Chapter 60: Sage and Albert
Four people sat side-by-side at a table.
On the table were bacon sandwiches, mashed potato gratin, and a salad made with the breast meat of Dragon Chicken, a chicken the size of a brown bear, that I bought from the market butcher and seasoned with lemon dressing with onion added to it.
As well as hot milk with added honey that Ruti loved since she was young.
“Thank you for the treat.”
As expected, Ruti started with the honeyed milk.
Her eyes sparkled with just a sip and she drank about half in one go.
I inadvertently smiled from nostalgia as Ruti’s drinking style did not change from when she was young.
“Ah, this meat is from Dragon Chicken right? That’s rare.”
Said Lit as she ate the chicken meat salad.
Dragon Chicken meat have some slight difference in flavor but it is basically chicken meat so it was amazing how Lit could tell immediately.
Judging from the smile on her face, it seemed to suit her taste. That made me happy just a little.
“Apparently, it possessed the 『Beast』 Divine Protection which the ranch failed to detect during selection, escaped after going on a rampage, and they had to request for adventurers to subjugate it. Because of that, the butcher had a large quantity of unscheduled meat come in and sold them at a discounted price.”
Animals have a few different Divine Protections compared to Humans and Elves.
Although some of them might possess Divine Protections such as 『Warrior』, 『Sorcerer』 and 『Grappler』 like Humans, only 5% of the total animals possess such Divine Protections while the remaining 95% either possess 『Cattle』 or 『Beast』.
Those with the 『Cattle』 Divine Protection are highly cooperative and have a tendency to be gentle while those with the 『Beast』Divine Protection do not like to stay in herds and have a tendency to be aggressive.
Naturally, the animals that possess the Divine Protection of 『Cattle』 are more suitable as livestock. The reason why cows, pigs, horses, chickens, and goats are more suitable as livestock is that an overwhelming number of them are born with the Divine Protection of 『Cattle』instead of the Divine Protection of『Beast』.
It might be possible to slowly train even those with the Divine Protection of『Beast』if it was for the sake of taking them as pets but that was not feasible for commercial livestock.
The common practice for ranch owners was to determine if the livestock were 『Cattle』or 『Beast』while they were still young and to dispose of the 『Beast』at the early stages.
Some might question this practice but I do not have enough knowledge regarding livestock to meddle in it.
Take for example this incident. It might have been all right if all it did was break the fence but it also hurt the other livestock and humans so I think it might be better to put them down while they are still young after all.
After hearing that the chicken was disposed of because it was a 『Beast』, Ruti looked at the Dragon Chicken seriously before eating it.
I knew that Ruti wasn’t really talkative but Tise was the same as well.
Tise could speak when needed and will also convey her thoughts but for example, even though she mentioned that the dishes were delicious, she didn’t say a word after that and just ate in silence.
Judging from the movement of her eyes, she was paying plenty of attention to our words and attitudes but she didn’t seem to be the type to bring up small talk or filler topics.
As a type that will only speak when she had a clear purpose to, it felt to me that, to her, words were a tool to convey her own thoughts only when she had to.
In such a situation, the people who mainly spoke naturally ended up being me and Lit.
Currently, we were explaining how we had been spending our time in Zoltan.
Compared to when I flew back and forth as a Knight, went around town fighting the Demon Lord Army as the Hero’s companion, or resolving issues that crop up in towns, every day here was peaceful and Ruti listened with great interest.
“In essence, Lit and my daily life go like that.”
“Although there are occasionally times when Red is not around when he goes to harvest medicinal grass.”
Lit called me Red as usual.
We discussed last night on whether to call me Red or Gideon in front of Ruti and as we have been living in Zoltan as Red and Lit, we decided to stick to our usual way of calling each other Red and Lit.
“What is it?”
“The place you harvest medicinal grass, is it the mountain to the northwest?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
” … In that case, I know the location so I’ll harvest the medicinal grass.”
“I’m thankful for the offer but are you sure?”
“All right. Thank you, you can just help out when you’re not busy.”
We ate dinner with the four of us together again and although Ruti was expressionless as usual, she expressed that she was enjoying herself through her body actions.
“By the way.”
I said after it came to my mind.
“We have a bath here. Do you want to enter before returning to your inn?”
“Bath, yup, I’ll enter.”
There would be very little opportunities to enter a bath when on a journey.
As cleanliness is important, it was crucial to properly wash your body and wipe it but in most cases, it would be in the form of a water barrel and a towel. There would rarely be a chance to soak comfortably in a bathtub.
In my home village, we dragged a large old bell back and used it as a bath.
It was large as a bell but it was only large enough to fit small children.
The adults could only wash their bodies with the water but could not enter the bathtub.
The people from my home village believed that using the bath daily would make it harder to fall sick so the village foundry repaired an old church bell that was marked for disposal and donated it to serve as a bathtub for children who would fall sick more easily.
For that reason, Ruti and I entered the bath about once every three days when we were young.
“Bath, we entered together in the past.”
Ruti said nostalgically, perhaps she recalled the same memories.
The water in that bell bath was warmed directly by a flame.
Of course, that meant that the base was extremely hot so we were cautioned not to submerge to touch the base and to remain on top of a piece of the wooden grate that floated in the bath.
Usually, an adult needed to be present and the child’s parent will help to lift the child into the bath but in our case, both of us were capable of taking care of ourselves so from when Ruti was two years old, I carried Ruti to enter the bath together.
