――The morning to depart had arrived.
They used one day to rest, and it was two days after the prior arrangements and the information gathering.
Subaru and the others finished the preparations to cross the sand dunes at the Milra town’s entrance, and they were all gathered together with their respective equipment on. Subaru was the one to let out an admiring sigh at this time.
[Subaru: Wow, this is…….]
[Julius: The earth dragons to cross the sand dunes――the Gyras species is a species tolerant of the sandy soil. They’re a species adapted to sand wind and dryness. They’re big together, but they act calm. You’ll find about these endemic species’ nature with how easy they are to handle.]
Subaru looks at the earth dragons tied to the dragon carriage while widening his eyes, and Julius adds onto his explanation.
They had to break through the Augria Sand Dunes, considering how they were aiming for the Pleiades watchtower. Typical earth dragons are not capable of riding across the rough spots on the huge road dominated by sand.
Therefore, they exchanged the earth dragons hat brought them across the road until this point, and they were now using the Gyrus endemic earth dragons to open the path ahead.
[Subaru: Endemic, huh. There are Priestella water dragons too, but wow the world is big.]
Subaru looks at the yellow skinned earth dragon connected to the dragon carriage and folded his arms.
Subaru has already spent no less than a year in this world. He had very weak surprise towards the earth dragons. He didn’t feel unprecedented sort of moving emotions, but he was narrow minded.
They were yellow earth dragons that had thorn like scales on their flat heads, all over their bodies. They had a physique similar to Otto’s loving dragon Furefoo. Furefoo is a species that has excellent stamina even among earth dragons, and the owner boasted that it could travel throughout 3 days and 3 nights. It would perhaps be similar to a triceratops according to Subaru’s knowledge.
On the other hand, if you were to look up approximate knowledge, you’d find that the earth dragons in front of him were similar to the ankylosaurus.
However, their tails were short, and unlike the original, it seemed like their tails could not be used as weapons. Also, their feet made up their characteristics more than their skin and looks did. ――Every end of their four thick, short legs were round, and their sharp nails acted like spikes. Their big bodies were tied to the ground.
[Subaru: They sure do look like feet that can cause unrecoverable damage to things they step on.]
[Julius: Grains of the Augria Sand Dunes’ sand are small. If they didn’t have feet like this, there would be the possibility of slipping off slopes. People say that the Gyrus’ feet changed to adapt to that.]
[Subaru: So they adapted to the desert areas, eh. It’s a replacement for horses and camels, but what about water dragons? Thinking hard about it, it’s not like I’ve seen animals pull boats back at the original world.]
Subaru went into deep thought and a swan boat came to mind, but that was just a form of a bot imitating a swan, so it was actually nothing but something that was operated through human effort. However, it wasn’t as if he ever heard of a custom in which crocodiles or hippopotamuses pulled on boats, so he couldn’t think of any replacement for water dragons.
What’s more is that――
[Subaru: These dragons adapted to sandy soil are going there, but can we really bring my Patrasche to a place like that? Although, most of the ladies in my camp don’t allow unreasonable things.]
[Julius: Your loving dragon is a Diana, which is considered the ancestor of all earth dragons. It has the genes of the initial dragon ancestors that were dominant on land, sea, and air……it has excelling adaptability, no matter what the environment is. Unfortunately, my Shaknar will be left at the town.]
Julius answers Subaru’s question and lonesomely looked upwards towards the inn.
Shaknar was Julius’ loving, beautiful blue-skinned earth dragon.
It was a loving dragon, but it had forgotten about Julius, who had his name eaten by “Gluttony”. However, this well trained dragon would always be polite to anyone that rode it. It had been accepting of Julius from the beginning, but ever since the one sided meeting at Priestella, during this trip that they’ve been on for half a month, they shared the intimate bond from before
Just because of that, he had what you could call feelings of shame for leaving the loving dragon at the town.
[Julius: Nevertheless, for your love dragon to be the lady you use the most out of all the people around you…..I don’t know if I should praise you for knowing how to use your earth dragon, or if I should warn you for your evaluation of the woman around you.]
[Subaru: ……Well actually you also shouldn’t make light of how high Patrasche’s woman power is.]
Julius had an emotional look for a second, so he immediately said some banter to cover up his feelings. Subaru also sensed those thoughts of his and he went with it somehow.
Once Julius saw that, he went to greet the earth dragon of the dragon carriage that would be held by the bridle. As a response, Subaru looked towards the dragon carriage, stepped towards it, and knocked on the door.
[Subaru: So the inside of the dragon carriage will be left as is besides the exchanging of the wheels and…]
Subaru inspected the remodeled dragon carriage before there was an answer to his knock.
