“Meeting the Ancient Dragon of Fire Flute Mountain? That’s another bold thing to do in the body of a human. Normally, you would be extinguished without ever meeting them.”
After listening to Loren’s explanation, Dia looked at him in dismay and said.
Loren agreed with this opinion. Without the map with an Ancient Dragon’s magic in Lapis’ possession, he would never think about putting something like this into action in the first place.
“Well, if you’re introduced by a dragon of the same rank living elsewhere, you may not be treated so badly, but I’m still a little concerned.”
Dia glanced at Loren and while saying this, lips curving into the shape of a smile in contrast to her words. Somewhere in Loren’s head, a warning of danger began to send a tingle down his nape.
As Loren stroked his neck and wondered what this warning was about, Dia clapped her hands together as if she had just thought of a wonderful idea.
“All right then, let me accompany you to Mt. Fire Flute.”
Loren asked back, feeling the tingle on his nape grow even stronger. Around him, Lapis gaped at Dia, who was smiling happily, while Gula was still lying on the floor and Nim’s elegant face was hardening into surprise as if she had witnessed the end of the world.
“You are dealing with an Ancient Dragon that has lived since time immemorial, aren’t you? No matter how good an adventurer you are, and no matter how many safeguards you have in place, that surely is an opponent too much for a human to face, isn’t it?”
There were things that, even though we understood why they were necessary, we were still reluctant to do them.
Even though Loren thought they would be fine, the act of going to see a powerful being like an Ancient Dragon was just the same, considering that there was always the possibility of something going wrong. That was why he said.
“That’s right. That is not the kind of opponent you want to face when you can help it.”
Dia nodded repeatedly as if to say she agreed, then leaned forward and began to explain the situation to Loren, who still hadn’t fully grasped where the conversation was going.
“So, why don’t you let me act as an intermediary and mediate between the two parties? In other words, let me accompany you as an insurance.”
Loren considered Dia’s proposal. Their party was acting based on the expectation that they would probably be safe with the map Lapis had, but it was certain that the addition of an insurance would feel more secure. To ask for that insurance from an Elder was indeed a little worrisome, but aside from them being acquaintances, they had more or less helped Dia become independent, and she felt indebted to them to some extent for that.
“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ask for protection from an Elder…”
“You’re right, you’re totally right.”
“But what are you up to?”
Indeed, Loren and his party had helped Dia to stand on her own. But even though she might have felt indebted to them, that did not mean that she would protect them without compensation.
The story between them started with a commission from Dia, and although things changed considerably in the course of the commission and its outcome, it was not something that would make the Elder feel that much guilt about. That was why Dia must have something in mind when she made that proposal.
In response to Loren’s question, Dia remained silent for a while, then her shoulders began to shake, and she let out a low chuckle.
“How doubtful you are, Loren. But then again, it might be difficult to survive as a mercenary or an adventurer without that.”
“If you’re thinking of something unsavory, just say it.”
“Hehehe… Alright. The truth is,”
All eyes focused on Dia, who smiled and twisted her face into a nasty expression. They all braced themselves to hear what the Elder was planning to do.
Dia took plenty of time to pause, then suddenly opened her mouth.
“As an Elder, I have time.”
“I’m sorry, but say it again.”
Loren thought he must have misheard, but Dia spat out the same words in a very clear voice.
“As an Elder, I have time.”
“And what’s about it?”
“Well, we have so much power and time, but we have no use for it. If I was doing some kind of research, I might be able to spend time on it, but I don’t have anything like that right now. To put it bluntly, I have so much time on my hands that I am bored to death.”
As a human being with a fixed and not so long life span, Loren did not understand what Dia was talking about, but he could understand what she was trying to say.
Because human life was not that long, people spent their time and energy to accomplish various things in the limited time they have. Many people wasted a lot of time in order to decide what to accomplish, and Loren himself was occupied with just living in the present.
But on the other hand, Dia was an Elder, and her lifespan was so long that it was hard to tell whether it was fixed or not. The power contained in her body was enormous, and if she wanted to do something, she would be able to accomplish almost anything in a short time.
If a being like her wanted to spend a long time accomplishing something, it would have to be something extraordinary and unimaginable for a human being. But Dia, the youngest of the Elders, had yet to find something like that.
“I have a vague idea about what I want to research, but I don’t know how long it will take to settle on a topic.”
“So you’re in a state of limbo and time is just flying by, and you’ve got nothing to do, is that it?”
“I have a lot of time on my hands. If I experience different things, maybe I’ll get a better idea of what to do.”
“And that’s why you want to go with us?”
“I think it would be worth it. What do you think?”
Once again, Loren considered Dia’s offer. If an Elder like her was following them to a human village, a lot of problems might have risen. But in this case, there was just an Ancient Dragon at their destination, so Dia being an Elder was not an obstacle at all.
“It’s not so bad, is it? I don’t see any particular disadvantage.”
Lapis interjected as if to support Loren’s thought. If he was not alone in his opinion and Lapis also did not see any disadvantages, it seemed to Lorén that there would be no problem in accepting the offer.
“What about you, Gula?”
“In my case, the only problem is my own safety.”
When asked by Loren, Gula, who was still lying on the floor, said as she picked herself up. In Gula’s case, she was only being treated harshly by Dia because of her attitude towards the Elder, so it couldn’t be said that Dia’s company would be bad.
“Nim, are you… okay with this?”
Loren asked and, seeing that Nim was frozen in place with a pale face, half rose up from his chair in a hurry, leaned over and placed his hands on the elf’s shoulder. Nim looked up at Loren with a stiff expression on his face and replied in a detached yet slightly trembling voice.
“Lore, are you always like this?”
Loren, who understood what Nim was referring to based on the atmosphere but was not sure, hesitated for a moment before answering in a tone that tinged with resignation.
“I’m almost always like this.”
“I see. Loren… you’ve been through a lot.”
Nim’s face was still pale, but she was looking at Loren with pity for some reason. Loren didn’t remember ever being looked at in such a way, but maybe ordinary adventurers would look at his situation in the same way, and he found it hard to tell her to stop.
“I’m not that sort of person, but I’m thinking I should take the job that Ritz and Chuck do next time. You should take more comfortable jobs too, Loren.”
“I don’t take on troublesome jobs just because I want to…”
Loren blurted out, and Nim, with a straight face, said in a serious tone.
“I can’t believe I’m being asked to take an Elder to meet an Ancient Dragon. I wouldn’t accept such a request even if I am in the silver rank.”
“That wasn’t the original request, though.”
The original request was for a survey of the area around Mt. Fire Flute, and there was no mention of any Elders or Ancient Dragons in it. If there were such mentions, just like Nim said, there was no way silver rank adventurers would have accepted such a thing, and the Adventurers’ Guild would have to mobilize adventurers of the gold rank and above, adventurers whose very existence might soon become a story.
If iron adventurers were to find themselves involved in such a situation, anyone would look at them with pity and not just Nim. Of course, if Loren had seen someone like that, he would have felt sorry for them too, but unfortunately, he was the one involved, and he couldn’t help but feel a bit of pity for himself.
“Let’s leave that aside. Since there doesn’t seem to be any objections, I don’t mind if you go with us.”
“Alright, alright. You may feel reassured then. Ancient Dragons are mighty beings, but even they are no match for Elders.”
Dia had found a good way to pass the time; Loren could see it written plainly in the cheerful smile on her face. Since they did benefit from taking her along, Loren thought that being used as a way to pass the time was not such a bad thing.