Chapter 122 - Crossing the Wilderness (2)
The number of magicians and scholars who had sought to uncover the cause of the catastrophe far exceeded tens of thousands. It didn't fall under any theory of meteorology, and even Blundell had returned empty-handed back when he was a 7th Circle magician.
However, Gluttony replied in a casual tone, -You want to know the truth of the drought?
-I'm sorry, but I can't answer that question free of charge. If you want to hear it, I will take one of your rights to ask a question.
The reason was enough to require using one of his rights for a question and answer? It might not seem worth it. However, Theodore knew from his experience so far that the information itself was priceless. Even if the information seemed useless at present, it might unravel a knot someday, especially when it was involving something like the drought.
As he nodded without any hesitation, Gluttony opened its mouth and said, -...Hrmm, understood. Then I'll teach you what I remember.
If this place had been in the middle of the Austen Kingdom, they would've cut small ear holes in the wall with a knife in order to listen.
The Seven Sins grimoire, which contained such valuable information, was opening up. Gluttony was someone who recorded the secrets of the Age of Mythology, so he might not know about modern disasters.
However, Gluttony shocked Theo with a single sentence, -The sand dragon, Desertio who lives at the center of the Meuse Desert, is at the epicenter of the drought.
The strongest species, the dragons, were a transcendent species which remained in this world after the Age of Mythology ended. They were monsters who lived for close to an eternity and looked down on all other species.
Sometimes heroes called dragon slayers would kill them, but there were only a handful of such people in the history books. The dragons were born as the strongest and were a species which spread the power of life.
However, the cause of this drought was a dragon...?
Theo couldn't understand the response, and Gluttony continued as though it hadn't finished yet.
-Don't misunderstand. Desertio might not be causing the drought maliciously. The dragon, who has survived for nearly a million years, is already closer to a spirit than a creature. Therefore, he changes the environment around him.
"Indeed, he is a sand dragon."
-If Desertio was a red dragon, lava would flow from that area and a volcano would erupt every cycle. In a sense, desertification is still moderate in some ways. In other words, the sand dragon, Desertio, is just living. His lair is in the middle of the desert, and he is just waiting for the end of his life, without any malice toward the humans.
As the dragon is the strongest species in the material world, it will pay back the world's grace by returning its flesh to nature. Desertio's huge body will probably transform into grains of sand.
The grimoire ended its explanation here. On the other hand, Theodore's face distorted subtly. "What? So, the old dragon is waiting to die, and the Austen Kingdom is suffering from the aftermath?"
"That is too extreme!"
Theodore felt his head hurt at the unexpected answer. It wasn't a monster in the desert aiming for the end of humanity, but an old dragon waiting for his death? Furthermore, the other side had no idea. Humans were just so weak that they couldn't endure being around him.
Gluttony chuckled like it was sympathetic. -Yes, it is as you said. Too extreme. In the ancient times, the number of dragons was high, and this occurrence was more frequent. From the standpoint of the humans and other species, the dragons were too territorial.
"...It can't be."
-Yes, there was a war against the dragons.
It is also known as Dracomachia, the great war of that era, where some records still remain. Most of the species in the material world joined forces to hunt the dragons, who numbered around 1,000.
Even the dragons, the strongest in the world, couldn't endure against hundreds of thousands of enemies. Back then, it was an age where there were 9th Circle magicians in every country.
At the end of the devastating war, the dragons were slaughtered, leaving only a few survivors behind. The remnants of that mighty war still remain in this day and age.
Theodore's eyes shook as he suddenly found out one of the world's secrets.
The reason why the powerful dragons had almost been exterminated was so shocking that horror overwhelmed his curiosity. He now understood what Myrdal meant by 'a fact that you shouldn't know.'
As if it knew how he was feeling, Gluttony advised, -So, if you were wanting to solve the problem of the drought, quit now. A dragon is a species that becomes stronger in proportion to time. If you fight now, you won't even be able to last a second.
"I know that much. I understand that this is a story I can't afford to get involved in," Theodore answered as he turned away from the direction of the Austen Kingdom.
Theo hadn't backed down even when facing Pride, but his opponent was too big this time.
The greatest magician in the kingdom, Veronica, had killed a dragon who had only lived for 3,000 years. Nevertheless, she had complained that she had almost died many times. Theo couldn't guess just how strong was a dragon who had lived for nearly a million years.
Fortunately, the drought wouldn't last forever. According to Gluttony, the next drought would disappear if Desertio died in the next 300 years. Until then, it would be painful, and the kingdom would just have to be patient.
In a bittersweet mood, Theodore walked back the way he came.
* * *
"Theo, you came back!" Bear welcomed him as he returned to the camp.
It seemed like the preparations had finished in the meantime as white tents were fluttering on the desolate plains. There was a fence around the camp to stop things like snakes and scorpions from getting in.