Having said that, the change that stood out was the carriage’s substructure――the wheels and the window frames installed with sand protection for the sand wind.
If you had to describe this dragon carriage that had various efforts made on it for traveling long distances, it would be something like an RV with multipurpose features. Inside the carriage at the front there was space with lined up chairs, and there was space from the middle to the back to simply chill. The inside was something excellent like this.
On top of it ensuring comfort, it could hold up to 10 people at max. Subaru was honestly surprised by how the dragon carriage easily surpassed his expectations when he first saw it like this.
[Subaru: Even without electricity and electrical appliances, we can substitute the work of mastone processing for them. Humans are creatures that really seek convenience anywhere.]
[Ram: I don’t know what you’re talking about so seriously, but are the preparations finished, Barusu?]
When he puzzled at the exterior, the dragon carriage’s door opened, and a cold voice poured down at the same time.
After he turned around, Ram stood up from the seat closest to the door and looked down on Subaru.
[Subaru: Well the previous preparations were finished yesterday, so it’s ready. Next we have to prepare our hearts and bodies, but I’m also done with that. How about you?]
[Ram: Let’s see. When I think about the many days I spent in the carriage, I can’t say I’m relaxed, no matter how much care I’m shown. I wont cry for help as a delicate person in the middle of the sand dunes, even if we’re attacked.]
[Subaru: ――It’ll be fine, don’t worry.]
He gave a meaningful smile at Ram, and then Emilia made her appearance upon hearing them talk. Emilia seemed to have tidied up the back of the dragon carriage, and she stepped up to Ram’s side, tapping on her shoulder.
[Emilia: Even if something did attack, I would protect everyone in here. There’s Subaru and Julius outside too, so it’s perfect.]
[Subaru: You are as reassuring as always. See look, Ram. Emilia-tan is saying this too, so don’t worry.]
[Ram: You’re right, Emilia-sama. You’re very reassuring to me too. However, it isn’t just malicious beings that will attack us. There’s also a fellow with an evil klesha in here…..]
Ram says that while giving a meaningful look at Subaru, who was in a meaningful state.
Once Subaru understood Ram’s look and the underlying meaning of her words, he frowned.
[Subaru: You’re still gonna doubt me like that even after spending close to one month of peaceful nights!? There’s no way I can do something like that with you around! I don’t have that type of courage!]
[Ram: It’s pathetic how you’re insisting that with a loud voice, but considering how beautiful it is in this carriage, it’s not unthinkable for you to lose control of yourself, no matter how you do it. I’m always afraid. Sympathize with a girl’s heart.]
[Subaru: Always afraid? Not always threatening people?]
Ram basically repeating the saying that boys and girls should be separated once they turn 7 causes Subaru’s voice to shake. Incidentally, Emilia did nothing but tilt her head in confusion.
It was Emilia’s usual EMTness, and Ram’s insolence. But, Subaru scratched his head and said “Ah”, as he was curious about something.
[Subaru: Nee-sama, how’s your body?]
[Ram: ……Weird of you to ask that. Why do you wonder?]
[Subaru: Your worry is unnecessary, but is mine unnecessary? I just want to know the answer to that.]
[Ram: Barusu, you sure are cheeky with how attentive you are.]
She didn’t have a pale face, and she didn’t appear to have trouble breathing, which meant Ram appeared to be acting like her usual self, but she didn’t deny Subaru’s words.
She didn’t act tough, and she didn’t try to hide it. In that sense, Ram was being surprisingly sincere.
[Subaru: Looks like you don’t have the sharpness of a wicked tongue. If your body’s condition really is bad, then…….]
[Ram: Then step forward at this point where we’re before the goal after coming this far in 20 days, right? This is just the usual, but you’re being particularly ridiculous today.]
[Emilia: Ram, don’t speak like that.]
Ram interrupts Subaru, and she gives him an even fiercer look with her eyes. Emilia raises her eyebrow at that girl’s behavior and puts her hands on her waists in an angry way.
She points her hand towards Subaru while being next to Ram and says
[Emilia: Subaru is worrying about Ram. I’m also worried about you. Everyday I’m giving the healing Roswaal told me about, but…….]
[Subaru: Still unsure if you can call it healing, but it’s not like it’s your specialty. Even if Emilia-tan and Beako do it, they can’t do it as well as Roswaal.]
[Ram: …….I’m not trying to use that as a reason. I don’t want to be a bother.]
[Subaru: We are worried, you know?]
[Ram: If you were the usual Barusu, then I could fool you.]
[Subaru: You aren’t the usual Ram, so you can’t fool me.]
They weren’t inflammatory tit for tat words, nor were they comebacks.
