Side Story: The Red Puppy and The Moon Goddess Part 2
“Milady, just what is ‘onsen’? It appears that this onsen is outside the barrier’s range. Wouldn’t it be dangerous to go there?”
Chloe was walking along the mountain path carrying a bucket with her belongings in it. Shin was following her and asked as he cautiously looked at their surroundings.
“Isn’t that why I took you with me? Besides, if you’re that worried about monsters, I can just put up a barrier.”
Chloe’s sacred power is high enough to allow her to put up two barriers in different places. Of course, not for a very long time. However, it should be easy for her to last a bath time.
“So Shin hasn’t seen one yet? An onsen is like a warm pond, which is also a sign that a volcano is near but, either way, the Nansonia Mountain range so I guess it should have one volcano or two.”
“A Volcano!? Would it be dangerous to approach a place like that, lady?”
“We are this close to an advanced-level dungeon, but you still chose to worry about an eruption?”
As the two were having such a conversation, the surroundings were enveloped by an unusual smell. If pushed to describe it, it smelled like a boiled egg but condensed several times.
“There it is. That’s an onsen.”
Chloe pointed towards a spring covered by rocky terrain. Much as she explained earlier, it was hot enough to bring water vapor into the air. Shin dipped his hand to make sure of its temperature and while he thought that it was not as hot as boiling water, it didn’t seem safe to bathe into. However, there was a water stream close by, so he thought that it should be possible to decrease its temperature by using nearby rocks to redirect the stream.
“Shin, look. I haven’t even put up a barrier and yet the miasma around here is close to none. There are no signs of any monsters close either, and both the water stream and onsen are not contaminated too. I wonder why? Maybe some of the components of the onsen can purify miasma. I have to look into this.”
“Milady, it would be better to put up a barrier just to be safe. Even if there’s no threat of a monster, there could be bandits instead. Not to mention, tonight’s moon is bright enough to not require the use of a lamp so you might end up being seen.”
Having redirected water from the stream, Shin warned Chloe as he now dumped several large stones into the hot spring to make an impromptu open-air bath. The lady turned her glance towards the sky, and sure enough, the moon is in its full glory.
“You’re right, I’ll do just that. Not just barrier, something that would make us hardly visible to the surroundings too.”
Chloe spread her hands and erected a barrier within the hot spring’s circumference, then, she took out a crystal ball the size of a pebble. As she invoked to it, dark fumes seemingly leaked out from the gaps between her fingers and which soon mixed with the surrounding steam and spread entirely within their surroundings. Normally, sacred mana is colorless, but when you use a magic crystal as a medium, it will reveal a color accordingly to the individual’s disposition. All the clergymen that hail from the House Sereknight including Chloe are especially known for their black sacred mana.
(Very much like of a villain… but there’s no such thing as a bad color when it comes to sacred mana. Except for special cases such as the Saintess, sacred mana cannot be used by anyone other than priests, after all.)
Shin took a single step to the outside of the barrier and confirmed that the outsiders cannot see even the silhouette of the people inside unless they strain their eyes hard enough. Having confirmed that he cannot see Chloe anymore, Shin headed towards the shade of a close-by rocky hill.
“Then I will be around here. Please call me if something happens.”
“Are you not going to join me, Shin?”
“Please stop saying such frightening things, lady. Even I, value my own life.”
After her frivolous talk was immediately shut down, Chloe shrugged her shoulders and put her wig and all her undressed clothes in the basket she brought with her.
“Mhm… It feels great. It’s really the greatest to stretch out and soak your body like this.”
As she stretched out her body within the bathwater, Chloe turned her eyes towards the night sky. The full moon was so dazzling that it almost stole the brilliance of the surrounding stars. It was far larger than the one in her memories; not to mention, it was also brimming with magic. Which reminded her, Locke was taking Melampus for a walk to allow it to bathe in the moonlight which he said, was what the monster needed.
“Come to think of it, I wonder just what Locke’s transformation is all about.”
Chloe didn’t know of Locke’s ability to transform. From the perspective of others, it was odd enough that she was able to recognize him as the adventurer from House Glinda, despite not having met him once. Still, there were things about Locke that she didn’t know about; the divine blessing of the Count House is an example. She wondered that perhaps the transformation that Kisara mentioned before was connected to that.
“I guess “Momo” did not really care about gods of neighboring countries. Although, the world isn’t really just a small sandbox and is as large as can be.”
They were just mere idle talks and not meant for anyone at all. Chloe looked up towards the sky once more and traced the stars that lost their brilliance to the overpowering full moon.
“Thanks to Melampus, I remembered the myth after such a long time. Coloflare kingdom doesn’t really have such myths that base themselves on stars though, but I should be able to find countries that have some if I search for them. I’d like to travel to other countries after things are over. I wonder if Locke will take me with him if I ask him to.”
Chloe leaned against a boulder as she gazes upon the night sky. She failed to notice the presence of an individual and only managed to when she heard the sound of water flopping.
