Divine beast – Part 1

Karin waited for another call after the previous one was cut, but the magic tool didn’t ring again.

“What was Mirta trying to say?”

“Who knows, I can’t tell what’s going on anyway.”

Elsa moved in the hot water with a soft splashing sound following her, then let out a sigh.
They were at Renunt’s hot springs, finally able to relax after three long days of exhaustion.
Karin had already entered in the water and was the first one to express her thoughts.

“Mmmh~! This is my first time at the hot springs and I must say I didn’t expect it could feel this good.”

“Ugh… it’s hot. Like, hotter than any other resort I’ve been in.”

“This water runs below the Meld mountains, so probably its magnetic field melts the crazy magic power in the water. Elsa, as a human you should feel the effects.”

Kunon wore a bitter expression.
She was reluctant to take a bath, but Karin had forced her for the umpteenth time to. Hearing the elf’s comment, she mouthed her concern, but Elsa easily shrugged them off.

“Wait, are we going to be okay…?”

“I don’t think the magnetic field would still be toxic after flowing all that way, no? If anything, having our magic power stirred like this instead of leaving it stagnate somewhere in our bodies will do us good.”

The water was rather hot indeed, but none of them felt bad in the slightest. Probably that’s exactly why the villagers made good use of their hot springs.
Karin was staring at Kunon as if to yell a silent order and the Hound looked about to cry while entering the water.

“Okay, but… there was no need to bring us with you, Captain…”

“I’d feel in danger with the dumb and the idiot alone.”

They could hear Aigle, Lewin and Sigurd laughing from the other side of the fence dividing them.
The couple of idiots took the chance to tag along with Sigurd, since he said he was going to the hot springs, and Kunon followed them to avoid the worst, but…

“Waaah! Mah daiiilll! Mah vluvvy ‘n glozzy daiiilll!”

…she was currently bawling in the bath, her face painted with despair. The tail she was so proud of was now reduced to a skinny lump of wet fur.

“Take a bath once in a while, wolf girl.”

“Captaaain! I wanna get ooout!”

“You’re here to protect me. This is your reward.”

All the villagers eyed them badly all the way to the hot springs. Reached their destination, Elsa stated her name to the staff, and they allowed letting the woman drag her two female bodyguards in with her.

“Don’t look… Don’t look at my tail… it looks like a weedy thingy…”

“That’s how everyone’s wet tail looks like, doesn’t it?”

“You don’t understand, Captain! Us Wolfkins are extremely proud of the fur of our tail! And the more glossy, big and fluffy it is, the prouder we are! Now guess how we feel when our tail looks like THIS!”

“You know that you can’t avoid that when you take a bath, right?”

“Yes, Elsa, she knows, but she complains anyway. She hardly baths at all to keep her tail look great at any time. I have to force her all the time.”

“Who cares about taking stupid baths! I can wipe myself clean with wet towels, can’t I?!”

Elsa felt like Kunon was about to reach her boiling point, so she gently placed her hand on the weeping demi-human’s shoulder.

“Okay, I got it. Stop snapping over nothing, I’ll dry it up for you. I’m starting to feel somewhat… let’s say sad, or defeated, yes.”

“Captain…! Do you have a tail too?!”

“I don’t, I’m human. It’s that… you know, there’s something floating on the water surface that’s slowly crushing my ego.”

“Aaand… why are you looking at me, Elsa?”

The woman was staring specifically at one part of Karin’s body, the curviest and heaviest-looking one.

“I can hear your body saying ‘man, my shoulders feel so light now~!’”

“That never even crossed my mind. Also, having them big is a huge hassle when I have to shoot lying on the ground.”

“But I recall your huge grin when Takumi said he liked them bigger better…! NOOO! PLEASE, DON’T DRAG MY TAIL UNDER WATER! IT’S GONNA BE ALL WRINKLY AND UGLYYY! WWWHHHYYY!”

“Mind your damn tail and stop spitting dumb stuff, dammit…!”

“Look at you having fun.”

Elsa sighed with a wry smile on her face. She got out of the water and walked on the stony ground, then sat on a small stool and grabbed a little bar of soap.
Kunon followed her crying and sat facing the woman with her back, waiting for her to keep her promise.
The captain of the guards started to scrub the wolf-girl’s tail and, thinking about something that was bothering her, spoke.