Anyhow, there was a quiet exchange of words, and Ram bit her lips in a seemingly displeased way at the way Subaru spoke. However, there was a lack of ambition in the eyes she stared at him with.
She probably was aware of it herself. Ram let out a sigh and looked inside of the carriage. There was a wheel chair right next to her seat and a single girl on top of it.
The dragon carriage’s seat was removed, and there was remodeled spaced to allow the wheelchair to be placed there. Their interactions did not disturb the sleeping girl, and she continued to remain there sleeping.
[Ram: I won’t be left behind. Also, it’s not like my pain will improve if I do get left behind. Actually, being separated from Emilia-sama with how I am now would put my life at risk. You trying to kill me?]
[Subaru: Calm down. I’ve never even said a single word about leaving you behind since the beginning. Also, if you were to be left behind, Emilia-tan would be too.]
[Emilia: Hmph! Subaru, there’s no way I’d let that happen.]
[Subaru: LIKE I SAID, it’s fine! I just want to chuck on Ram!]
[Emilia: You mean check?]
[Subaru: Didn’t I say that…….?]
Subaru jumped to conclusions again as he forgot about what he said while giving a wry smile. Emilia and Ram look at each other. Subaru sees the doubt on their faces and said those words.
[Subaru: Ram. We can tell that you aren’t your usual self, so if something happens, say something. Don’t try to hide stuff and fool us. Even if you do stuff like that, we’ll still help you, even if you don’t like it.]
When he pointed his finger at Ram and said that, Ram made a rare look of shame.
Emilia put her hand on her mouth at her side, and she let out a smile unintentionally due to not being able to handle the situation. Emilia wards off the inclination to laugh, and relaxed her lips in a happy way.
[Emilia: I think that side of Subaru is reeeaaally nice.]
[Subaru: …….Eh!? Did you just fall in love again!?]
[Ram: Don’t talk like that with Rem sleeping in front of you, women’s harmful enemy.]
[Subaru: Women’s harmful enemy, and not women’s enemy!?]
Subaru switches from low and high pitches with his voice, and Ram snorts her nose as she said “Haa”.
After that, she stretched her slender legs, and she recklessly tried to kick Subaru off of the dragon carriage’s steps.
[Subaru: O, He, hey! What are you doing? I’m going to fall!]
[Ram: Putting aside you falling, you should normally be outside, not inside. Mount the prideful earth dragon, and frantically guarantee our dragon carriage’s safety. Do it, quickly.]
[Subaru: What do you mean quickly? Listen to what I have to……]
[Ram: ――I’ve listened to what I’ll hear. So, go.]
Ram says that with a stern voice, and she gives him an even sharper kick.
Subaru gets off dejectedly, getting his butt kicked, and just before he went away from the dragon carriage, he exchanged looks with Emilia. Emilia responds to that look by giving an acknowledging gesture with her chin as if she said “I know”.
[Subaru: Guess I’ll go then. But, anyways you should……..mogaa]
A kick that felt like a surprise attack hits his stomach, and Subaru falls off out of the dragon carriage as he leaned backward. Then, Ram quickly shut the carriage’s door, and she suddenly look at Emilia as she let out a sigh. Then she says
[Ram: ……Emilia-sama, why are you making that look?]
[Emilia: No, it’s nothing. But, I just thought about how you’re kinda cute.]
[Ram: That’s a surprising opinion. That was bold of Emilia-sama.]
Ram has a slip of the tongue due to being teased, and she shows a rare sight of stiffening her cheeks. Emilia sees that change in Ram’s facial expression, and she smiled, appearing to become more and more happy.
[Emilia: Finally feel like showing that face to me too, the one you always show to Subaru?]
[Ram: ……..Not anymore. Please forgive my impoliteness.]
[Emilia: I’m not really angry. I’m actually a little happy. It kinda feels like you’re giving me trust when you do that. I was a little jealous of Subaru.]
Ram kept silent for a bit in response to Emilia’s innocent reply. Immediately after that, Ram says this with a dumbfounded look while smoothing down her hair
[Ram: Emilia-sama, you’ve changed too. When we first met, you looked like someone only with readiness that was hard, but fragile, like glass.
[Emilia: Do I look a little stronger now?]
[Ram: And now I think…….you’re like sweet glass turned into candy.]
[Emilia: Wow, Ram you’re harsh.]
Emilia gets hit by Ram’s abusive words, and her voice finally burst open from not being able to handle it.
The girls continued to talk with each other like that for a bit inside the dragon carriage.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――After a few hours, the conquering of the Augria Sand Dunes began.
They had more than a dozen kilometers towards east, and the sandy soil began as they were nearly one hour away with the dragon carriage. The wind filled with dry sand and the miasma got stronger, and when the prairie at their feet changed to desert, they were finally at the state to rush into the Augria Sand Dunes.
