SYS (Novel) Chapter 364

C364 - Trail (4)

On September 19, 1799, at the Toad Inn in the southwest of the Feudal State of the Empire, Kyken.

Valeria sat in the lobby with her hair dyed black, wearing light leather armor, and sipping on beer.

Her staff was propped against the wall, wrapped in cloth to look like a spear, giving her the appearance of a novice adventurer engrossed in her task.

She had been staring at a flyer hanging on the inn's wall for a while.

(Jin Runcandel said, "Beauty, that's your other name." Surrender to the stunning performance of the Peng Clan's makeup.)

Setting aside the embarrassing advertising slogan (though the Peng Clan's advertising slogan garnered significant attention), it was remarkable that even in a small town like this, there were flyers hanging around.

"Not many mercenaries would order a beer in broad daylight and stare at an advertising flyer with such a cold expression. I recommend changing things up a bit. Order lots of food, put a mercenary magazine in front of you, that would be nice."

Jin took a seat across from her, shrugging.

"Did you really say that?"

"That 'your other name' part? No way."

Even though Jin himself was right in front of the consecutive advertising flyers, no one recognized him.

Jin opened the menu and, naturally, called the innkeeper. He then proceeded to order a variety of dishes.

"Beef stew with lots of chili and onions, and ox intestine stew. Add plenty of pepper to the latter. And..."

Jin stopped when he saw Valeria's expression.

"I accidentally mentioned the dishes we used to eat often during our time together in our past lives. Since I got used to eating according to my master's preferences, my taste has changed a bit."

Fortunately, Valeria didn't react any differently.

"Well, the dishes available at any inn are common foods. There shouldn't be anything unusual."

But Valeria thought differently.

"Lots of chili, onions, and plenty of pepper. How can he be so accurate? It's not extremely unusual; some people eat like that from time to time."

Valeria's palate had been cultivated during her time with the Gray Owl Mercenaries. Thinking suddenly of them, Valeria wore a bitter smile.

"Oddly enough, sometimes... it feels like Jin Runcandel knows me well."

It had been a long time since Valeria ate these dishes with others, but she thought it wasn't a bad feeling. Not exactly great, just acceptable.

They ate to their heart's content while pretending to be the typical mercenary duo and discussed their future as freelancers.

"Good job, Aria Owlheart. Impressive, you managed to find the Cat Tribe in just three months."

As they left the inn and walked along the quiet path to Wantaramo, Jin began to speak.

"I haven't found them completely yet; as I wrote in the letter, I only found traces. They lead to the Wantaramo Forest."

Jin nodded.

Actually, I don't know if the Wantaramo Forest is an ordinary forest.

This time, I heard the name for the first time.

Just as Jin was about to say that, Valeria continued.

"Moreover, if the Cat Tribe hadn't intentionally left traces, I wouldn't have found even those. It's not me who's impressive; it's them."

"The Cat Tribe intentionally left traces?"

"Yes. They know I'm looking for them. I think they realized a month ago, and since then, they've been subtly sending messages, almost like posing riddles."

The Cat Tribe was leading Valeria to the Wantaramo Forest.

"If they could leave messages to pursuers, at least they weren't all wiped out..."

When she recalled the moment when she left them alone with the cave barrier in the third tomb and departed, even now, a part of her heart felt heavy as if it were laden with metal.

-The Cat Tribe's barrier is quite interesting. There are more troublesome things than you think.

The words that the Specter Corps had uttered when they broke through the Cat Tribe's barrier and entered the cave.

Even after hearing those words, Jin never asked the Specter Corps what they had done with the Cat Tribe.

Perhaps it was because he couldn't afford to reveal unnecessary weaknesses or engage in psychological warfare with them.

Later, when Berakt appeared and met other specters upon leaving the forest, Jin couldn't shake the fact that he hadn't asked the specters about the Cat Tribe.

"I was planning to contact you when I had the chance to meet them in person. But since it's the Wantaramo Forest, it was necessary to bring someone they knew. I thought they might have considered me a threat and decided to eliminate me."

"Eliminate you?" Jin asked, and Valeria smiled in satisfaction.

"Seriously, you don't know what the Wantaramo Forest is?"

"I don't."

"Then why did you pretend to know?"

"When did I...?"

"You just did."

"No, I was actually about to give an honest answer before. You just didn't give me a chance to speak."

Pfft.

Valeria let out a light chuckle.

"I was actually testing you. I was curious about the information-gathering ability of Runcandel's Flagbearers. It seems that information about the Wantaramo Forest isn't given to lower-ranked Flagbearers."

It wasn't that big a deal, but it felt like a blow to the back of his head.

"If you feel bad about it, then I apologize."

"It's okay. So, what is that forest anyway?"

