The Jewelsaad Mine is located three days journey away from the frontier town, or six days for a round trip. If you include the time it might take to complete the request, they may be in the field for an entire week. So, the rookie adventurers are preparing their personal food supplies.
Or, at least, that’s what Kyle and the other E-Rank adventurers were expecting.
“I plan on being back the day after tomorrow, so let’s get ready quickly.”
Their well thought out notions were shattered by Shirley’s words.
“No no no no, what are you talking about!? You do know how far the Jewelsaad Mine is from here, don’t you? It’s unreasonable to think you can make a round trip in three days!”
“Yes, but no matter what happens I have to be back the day after tomorrow.”
As she stared him down with those piercing eyes, Cudd drew back. Keen pupils, and a glare as sharp as a blade.
“But, how do you plan on getting back so soon? It takes at least three days to just reach the mind, doesn’t it?”
“That’s not a problem. I will get our form of transport ready, so please come to the town gates once you’ve finished buying whatever food and gear you need. I’ll pay you for my share of the good later.”
“Form of transport?”
Without saying anything, Shirley goes back into the guild. As the youngsters looked confused, Asterios simply nodded sagely.
“Do you know what she meant, Mr Asterios?”
“Yeah. I don’t know exactly what would make her go to those lengths… But, for now, let’s just complete our preparations.”
Whilst still confused about just what the two veterans meant, they did as they were told for now.
After parting with Shirley, the group began to prepare all the supplies they needed for the request. Food wise they stuck to meals they stuck to dry goods, some simple spices and water skins. Other than that they also prepared cooking utensils, blankets, tools to keep their weapons and armour keen and even medical supplies. As they did, Cudd whispered so that Asterios wouldn’t hear.
“You know, I only just joined this party as Asterios took charge… He definitely looks the part, but is that woman really strong at all?”
“Even if I can’t stand the fact that I’m agreeing with you, you’re right. When I heard we were teaming up with the Demonic White Sword, I was expecting some tough old man, not a woman who looks like she’s just out for a stroll.”
Since Kyle saw Shirley’s prowess first hand he can hardly agree with what they’re saying, but he keeps his mouth shut and focuses on the preparations.
After talking to some of the other adventurers, he found out that despite Shirley’s strength she isn’t very well regarded by the other adventurers, and is often the subject of some pretty bad rumours.
Even if it’s not a pleasant thing to think about, he can’t help but wonder if the reason she works as a solo adventurer is that she’s a misanthrope, or if she prefers working alone.
“Is something wrong, Kyle? You seem lost in thought.”
Asterios turned around and questioned Kyle as if he had seen into his mind.
“Um, well, I was just wondering why Shirley had never joined a party up until now. If someone is that strong, surely you’d want to have her help?”
“Hmm. Of course, only she knows the whole truth, but… Well, on the day she joined the Guild, she caused a bit of an uproar.”
He thought of that day ten years ago.
The first day she arrived in town, she did so with her two babies. When she said that she wanted to register, the Guild had exploded in mocking laughter.
Even though the Guild doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender for its recruits, nine out of ten adventurers are still men, so the poor looking girl who wanted to sign up was mercilessly jeered.
Even more so because she was holding her two babes.
“This is no place for a girl like you!”
“Go home and give those babies some milk!”
“Hey, why not ‘party’ with us tonight!?”
Even though Asterios and some of the other adventurers had tried to quiet them down, Shirley had already unsheathed the two-handed blade she wore on her belt and told the crowd as she glared.
“If you have complaints, then I’ll hear them at the end of my sword. After I win, you can keep them to yourselves from now on.”
Many of those complaining adventurers drew their swords and were soundly defeated, and many others simply clammed up under the pressure of those eyes.
“Even if she saved herself from being humiliated, she was alienated from most of the adventurers after that. She never really tried to patch things up, and now everyone simply regards her as a solo adventurer, with all the prejudice that comes along with it.”
“Such a thing… How did it end up like that?”
“That’s the kind of thing only she can tell you. In any case, we’ve finished up here, we should go and meet with Shirley.”
After completing their preparations, Kyle and the rest of the party carried their luggage to the gate where Shirley was waiting.
There they saw not only Shirley but a dragon that had its two hind legs attached to the wheels of a wagon with no cover.
“Uwaa!? W-what is a monster doing here!?”
“Don’t panic. This is a war wagon pulled by Rangitz, a dragon that has been tamed by the Guild.”
Dragons are ranked by race, and in rare cases by individual strength.
They are divided into seven distinct tiers from strongest to weakest: Dragon God, Dragon King, Ancient Dragon, Martial Dragon, War Dragon, Warrior Dragon and Low Dragon. Only the Low Dragons are able to be tamed by humans.
Such a dragon can become the vehicle for a war wagon, and the idea is already spreading to the military where battlefield applications are being tested.
The low dragon that Shirley holds the reigns of, the lowest dragon in their species hierarchy, was rented from the Guild for a fee.
“I have experience when it comes to handling, do you mind leaving me in charge of the driving?”
“No, I don’t mind, but I didn’t know that you knew how to handle a dragon chariot?”
“The war wagon is originally a Minotaur invention. When the guild started using it five years ago, weren’t you the one who taught us how to drive it?”
“Well well… I think I remember something like that.”
Although she didn’t know his name five years ago, she does distinctly remember someone of his race being involved in the training back then.
“Now, please put your luggage inside and tie it down with the rope. If it falls out it will be a problem.”
“I’ll go with your suggestion since you’re the senior here, but why not just have a wagon with a roof? That would save us the work.”
“If this guy pulled a wagon like that, it would break. That’s why we need a specially made one.”
Leaving Leia puzzling over just what she meant, Shirley finishes the preparations.