Their setup was made up of one dragon carriage, and Gyrus Earth Dragons to pull it. There was Subaru riding Patrasche as she ran with it, and she was traveling over the sandy soil.
The flat-faced earth dragon wasn’t fast, but it had stability with its heavy pacing. Its weird companion Patrasche also was careful of it at the start, but after a few hours of traveling together, it was as if it found its partners promise and so it didn’t seem to have dissatisfaction on its highly prideful face.
[Subaru: If I had to describe it, then I’d probably say that dissatisfaction of this earth dragon reminded me of Betty.]
Beatrice was completely settled in Subaru’s arms. Subaru pulls the bridle, and while holding onto the curled up girl, he said “No no” as he shook his head.
[Subaru: That’s not right. Patrasche isn’t such an intolerant dragon.]
[Beatrice: ……Subaru, it would be wise of you to be more careful of how you perceive those around you, I suppose.]
Beatrice let out those words while squatting on the jet black earth dragon as she held onto the edge of her skirt.
Subaru’s dragon riding skills were a lot better than they were before. He was simply spoiled by Patrasche’s care up to this point, but now he was at a dragon rider apprentice level in one respect.
He sat on the saddle and held onto the bridle. Beatrice sat in front of him, and he made sure to hold onto her from behind. They almost looked like experts at riding together.
Of course, the only earth dragon Subaru would ride was Patrasche, and this wasn’t the first time he rode her with Beatrice. Thus, Beatrice was being too paranoid, no matter how he looked at it. That’s what he wanted to say.
[Beatrice: This very prideful earth dragon doesn’t want to let anyone other than her owner ride them.This earth dragon of yours is extraordinary. If I was alone, she definitely wouldn’t let me ride her.]
[Subaru: Isn’t that just because you’re bad at riding earth dragons?]
[Beatrice: If that was the reason, then you getting close with this earth dragon wouldn’t make sense, I suppose.]
It was just like she said.
If Patrasche liked a person based on their dragon riding skills, then Subaru should have failed the first test. Since that didn’t happen, there was a reason why this lady approved of Subaru.
Also, Patrasche actually acted relatively bitter towards Subaru.
[Subaru: Well, not knowing why you’re liked really is unstable.]
[Beatrice: True. Subaru doesn’t have the looks to be liked for no reason, I suppose.]
[Subaru: …..In other words, you have firm reasons and you love me.]
[Beatrice: Of course that’s…what……..just what are you trying to make me say!?]
They were glued together, so he couldn’t dodge Beatrice attacking him while having a red face. While getting hit lightly by her weak palm, Subaru said “whoa, whoa” and calmed down Beatrice.
Then, Patrasche raised her upper body and shook them as if displeased with their behavior they had on her back.
[Subaru: Oh, what the!?]
She fixes her posture in a way that was like doing a wheelie on a bike, and Subaru reflexively holds tight onto Beatrice.
Normally they wouldn’t feel the shaking while riding and the wind with the power of “Divine Protection of Wind Evasion”, but certain extreme movements like the one just now would have effect, as well as things like angle changes from sudden turning.
It was the harassment from understanding those characteristics.
When Subaru put in his objection and glared at the back of Patrasche’s head, the earth dragon looked at Subaru and her for a second, squinting her eyes as if saying “I’ll bite my tongue”.
[Subaru: She’s kinda like Ram just from considering her level of pride. Seems like they’d get along, surprisingly.]
[Beatrice: Or maybe they’d clash with each other, and they wouldn’t come to agreement at all. I wonder which would be the case.]
Subaru and Beatrice exchange deep thoughts and nod at each other.
[Julius: Subaru, Beatrice-sama. It’s splendid seeing you guys being intimate with each other, but this would be a good time to seriously brace yourselves.]
He looks towards the two relaxed people, and he speaks out from the side.
At the driver box that traveled along with the dragon carriage, there was Julius holding onto the bridle. He was not separately mounted on the earth dragon. It seemed like being a driver was an unpleasant role that wasn’t very fitting for Julius, but he didn’t act like he cared about it.
That being said, perhaps he didn’t have the time to worry about that. Either way, at his side there was
[Meili: I don’t mind Onii-san and Beatrice-chan being friendly with each other, but if I’m ignored too much, I’ll pout.]
Meili said that, and she gave them a look that didn’t fit her appearance.
Meili was an essential member to deal with the mabeasts, and they would have to always use her for conquering the Augria Sand Dunes. Thus, as a lookout for the mabeats living at the sand dune, Meili was at the place where it’d be easiest for her to deal with them――in other words, she was standing by at the driver box.
Julius took up the role of staving off her boredom.