(No way… Did somebody get in the barrier? This doesn’t come from Shin’s direction…, Rather, this presence, Loc—)
Chloe’s train of thought was interrupted by the sudden brilliance that the hot spring was emitting. It was just so sudden that her mind barely caught up to what was happening. All she knew was that just as she expected, Locke did come out from the shade of a boulder and that he was just as surprised as she was. Of course, her surprise was caused by her sacred power being negated, but Locke on the other hand was just surprised to see her there.
(….W-Wait, with the moon this bright, I’m…)
“Kyaaaaaaaa! You perv!”
Locke was petrified in utter surprise. Just as he realized and turned her gaze away from her, Chloe’s yell resounded and splashed the hot water in his direction
“Wha—, it’s hot!! M-My apologies!….ow”
(Why is he suddenly respectful?)
Locke tried to distance himself but his hastiness caused him to lose footing and fell behind a boulder’s shade. Chloe managed to recover her composure enough to find the young man’s respectful tone odd. She covered herself with the bath towel that she took from the bucket and rose from the warm water.
“Lady, just what on earth happened? Why is the onsen suddenly brimming with light?”
Hearing the commotion from afar, Shin entered the barrier himself. After Chloe permitted him to come closer, he saw the spring water giving off brilliance.
“I wonder what causes this, lady.”
“It’s likely to be some sort of rare item though. It seems like Locke threw something in.”
“Is that so… Let’s kill him.”
Shin was about to approach him with his sword drawn but Chloe flustered stopped him in his tracks. She knew that Locke didn’t come here to peek. Rather, it was him who talked about the hot spring first, and Chloe merely entered on her own. Besides, the surroundings likely looked dark to him due to the color of the mist that came out of Chloe’s sacred mana, making it unlikely for him to notice her presence beforehand.
“The one at fault here is this guy! You have to explain this to them, you….”
Saying that Locke called out to something behind the boulder which he fell into but—
Something suddenly jumped out of the shade of the rock boulder that he was in.
“Kyaa, what was that!?”
“Lady, it’s a deer.”
Turning her gaze towards it, it was indeed a deer, who left towards the darkness outside the confines of the barrier. At this moment, Chloe thought that she managed to regain her composure but in actuality, she was still half in panic at the astounding successions of happenings that unfolded in front of her.
(A deer… A puppy…and a transformation…)
Chloe impulsively chases after the deer without a thought. She stopped for a moment, thinking that she had already lost him, but then suddenly the smell of blood filled the air.
What welcomed her was the sight of a predator capturing its prey. Its throat bitten, the assailant slammed its body into a tree trunk. The deer’s entire body stopped moving. The monster who just dealt the finishing blow now began to devour its newly obtained food.
Chloe was speechless. The monster who was eating the meat of the deer has seen her but despite her defenselessness, shows no sign of attacking. After all, for this monster, Chloe was—
—the very parent who named it. It had transformed from the lovable puppy it once was into a far terrifying beast. This was Melampus’ true form— the monster “Garm” itself.
“Stop, Melampus… that’s Locke, your own master!”
Chloe unsteadily approached it, something Melampus clearly misunderstood as it threw something towards her direction. When Chloe realized that those were blood-stained pieces of the deer’s entrails, her feelings of sickness were overwhelmed with intense regret and grief. Tears just naturally streamed down from her cheeks.
(…Was it because I named him Melampus? This is just like that myth1Melampus, the name of Actaeon’s dog with black paws, who tore his owner to pieces after he’d been metamorphosed into a stag, is linked to the similarly horned, agile gazelles or antelopes! turned reality…)
“What about me?”
Chloe cried as she held the piece of flesh whom she thought was Locke, but suddenly, she heard the carefree voice of the person himself overhead. Still sniffling, she turned her gaze towards the source and saw Locke himself, followed by Shin.
“H-Huh…….How? Didn’t you get eaten by Melampus…just now?”
“I should be the one asking you first. You couldn’t see after I fell at the bottom of the boulder and chased after the passing deer, didn’t you? Melampus was trying to hunt that deer since earlier… For the time being, cover yourself with this.”
Taking off his mantle, Locke wiped the blood and tears from her face and left the mantle over her head. Chloe accepts his goodwill, still dazed.
“G-Goodness… I was thinking Locke transformed into that deer.”
“Y-You’re still conscious of what those idiots said earlier? I-It’s not like I can transform into something inhuman and besides, can a deer even win against Garm?”
“Normally, humans don’t win against him too.”
Shin plays the straightman2Tsukkomi then carried Chloe. At this rate, she’ll have to take another bath upon their return to the lodging house. Shin thought to return as fast as possible to avoid letting his mistress suffer cold.
MV: Slightly busy this weekend due to uni things, but I should be able to allocate more time this week. Sorry about that.
- 1Melampus, the name of Actaeon’s dog with black paws, who tore his owner to pieces after he’d been metamorphosed into a stag, is linked to the similarly horned, agile gazelles or antelopes!