“Um… War wagons and dragons, this is all expensive, isn’t it? I don’t really have any money at all.”
“Don’t worry, since I’m the one who wants to hurry, I’ll pay for the rental fee. Oh, and these as well.”
Charlie took out four green and four blue vials, for a total of eight. She distributed the two types evenly amongst the party.
“The green potion will prevent motion sickness, I suggest you take it before getting on.”
“The blue potion is for sobering up. Please take it when we arrive to avoid any complications.”
“Also, when you get on, make sure to securely fasten yourself in place with a rope.”
“With a rope!?”
The two veterans ignore their shocked responses and simply continue with the safety explanation. If safety was the goal, it certainly didn’t seem like it to the rookies, who were beginning to fear for their lives.
“Then with that out of the way, let’s get going. In case of an emergency, you need to be ready to cut the rope with a knife to escape.”
“Why did you have to make this sound like something we won’t make it out of alive!?”
At the insistence of the two high ranking adventurers, the rest of the party reluctantly agreed to get aboard.
The three of them thought they understood what the veterans were talking about. But they didn’t truly understand the reality of what it means to ride a war wagon pulled by a dragon.
“I will signal when I want you to change direction. Now, go at full speed!”
As if it understood Shirley’s words, the dragon let off a roar and dug its talons into the earth.
As it took off, the war chariot accelerated on every rotation of its wheels and eventually as it spat up dust in its wake the scenery began to pass by in a blur.
In response to the speed that would easily outstrip even the fastest stallion, Kyle and the other two can’t help but let out a scream.
As the wagon seemed to fly without warning whenever it hit a bump in the road, sending the young adventurers ricocheting around in their seats, the three of them could barely catch their breath.
“Hmm… It’s been a long time since I rode a dragon this way, but this really is some good leg strength.”
“WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOOD ABOUT THIIIIiiiiiiiiSSS?!?!?”
There are various types of rideable tamed dragons.
A dragon that one rides directly on their back through the air. A water dragon that can swim freely in oceans and rivers. There are all sorts of low dragons that one can ride, ranging from the air to the ground.
However, it would be foolish to think that just because they’ve been tamed by humans that these dragons are weak in any way.
One of the falsely held beliefs about low dragons is that they’re cowardly monsters who let themselves be ruled over by humans, but any low dragon is far stronger than an ordinary monster, and that can be seen in the dragon currently pulling the wagon.
A thick and hard neck, with a frill that reaches from the back of its head to the base of its neck. Coupled with a horn that can smash boulders, this dragon is a monster that would cruelly destroy any lesser monster that got in its way with its speed, endurance and power.
Even though the dragon was well tempered and perfectly suited to taking adventurers long distances in a relatively short travel time, it was only loaned out to parties on urgent requests, such as killing a high ranking dragon.
“Turn to the right.”
The front and the back of the wagon were the worst places to be when the dragon turned. It lost none of its momentum as it turned and kept running to the right, paying no heed to the wheels almost flying off their axis.
“Kyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! I’m falling!! I’m falling!!!!”
Asterios jammed his legs into the other side of the wagon to keep himself steady when it felt like the wagon was about to capsize around him.
Even though Minotaurs are famed for their strength and raw power, his leg is shaking as the wagon turns.
“Ha ha ha! Not bad! You’re not half bad at all, Miss Shirley!”
“I don’t drive these that often, so I can’t claim to be any good at it. If I’m going to be honest, I prefer the one seater dragons.”
“I-is this really the time for you two to be happily chatttttyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?”
“Yeowch! I-I can’t stop bouncing around!!”
Kyle and Cudd continued to scream. Leia, on the other hand…
“Ahahahaha! What is this!? This is so much fun!!”
She had already gotten used to it and was beginning to enjoy the explosive speed of the dragon. Although she may be small, she definitely has the most guts of the three.
“Hey, hey! Can’t we make it go even faster!?”
“Don’t mess around!! If you go any faster than this there’s no way we’ll survivyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!?”
“Please stop stop stop stop stop stooooooooooooah!!”
Kyle and Cudd scream some more. Meanwhile, Leia and Asterios continue to enjoy the ride in the runaway wagon. Shirley, who wasn’t paying attention to what was going on behind her, had her thoughts elsewhere.
(The deadline is the day after tomorrow… If I don’t make it back by then…!)
The Demonic White Sword is completely fixated on finishing this request as quickly as possible. Her heart was racing, and an uncharacteristic fear was clutching at her.
(I can’t be without Sophie and Tio for over three days… I could die from daughter deficiency!)
Once in the past, she had taken a request that kept her away from town for a time. After two days without seeing her beloved daughters, she began to be attacked by fierce withdrawal symptoms.
The only thing she could think of two days in is whether or not her daughters were safe without her, and the trembling in her limbs didn’t stop.
That’s the true reason she hates adventuring more than a day away from town. She had intended to only take two days on a round trip by crossing the dense forests in their path on a single rider dragon, but since she’s now accompanied by the rookie party riding in the wagon, they’re forced to take a longer route.
(Even so, knowing I won’t be able to see them today is making my chest tighten, I don’t even want to think about what would happen after four or five days. This still isn’t fast enough, time is of the essence…!)
It was in this way that the dragon accelerated even further on the road towards Jewelsaad Mine, leaving dust clouds and the screams of two boys trailing in its wake.
The raw wasn’t exactly super clear on describing just what exactly they were riding around with outside of “war vehicle” so I went with a war wagon since a chariot wouldn’t make sense and I wasn’t just going to write war vehicle over and over again. I also couldn’t resist calling this chapter “The Dragon Wagon”.
You can read more about War Wagons (which really existed!) right here. Nobody can claim this isn’t an educational site now.