The fire dragon’s ecology and the subjugation plan
The relationship between Timis, Lia and McKinley wasn’t anything special.
Lia was hired as Timis’s guard three years before, and McKinley was chosen for this expedition from Lia’s former mercenary guild.
A mercenary guild was different from an adventurer guild, starting from their role in case war broke out. Although the country rarely requested cooperation from the adventurers, mercenaries would be sent out on any battlefield if it was profitable.
A mercenary guild would accept any request as long as an adequate sum of money was paid.
That was one of the reasons they couldn’t bring requests to adventurer guilds.
Since these two guilds were clearly different, asking them to work on a single request was inconceivable.
After Timis finished to give information about her party, Verlaine started explaining the plan.
“First, I want to confirm how knowledgeable you are about the ecology of fire dragons.”
“Isn’t it obvious that we don’t know any of that? They are monsters that live in the volcanic region, so even observing them would be dangerous.”
Replied Timis, and exactly as she said, they were completely clueless.
They could have simply recruited a team of A-rank, or even higher ranked adventurers and tried to slay the dragon by brute force.
But even in that case, they would’ve been burned to death by the dragon’s flames.
We had to prove to Timis and her guards that a plan was necessary.
Verlaine pulled out a book from under the counter, and let Timis read its cover.
“…‘Dragon slaying for dummies’…?”
“Gh… Are you mocking Lady Timis?! This stupid book won’t help us!”
Lia jumped to her feet and immediately closed the distance to Verlaine’s face.
Her temper was worse than expected, but the Demon Lord endured her fiery gaze without problems.
“The author of this book… Duke Solver is the most knowledgeable person about fire dragons in the entire kingdom. Following this guide will allow even a few B-rank adventurers to slay a monster that strong.”
“Duke Solver…? Never heard of him.”
“If you speak the truth, then the author… this Duke Solver would be widely known. Also, that book would be sold everywhere.”
Lia opposed Verlaine firmly.
Still, even if they searched for that book or its author outside the guild, they wouldn’t find a clue.
I should’ve been more original and wrote a different alias.
Keeping my cool was becoming a hard task. Each time I heard that name, my drink risked going down the wrong way.
“Does this guy have the power to slay a dragon himself?”
McKinley opened his mouth for the first time. Since he was so taciturn, I thought that his speech pattern would be pretty stern, instead, he talked like a normal young man.
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
“If that’s the case, I’d like to hire him… but I guess it would be pointless if Lady wants to earn merits.”
“McKinley, it’s ‘my Lady.’ How many times do I have to tell you before you understand.”
“Oh, right, my Lady. I apologize for my bad manners.”
Lia was way too serious, and McKinley was a relaxed guy.
He finally took off his hood.His hair was grey and black, and he looked like a full-fledged man.
Timis took out of his pocket a ribbon and held it with her lips as she gathered her hair in an updo. She then took the book and opened it.
Given her solemn expression, I guessed that tying her hair like that was her charm before getting serious about something.
Her hands were trembling as she kept flipping the pages.
“How could… How could he gather so many information…?”
Timis let Lia, who was now back to her seat, look at the pages as she flipped through the book. They were both shocked.
“…A fire dragon drinks three times every day at the same time and drinks only underground water with lots of minerals dissolved in it. Since a dragon’s scales are like its skin, it needs to replace them frequently, so we can guess that minerals are essential for the scales growth…”
Lia was so impressed that she couldn’t help but read that aloud. McKinley was too.
“This Duke Solver is amazing… who on earth is he. He observed everything about fire dragons, analyzing even what is unneeded for a team of adventurers to slay one, and gave also hints about it. Did this unheard-of guy write this book for your guild…?”
Their opinion about Duke Solver was soaring. It would have been a pain if they considered the book just a pile of garbage, but things seemed to go well so far.
“Do you understand now? Knowing the habits of your enemy makes you choose the perfect place to start your fight, knowing its exact position at the hour you want to strike helps you pay more attention to the environment and knowing its attack patterns is essential for battle… Being unaware of these things makes your chance of winning drastically low.”
“…Honestly, I haven’t thought about any of this. Is this guild specialized in slaying dragons? Or are you simply interested in big monsters…?”
“No, we are not. We simply want to fulfill our client’s requests. Let’s say that we have this book out of sheer luck.”
The truth is that if we hadn’t slain the dragon that attacked the forest two years before, I would have never written that book.
At that time, my guild had only four B-rank adventurers, and even if my method was a little reckless, they managed to win.
I already confirmed that we could use the same strategy again.
The time when this dragon drank was different, and the forest’s topography somewhat changed, but it was all reported, making it the perfect guidebook for this occasion.
Still, Timis’s coming back unscathed wasn’t certain. She needed to raise her poor score… and become a B-rank adventurer.
“Bartender, bring the Lady some of the best milk. Oh, and I want a refill.”
“Coming right away.”
The best milk was a step above what Manarina drank.
