Ray and Ashley headed for Tarbide Lake, which was located approximately five kimels south of Molton. (TL: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway ≈ 4 km)
Ashley still seemed to be in a bad mood. In attempt to make her forget about the matter, Ray brought up a subject related to today’s request, the giant toads.
“Hey, could you tell me the weak points of the giant toads? Also, in addition to their poison, is there anything else I need to be ready for?”
Although Ashley was initially bewildered by how Ray was unusually desperate to talk with her, she eventually realized that it was him being worried about her. Her gloomy expression regained a little of its brightness as she began explaining about the monsters.
“Their weak points? Hm, well, they’re basically defenseless against spears and swords, due to how thin their skin is. Their stomachs are especially easy to cut. You need to be wary of their tongue. Although their bodies are around 1.5 mertos long, the tongue can extend out to more than twice that distance. The only troublesome thing about the tongue is that it’s quite tough. Weak attacks won’t be able to cut through it . . .”
While discussing such things, one hour eventually elapsed and they arrived at Tarbide Lake. The beautiful lake was surrounded on all sides by white birch trees and had a circumference of roughly five kimels. A small island could be seen at its center.
Not having the leisure to enjoy such fine scenery, the two of them remained vigilant of their surroundings as they began to carefully search for the giant toads.
After walking along the lake for thirty minutes or so, soft sound of croaking could be heard.
“We’ve found them. I’m guessing that there’s around two or three.”
Ashley pulled out her sword and Ray readied his spear.
A large black shadow suddenly jumped out from a clump of bushes. The giant toad made a large leap, springing itself upon them.
Although they didn’t agree upon this beforehand, each dodged beautifully separately to the left and right as the toad flew in an arc in their direction. It then landed at a position around three mertos away from them.
“We’ll attack it on both sides! Let’s go!”
Ashley shouted those words as she changed directions, running towards the toad this time. She closed the distance in an instant, her sword quickly piercing through its slimy back. Although the toad should have been quite severely injured, it didn’t seem to feel any pain. Even as it was pierced by the sword, it remained silent, not raising a single croak. Poisonous venom began pouring out of its pores.
Ashley who had anticipated this attack withdrew her sword and jumped backwards, once again creating distance between them.
Seeing their exchange, Ray readied himself for his turn. He then thrusted his spear from the side opposite of Ashley.
Although he attacked with his spear, basically none of the poisonous fumes reached him. After stabbing the slowing toad several more times, he also similarly separated himself from the toad.
Nevertheless, the toad seemed to be stronger than they had expected. It acted as if all the damage it had endured up to this point was nothing at all. Even as blood continued to flow from its slippery skin, its eyes restlessly shifted between the two humans who had surrounded it on both sides. The toad seemed to be determining which human to attack.
Ray exchanged a look with Ashley, and then veered sideways, circling around to the back of the toad.
Lured in by his sudden movements, the toad rapidly shot out its tongue in his direction. Although Ray hurriedly used his spear to repel it, the extremely resilient tongue’s trajectory remained mostly unchanged as it continued to stretch out towards him.
In an attempt to evade the tongue’s attack, he plunged his body down towards the ground beside the toad.
Even as his body was falling, he determined that at this distance, his spear could reach the toad. Ray made use of his current momentum to tear apart the side of the toad’s soft belly with his spear. As the spear sunk into the toad’s belly with barely any resistance, pain seemed to have finally reached it. The giant toad sprung up as if it were bouncing and attempted to make an escape.
Without the missing the timing of its jump, Ashley rushed in to slice off the toad’s left hind leg just as it was about to straighten itself to release the stored power.
No longer able to hop, the now one-legged toad pitifully crawled forward across the ground, still somehow holding hope of escape. However, the two humans eventually came to deliver the final blow, only remaining wary of its toxic poison.
“We’ve gotten our first one. Did any poison get on your body?”
“I’m fine.” Ray went to collect the giant toad’s magic stone.
Seems like Ray has gotten considerably used to it now. The only thing he needs to worry about in the future is not being overly prideful.
After that, they defeated two more giant toads and then decided to have lunch at a place that would have an unobstructed view of the lake shore.
They found a slightly elevated area that overlooked the lake and sat themselves down on a fallen tree, unwrapping their lunches.
Ducks floated on the lake with a blithe attitude. The peaceful scenery was spread out before them. So peaceful that it could make them forget that there were giant poisonous toads there.
“If only the weather was nicer . . . that would undoubtedly bring out the full beauty of this place . . .”
Without speaking to anyone in particular, he muttered those words to himself.
“Scenery, you say . . . I’ve never thought about it that way. The only reason I would be interested in a forest is whether or not there are any enemies in it. You always say things like, “the scenery around here is so pretty” or “the sunset today is beautiful” . . . what kind of environment were you raised in? Even if you weren’t a mercenary like me, you shouldn’t be saying these kinds of things if you were part of a knight house . . .”
“Ah, you’ve got a point there.” Although he was slightly embarrassed, he continued,
“You really don’t think this place is beautiful? Seeing this mystical beauty, I wouldn’t think it would be strange even if a water nymph were to appear . . .”
Ray was beginning to grow attached to this kingdom’s abundance of nature. Although he had only lived here for around half a month, leaving town and taking a walk in the forest felt quite enjoyable to him.
He understood that sooner or later, he would have to leave this place and go on a trip to search for a way to return to Japan. Nevertheless, his attachment to the beauty here would not change.
Although they were taking a relaxing break in this manner, it was still too early to return to town. It seemed like the giant toads were still out, so they decided to continue hunting for two more hours. As Ray checked to see if his equipment was in order, something in the lake caught his eye. By chance, he saw a small boat heading for the island in the middle of the lake.
What is it doing? That doesn’t seem to be a fishing boat . . .
As he continued to gaze at the small boat, Ashley asked,
“Are you preparations complete?”
He turned his eyes away from the lake and then picked up his belongings in order to return to the shore. When he shifted his gaze towards the lake one more time, he saw a ball of fire flying from the small boat.
“Ashley, look! Fire magic is being launched from the boat . . . what are they aiming at?”
When she looked towards the lake, the ball of fire had already disappeared. The small boat was know changing directions, moving far away from the island.
“What? Did something happen?”
Feeling confused, Ashley asked Ray. He had also only seen it for an instant. “No, never mind . . .” As he began walking towards the shore, he quietly mumbled to himself, “I wonder if there’s something on that island?”
Having eaten lunch, Ray and Ashley once again returned to the shore.
As the two of them walked along the shore of Tarbide lake, searching for more giant toads, they suddenly realized that the croaking of the toads had become considerably louder than before.
They paused for a moment and exchanged looks. However, even after they looked around, they weren’t able to find anything else that was particularly abnormal. And so, they once again resumed walking along the shore.
Suddenly, the reeds on the side of the lake began shaking. Wondering what was happening, the two once again looked around. The figures of Seron and his party appeared from the direction of the shore.
Seeing Ashley and Ray ready their weapons, Seron assumed a surprised expression and said, “What is this, you’re also hunting here? Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. We’ve already gathered plenty, so we’ll be going back now. Take your time and enjoy yourselves.” Only leaving behind those words, he laughed and left at a quick pace. Puzzled by how quickly he left them, Ashley and Ray tilted their heads.