Large purple flowers flew over a great field with sparse patches of grass.
It was said that they sometimes rose as high as fifty meters into the sky.
This sight was a tradition in the Torem City State Federation, and signaled the end of summer.
Two months have now passed since I departed from Razsita.
And while my journey was going slower than planned, I had still managed to reach the neighboring country of Megidos.
Each city of the Torem City State Federation was like a small country.
Under the federal parliament, there were common rules, and mutual inviolability existed between the cities.
Though, they generally had their own sovereignty.
Among them, I had arrived in the agricultural city, Ailzer, and in the Adventurers Guild there, I had accepted a D-Rank quest to defeat some Clay Leopards.
Clay Leopards were D-Rank monsters.
They disguised themselves with the lumps of earth covering their body, and attacked their prey.
And while the surface of their body was not hard, they could absorb the shock of blunt attacks, block sharp attacks, and fire and earth magic had little effect on them.
The quest had been submitted by someone whose livestock were being attacked by the Clay Leopards.
And there was a reason that I accepted it, even if it meant stopping my journey.
However, the thought of it made me sigh.
It did not take long for the village and surrounding farmlands to come into sight.
There was a stone wall and gate surrounding the houses.
I asked the gatekeeper about the farmer who hired me, and then found the farm a short distance away.
“I came after accepting the quest.
I’m Ajifu, an Adventurer.”
I pushed my feelings aside and greeted him in my work mode.
I then showed him the request sheet and my Adventurers plate.
“Oh! I’ve been waiting for you! My name is Znale, and I own this farm.
But I’ve been having trouble recently.
I need your help!”
If you could just tell me the time and place of the attacks.”
“Yes, of course, you would want to know that.
You can’t do anything until I explain about that.”
Clay Leopards were nocturnal.
And according to my research at the guild, they almost never hunted livestock.
After all, livestock were put in the stables at night.
So either the stables had been attacked or…
“It must have discovered the taste of the meat, as it has started to appear during the day.”
So it was that.
Things could be worse.
“Well, I shall start by guarding the area and observing.
Also, I do have one request.”
“A request What is it”
“If everything goes well, I want you to keep my horse for me here.”
Horses needed a lot of water to survive.
And so I could not take him to the dessert.
The idea of having to part with Hyuga was heart-breaking.
Just thinking about it made me sigh endlessly.
I really do wish that I could do that, but my horses are rather strong characters.
If your horse can fit in with them, then I wouldn’t mind.”
Well, that might be difficult then.
I couldn’t leave Hyuga in a place where he would be bullied.
However, I suppose I could wait and see what happens.
“In that case, can I just keep him here while I’m working”
You can keep him here.”
And so I led Hyuga over to the stable, which was rather impressively built.
There would be no need to worry about monsters attacking it at night.
“I hope you can make friends here.”
I removed the reins and saddle and petted his neck.
Perhaps it was just me, but Hyuga seemed worried.
It might be selfish of me to do this, but I wanted Hyuga to find a place to be as well.
We had been together for three years now, and surely we had that level of trust, at least.
And so I left Hyuga to take care of himself, and went about the quest.
I patrolled the farmlands on the first day, but I saw no monster.
However, there were some suspicious footprints, so it had definitely been around.
I decided to return to my inn in the evening, when all of the livestock had been put in the stables.
On the second day, I left the inn before sunrise and headed to the farm.
In general, nocturnal animals liked to stand and wait, so it was possible that it would be moving in the middle of the night.
However, even though I waited from early morning, the Clay Leopard did not appear.
I looked at the surrounding area, but since the weather was so warm, and because I had gotten up so early, I started to become drowsy.
Towards the farm, I saw that Hyuga was running with another horse.
They seemed to be friendly.
Znale, it is not showing itself.”
“Perhaps it is cautious, because an armed human is patrolling the area.
Why don’t you try concealing yourself”
Now that he mentioned it, it was a good idea.
The following day, I camouflaged myself with tree leaves and hid in the bushes and waited.
I waited from morning, but nothing happened.
However, when it was near midday, I suddenly noticed a boulder in the corner of my vision.
Had that been there before
Was it just me, or was it inching its way closer
No, it wasn’t just me! That must be a Gray Leopard!
While hidden in the bushes, I unsheath my sword.
However, it was still too far away.
If it ran now, I wouldn’t be able to catch it.
And so I quieted my breath and waited for the right time.
I didn’t have my bow with me, but even if I did, it likely wouldn’t be enough to pierce through the shell.
Besides, neither the bow or my skill with it were impressive.
I needed it to come as close as possible first.
Once it was closer, I was able to see which parts of the rock were actually its legs.
The lurking creature really was like an armored carnivore.
Ten more meters now… It’s fine, it still hasn’t noticed me.
It’s too focused on its prey.
Seven meters…five… It’s right in front of me now.
One more meter.
I want just one more.
If it is four meters, I can use my prosthetic leg to take the last three steps.
However, before the distance shrunk by another meter, it suddenly stopped and its tail moved.
So that was the limit! Very well, then!
I leapt out from the bushes, and rushed forward.
And though I lost my balance and fell on the fourth step, my thrust still shot right into the side of the Clay Leopard.
However, the Clay Leopard had risen at the last second, and the tip of my sword barely scraped its shell.
But due to that evasive move, I was able to get back onto one knee.
Now, this is where it started!
While keeping my sword raised, I stood up slowly and inspected my opponent.
Now that it had stood up and was fully exposed… It really did look like a big, two-meter cat that was wearing armor made of clay.
Also, I noticed that the part of the armor I had chipped off had healed without a trace.
Could it really repair it so quickly Well, we were both on even footing now.
Just as it raised its front paws and leapt at me, I jumped back while swinging down at it.
While I felt my sword hit the armor, it just carved away at the surface.
So, I would not be able to damage it unless I aimed at a part that wasn’t covered in armor.
With the gap closed between us, I swung upwards with my sword, but the armor of its front legs stopped me, and the sword went up and…
I swung down at its face.
And though it too was blocked by the armor, I managed to cut off an ear.
Blood sprayed in the air as the Clay Leopard let out an angry roar.
But it continued to attack me.
I blocked it with my sword, but it was heavy!
I was practically thrown back as the gap widened between us.
Still, I changed my posture and raised my sword at it again.
Just then, I saw something in the corner of my vision.
The farm, where the livestock were running away, and the one horse that remained and stared at me.
It was Hyuga.