that’s a kitchen knife?” asked Irene as she pointed the finger at a large two-handed broad knife with a length of a long sword.
Even Alice was dumbfounded by the size of it. She turned her head toward Jayce. “Is this even used in the kitchen?”
“Well… This type of knife was mainly used to cut wyvern or dragon meat. Sometimes they used it to crack wyvern eggs as well. Oh, they do use it as a weapon to hunt monsters and chopping trees as well.”
“That sounds useful…” Alice smiled wryly. She looked at the knives through the glass displays. Each blade had its unique shape, sizes and decorations of its handles. The merchant turned out to be the creator of these knives she was selling.
She looked around, thinking someone called her, but it seemed that wasn’t the case.
She heard that same voice again, clearer this time, and it came from the back of the knife stall. She then noticed barrels filled with swords on her right while stacks of small wooden containers on the left. Each small rigid container seemed to be created for storing a single kitchen knife.
“Do you have other knives beside the ones in the display?” asked Alice.
The merchant was startled by her question. Most of the knives she stored at the back were inferior to the ones in the glass display. “Yes, but they were not high quality compared to the ones you see here.”
“May I see them?” asked Alice with a bright smile.
Alice wasn’t sure which container, but she pointed at the general direction of the voice she had heard. The merchant shrugged and went to get a stack of containers Alice had meant.
“Seeing something interesting?” asked Jayce as he returned from a few food stalls.
Even though the Food District was crowded, Jayce seemed to catch up to others relatively quick. They wondered how he spotted them in this kind of environment without ascending to buildings for a better view. Alice could come up with the only answer in her mind that Jayce used his passive skill, Instinct.
Of course, Alice and Jayce promised not to reveal each other’s passive skills to anyone. She felt terrible for not telling Aiden and Irene about their passive skills, but they seemed not interested in knowing them. They mentioned along the line that they preferred to discover their passive skills through battles alone. So far, they hadn’t known them yet.
“Sort of,” said Alice, her eyes focused on Jayce then the foods he was holding. His right hand held a paper tray filled with meat and vegetable skewers. The other filled with tails?
“What is that?”
“This? It’s a basilisk tail. Here, have one. I bought these for everyone,” said Jayce before he offered her takeout.
People and adventurers didn’t just rely on agriculture as a source of food. Monsters were considered food so long as they knew the proper procedure to ensure they were safe to consume. In this case, basilisk creatures were one of the poisonous serpent family. The chef or the butcher had to remove the poison sac, skin, dry, and extract any poisons that may linger in their body system.
Alice knew Jayce wouldn’t offer something that would take someone’s life, so she took a basilisk tail and popped it into her mouth. To her surprise, the entire tail melted instantly, and explosive flavours ran amok in her palette. The tail’s texture was extremely soft, and it tasted sweet, savoury, and a hint of spices complemented each other well.
“Th-this is delicious.”
“Poison-type creatures were the main delicacy in this village. Their main suppliers were from the Gryphon Riders,” said Jayce after he took a bite of a basilisk tail as well.
“The Gryphon Riders provide these?”
In response to Alice’s question, Jayce nodded.
“All right. Here are the knives you asked for,” said the saleslady as she placed the opened knife containers above the display.
Alice and Jayce turned their attention to the saleswoman. Each knife had unique handles and decorations, but the quality wasn’t on par with the ones in the display.
Alice kept her ears open, thinking the voice she heard earlier was still there.
Finally, she found the source of the voice. As if the voice called upon her, she took the knife and examined it. It was designed to be a double-edged dagger made from a clear transparent crystal. Its handle was also designed to allow users to wield it through a forehand and backhand manner comfortably.
“Is this what you were looking for?” asked the saleswoman.
“Yes. I would like to purchase this one.”
Alice returned the knife in hand to the saleswoman, and she stored the knife back in the container and wrapped them with a decorated cloth and put it into a paper bag. Once that was done, Alice paid the said amount to the saleswoman.
The saleswoman thanked Alice for the purchase and bid her farewell.
With that, they walked toward where Aiden and Irene were.
“So, what makes you want to buy that knife?” asked Jayce while keeping his eyes on their surroundings.
“I heard a voice from this knife,” said Alice with telepathic runes activated from her necklace. While doing so, she moved her lips as if she spoke to him in a low voice and different context, using the surrounding noise to mask her voice and her intended choice of words.
“Is it similar to the one you had during our first training with Irene and Aiden at the Academy?” Jayce similarly responded to Alice.
“Yes. But this is different. The voice came from a physical object rather than something that didn't exist.”
“I have heard that only a handful of adventurers could hear the voices of objects such as weapons, armours, ingredients, and even potions.”
“So that means…”
“You can hear the voice of the weapons, but involuntarily for now.”
Alice was about to gasp at the information he had presented to her, but she held it back, thinking the others might hear them.
“What about you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Can you hear them as well?”
“No. Maybe it was because of the limitation of my magic circuitry, but who knows? Maybe I just don’t have that talent, to begin with.”
“Hey! You guys should try these foods! They taste so good!”
“Yeah! We should find some seats to eat!”
Aiden and Irene called them from the open table they had found. There were dishes placed on the table. Nora was nowhere to be seen, so she must have something else to do. Thus, they had their lunch at Icarus Village’s Forest Theme Food District.
After taking their lunch, they took a tour around Icarus village. They visited potion shops, magic shops, weapon shops, and travelling merchants. Alice bought a few ingredients to replenish her potions and antidotes. Jayce restocked their food supplies from travelling merchants and food stalls. Aiden purchased a few poisons from the potion shops, probably trying to experiment with a new concoction.
As they were browsing around the weapon shop Irene had picked, Jayce asked the manager regarding Aether. Of course, the manager had her apprentice look after the shop. Alice and Aiden took a seat by the coffee table, probably meant to discuss the manager and customers for custom-made weapons or armours. Irene was browsing the bow section, testing out the bows’ ergonomic and their strings.
They understood Irene’s intention. She was, after all, learning the designs and string quality from all kinds of bows so that she could create and complete her bows that were stored in her magic gloves and her apartment. Jayce did offer her assistance to meet her projections, but she declined. Every bow she had used were made by herself. Except for the bow she lent to Alice that day as her parents gave that as a gift.
So far, the bows she had created weren’t even as close as the ones gifted by her parents. She felt frustrated at first, but Aiden and her parents told her that it takes time to master it. During their time at the academy, she tried to find ways to improve her bows by changing their shapes, materials and strings.
“Do you require my assistance, madam?” said the shopkeeper.
“Do you have other bows aside from the display?”
“Certainly. Right, this way.” The shopkeeper gestured for her to wait by the counter. She went to the storeroom and returned with three sets of cloth-wrapped bows in her hands, placing them on the counter between them.
Once she unwrapped them, Irene began examining the bows one by one. The bows were surprisingly heavier than the ones she had at her disposal, but the string’s tension felt just right for her.
“Where did you get this?” she asked.
“These bows were originally custom-made orders by our customers who had to pay the deposits but never came back for almost a year or two.” The manager answered.
“And you’re selling them now?” asked Irene.
“Yes. We explained to them our policies before they made their deposits.”
Hearing that, Jayce turned his gaze toward Alice. She shook her head in response, and he took no action against the store’s manager.
“I see. They do feel comfortable to use, and the strings’ quality is pristine.”
Before the apprentice could respond, Irene continued.
“I won’t be buying them.” She laid down the bow onto the counter. “Thank you for showing me the bows, and thank you for your service.”
Even if the customers didn’t purchase their goods, the manager and his apprentice gave a slight bow to her. They didn’t feel disappointed at all. This was normal for any job.