When Ruti held to me with her small arms to soak into the bath together, her expression melted into one of content from the warmth, the same child who our parents mentioned ‘won’t cry, won’t make any noise or won’t smile’.
That was so cute that we ended up soaking in the bath until the very last minute that was physically possible for us.
I believe … Ruti didn’t hate it too.
“Will we not enter together today too?”
It seemed that she didn’t hate it.
“No, well, naturally we can’t enter together now that we are at this age.”
Ruti looked like she was really disappointed. Yup, it should be all right for brother and sister to enter … or I guess not after all.
“Then, I want to enter with Lit-san.”
Lit who was seated comfortably on the chair raised her voice in surprised after hearing our conversation.
” … Hmm, yeah, okay. I also wanted to have a talk with Ruti.”
Lit said with a faint smile.
Ruti smiled ever so lightly and nodded.
It was true that Lit and Ruti had not had much chance to talk.
Lit was once beaten up by Ruti in the arena so she probably felt that Ruti was hard to deal with.
Ruti generally doesn’t speak much in the first place so they ended up not having many conversations.
This might certainly be a good opportunity.
“I see, then, I’ll prepare the hot water.”
Tise was the next one to voice out.
After fidgeting with both her hands,
“Can I enter together as well?”
It might be a little crowded with three people so in that case, maybe I’ll pour hot water into the small single-person bathtub that was next to it too.
“Then, I’ll get the water ready so take your time to relax.”
After I stood up and said that, for some reason, Tise closed her eyes and seemed as though she had resolved herself.
On the ocean. The rapid sailing ship Sylpheed. In the first-class room of that ship.
“Fu, fufu, I have no idea just what kind of mission are you trying to fulfill but it is impossible to subjugate the Demon Lord without the Sage Ares, Hero Ruti!”
Even though he was exhausted from using advanced magic for consecutive days, Ares spread his arms wide and shouted with glaring bloodshot eyes.
Theodora was applying Healing Magic to a pale-faced Albert.
Blood was scattered about on the floor at the base of Ares’ feet.
When Ares focused his concentration, the blood wriggled and drew some kind of a pattern, pointing to a certain direction.
“I was not wrong after all! Hero-sama is headed toward the Wall at the Ends of the World!”
“It will be troublesome if you plan to go to the Wall at the Ends of the World. Even if we detour around the Wall at the Ends of the World by sea, it will be a voyage without any resupply points. We would have to borrow a large caravel or even a military galleon along the way. It will become a journey that we have no way of chasing up to them without an airship.”
Theodora tossed in dispirited words.
Ares looked as though he didn’t intend to answer that as he laughed while looking at Albert’s splattered blood.
“The power from a contract with a Contract Demon still remains in this blood! A contract on the wish to reach where the Hero is! This blood has the power to point us toward Hero Ruti! As long as I can bring out that miracle! I can still chase after the Hero!”
“I don’t know.”
Theodora muttered as she looked at the screaming Ares with cold eyes.
Ares turned around and glared at Theodora.
“Hero-dono left us behind of her own will, what meaning is there in chasing after her like this?”
“My power, the power of the Sage Ares, is required to defeat the Demon Lord! I am only doing my best to save the world. What about you, why are you here? If there is no meaning in chasing, then you could just run away.”
“Because if it was only you, you would have killed this man Albert.”
Ares’ face distorted as he strode toward Theodora and grabbed her by the collar.
“I can use Healing Magic too! At a higher level than you can! Don’t forget that I am only entrusting it to you because you said you will do it!”
“You’re wrong, Ares.”
Theodora looked on with a sympathetic look.
That action annoyed Ares even further.
“Just having the skill to heal people is not enough. If you cannot empathize with the injured and heal the injury by knowing their pain, that act is not the act of healing a person.”
“Ha! Worthless! Meaningless! You wish to act superior over me with such ambiguous words?!”
Nothing said to Ares would get through at the moment. Theodora judged that was the case and shook her head side-to-side as she pushed away Ares’ hand that was grabbing on to her collar.
“You would do well to remember that you would have gone through a bitter experience if human lives were not at stake here … regardless, leave Albert’s treatment and healthcare to me. I will definitely keep him alive until you find Hero-dono.”
“I’ll be troubled if you try to curry favor with just that.”
“I am not currying favor of any sort. I am just doing what I should do as an unimportant member of the clergy as well as a companion of the world-saving Hero. We fight without being ordered by anybody, not for the sake of gaining favors or receiving thanks. We fight of our own will on the belief of saving the world. At the very least, that is the case for me.”
Ares glared at Theodora fiercely and roughly left the room as if indicating that he could no longer stay in the same room as her.
Theodora looked at the blood scattered on the floor and was about to leave to draw water to clean up as usual.
“I …… ”
Albert, who was asleep due to the loss of blood, woke up and uttered a soft mutter.
Theodora returned to Albert’s side.
“Have you regained consciousness?”
“Am I being useful to the Hero party?”
Albert looked at Theodora with sunken but pure eyes devoid of malice.
“I don’t know. But thanks to you, we are catching up to Hero-sama. No matter what happens after this, we will be able to choose an outcome on our own without leaving it to the decision of others. This could only be possible with you, Albert. Thank you.”
“Is that so …”
A gentle smile appeared on Albert’s lips.
Theodora did not know anything about Albert’s past.
However, she felt that Albert, with his condition of consuming his own vitality but still capable of smiling calmly, was a lot more befitting to be called a hero compared to them, who kicked Gideon out and had become scattered.
(I can’t let him die over something like this.)
Theodora strongly resolved herself.