That Mother (As Always) is Prone to Worry
The blue spirit bird Beryl and the red spirit bird Rubeus. As the members of Shirley’s family increased by two, the daily lives of that mother and her daughters became a little more lively.
“They eat anything, huh?”
“I’ve been wondering for a while… Are those two really birds?”
Tok tok tok tok tok! As they pecked at their food so forcefully you could hear it throughout the room, Shirley looked at the birds eating in such a messy way with a dubious expression.
Although they’re voracious eaters who can empty their feed bowl almost as soon as it’s filled, what’s really surprising is just what they’ll eat in the first place.
It’s become apparent since they started keeping them that, although they do eat typical food for baby birds such as vegetables and insects, they also drink hot soup and eat incredibly sour berries, even going so far as to devour meat and fish if they’re given it.
Whilst that might be easier to swallow if you considered that they were mysterious and mystical spirit birds, it’s hard to see those silly looking puffballs as anything particularly mysterious at all.
“Is it my imagination, or are they getting bigger every single day?”
“…Do you mean they’re getting fat?”
“No, it’s a little hard to believe, but I don’t think they’re getting fat.”
Shirley looked inside the bodies of those two birds using her power.
“Their muscles are growing alongside their bones, it’s not fat being built up.”
“But, we haven’t even had them a week and they’ve already grown this much?”
Compared to how small they were when they first adopted them, the two baby birds had already grown considerably. But there were a lot of creatures that grew up very quickly after being born, so it didn’t concern Shirley too much.
“Baby chickens grow up very quickly, so perhaps these birds are unexpectedly similar. I’ll ask someone who may know more.”
“Yeah, please do, mama.”
“Remember, like I mentioned earlier, I may be out for a little while depending on how long this monster investigation takes. I’ll try and be home by supper, but if it seems like I won’t be back in time then please ask Martha-san to make you some food.”
“Mm. I got it.”
As loathe as she was to spend more time than necessary away from her daughters, Shirley was also worried about just what kind of unknown monster lurked outside of the frontier town, since it could well be a threat to her girls.
(Once this is over and done with, it may be a good idea to have these children make a familiar contract with these spirit birds. The Empire is still a worry, after all.)
A familiar spirit can become the eyes and ears of the master and one ability that is deeply useful for adventurers who face peril is that they can alert others when their master is in danger. The crime prevention magical tool… Although they both had a pocket watch that could summon Shirley if they’re in danger, that doesn’t mean they always have it in hand.
If they formed a magic contract with the birds, they could summon Beryl and Rubeus even if they were far away from their birdhouse in the hero’s toolbox, so if they were attacked by some pervert again the spirit birds could protect them, letting them escape or call for help.
(Well, Beryl and Rubeus would have to become bigger first.)
So, it’s a good thing that they’re growing up so fast. As Shirley glanced at those two chicks whose faces were as silly looking as ever, she gently led Sophie and Tio to leave the Hero’s Toolbox with a light pat on the back.
“Now then, it’s about time for you to go to school. Don’t forget, you two, that today is a little different from usual as well.”
“…Ah. That’s right.”
“Where are our swimsuits? We left them out to dry yesterday…”
Their swimming classes began at school today. After she pointed it out, the two girls suddenly scrambled up the ladder in a hurry as if they had forgotten until now.
Breaking up the extremely warm days that had come back to back lately, today was slightly cooler. As those girls who had already far surpassed her when it came to swimming set out to enjoy their day at school without the risk of heat stroke for once, Shirley felt a deep sense of happiness, but ――――
――――Uwaaaaaah!? I-I’m so sorry!!
Suddenly remembering her own swimming practice with that boy half her age, Shirley realized her cheeks had turned a slight shade of red. And, she was a little worried about it. Could something like what she went through happen to Sophie and Tio as well?
She trusts Kyle. Despite being a boy, since he had such a sincere and honest attitude, Shirley had let him come into contact with Sophie and Tio, she didn’t feel like he had any ulterior motives.
But when it comes to the twins… A fear suddenly stabbed as the Sword Demon’s heart.
(But what about their classmates… The boys in their class…?)
She had heard all about it when she visited the classroom. Just how the boys in their class talked about Sophie and Tio. And, after thinking about it, Shirley could imagine what might happen at the swimming class.
