The soldier was greatly surprised and raised his voice without realizing it. A sly smile appeared on Jody’s face, and he responded with a good-natured voice.
“He is a warrior of the Ancona Orcs, the blood allies of the Pendragon Duchy. I am sure you must have heard of them before…”
The soldier nodded with a somewhat relieved look on his face. There was no chance he did not know about the Ancona Orcs. They had risen to fame alongside the Pendragon Duchy since about a year ago. In particular, the orc known as the “Red God of War” was quite famous even in the mainland. Apparently he had absolutely crushed an island orc in Leus in the past and performed miraculous feats in the war against the traitors in the South.
“So, could we go in?”
“Huh? Ah, yes. Of course.”
The soldier nodded several times, then stepped out of the way.
“Keep up the good work. Come on, let’s go.”
At Jody’s words, three people standing behind him entered through the gate.
The orc warrior grinned as he passed by the soldier, and the soldier flinched involuntarily before taking several steps back. After the group disappeared out of sight, the soldier gave a long sigh.
“Phew, what a massive creature… Anyhow, there have been so many things happening recently. Starting with the divine punishment and…”
The soldier smacked his lips as he recalled the mysterious phenomenon known as the divine punishment. It had affected several of the nearby villages not too long ago, as well as the gate. In addition, he had just seen an orc for the first time since he started his guard duty. He could not help but become anxious.
“I hope nothing unexpected happens in the future… Ptooey!”
The soldier mumbled in a quiet voice before spitting out phlegm on the ground as if to discard any bad luck. Then he returned to his spot.
But his wish never came true.
“So where are we going now?”
One of the Red Moon Valley elves accompanying Jody asked.
“We will soon be arriving in the largest town in the vicinity. Apparently, there was an accident on the mountain path near here, so we should be able to pick up some rumors.”
The elf warrior nodded before gazing at Jody’s back with a renewed expression. The man named Jody was certainly competent and reliable. It had been four days since they arrived in the nearby lands. First, they travelled to the Great Territory of Seyrod on the back of griffons, then continued on horseback.
It would have been very difficult if only the elves had set off by themselves, just as Killian mentioned. They had encountered quite a few problems, but fortunately, the group was able to arrive in this place without much trouble and as quickly as possible. If Jody had been absent, the group would have suffered for a few more days.
“If we go there, can we hear about Eltuan?”
Karuta asked in a dry voice, and Jody frowned before nodding.
“Most likely. As far as I know, there have not been any bandit attacks in this area for quite a few years. That means, if there were any attacks such as the one Miss Reiner experienced, where travellers were attacked by an organized group, the story would quickly spread.”
“Keurek! That is good…”
A chill ran down Jody’s back when he saw Karuta’s smile. Cold sweats accompanied as well.
Karuta had been well-behaved on his way here. He was indifferent to the reactions of the people after they found out he was an orc, and even when soldiers and mercenaries pulled out their weapons in shock, he simply grinned at them.
Karuta was known to be hot-headed and battle-loving in the Pendragon Duchy. If he proclaimed himself second, no one would dare call themselves first. So why had he been acting in such a way? Jody knew very well.
Karuta was currently fully occupied with the whereabouts of Eltuan and the perpetrators. He would be busily devising ways to painfully kill those who dared harm his friend. As such, he was indifferent and merciful toward small(?) incidents.
But now they had arrived at their destination.
It was natural that his suppressed killing intent would erupt again.
‘I do not know who they are, but they better be praying that they don’t get caught. Not even a bone will be left when Karuta’s done with them.’
Jody shook his head, rather relieved that he wasn’t the recipient of Karuta’s fury.
“Ah, there it is.”
After a while, the group saw a fairly large village. The village was located along a small river, and it was spread out in a circular shape, centering on the spire of a small temple. The group began walking down a hill towards the village.
The village was surrounded by low walls. After identifying themselves to the guards, who were guarding the entrance of the village, the group asked around for the biggest pub before making their way towards it.
They had not stopped by any villages on their way here, so they were worried about how people would react to Karuta, but fortunately, the pub was located near the gate.
The pub housed quite a few customers even though it was daytime.
Most of the guests were mercenaries. As such, they were briefly startled by the fact that one of the hooded figures was an orc, but they weren’t too surprised. However, it was obvious that a commotion would break out if the identity of the Red Moon Valley elves was revealed, so Jody made sure the elves kept their hoods.
After settling down at a table, the group ordered food and drinks. Then, Jody stood up and passed the mercenaries who were stealing glances at Karuta before heading to a long bar where the owner of the pub was located.
“How do you do?”
“Nice to meet you. How can I help you?”
The owner nodded curtly.
Most of the customers who greeted him in such a fashion were mercenaries looking for information. The owner was quite familiar with the process.
“I was wondering if there were any stories of bandits appearing in the nearby areas after or before the recent heavy rain.”
“Hmm, I did not hear anything like that.”
He immediately shook his head.
Jody slightly narrowed his eyes, then asked once more.
“Then, have any merchants or residents been attacked recently in the mountains nearby? Or perhaps new mercenaries stayed in the town for a few days? Please tell me anything that might have appeared strange to you.”
“There were a few newcomers, but none of them were like what you are looking for. There have not been any strange events except the divine punishment. Two seniors in the neighbourhood crossed the bridge because of it.”