[Subaru: You have the knight next to your side to escort you. He’s much more smart, stylish, and elegant than me.]
[Meili: I don’t get more than half of what you’ve said. Plus, I’m fine with Mr. Knight. I’m unhappy with Onii-san.]
[Subaru: With me?]
Meili glares at Subaru and pouts with her cheeks while playing with her braided hair.
[Meili: Onii-san made me come along, and so he has a duty to be with me.]
[Subaru: Don’t say such unreasonable childish things. As you can see, that frame is filled with Beako. Right?]
Beatrice shrugs her shoulders in resentment, and Subaru looks at Meili again.
Pouting was a suitable action for her age, but her mood would have a big influence from now on down the road. Considering that, it would be bold to make light of Meili.
However, saying that really would make things unmanageable.
[Subaru: You’re quite right. However, we’ll have you fulfill your role first before you can say if it’s a right or a duty.]
[Meili: My role, hmm.]
[Subaru: We’ll be entering the most favorite Augria Sand Dunes soon. I don’t think the mabeasts will suddenly roar when we enter them, but when it does happen, calming them down will be up to you, Meili. You get that, right?]
[Meili: …..Yees. For someone who spoils Beatrice-chan, Onii-san sure is a bully.]
He wasn’t being a bully to her, but even if he was taken as one, he would just have to cajole her.
Subaru felt like Beatrice appeared to be satisfied as he looked at her with a side glance, and he raises his hands at Julius. After that, Jullius quietly gave an acknowledging gesture with his chin.
Unfortunately for him, he would have to be the little lady’s sycophant.
[Subaru: Ahh, I see it.]
Beatrice called out to him quietly, while Patrasche gave a faint neigh as she glared at the front.
Those actions bring back his attention, and Subaru also squinted.
He saw the tower with contours that were so clear that it’d be impossible to miss them from Milra――and he also saw the surface of sand surrounding that tower.
It was the sand maze surrounding the Pleiades watch tower, and it was thei magnificent arrival to the Augria Sand Dunes.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
The Augria Sand Dunes’ has a famous “sand time” when the “sand wind” blows particularly strong.
The sand wind that blows during the three periods of the day morning, afternoon, and night carries sand and miasma from the east towards west, and it’s a disaster that silently presses on you.
Wind got strong late at night, and this sand wind continued to blow for a few hours.
It was pretty much midnight, so they couldn’t move well at this time when the sand wind blew.
Thus, they’d conquer the Augria Sand Dunes during the day, which was also the time when the “sand time” would take a break in the morning and in the afternoon, moving forward little by little.
The grains of sand that fully covered the ground were small, and just like the rumors said, they’d trip many times due to the difficulty of walking on the surface. They marched slowly without speeding up, and it was an irritating situation.
There was something about that situation which disappointed Subaru.
[Subaru: There’s the pain of this sand wind and the poor footing…….but it isn’t as bad as I thought.]
He turns away from the wind that came from the windward, and pulls up the mouth cloth to secure his breathing. He faintly felt his teeth biting the sand, but this type of initiation wasn’t very different from his time at Milra.
The sand falling made a yellow view, and he felt the sand tickling him in his clothes, but that was as far as its effects went. The sand dunes had few menaces.
[Subaru: I even prepared myself on the assumption that it’d be deathly hot when I heard they were sand dunes.]
[Beatrice: There’s no way there’s anything green here in regards to the environment. The shrouding miasma kills anything and everything, so it only has this sort of scenery spread out, I suppose. Rain even pours on these sand dunes, so the temperature won’t go extremely out of control either.]
Subaru had a strong impression of the desert being a red hot hell.
He never step foot into a desert back at his other world, but in mediums like games and manga, the deserts all had images of hot sand with them.
Just from that, the severity of the Augria Sand Dunes was pleasant in comparison to what he imagined.
[Subaru: It wasn’t hot or cold at the nearest town, so I guess it’d be weird for the sand dunes to be an extremely hot hell. So, we need to be careful of the wind and the mabeasts.]
[Beatrice: As well as getting lost…….I suppose.]
One worry disappeared, and Beatrice causes Subaru to stiffen up, as he seemed to be optimistic. In response to the point made by the girl in his arms, Subaru looked forward while being careful of the wind.
Subaru still saw that majestic appearance of the tower that stood tall.
[Subaru: You bring up the question of getting lost, but it seems unnatural to miss that thing.]
[Beatrice: I think so too. However, it wouldn’t be weird for something to come up, I suppose. I don’t know what kind of fake this “Sage” is, but the fact that nobody has ever reached her is proof.]
Of course, Subaru had no intentions of underestimating things.
Realistically speaking, it would be unlikely to miss the mark when it was a structure that huge, never mind getting lost. However, the people that have challenged it most likely thought the same thing.