Since the school only had younger children, the class wouldn’t segregate boys and girls. Since usually only their hands and feet are exposed, the thought of Sophie and Tio exposing much more of their body than usual wearing those swimsuits, alongside the boys who, although still young, were old enough to recognize the difference between a man and a woman, a cold sweat ran down their mother’s back.
(Th…This is… Isn’t this really dangerous…..!?)
Those perverted boys would touch her daughter’s body and pretending it was an accident. Just how disgraceful and shameless must they be? They were more beast than human. Shirley desperately suppressed her thoughts that were on the verge of spiralling out of control and, twisting her face into as calm a mask as she could, talked to the twins,
“You two… I think I’ll drive all the boys away after all… Once they’re gone, it should be okay for you to swim…”
“What are you talking about, mama?”
After that, Shirley lost her cool and tried to persuade her daughters to just skip the swimming class altogether, but…
“Just go to work!” Sophie had said, pointing at the door.
“Just leave protecting Sophie to me,” Tio then said, prompting Shirley to reluctantly give up and trudge all the way to the guild, a despondent grey cloud hanging over her head the whole time.
Doing her best to hide her gloomy mood and evading Yumina’s worried questions, Shirley confirmed all the details about the ‘Strange Demon’ from the guild and ran like the wind to the forest just outside of the frontier town.
According to the reports, the first people to encounter the creature were three D-Ranked adventurers who had come from the Kingdom’s capital.
As the party were travelling through the mountains in the northern part of the Kingdom to complete a gathering request, the monster had suddenly appeared in front of them. They had fought hard against it and when they believed they had it cornered, it had let out a terrible roar that caused a shockwave, then it fled.
From that point on there were all sorts of witnesses, from other adventurers to merchants to farmers to forest elves and many more besides… It seemed like the monster was constantly trying to get closer to towns and villages.
(It doesn’t make much sense… Even if it’s looking for food, the closer it gets to human settlements the more enemies there are.)
Though they more often looked for tools, there had been the recent case of the intelligent monsters known as goblins entering human villages to steal jewels to appease the dragon they lived with.
But according to the story, even though it doesn’t seem to be after anything at all, it’s still heading towards villages and towns.
If it was a monster that sat at the top of the food chain, it would make sense. But if it was weak enough that three D-Ranked adventurers could overpower it, Shirley knew from her vast experience that a single monster that feeble wouldn’t approach places where humans lived.
Even human beings have some preservation instincts. So it’s hard to imagine that a monster, something that had been living in the wilds since its conception, would so blatantly disregard its own fight or flight instincts.
(Unfortunately… I can’t use a dragon mount, since it would get in the way of the investigation.)
For Shirley, who always strived to finish her requests as quickly as possible so that she could get home without delay, it was unusual to see her travelling on foot.
Typically, any living thing will be instinctually afraid of any being larger than itself. Even though a mounted dragon is on the lowest rung of the dragon’s tier ladder, they were still much larger than a human being.
Since it’s so unsuited to more delicate work like this, Shirley decided against using a mount to make sure that the request went smoothly, so she was instead running to her destination.
However, as you might expect, the Demonic White Sword’s sprinting speed was quite extraordinary, her body leaning forward as her magically reinforced legs flew along the ground.
Although it’s not the lightning-fast speed she showed in battle, where it sometimes seemed like she completely disappeared, nevertheless her running speed was almost comparable to a dragon mount.
“Fuu… It might be good to take a short break soon.”
But, she still relies on those dragons a lot, since they definitively beat her when it came to stamina.
And since Shirley always held the notion that she should give every battle her all, the dragon was doubly precious as it helped her conserve her energy and magical power for whatever adventure awaited her.
“The sun is high in the sky… I suppose I’ll have lunch as well?”
The temperature was still hot enough to be a little unpleasant if you didn’t run into a headwind, but there were a smattering of trees here and there along the plain to relax in the shade of.
Although Shirley seemed empty handed at first glance, she suddenly summoned a small basket filled with sandwiches and a chilled bottle of water from her Hero’s Toolbox.
Shirley had prepared these before she left, leaving them inside the toolbox. Usually the higher ranked an adventurer was, the more they prided themselves on eating luxurious foods during an adventure, but Shirley’s meals trumped everyone else’s when it came to portability and preservation.