It was behemoth milk. Thanks to the behemoth’s tremendous vitality, my Support Magic reached its peak when infused in its milk. If I hadn’t used that, she would’ve never become strong enough.
“…Milk? I’d prefer some drink…”
“My Lady, it would be better if you don’t think about drinking. Let’s focus on the request for now.”
“Lemme offer something to you too. I don’t want to leave you two outside of this.”
I also ordered some rum blended with concealing pomegranate syrup for McKinley and some salamander kotsuzake1 for Lia.
When the glasses were placed in front of them, McKinley let out a whisper of admiration, while Lia was totally baffled. Timis, unlike her sister, looked at me and started laughing.
“Seriously, do I look this young for you? Not like age matters for knights.”
“Lady, you’re still too young for alcohol, but you’re free to eat some cookies along with the milk.”
“How rude. Although this is a bar, do you think you can overlook our ranks?”
“C’mon, where’s the problem. This place is trustworthy, and it’s not like it will serve you poisoned drinks. Not like I’d mind tasting them to ascertain it.”
“…We’re fine, thank you. I guess that this place works like this, so I just have to stick with your rude manners.”
Said Timis, and started drinking from her glass. This place didn’t really work like that, but the first step was to make her drink… because she was now almost two times stronger than before, even though I was the only one to know that. Being the vanguard’s shield is an enormous burden itself, and Timis was also the weakest of her party.
The cookies served for that purpose.
I made maple cookies using the roasted walnuts as paste.
The taste is considerably better compared to simple roasted walnuts.
“Cookies… It’s been a long time since I had some. Excuse me, but I’ll take one… Mmh~”
Watching her, I thought that she might be even more docile than expected, or maybe she was simply too young and the book’s information made her trust the guild completely. Trusting a stranger she had never seen before was a different matter, though.
“Delicious. Are these walnut cookies? I’ve never felt this taste before. They have such a strong flavor…”
“I’m glad they fit your taste, Miss.”
Verlaine smiled tenderly. Seeing that Timis took the initiative to consume both the food and the milk, her guards started to imitate her. McKinley looked slightly happier, and Lia’s stern expression softened the moment she brought the glass to her lips.
“Gh… The sweetness of this drink is warming my innards… This isn’t half bad.”
“This is dry, but tastes good.”
Werebeasts usually lived on alps where the temperature was rather low, so they asked dwarves for some of their strong liquor, and could also prepare strong drinks themselves. Maybe she didn’t have any problem drinking the salamander kotsuzake thanks to that. It was so strong that if I had a taste, it would have made my throat burning inside. She then chugged the rest down.
“Lia, I always tell you that if you drink like that… you will ruin your body.”
“I beg your pardon, my Lady. But this drink was better than expected.”
People who like alcohol should be welcomed to bars.
As long as they don’t exaggerate, I wouldn’t mind let them drink as much as they want.
Alcohol is good in places where requests could be accepted because it can help people being more relaxed and smoothed the negotiations.
In fact, Lia’s face was slightly red now, and the mood softened. I knew that her drink was quite strong, and evidently it kicked in equally fast.
“Anyway, we’re not here for drinking. Should we read that book to slay the dragon?”
“Yes, basically. But let me warn you about something. The method explained in there can be used only this time, because the forest environment changes every time.”
“I see. One try is all we need.”
And so, the negotiations were completed… forget it. I couldn’t let them go this way.
I wanted the dragon’s materials, so I didn’t want them to slay it.
“We have another condition. We don’t want you to kill the dragon, but we want you to try capturing it. The proof for Miss Timis’s success will be one of its scales. After the capture, leave everything to our guild.”
If they could do that, Timis would earn quite a lot of merits. Also, the knights didn’t really care about monsters’ materials… so they probably will accept the condition.
As expected, Timis nodded and Verlaine showed her the contract.
“I was thinking of fighting a fire dragon without knowing anything about it… I’m grateful to you for making me realize my ignorance. Lia is strong, but I still have a long way to go… I’m second to none among the knights of my same year, but my arrogance was going to kill me…”
“…I’d like to meet this Duke Solver. Only a warrior could write something so detailed.
I’m sure that he’s a master of martial arts.”
“The world is broad. Does Duke drop by every now and then?”
Verlaine froze for a brief instant… and without looking in my direction, she squinted her eyes framed by her long eyelashes, and replied with an elegant smile.
“Yes, he comes here quite often. He loves alcoholic beverages, but drinks only cheap ones.”
That said, their opinion about Duke Solver got even better.
It looked like this guy was being glorified within them, since he was so strong and humble.
But let me state this clearly: that guide contained only the basic knowledge and procedure outline for the task, so that alone wasn’t enough.
They had to know Belfon Forest too.
The ‘Plan to subjugate the fire dragon’ that ‘Duke Solver’ put together had to be carried out exactly as described.
1 Written like “骨酒” (bone booze). It’s usually made by lightly roasting fish bones to bring out oils and flavor, and then immersing them into warm sake. I wonder how could Dick roast salamander bones, but that’s fine.