He thinks about that, but there should’ve been a reason for them to still not reach it.
It wouldn’t be weird for something to happen.
Just like how Beatrice pointed out, this was that sort of maregion.
[Subaru: And so I guess it’s about time we make the next insurance.]
Subaru looks back at the path they went across while he held his breath.
The sandy soil left behind little by little was Patrasche’s footsteps, who they rode. However, there wasn’t any recent ones left behind. They too were washed away, replaced, and hidden by the sand.
It was a natural trap for murder made by nature.
Never mind the watchtower at the front, it hid the path they traveled along extremely well.
However, that would only be true if these people were ones that could only take normal measures.
[Subaru: Seems like the previous ones disappear. Alright, this is a good time.]
Subaru pulls on the bridle, ordering Patrasche as he leaned onto the dragon carriage that traveled with them.
The dragon carriage also left traces with its wheels along with the earth dragon’s footprints that looked like spikes, but those also had the same conditions as Patrasche’s. Thus, they had to figure out something for the marks that followed them.
[Subaru: Emilia-tan, please!]
[Emilia: ――Okaaaay, gott it.]
When he knocked on the dragon carriage from the outside, Emilia answered and showed up on the other side of the door.
Emilia’s whole body was covered with a white robe for the sand, and at the back――at a far distance, Subaru pointed at a certain “something” that faintly reflected in his eyes while staring from afar and said
[Subaru: I’m sorry for having you work so much, but please, Sensei!]
[Emilia: Well, I am having you watch from outside. It’s not a big problem. ……What do you mean by Sensei?]
[Subaru: It’s the template when a request is made. Alright alright alright, please.]
[Emilia: Okay, I’ve been requested. ――Take this!]
Emilia looked at where Subaru pointed towards once they made petty jokes.
Emilia raised her listless shouting voice with a look in her eyes that was too cute to call it a glare, and she surged her magical power.
Immediately after, Emilia winded a swirl with the enormous mana in her palm, and the magical power ran swiftly through the sky in a sense of acceleration as the sound of it bursting into the air resounded throughout vicinity.
――And then after a few seconds, there was a huge ice tower that stood on the sandy plain’s route.
[Emilia: Yeah, that was good.]
Emilia confirms that the task was finished, and she smiled, looking somewhat satisfied.
It was a very conspicuous silhouette for their time at the Augria Sand Dunes, although of course it wouldn’t be necessary at the Pleiades watchtower. And so that ice tower was stuck here and there in the route that they passed through to get to the Augria Sand Dunes, as it continued through a space that was a path they wouldn’t miss
[Subaru: The footprints can’t be marks, but marks can be made with a more conspicuous method. This is the application of magic, eh.]
[Emilia: Even so, Subaru’s craft really does impress me. Nice thinking.]
[Subaru: This method won’t be any good if the sand dunes get hot.]
The ice Emilia created with her magic was fragile to temperature, perhaps because it didn’t go against the law of nature.
Just from knowing that, if this was a genuine desert, then maybe a forbidden method like this wouldn’t pass. However, it was a valid plan in these sand dunes.
Emilia’s standing ice tower surely was functioning as a mark. In the worst case scenario when something really would happen and they’d have to inevitably withdraw, they should be able to follow that and go back.
[Subaru: Yeah…….seems like you can walk on this tower. I’m still scared of it possibly toppling over, though. Since the foundation seems to be rustling too much.]
[Emilia: I think it’s fully pinned down, so I think it’s no biggy, but you’re worried?]
[Subaru: Don’t really hear “no biggy” nowadays, huh. ……..Ahh, alright.]
Subaru puts aside his worry, makes fun of Emilia, and lifts his head. Emilia seemed a wee bit displeased with that response, but for now he’d just give her a wry smile.
After that, he looked towards the inside of the dragon carriage that was behind Emilia over her shoulder. Everything inside should’ve been the same, but there was one person that he was worried about in order for that to be true.
[Subaru: Where’s Anastasia?]
[Anastasia: What is it, Natsuki-kun? Looking for me?]
Immediately after looking for her, Subaru jumps because of the person’s voice.
The person who showed her face a little from Emilia’s side to cut into his view was Anastasia. She looked down on Subaru, him being surprised, and she squinted slightly with her light blue eyes.
[Anastasia: No need to get startled that much. Ain’t I deliberately staying inside?]
[Subaru: I knew that you were inside, but I didn’t expect you to appear from Emilia’s armpits, so I got startled.]
[Emilia: ……Hey, Subaru. You seem reeeeally irritated with how you said that.]
[Anastasia: I thought that was unusual too, usually I’d be irritated. What a coincidence.]