Since the sun was so unforgiving at this time of year, any perishable foods you brought a long would very quickly go off before you could eat them. The Hero’s Toolbox that will always be at a perfect temperature regardless of how hot or cold the season may be is actually very handy for carrying food.
There’s no way that monsters can be attracted by the scent of food, nor can your meal be crushed or ruined during a battle. Since the person who developed it, Canary, was so focused on having it be a tool that would aid an adventurer during battle, she had never considered using it in such a way, but after Shirley had used it to organize a picnic with Sophie and Tio soon after receiving it, she uses it in this way all the time.
“Hmm…………. I tried cooking chicken for once as practice, but this is actually too juicy.”
But, she’s quite harsh on the dish she herself made. She had been trying to practice a lot lately, learning more and more dishes, because the time when she could start to teach her daughters cooking in earnest was approaching, but――――
“What’s this? It feels like someone, somewhere, is eating something fancy… KOFF! M-My throat is…!”
“You shouldn’t talk while you eat, you little idiot… But it’s true, for some reason, why do I feel this weird sense of envy…?”
“Uuu… The water is so warm, it’s doing the opposite of cooling me down…!”
Meanwhile, taking a break from their own adventure that same day, those three E-Rank adventurers would be mad with jealousy if they found out how good Shirley had it as they struggled with their bread that had hardened in the blazing sun as well as their water which had already gone warm.
But, as if sympathizing with them, there was a slight shadow cast over Shirley’s face.
“…….Why is it that it feels blander than usual?”
After all these years she should have grown used to eating alone during an adventure, so although she had been looking forward to eating a delicious lunch in the shade of the tree, something felt a little lost without those lively rookies.
After finishing lunch, Shirley took a short respite then, after getting up, took off like an arrow once more.
Once that figure with the flowing white hair reached the sea of trees, with the way she effortlessly leapt over the roots towering above her as she dashed through the greenery, it was like a snow-swept wind was blowing through the forest.
Those two shining eyes of red and blue looked through the trees as far as her sight would allow, searching for that mysterious monster.
The last sighting of it was in a rural area not far from the forest, where a rancher’s son had seen it near a village. It was a strange type of creature never before seen in the area, so it had been reported to the Adventurer’s Guild the very next day.
(It’s just a stone’s throw away from where humans live… It may be better to treat this as an extermination rather than an investigation.)
She would have to prepare a cart for it as well, to bring back the corpse. It’s troublesome, but this would help prevent potential damage in the future.
(That being said, going by what the witnesses described, it sure is a strange beast.)
Shirley had wanted to hear about its appearance as well. So, she had asked at the guild which usually had a great deal of information when it came to identifying monsters, but even Yumina, who usually had encyclopedic knowledge about this kind of thing, found it hard to really put together a coherent picture of the monster from what people had reported about it.
Being an adventurer for ten years, Shirley had naturally come across many types of monsters. But, just what kind of evolution did a monster take that it would end up as a completely purple, ten-legged giant with eyes with that were made up of a myriad of individual eyeballs, like some sort of deep sea monster? It also apparently had a strange, bird-like beak that would twist and spin like it didn’t even seem connected to its face by blood vessels or bone, reportedly so huge that it took up nearly three-quarters of its body.
There may be a great deal of unbelievable and awe-inspiring monsters in the world, but during her time as an adventurer, Shirley had never come across anything as strange as that.
So, even though less experienced adventurers could only use the word ‘strange’ to describe this monster, that was the word Shirley would use as well.
“I see… This wasn’t a natural evolution at all, was it?”
In that forest full of densely packed trees, in a sudden clearing that opened up before her, the strange monster she sought stood perfectly still in the centre of it.
It had skin so pale it was as if blood had never flowed under its surface… No, in fact, the closest comparison she could draw is that it looked close to a human’s skin.
Its body took the form of countless limbs and mouths all illogically smashed together as if someone with a heavy hand had tried to sculpt a human being by force. That uncanny and eerie monster seemed to exist outside of the bounds of nature.
With a cry that sounded like a bewailing scream that cursed the world, the monster charged towards Shirley on its many hands and feet.