"Although you don't know the Wantaramo Forest, you must have heard of the Royal Melodic Drink, right?"

"I've tried it before. My father gave it to me."

"Most people in the world probably think of you as the least favored younger son, but you were a very beloved child. And to think that even Cyron Runcandel granted you the Royal Melodic Drink. The Wantaramo Forest is the land where the Royal Melodic Drink is brewed."

It was then that Jin finally understood why, when Kashimir was young, the emperor and Vermont's associates negotiated with the Wantaramo Forest.

Royal Melodic Drink.

A special drink crafted for a special day, at a special moment, for a special person.

Only one race in the world could make the Royal Melodic Drink.

'Descendants of the Fairy Tribe...'

In the Wantaramo Forest lived the descendants of the Fairy Tribe.

Very few knew this fact.

Even most Dragons who had lived for thousands of years didn't know, let alone the Twelfth Flagbearer.

Literally at the pinnacle of the world or near it, those in power and their close associates, or those with the special ability to uncover the many secrets of the world, were the only ones who knew Wantaramo's true nature.

And those who knew Wantaramo were always cautious about approaching it.

The Wantaramo Forest was common property of the giant forces. If rumors about Wantaramo spread to unnecessary individuals and caused trouble in the forest, everyone would suffer the consequences together.

"Jin Runcandel."

"Yes?"

"Last time, when I took a look at your records, I learned that the Fairy Tribe has a close connection to my clan."

<Within Solderet's record device that Jin Runcandel confirmed, the ancient fairies had the duty to keep records>

<A thousand years ago, all the ancient fairies were faithful>

<They had a deep connection with humans bearing the name Histor>

During the investigation to restore the recording device and the search for the Cat Tribe, those phrases within the records had been Valeria's main focus.

"Also, you mentioned that you saw the Ancient Fairy in the third tomb using abilities similar to Histor's magical records."

"Yes, that's right."

"So, while I was searching for the Cat Tribe, I realized that the Royal Melodic Drink, crafted by the descendants of the Fairy Tribe, might also be a form of record. It's strange that I'm realizing this now."

"Are you implying there might be some connection between the Descendants of the Fairy Tribe and your clan?"

"Exactly."

"In that case, there's also the possibility that the Cat Tribe might have some knowledge of your true identity. That could explain why they intentionally led you to the Wantaramo Forest."

"That's the reason I called you. From what I know, the race known as Descendants of the Fairy Tribe deviates considerably from the universal image people have."

The Royal Melodic Drink is a beverage with the ability to convey stories.

By its own right, it's incredibly romantic, inspiring numerous poets to compose songs about the descendants of the Fairy Tribe.

As a result, when people hear "Descendants of the Fairy Tribe," they often conjure up images of small and adorable figures and, for some reason, enigmatic and beautiful forests.

Although their appearance and landscape quite fit the common imagination...

Their actual personalities don't.

"The Descendants of the Fairy Tribe are extremely exclusive and brutally harsh to outsiders. If an ignorant person stumbles upon the Wantaramo Forest and crosses paths with them, they will kill without hesitation."

"This is the first time I've heard of something like that."

"They don't just kill without pain. They play with their target like a toy and finish them off when they get bored."

Valeria's perspective was completely different from Jin's. She had no trust in the Cat Tribe at all.

So it wasn't unreasonable for her to believe that the Cat Tribe had intentionally left traces and lured her into the Wantaramo Forest with the intent to kill her.

"Maybe the Cat Tribe had a favorable impression of me and was trying to call me here by leaving traces, but they must have informed me that Wantaramo is a dangerous place. Well, even I would probably do something like that if a tracker suddenly started chasing me, so I don't really hold any ill feelings toward the Cat Tribe."

"If the descendants of the Fairy Tribe are really as cruel as you say, it might even be possible that the Cat Tribe sent out a distress signal."

"That possibility can't be ruled out."

When they reached the entrance to the Wantaramo Forest, it was nighttime.

Amidst the cold wind, the distant howls of beasts echoed, and the forest seemed to indicate its sparse human presence by not even having a path at the entrance.

Woo-ahh...!

When Valeria activated her recording magic, bright blue markings appeared on the ground.

<To allow pursuers to find, Lulu of the Cat Tribe left traces here.>

Such a phrase was written on a semi-transparent window that appeared before Valeria.

The blue markings were all footprints left by Lulu.

Following the glowing footprints, after about thirty minutes of venturing deep into the forest, the two could sense the landscape suddenly changing.

The nearby, densely clustered trees began to twist.

The forest moved as if it were a massive entity, and the trees clung to each other and unraveled, emitting a thunderous sound.

"..."

Jin's pupils dilated as he saw the inside of a twisted tree.

And then, he felt a surge of murderous intent.

It was because Lulu, covered in blood, was bound inside a tree.

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