Subaru gets irritated by Emilia and Anastasia, but he gets a hold of himself again. There was Beatrice shrugging her shoulders in his arms, but he turned to Anastasia for now.
[Subaru: We’ll be relying on your knowledge to conquer the sand dunes. Please guide us well, okay?]
[Anastasia: Natsuki-kun sure is a worrywart. I’ll be with you, so we’ll be in the same boat in regards to the outcome of this journey……..there’s no way I wouldn’t try and cut corners, you know? Caaalm down.]
[Beatrice: ……Can one really nonchalantly believe a fox?]
Anastasia says those words, and Beatrice talked with a voice that could only be heard by Subaru. He was in complete agreement with her, but it would be wrong to provoke her by using that basis.
If he was gonna say that, then choosing to set out to conquer this watchtower would be a mistake in itself. As of now, they should be using up all of their strength to fulfill their respective roles without complaining.
[Anastasia: Yes, Natsuki-kun. Since if something happens, I’ll let Julius know, and if we come near the place Echidna said, I’ll report that too. No need to worry at all.]
Subaru called out to her cynically, and the Anastasia who was Eridna showed no sign of disturbance.
It seems like there would be no problem moving forward like this, for now.
[Emilia: It seems like the wind has gotten stronger. Subaru, if there’s nothing else, then I’m gonna close it, but…….]
[Subaru: …..Ahh, go ahead. Emilia-tan, I’ll leave the people inside up to you.]
[Emilia: Yeah, leave it up to me. You be nice to Beatrice, too.]
[Beatrice: No need to worry about that, I suppose. I’m satisfied.]
Emilia put her hand on the door, and she exchanged words when she left as she went back inside. Beatrice responded to Emilia’s last joke with a light remark, her smile gets interrupted by the door, and she went back inside.
Subaru now went around to the front of the dragon carriage, and he appeared at the driver’s box.
[Julius: Seems like Emilia-sama’s mark is working well. You are as clever as always.]
[Subaru: You can call it guile, you know.]
[Julius: I won’t. I’m jealous of how you’re adaptive in that you can come up with ideas myself and others cant come up with easily. I really cannot come up with these sort of evil ways.]
[Subaru: Guile sounds cuter than evil ways!]
Julius sat on the driver’s box, and he had a faint smile on his face that couldn’t be seen well.
He had a white cloth wrapped around his handsome face, so his expression could not be seen. But even then, they talked with each other in this past month, and he could understand how much he was joking based off the tone of his voice.
[Subaru: Meili, how about you? Doing your job?]
[Meili: You’re gonna ask me that? Onii-san hasn’t run into bad animals even once, and neither has the dragon carriage. That’s not proof of me woorking.]
When he peeked into the driver’s box, he saw Meili pouting with her face, just as he expected. She was also wearing a cloak from her head for the sand wind, and she answered Subaru’s question with a displeased sounding voice.
In response to Meilis answer’ Subaru wipes off the sand off his head while gazing at the pathway.
[Subaru: Even if you say that, it’s hard to see the results of your hard work. I don’t know if the mabeasts haven’t showed up because of you, or if they just aren’t around here……]
[Meili …….Hmm, so that’s what you’re gonna saay.]
Subaru said a careless thing, being disappointed by the high anticipations he had as there were no other obstacles that came up besides the sand and the wind. Meili says that with a low toned voice, and she puts her cheeks in between her hands as if she was thinking of something, sinking into silence.
Subaru honestly had a bad feeling about that.
[Julius: Subaru, apologize to her. It’s clear that you just said something improper.]
[Subaru: Y―you don’t have to tell me, I know. That was kinda my fault. Well, not kinda, but completely. Don’t be sad. I wasn’t trying to be mean.]
[Meili: ……Okaay, it’s finee. It’s not like I’m mad or anythiing. But, I think there’s a reason for what you said too.]
[Subaru: O―oh. That’s good. Thankfully, you are much more mature than you loo…….]
[Meili: ――Look, I’ll make it clear why I’m here.]
Meili interrupts Subaru’s explanation and apology, and she threw out those extremely disturbing words.
The inappropriateness of that sound causes Subaru and Julius to look at each other, and they quickly tried to form some words. ――It was immediately after that.
Patrasche and the dragon carriage’s earth dragons both stepped hard on the ground, and they stopped moving.
The earth dragon’s instincts quickly sense something nearing them, and it alerts the master grasping onto the bridle. Then, Subaru and Julius open their eyes at the same time, and they saw it.
They saw the sand’s surface suddenly start wriggling as if on purpose, and something wriggling immediately came crawling out below the sand. It was a terrifying animal that had a large amount of sand stuck on its whole body, and it let out an unbelievable piercing cry with its gigantic mouth.