“By the way… do you understand how the monsters are acting?”

Karin showed her the magic tool she was holding in hand.

“There are fifty minor monsters, all of them are drakonids. They are slightly more than last year’s, and we’d be done with them with a simple expedition…”

“But that’s impossible because their behavior is stranger than usual, right?”

“Exactly. I thought they crossed the mountain in search of food, but none was baited by the traps we left around. They also ignored any hostile action from our side and just fled.”

Monsters are at the top of the food-chain in nature, so they’re extremely aggressive. They normally wouldn’t falter or escape in front of humans or demi-humans.
The drakonids the intelligence team monitored should’ve been no exception. They should’ve attacked humans or cattle, but there were no carcasses or chewed remains anywhere around Renunt village, and none of the near villages was very damaged by monsters either.
After Karin’s explanation, Elsa voiced her thoughts.

“What if the monsters are running away from Sigurd?”

“What do you mean?”

“He hunts monsters, right? Maybe they can smell the blood of a monster-slayer and keep their distance. Monsters aren’t just wild animals, they have some brain in their head.”

“I see… yes, maybe they keep their distance because they smell that.”

“I’m not the only one thinking that, anyway. I heard some strange rumors about him in the village, and I can’t say I fully disagree with them.”

“Rumors…?”

Karin tilted her head while Elsa faced her.

“Somewhat… Sigurd always appears where there are monsters. After he hunts, monsters tend to run away easily… it’s like they disappear, and then new monsters move in because the turf is free.”

Elsa talked half-jokingly, but Karin fell in deep thought while listening.
Then, the elf wore a bitter expression, almost as if she remembered something terrible.

“Elsa… do you know how intelligent monsters can be?”

“I don’t know, honestly… at least a bit more than animals, maybe?”

“I think you’re right if we talk about minor monsters. However middle class monsters match human’s intelligence, while major monsters are way more intelligent than any of us.”

Divine beasts could use magic, that was a mere proof of their intelligence.
Monsters and humans were alike when it came to magic: both could use it, but they needed law formulas.
The only difference was that humans had to figure them out and write them down, unlike monsters that simply grasped their existence and used them.

“We must have everyone retreat and regroup, then get ready for an all-out-war.”

Karin got out of the bath, letting the water fall down her curvy body and splashing on the ground. She shook some more off her and readied the magic tool.

“W-Wait, Karin, what’s up with you?!”

“Monsters are coming our way, Elsa, so we must be ready to face them. I know you tagged along only as our guarantor, but we need you to take part in this fight too.”

“I see… He had mentioned something like this, but I didn’t expect him to be right.”

Kunon commented vaguely while violently shaking the water off her tail, wetting Elsa who stared at them puzzled.

“Can you explain me what is going on here?!”

“What part did you not get, Elsa? It’s just like we thought before coming here.”

Karin quickly dried herself up then got dressed.

“If someone knew you killed their family and friends, they’d naturally resent you to death. If that feeling is a mere matter of intelligence, I bet monsters can feel it as well.”

The next moment, the magic tool started speaking.

“S-Scout team heeere! We’re retreating! We got sight of monsters in Meld mountains’ gooorge!”

“Chloris, think less about running and more about reporting proper information. How many are them?”

“I-I can see about three hundred minor drakonids and fifty middle-class monsteeers! There’s also a very strong smeeell, but I can’t figure what it is because there’re just too manyyy!”

Karin was looking at the top of Meld mountain range while listening.
She noticed that… the summit was eerily lit.
It was like red mist was lightning the mountain up, slightly blazing the night.
The next moment, the mountain surface became scarlet like blood, and looked as if it was dripping down.
Karin followed the streams upward with her eyes, up to the sky, where he saw a huge skeletal dragon head clad in flames.
There were no flesh or muscles on it, only silvery bones.
She squinted her eyes and noticed that the monster’s whole body was skeletal, and the flames at its feet were slowly melting the mountain, which was streaming down.
There was a blueish light filling its hollow eye sockets, which was the only real proof of its “life”.
It was way too insanely big to be a living thing, but there was no doubt that dreadful thing was alive.
The monster breathed flames from its nose, lighting up the night sky it was looking up to, then his dreary gaze met Karin’s… and she vividly heard a sound.
The rumbling and rattling sound of its deep laughter.


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