Bear's words that he had crossed the Sipoto wilderness many times didn't seem to be a bluff.
"Yes, the wind was cool."
"Hahaha! It is an annoying place without any trees! It is hot like hell in the daytime, but it gets quite cool after the sun goes down."
Then Theodore made a curious sound. "...? If that is the case, shouldn't we move at night? The hot daytime will make the horses tired sooner."
"Oh, good point! If this was a typical desert or tropical region, that would be the case." Bear chuckled. "But on these plains, there are many creatures who like to move at night due to the reason you said. There are creatures like sand worms and desert ants. They only start their activities after the sand cools down."
"Aha, I see."
Indeed, it was the answer of an experienced merchant. Theo was convinced by the explanation and looked at the bound horses sleeping. The mobility of the party depended on the horses and carriages, so there wasn't enough power to defeat swarming creatures. If Theodore were to reveal his power, they would be able to move at night.
However, Theodore just sat down obediently at where he was directed.
'The meal... Smoked meat in a vegetable soup? Sounds good.'
It was easy to fill the stomach with just meat, but it would be hard to cope with the constant movements if they weren't getting the proper nutrients. Additionally, a tasteless meal would have a negative effect on the morale of the group as well as the mercenaries' strength. This was why top trading companies developed basic and high quality food which could be conserved.
Unfortunately, he only took a few bites before Theodore's spoon was forced to stop.
'...What is this ticklish feeling?'
There was an itching on the back of his neck. It was a feeling of discomfort similar to having a piece of grass brushing against it. Theo put down the bowl and gazed in the direction where his senses indicated to look.
The wilderness meant that nothing interrupted his view, but he couldn't find any uninvited guests in the landscape which stretched out before him.
Bear was surprised by his sudden movement and asked, "Theo? What is going on?"
Instead of replying, Theo's eyes shone gold as he used Hawkeye. It was a secondary magic that perfectly reproduced the eyesight of a hawk. In this state, Theodore could penetrate through the darkness of the night.
At the end of his extremely sensitive field of view, a faint dust cloud could be seen.
"-The enemy...!" He shouted as he noticed its identity.
Moonlight bounced off blades, and the dust was coming from the animals which people were riding on. They were the cause of the discomfort which tickled his neck, the warning from his sixth about the approaching enemies.
However, he intuitively understood why the warning was weak, and Theodore couldn't help laughing inwardly.
'The opponents are so weak that my senses almost didn't feel it.'
Come to think of it, so far, his opponents had been too strong. From the elder lich born from the power of a grimoire, and Pride who freely reproduced the traits of creatures, to the legend ranked grimoire Laevateinn, that burned the original world trees... His senses had screamed everyday, so he couldn't help wanting to laugh now.
Theo brushed the dust off his collar and looked around.
"R-Really? Enemies are coming!"
"Take your formations! Archers, hurry up and move back behind the barrier!"
"Put out the campfire!"
The reactions of the merchants and mercenaries weren't bad. They quickly turned off the lights and armed themselves in defense positions. It would be enough to repel the enemies approaching now as the mercenaries hired by the Polonell Company were all skilled.
However, Theodore couldn't expect optimistic results. This was because the power of the group was beyond what he thought.
There were 10 aura users, and the captain was almost at the master level. The swordsman felt similar to Rebecca, who Theo had once competed against. The mercenaries wouldn't be able to go against such a powerhouse.
'I don't know who they are, but it is tough because I can't reveal my identity.'
Theo's trademark move, Magic Bullet, was currently sealed. Any 5th Circle magic and the Ring of Muspelheim were also sealed. The only tools he had available in this situation were Mitra, magic of the 4th Circle or below, close combat, and artifacts. Umbra might be okay if he used it in a manner that wasn't obvious.
'...Okay, I will try it once.' He thought deeply and acted quickly.
Theodore poured magic power into the bracelet hanging from his wrist.
At that moment, the bracelet started to emit a resonant sound as unknown characters emerged. The bracelet made by the Yellow Tower Master had been crafted with unknown materials and designed to be used for Kurt's self-defense.
The high-level magic contained in the bracelet soon produced warriors in the air from Theo's magic.
It was armor. From small gaps in the armour to the boots and helmet, they looked like fully armed invisible knights. The six suits of armour stepped into the wilderness.
The name of the magic recorded on the bracelet was 'Living Armor.' Depending on the capabilities of the creator, they might be weaker than farmers or stronger than elite knights... and the one who designed these living armours was the Yellow Tower Master.
"Protect the company. This command should be kept until all enemies within a one kilometer radius have disappeared."
[Yes, my master.]
Theo calmed down the confusion of his companions at the emergence of the armor and looked at the approaching enemies. He didn't feel any tension. Neither was there a single trace of fear. Compared to the enemies he'd faced so far, these people were just stones on the roadside.
There was no chanting.
In the next moment, an intense fireball appeared above Theodore's head.