It had no arms or legs, and the way it bent its long, fat, body back and forth would make one think of a snake. However, it had slimy looking skin that was close to the same color as the sand, a stink, and patterns of equidistant lateral stripes carved on its body. Subaru saw it slowly lowering its head, and he saw its true colors.
It wasn’t a snake. ――This was an earthworm.
Subaru did not turn his hands. The body was so huge, and it seemed that its head and mouth could swallow 4-5 people whole. The stink it carried was similar to a rotten smell, and the dropping saliva from the cavities of its small teeth made noise as it evaporated the sand.
The eyeless head turned towards them, and it was acting as if it was sniffing a smell.
Subaru completely forget about breathing at this moment. He also felt Patrasche’s thoughts blanking, being across the bridle, and Beatrice grabbed hard onto Subaru’s clothes while being in his arms.
As soon as he thought of “sense of smell”, Subaru remembered his own witch stink that he had. When mabeasts would react to that, as well as when they’d react to it here, this group would――
[Meili: Ahh geez, you stiink. Hurry up and leave. Get loost.]
Meili let out an adequate voice, not showing fear in front of Subaru and the others.
Those words cause the gigantic earthworm to turn towards Meili, but it immediately listened to that little girl’s orders, and it crawled into the hole that it dug through.
A few seconds later, the hole that the earthworm came from gets completely covered with sand, and only silence reigned within the area.
[Julius: ……..That was an earthworm, most likely. It’s a mabeast that prefers to lurk beneath sandy soil, but it was a little bigger than I thought.]
[Subaru: A little? How little?]
[Julius: Based off my knowledge, surely I thought they would’ve been as big as a male adult’s arms.]
Even if the earthworm appeared as that size, that would be big enough for it to be a grotesque threat. But, that sand earth worm was hundreds to thousands times larger than what Julius thought it was.
Mabeasts at the Augria Sand Dunes did get ferocious, including the native species, but perhaps he should’ve considered that difference in scale as a type of difference too.
[Emilia: W―what was that loud voice…….?]
Emilia opens the dragon carriage’s small window, and she she shows her face from the window that was connected to the driver box and the inside of the carriage.
Even if she didn’t see that earthworm, she should’ve heard that mabeast’s roar. Emilia looked worried, but Subaru couldn’t speak right away.
Then, Meili takes Subaru’s place, as he stiffened up, and she faces Emilia as she said
[Meili: No need to woorry. I just wanted to let you guys know how blessed you are because of how you don’t have to worry about that thiing.]
[Subaru: Ahh geez, I really am no match for Meilii-san!]
Subaru loosens up thanks to Meili’s words, and he gave her a full compliment from the bottom of his heart.
Emilia was surprised from that change, but after Meili’s got surprised, she immediately appeared to be satisfied.
[Meili: Reeally? Is this it? Does Onii-san see me in a new light now?]
[Subaru: Yeah, I seriously respect you. I sincerely felt just how dangerous this place would be, had you not come along. The Augria Sand Dunes are scary! Scaaaaaaaary!!]
He now understood one way how the many reckless adventurers didn’t come back from them daring to conquer this place.
He understood that they certainly were extremely daring.
It was the absurdity of fooling themselves by believing that the initiation of the sand dunes would be easy. Hooray for peace. Peace is the best.
[Beatrice: You’re flattering her quite a lot, I suppose. I’m disgusted.]
[Subaru: Shut up! Weren’t you scared too!? “Ah, I’m scared!”]
[Beatrice: I―I was only with you because you were nervous. Don’t get the wrong idea.]
[Subaru: Don’t act so tough. You pissed yourself a little just like I did. I can tell.]
[Beatrice: Piss, I suppose!?]
Their quarrel started like a comedy episode, but nobody could blame them for it at the time.
It seemed like mabeasts would approach them if they caused a fuss, but the power of the being who countered that had been adequately proven. Thus, even Julius didn’t try to stop their quarrel.
He simply readjusted his consciousness to realize that the ice they were walking on was thinner than he’d imagined.
That was the first day of the conquering of the sand dunes when they reflected that just that thought had enough significance.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Suddenly, light ran through the sky, and it penetrated the wind.
It makes a violent sound, and the ice tower that received a direct hit smashed in half as it crumbled down.
The pulverized ice tower immediately reduces into mana, and every little bit of it that fell down was swallowed into the sand, disappearing from the world without any ruin, without a trace.
The light continued several times more, and it ran through the sky in succession.
Coincidentally, matched the same amount of times the silver haired girl established the ice tower.
Nobody knew what that meant at this point of time.
They simply understood that the conquering of the sand maze was by no means a simple matter.
That was the only established fact.