The owner’s response was blunt.
Well, it made sense considering that a few of his neighbors had died.
“Well… What a shame.”
Jody was an old hand with plenty of experience. He expressed his shame while shaking his head, and the owner’s expression loosened slightly. The pub owner continued.
“I do not know if this is what you want to hear, but I did hear something strange recently, something unrelated to bandits or the divine punishment. Moreover, it’s the first time I heard such a thing in my 30 years of business.”
“Hooh? What is it?”
“There is a small town called Creamville about a half-day distance from here. Perhaps about fifty residents? Anyways, there is a farmer named Marlow, who said he picked up a girl on the streets a while ago.”
Jody was a little disappointed. It did not appear to be relevant information. Then, the owner spoke with a slight grin, as if he had anticipated Jody’s reaction.
“But here’s the catch. Apparently, she is no ordinary woman. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but she is an elf. Moreover, she’s a little different from the Niels Elve….”
Jody suddenly hit the table and jumped to his feet. The pub owner became surprised and took a step back.
“W, what? What’s wrong?”
“Is that really true? When did you hear about that?”
Jody leaned sharply into the bar with an alarmed expression.
“I, it really is true. A young shepherd from Creamville comes to our village on the market day. He told me the story. It just so happens that he is right over there…”
The owner stammered while pointing towards a table. Turning his head like lightning, Jody quickly rushed over to the table. Then he roughly shook the shoulders of the man who was collapsed on the table. It appeared he was drunk even though it was midday.
“Hey! Wake up! Hey!”
“Oh, god! What the f… What is it?”
The young man gave a long burp reeking of alcohol, then pulled himself up. Judging from the young man’s appearance and smell, it was obvious he was very drunk. Jody spoke quickly while grabbing the man’s shoulders.
“You are from Creamville, aren’t you? Is there an elf there?”
“An elllfff? What are you talking about? Hiccup!”
“I just heard it. You said a farmer brought an elf to Creamville not too long ago, right?”
“Ah, that… Ah, man…. I’m a little thirsty… If you can buy me a drink then…”
“Oh, damn it!”
Jody clicked his tongue and turned his head to order a drink for the young man. But at that moment, the pub suddenly dimmed. In addition, the room, which had been filled with chatter and noise, suddenly became deathly quiet.
Jody realized that it was all due to a figure standing in front of him. Jody slowly looked up.
A brutal face was exposed as the figure took off his hood. His huge, sharp fangs reflected the glimmering light and flashed dangerously.
Jody murmured while trembling. Karuta gently pushed Jody to the side, then brought a steel rod down on the table.
It appeared he had controlled his strength. The steel rod became embedded into the table without fully tearing it apart.
While breathing out steam from his nose, Karuta pushed his hideous face towards the young man.
“Do you want me to buy you a drink? Hmm? How about a farewell drink on the way to the underworld?”
The young man sat unmoving like a statue, hiccupping without stopping. However, his hiccups were of a different nature than the ones before - It was evident from the yellow liquid that flowed from his groin and soaked the floor.
“O, o, over there.”
“All right. But don’t get too close to me, please.”
Jody frowned at the young man who was pointing towards a direction from behind the saddle.
“Oh, sorry. I’m sorry.”
Nevertheless, the young man tightly held onto Jody’s shoulders. He was stuck to Jody like glue. Moreover, he kept his eyes fixed on a single place while shaking non-stop like a man with epilepsy. He never looked back or to the side.
‘Phew. I would have reacted similarly as well.’
Jody turned the horse while deeply sighing on the inside.
“Hey, scarecrow. If you point us in the wrong direction, you will get your drink. A farewell drink, okay?”
The young man tightened his grip on Jody’s shoulder and pushed himself closer as if Jody were his lover.
He was currently seated behind Jody, and Karuta was running right next to them.
‘It’s hard enough to navigate the horse, so stop scaring the poor kid. Heung…’
Jody felt rather irritated, but he dared not express it.
At the pub a few hours ago.
Karuta grabbed the young man by his collar and half-forced him onto Jody’s horse - all the while the poor fellow wet his pants. He had been completely sober since then.
In addition, Karuta stuck close to the horse as they traveled and constantly brought up the topic of a farewell drink, and even expressed his Orc Fear a few times. It was a miracle that the young man had not fainted.
But Jody could not complain because he knew Karuta was acting this way because of Eltuan. The two accompanying elven warriors also appreciated Karuta’s actions.
“W, we are here! That’s Creamville!”
They spotted a small village at the foot of a mountain as the sun slowly disappeared. The group rode their horses the wooden gate that guarded the dozens of small houses without rest.
“Who is it?”
A man guarding the entrance shouted in a frightened voice. Even though it was a small town, they had all the necessities of a village.
“Mister Marvin! I, it’s me! It’s Zen!”
The young man stuck out his face from behind Jody, then shouted in a tearful voice.
“Z, Zen? What are you… Uahhh!”
The man recoiled with surprise. A figure who was even taller than the horse had suddenly strode to the front of the wooden gate. As the giant took off his hood, the guard fell backwards.
“Hey , scarecrow, there’s an elf here, right?”
Perhaps it was a Creamville tradition - the groin of the man facing Karuta had dampened.